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Roundabout: Of Sunil Dutt, Rajendra Kumar and a migrant lad from Multan

At 80 in New Jersey Raaj Grover rejoices in recalling Hindi movie lore and yesteryear legends

punjab Updated: Aug 06, 2018 17:51 IST
Nirupama Dutt
Nirupama Dutt
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Roundabout,Sunil Dutt,Rajendra Kumar
Nargis with Sunil Dutt and Rajendra Kumar in Mother India. (HT File )

A boy aged just eight or nine, whose world was the city of Multan, now in Pakistan, moved with his parents and siblings to Delhi after Partition. However, Mumbai, then Bombay, was the city of his dreams. So he reached there to struggle as they say. A poet at heart, he dabbled in films first, producing a few, including Thikana (1987) directed by Mahesh Bhatt.

However, it was the instant rapport he had with another migrant boy, Sunil Dutt, that was to chart the course of his life. He became the production-in-charge of Ajanta Arts, started by Dutt and his wife, the actor Nargis, and a part of the Dutt household.

Now with his wife Shashi in New York (to be close to their children and grandchildren) the book he has come out with touches upon the era of films from the mid 1950s to the 1970s.

With delightful accounts of his encounters with the stars, it was initially published in Urdu, the first language of Grover’s Multan school days and titled Yaad Zara Zara (memories bit by bit), which was also simultaneously transcribed and published in Hindi. The English translation, The Legends of Bollywood with the telling subtitle: Tales of Madness, Mischief and Mayhem!, has now been translated in English by former Society magazine editor Suchitra Iyer and published by Jaico Books.

The three Ms are well represented in these stories that come straight from his heart of simpler times, yes, even in the world of Hindi movies. But where Grover excels is in recounting stories of struggle and successes of other migrant boys like him from different destinations of West Punjab, as it was called before August 15, 1947. These young boys rose above the trauma of Partition to achieve major success in the movies. Included in this list are Sunil Dutt from Jhelum, Rajendra Kumar from Sialkot, Manoj Kumar from Abbottabad and Vinod Khanna from Peshawar.

The lone migrant girl he writes about with great warmth is Rakhee Gulzar, who was the leading lady of a film he made that did not do too well, unlike their friendship, which lasted a lifetime. He mentions his joy when Rakhee from Sylhet in Bangladesh married Gulzar from Jhelum: “While she was a migrant from Sylhet in Bangladesh and he was uprooted from Jhelum, it was as though they shared the same pain and fell in love”.

The writer also laments that he never came to know what went amiss between the two but even in separation Rakhee and Gulzar confessed that the love had never ended.

Sunil Dutt’s story from a producer with Radio Ceylon to stardom, as told by Grover, goes like this: He was interviewing Dilip Kumar on the sets of Shikast when filmmaker Ramesh Sehgal spotted him. The latter was so impressed that an instant screen test was held and Dutt was signed for his first film Railway Platform, which was released in 1955. However, real fame came to him and his fellow struggler Rajendra Kumar in Mehboob Khan’s Mother India (1957) when both of them played sons to Nargis. Interestingly, the two had shared a shabby room in the city of dreams. Rajendra went on to be called Jubilee Kumar when every film of his would run for more than 25 weeks (called a “silver jubilee film” in India). Later, his son Gaurav married Namrata, daughter of Nargis and Sunil, and the two friends of youth became relatives.

The stories of Manoj Kumar and Vinod Khanna and their rise to stardom are also told with warmth and humour. Manoj Kumar, who before entering the films was Hari Krishna Goswami, was Grover’s friend from Delhi days. In Mumbai, he would spend weekends with Grover in his room in Kurla and the two would be in the toilet queue in the mornings with lota and soap in hand! Vinod Khanna’s father, who did not believe that sons from good families acted in films, however, gave the go-ahead for Sunil Dutt’s Man ka Meet because Grover, son of his respected educationist neighbour Lala Dinanath of Multan, had put in a word.

Thus this readable book moves from one delightful anecdote to another, of Grover’s Anglo-Nepali girlfriend dismissively called angrez (English) by Nargis. The engagement broke when Rosy’s British father demanded that Grover convert to Christianity. After the search for the ‘right’ girl began, Grover says: “Shashi was found and even Nargis Bhabi approved. As for me I fell in love all over again and love her still!”

The Chandigarh Girl

Once on a visit to Chandigarh with Dutt Saab, Grover says, “ I stopped with my family on way to Shimla and found it a good and clean city. However, I recall a young and extremely talkative and beautiful girl talking to Nargis-Sunil in Delhi. Chattering non-stop she convinced Nargis that she deserved to be in films. She came to Mumbai, stayed, fought all odds and finally conquered. She was just Kiran then but is now Kirron Kher, also the MP from Chandigarh!”

First Published: Aug 04, 2018 22:57 IST