"A prolific artiste": Sharmila Tagore about writer Prayag Raj

Tagore mourns the loss but she also celebrates his life. “Prayag lived a long and was very successful. He was not in good health for the last ten years"

Writer-director Prayag Raj, Sharmila Tagore (photo: Wikipedia, National Herald archives)
Writer-director Prayag Raj, Sharmila Tagore (photo: Wikipedia, National Herald archives)

Subhash K Jha

Writer-director Prayag Raj who passed away on September 23 was a prolific artiste. He scripted a majority of Manmohan Desai’s films including Aa Gale Lag Jaa, Roti, Dharam-Veer, Amar Akbar Anthony and Parvarish.

Raj also directed ten films, none of which was very successful. One of his early directorials was Paap Aur Punya in 1974 which starred Shashi Kapoor  and Sharmila Tagore.

Tagore who is currently in London spoke to me about Raj. “I didn’t know  he was gone until you told me. He had a full life. He wrote many hit films for Manmohan Desai and others. I recall the one-month outdoor shooting in Jaipur for Paap Aur Punya which he directed. The film was not a success. But I recall it with fondness because we had so much fun. Shashi’s family  was there. My husband and Saif who was just a toddler, were there. There was a Tiger who accompanied Shashi. I still don’t know what his real name was. I only knew him as Tiger (Shashi’s cousin Tiger Kapoor)."

Tagore reveals that toddler Saif was very attached to Shashi Kapoor. “In one sequence of Paap Aur Punya that we were shooting Shashi was being beaten by goons. Saif toddled into the frame to rescue his Shashi Uncle from these bad persons, since no one else was doing the needful.”

Amidst a good laugh Tagore recalls the fun she had shooting for Paap aur Punya. “Shashi and I would be shooting while the two families explored the areas nearby. Shashi’s wife Jennifer and his sister-in-law Felicity were there. Felicity would organise all kinds of fun adventures for the children. Yes, shooting this film was a picnic.”

There were hardships, though. “This was the first film where I had to do some daring stunts. I played this brave, bold girl called Jugni. In one sequence I had to jump off a high place with a briefcase in my hand. I thought it would be easy. But it was quite tough. In another sequence, Raj asked me to slide down an iron rod. I refused. I realised doing stunts needed a lot of preparation.”

About Raj’s relative non-success as a director Tagore says, “I guess  one doesn’t necessarily have to succeed in all domains of cinema just because you are successful on one area. Sachin Bhowmick was another very successful screenwriter. But his directorial Raja Rani with me and  Rajesh Khanna was not a success.”

She mourns the loss but she also celebrates his life. “Prayag lived a long and was very successful. He was not in good health for the last ten years. Lucky are those who go peacefully in their sleep. It is not easy for those  who suffer in their last years, as those close to them also have to suffer.”

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Published: 25 Sep 2023, 4:25 PM