Bollywood Baatein: Shouldn't there be laws against speaking ill of dead icons?

It is easy to be honest about the alleged failings of others, far more difficult to speak the truth about oneself

Bollywood Baatein: Shouldn't there be laws against speaking ill of dead icons?

Subhash K Jha

In his new memoir Actually I Met Them, Gulzar speaks of singing-legend Kishore Kumar in an unflattering tone. As per Gulzar, Kishore Kumar shaved his head off just days before shooting to avoid starring in Anand. Gulzar also recounts how Kishore Kumar used to harass his producers no end, etc etc.

Kishore Kumar is no more here to defend himself. He died in 1987 at a young age of 58 leaving behind a void that Kumar Sanu and others have tried to fill. To no avail. And to now have him pulled up for charges of enormous eccentricity…seems a little unfair.

With due respects to Gulzar saab, the facts pertaining to the casting of Anand as adumbrated by him, do not add up. I remember speaking to Hrishikesh Mukherjee about the casting of Anand and he revealed, “Yes, Kishore Kumar was offered the role.

But we considered Raj Kapoor most seriously for Anand. The character of Anand Sehgal was written keeping Raj in mind. But Raj was busy. We then offered the part to Shashi Kapoor. But he couldn’t do it either. At this point Rajesh Khanna showed a keen interest in the role. That’s how we cast him.”

During our conversation Hrishida made no mention of Kishore Kumar shaving his head to escape playing the title role in Anand. However, he did mention that Abhimaan about a husband (played by Amitabh Bachchan) who cannot cope with his wife (Jaya Bhaduri) being a superior artiste than him, was based on Kishore Kumar and his first wife Ruma Guha Thakurta.

Perhaps, Kishore da had got a whiff of whose side Hrishida was on in the marital breach, two years before Abhimaan was made. Perhaps he opted out of Anand for this reason.

But why bring up Anand now? One of the first rules of memoirwriting: Do not malign the dead.

A close associate of Kishoreda who wishes to avoid getting into a confrontational situation with Gulzar saab says Kishoreda was a much-misunderstood soul. “He was very unhappy from within. And such stories about his legendary eccentricity made him even more unhappy. The more crazy he was called, the more crazy he acted.”

In any case, how honest is Gulzar in his memoirs? That’s a point we shall not discuss here. Suffice it to say it is easy to be honest about the alleged failings of others, far more difficult to speak the truth about oneself.

The cult of biographies has a chequered history in our filmland. I had almost given up on star-biographies. Bollywood actors lie through their teeth. Some of them can’t even tell the difference between a truth and a lie. Many of them have conveniently chosen to forget scandalous incidents from the past. I wonder whom they see when they look in the mirror.

I remember once I made bold to ask an actor about his much talked-about relationship with an actress. He had dismissed it as “nonsense, a figment of the media’s imagination, you know how the media is. Who would know better?”

So convincing was his act of repudiation that I began to question the veracity of the rumours that we had been hearing for years and years. But then the actress whom he was supposedly involved with, would call me up and whisper about the time and content of my conversations with the actor. How the hell did she know about them?

Actors (and I include actresses in this group) are too vain to write honestly about their lives. They fabricate their own version of the truth. The worst example of such (anything but sach) delusional confessional was the super-iconic Vyjayanthimala who denied having anything to do with Raj Kapoor during the time they shot Sangam together.

Never one to mince words, Rishi Kapoor pounced on the lie and refuted the actress’ claim.

Ironically Rishi Kapoor, who was so forthright in person, opted for selective honesty in his memoirs.

When you have skeletons in your cupboard make films about fictional people. Leave the honesty to lesser mortals.

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