Amol Palekar: Basu Chatterjee was simple, just like his films

(No actor has defined Basu Chatterjees brand of middle-of-the-road Bollywood entertainment as Amol Palekar. The late filmmaker and the actor were a hit actor duo that gave many memorable slice-of-life films like “Chhoti Si Baat”, “Baton Baton Mein”, “Rajnigandha” and “Chitchor”)

By Amol Palekar

“I have been most privileged to be associated with such a fine filmmaker as Basu Chatterjee. He was a filmmaker who made such beautiful, simple and lovable films. That was his forte. What’s more, he made absolute impact with those films.

Few people know that Basu da came from the Film Society Movement. In the 1960s in our country, there was a Film Society Movement that brought in international cinema other than Hollywood. Basu da was one of the leading figures associated with the movement. Therefore, if you see his films, they were a perfect bridge between parallel cinema and commercial cinema. Without being melodramatic or having larger-than-life characters, he had very simple stories to tell.

As a person, he was exactly the same as his films and scripts — very simple and not wanting to be seen, not shouting from rooftops. I don’t recollect Basu da getting angry with anybody or shouting at somebody. Yet, he knew how to get the best out of his actors.

In fact, this whole idea of workshop didn’t exist that time. Yet he was the one who would (conduct workshops). I distinctly remember he asked me and Dinesh Thakur, co-actors in ‘Rajnigandha’� (to come for workshop since our co-star) Vidya Sinha was a newcomer back then. Since Dinesh and I were from theatre, he asked us to rehearse with Vidya so that she could work on her dialogue delivery et cetera. We used to meet at his residence, and we would play simple theatre games — what you call today workshops.

When we first met, Basu da started narrating the story to me and he couldn’t go beyond three lines. He said, ‘ek kaam karo (do one thing), you read my script’. He gave a complete detailed script with screenplay and dialogues. That thing continued for about… I did eight films with him. He could never narrate a story. I mean it was such an irony that a person who could narrate a story so beautifully on screen, so effectively with a sense of humour, could not narrate stories person to person.

It was something that I learnt that narration need not be interesting at one to one level. But you must have complete command over your craft and the language of filmmaking, or film as a medium as one can say. He was a master at that.

That was something I learnt from him. You have to be good at that, not merely impress people with your narration or dialoguebaazi. How you narrate your story on screen, is what I learnt from Basu da.”

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