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Kundan, May an Army of Clowns Sing You to Rest: Naseeruddin Shah

Actor Naseeruddin Shah pens down an honest, heartfelt tribute to filmmaker Kundan Shah who passed away on Saturday. 

Published
Bollywood
3 min read
Kundan Shah is no more. 
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In a touching tribute, remembering Kundan Shah in The Indian Express, colleague and actor Naseeruddin Shah paints a picture of the man from the few brief interactions the two had.

[...] Of all my films, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is among my personal favourites, one which I still often watch, and one which everyone everywhere seems to have seen. Thank you Kundan; no flight of angels, may an army of clowns sing thee to thy rest.
Naseeruddin Shah, writing in The Indian Express

Bollywood director Kundan Shah, 69, passed away at his residence on Saturday morning following a heart attack.

The director is known for some of the most iconic Bollywood films, including Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (1983), Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa (1993) and TV shows like Nukkad (1986) and Wagle Ki Duniya (1988).

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Kundan Shah: The Man

Kundan Shah was hardly individualistic, in fact as a student at FTII, he was scarcely distinguishable from his two closest friends, Ravi Ojha and Gopal Singh – all three bushily bearded, with that earnestly uncomprehending look in the eyes that young filmmakers just discovering Mani Kaul and Bresson have, shining through thick horn-rims.
Naseeruddin Sah

In fact, Shah says he didn’t even expect Kundan to make a movie as enduring as Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro. He was surprised when the more accountant-producer type Kundan with his bush-shirt, briefcase, and trousers turned into filmmaker Kundan Shah, who directed one of Shah’s favourite comedy films till date. To call Kundan charming would be incorrect; he was more “obstinate, irascible, short-tempered, and incredibly funny.”

I won’t say I miss him, such a sentiment would only embarrass him, and also because, apart from the insanely intense period of shooting JBDY, I hardly ever met him.
Naseeruddin Sah

Kundan Shah: The Director of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro

I won’t say his passing is a big loss to the film industry, which has no space for a sensibility like his, and no use for the kind of films he wanted to make. If he’d tried peddling the script of JBDY, he’d have been laughed out of financiers’ offices.
Naseeruddin Sah

Shah goes on to talk about Kundan Shah as a filmmaker, of which he knows a lot more since the only two time the two spent substantial time together was on the sets of JBDY.

Shah says, fondly, that as a filmmaker, Kundan didn’t have a lot more to give to the industry anyway. After JBDY, which “drained him completely”, his “off-centre vision” failed to come across successfully in all his subsequent works, partly due to a lack of energy on Kundan Shah’s side, and partly due to powerful people replacing his eccentricity and distinctive thought with “commercial-formula wisdom.”

I won’t say that I enjoyed working with him, I didn’t. I hated it, but the force of his conviction in what he was doing was stronger than my immature method-actor fixations. Many were the times we were not close to being on the same page, and I gave him great grief over non-issues, and what I will say is he never held it against me, and the affection I received from him was always unaffected.
Naseeruddin Sah

What Shah does remember with certainty and a lot of respect, is that of all the films made with tight-budgets at the time, JBDY was the only film in which everyone was paid on time, as promised. Kundan Shah even replaced a camera that Naseeruddin lost during the shoot at his own expense.

The camera was as expensive as his acting fee, Shah writes in memoriam.

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