With legendary filmmaker Basu Chatterjee passing away on Thursday, 4 June, the industry is in shock. Speaking to The Quint, veteran actor Shabana Azmi recalled her fondest memories of Chatterjee.
“I have done three films with Basu Chatterjee, Swami, Jeena Yahan and Apne Paraye. I used to enjoy working with him a lot. Although he prided himself in not having a single sentimental bone in his body, but he had a deep compassion which was evident in the way he wrote his characters. That’s what I found attractive about him. To me, that was an Ismat Chughtai quality. Although his characters hailed from the Indian middle class society, he had a great knowledge of international middle class cinema”.Shabana Azmi, Actor
The veteran actor shared a hilarious incident from a day on the sets of Jeena Yahan. “Basuda had a lovely sense of humour. He would stuff his handkerchief in his mouth and start guffawing. Once we were shooting for Jeena Yahan. We were on a boat, I was singing a song and my feet were dangling in the water. Basuda and KK Mahajan were on a height filming the sequence. I said, ‘Basuda I think there are crocodiles in the water’. To which he replied, ‘As song as you lip sync the song, I don’t mind if your feet are chewed up by crocodiles”. Shabana Azmi added that Basu Chatterjee was short-tempered too, but she never saw that side of him.
As for dialogues, Azmi said, “His dialogues were also so lifelike that you wouldn’t have to struggle to remember them. He paved the way for middle-of-the-road cinema”.
Amol Palekar, who has worked with Basu Chatterjee in six films including Rajnigandha and Chitchor, said that the memories shared with the filmmaker were innumerable. “I acted in six of Basu Chatterjee’s films and in two more as a guest artiste.”
“What sets him apart from other directors is Basuda’s sheer simplicity. The way he would narrate a story, without any dramatics and twists and turns, was fascinating. His films did not have the typical tropes of the hero, heroine and villain. Rather they comprised of simple stories about day-to-day life and Basu Chatterjee portrayed them so well”.Amol Palekar, Actor
He added that another significant aspect of Basu Chatterjee’s films is the humour in them. “He made simple, loveable comedies. The humour wasn’t loud, rather it was understated. Basuda was a master of that craft”, Amol Palekar added.