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Last Updated 13.07.2024 | 9:40 PM IST
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40 years of Saaransh: Mahesh Bhatt recalls, “Sanjeev Kumar was hit by this movie very hard because he himself was dealing with imminent demise”

en Bollywood News 40 years of Saaransh: Mahesh Bhatt recalls, “Sanjeev Kumar was hit by this movie very hard because he himself was dealing with imminent demise”

40 years since its release, Saaransh, clearly the centrepiece of Mahesh Bhatt’s career, remains relevant and resonant.

40 years of Saaransh: Mahesh Bhatt recalls, “Sanjeev Kumar was hit by this movie very hard because he himself was dealing with imminent demise”

40 years of Saaransh: Mahesh Bhatt recalls, “Sanjeev Kumar was hit by this movie very hard because he himself was dealing with imminent demise”

Said Mahesh, “What Saaransh did was to touch the human experience that has been coursing through the human heart since the dawn of time. All that man loves, he will one day part with. The anguish of losing your loved ones suddenly, and how one copes with that irreparable loss with dignity and grace, without resorting to the tales that religion has crafted to cushion man from the finality of death, is what the film grapples with. In the middle-class abode of Shivaji Park, the characters of Anupam Kher and Rohini Hattangadi, playing B.V. Pradhan and Parvati, arrive at that irrefutable truth. B.V. Pradhan says, touching the flowers that have bloomed from the ashes of his son in the children’s park where he used to play as a child and where the father scattered the ashes, ‘Life is a stream which has no full stop’. Saaransh deals squarely with the theme of loss and gives you only one recipe: find a co-traveller with whom you can journey through life. At the end of it all, aren’t we all just seeing each other home?”

Mahesh Bhatt finding his way into Rajshri Productions was rather odd. “I have the most amazing memories of the Rajshri doyen Tarachand Barjatya. I had gone with Saaransh to the NFDC, the body set up to help meaningful cinema. But they had literally shut the door on my face saying. ‘Baad mein aaiye.’ I was heartbroken. I realized the NFDC was no different from the other producers in the industry. No matter who the producer, priority is given to stars and not to the script. Dejected at being rejected, a miracle happened. I was traveling back from the NFDC office by bus when I saw the Rajshri banner in Prabhadevi. I walked into their office. Raj babu (Tarachand Barjatya’s son, Sooraj Barjatya’s father) was there. I pitched him the story of Saraansh and he said yes. Much later, I asked him what made him say yes to me. He said, ‘I saw a kind of unbridled passion in you. It was palpable in your every pore. We bought your hunger.’ For decades they’ve made films that challenge the mass-consumption Bollywood products. I’ve never seen a producer being more courageous than the Barjatyas.”

He added, “They agreed to produce Saraansh, although it debunked the entire theory of reincarnation. I cannot forget that Tarachandji’s son Raj Barjatya took on his father only once in his life, and that was to convince the doyen to produce my film Saaraansh. You see, Saaraansh attacked the theory of reincarnation. Sethji (Tarachand Barjatya) was closely associated with the Shri Aurobindo Ashram. He strongly believed in reincarnation. Saaraansh dared to question afterlife. Sethji wanted the theory of reincarnation not to be questioned. I wasn’t willing to make disastrous compromises. It was Raj Babu who convinced Sethji. Raj Babu took a position opposite to his father. Considering I was a nobody then I thought that was exceptional.”

But the most memorable moment from the Saaransh experience was the response from Sanjeev Kumar who was the first choice for the film. “I vividly remember that evening forty years ago when Sanjeev Kumar saw Saaransh. …. The screening of Saaransh comes to an end. Anupam Kher and I are standing outside the Preview Theatre of Rajshri Production House. Sanjeev Kumar has just concluded watching the film. As the music soars and the movie ends, after a pause, I hear an animal wail emanating from the auditorium. Astounded by what could have happened, Anupam and I run into the Preview Hall, and what we see takes our breath away. Sanjeev is lying on the floor, curled up like a man in excruciating pain. A howl emanates from his mouth, ‘Mahesh!’ He reaches out to me, and I go up to him, kneeling down to hold his hand. Hugging me, he begins to sob. Anupam, a newcomer who has made his debut film, is flabbergasted by Sanjeev Bhai’s response.”

He added, “We have been watching the preview of Saaransh, which has received phenomenal pre-release responses from critics and professionals in the trade. But nothing matches this. Sanjeev then drives us to his private apartment opposite Khar Gymkhana, serves us VAT 69, and says something that Anupam and I will never forget: ‘This is one of the best films. I can list it among the top ten films I have seen in my life, including international films.’ Then, looking at Anupam, he adds, ‘I couldn’t have played this role the way this boy has played it. He was made to play this role. He was born to play this role’.”

Mahesh Bhatt added, “Sanjeev Bhai was perhaps hit by this movie very hard, was because he himself was dealing with imminent demise. Because he had a history of heart disease in his family. Nobody crossed a particular age. And he had several heart attacks. And he had come back from the U.S. having gone through some major intervention, heart intervention, and had come back looking very lean and fit. And in fact, the irony is that when I received the award for Saaransh's Best Story or something, for Filmfare, it was he who gave me the award. And I was quite stunned to see him make his presence felt to the industry, which was taken by surprise by his sudden arrival. And that was the last time I laid my eyes on Sanjeev Bhai.”

The premiere night was intoxicating for Mahesh. “And not because of the alcohol we consume, but because of the heartfelt praise that Sanjeev Bhai showered over our film. Saaransh is an enduring classic. Forty years on, it has still not lost its relevance.

It hasn’t wrinkled because truth doesn’t wrinkle. It’s like fire; it burns every time you touch it. Not indulging in false humility. I must concede that we made this film with great passion and with the most motivated team I have ever worked with. Without Mr. Rajkumar Barjatya and Rajshri Productions, who gave me the greatest support in my career, this film would not have been possible,” concluded the filmmaker.

Also Read: 40 years of Saaransh EXCLUSIVE: Balasaheb Thackeray gave his blessings to the Rajshri Productions film before its release

More Pages: Saaransh Box Office Collection


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