In February, publishing house Harper Collins India will release a three-film monograph on poet, lyricist and filmmaker Gulzar’s films Aandhi, Angoor and Ijaazat. The books will trace the making of these iconic films through interviews with the lead stars and anecdotes by Gulzar. Here’s an excerpt from the first book Aandhi: Insights Into The Film, written by Saba Mahmood Bashir.
On being asked why he selected Suchitra Sen for the film, Gulzar shares with the author:
There’s a story behind the selection of Suchitra Sen. J. Om Prakash, the producer, had called me for a story, which he wanted me to direct. Written by Sachin Bhowmik, it was a thriller set in a hospital or something, and he said that we could cast Sanjeev and Suchitra, and Sanjeev was, in any case, very keen to work with her. So Sachin Bhowmik had written the story accordingly, keeping the two actors in mind. In that meeting, Sachin Bhowmik, Sanjeev and J. Om Prakash were all present. I didn’t particularly like the story – it was ordinary, a typical bambaiya plot. So, I said that it wouldn’t be right to call Suchitra Sen all the way to Bombay to hear that story. Why should she do such a film? The first person in that room to react to my comment was Sachin Bhowmik. He said, ‘You are right, absolutely right. This is Bombay, you can call many actors from here, but if you call Suchitra Sen, the story has to be something different.’ When he said this, everyone else in the room agreed.
Personally, I’d already been thinking about Aandhi for quite sometime, so I decided it was the right time to narrate the story to everyone in the room. So I told them what I had in mind – two characters and their relationship, how it gets broken, she becomes a politician and we didn’t have movies on politicians at the time, and viewers had not seen actual politics, how it worked behind the scenes.
I narrated just the basic plot and they all reacted positively. So J. Om Prakash said, ‘Do you have this story on paper? Can you write it?’ I asked for some time, and promised to share a synopsis in about two–three weeks. ‘If you like it, then we can work it out,’ I said. And he said, I meet Suchitra Sen by the end of next month, or a month and a half or two months, or whatever. All this happened in that span of two months. As promised, I brought the synopsis in around two weeks’ time because I already had the basic premise in my mind, not the entire story, so I began working on it. And that’s how Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar came together to work in a film.’
During the film, Sen portrays three different and very distinct traits of Aarti’s personality. In one, she plays a young, free spirited woman who dares to fall in love, stands her ground in front of an opposing father, gets married, and eventually has a falling out with her husband. In the second, she plays a politician who has the strength to lead a country. All her moves are packed with positivity and energy. And in the third, she meets her estranged husband after a gap of nine years; the way she mellows down, the ache of heartbreak melts through her eyes. It is incredible for a character to go through so many transformations during a single film.