New Delhi: Legendary film director Hrishikesh Mukherjee best known for light-hearted comic dramas, was in fact a disciplinarian who managed to silence superstars like Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan, reveals actor Asrani.
"Mukherjee was not a director, he was a headmaster. How to speak, what to say, what not say. He would instruct everyone, kya Amitabh, kya Dharmendra!" says the actor who has worked with Mukherjee in several of his films.
The film maker was notorious for not sharing the details of upcoming scenes until the very last moment and was known to have instructed his assistant directors to do the same. During the making of the 1975 comedy Chupke Chupke Asrani, donning a suit for his character went to ask Mukherjee about a following scene, only in vain.
"I was on the set wearing a suit. Hrishi da was sitting with writer Rahi Masoom Raza. Both of them were playing chess. There were 4-5 assistant directors and I enquired from them about the scene. But no one responded," he says.
Then came in Dharmendra wearing a driver's uniform, and asked Asrani in suprise, "Main tera driver bana hoon! (I am playing the role of your driver?)" "In those days, there would be budgetary restrictions and we used to get clothes from old films. I generally did not get to wear suits in films and now that I was wearing one, Dharmendra got scared and asked, 'What is going on? What is the scene? How did you get a suit and I get driver's dress? Suit toh apne baap ko bhi nahi dega Hrishikesh Mukherjee'"says the 75-year-old comedian.
By this time, Mukherjee had seen all the movements on the set and shouted at Dharmendra,"'Aye Dharam! What are you asking Asrani?' The scene, right? Arey, if you had any sense for story, would you have been a hero then?" Asrani recalls adding that according to the director, had Dharmendra had the ability to understand a scene he would have been a director instead of an actor.
Mukherjee, who is among one of the finest filmmakers in Hindi cinema, was born on September 30, 1922, and passed away on August 22, 2006. Although he started off with a serious drama, Satyakaam featuring Dharmendra and Sanjeev Kumar, he subsequently shifted to the comic genre with light-hearted films like Guddi, Bawarchi and Golmaal that revolved around the contemporary middle-class lifestyle.
As unbelievable as it may sound, the director was also known to carry a stick around with him to ensure that nobody could do anything "left or right" without his approval. Bachchan, then popularly known as the 'angry young man' too faced the ire when he expressed his surprise at Asrani's
character wearing a suit and went on to ask him about the scene, only to be silenced by the director.
"'Oh! How come you are in a suit today?' Amitabh asked me. 'Whose office is this? (He said referring to the set) What is the scene?' "Dada saw it again and yelled. 'Hey Amit! What are you asking Asrani? The story or the scene? Dharam! Tell him what I told you. You guys, if you had the sense for the story you wouldn't be playing heroes in films! Chalo get to work'," says Asrani.