Saturday, July 12, 2008

Dilip Gupta - my Madhumati connection!

There are some people – who are no more – who one would have liked to have got to know better. In fact, there are times when looking back we regret many lost opportunities in interacting with them. For me, watching the movie Madhumati – by one of Bengal’s and India’s best known directors Bimal Roy – was such an occasion, which brought to mind an uncle, Dilip Gupta. He was the cinematographer for Madhumati and even won the Filmfare award for best cinematography in the year 1958 for it – incidentally the legendary Madhumati also turned 50 this year!
What I have gathered from trawling the Net – riding Google – is that Dilip Gupta or Jhunu Jethamoshai as I called him, was a cinematographer in Bollywood between the 1930s & 1960s and was director of photography for Prem Patra (1962), Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai (1961), Dil Deke Dekho (1959), Madhumati (1958), Yahudi (1958), Gotoma the Buddha (1956), Biraj Bahu (1954), Deedar (1951), Street Singer (1938/I)... aka Saathi, Street Singer (1938/II)... aka Saathi (India: Hindi title) and Devdas (1935).
Dilip Gupta was my father’s favourite cousin and my father, who was younger, drew a lot of inspiration from him. I remember a couple of family events, where Jhunu Jetha was present and Baba taking great pains to create an opportunity for my sister and me to chat with him. By then, he was aged and showed a great deal of affection for us – unfortunately for me, it just did not occur to me to sit and chat with him about the past and his exciting work as one of the early great cinematographers in Bollywood. Of course, I do remember my father and mother fondly remembering Mr Gupta and his wife and the happy times that all of them had spent together in Mumbai way back in the early 1960s. My father, who was a skilled and creative photographer – drew a lot of inspiration from his Jhunuda and it was Jhunuda who had introduced my parents to the famous Bimal Roy and his wife in Mumbai.
Mr Roy, of course, is among Bollywood’s great directors of all times and his extraordinary career as a director also coincided with a Golden Age for Bengali talent in Bollywood. P.C. Barua, K.L. Saigal, Salil Chowdhury, S.D. Burman and even Ritwik Ghatak have all worked with Bimal Roy on various projects. He started his career in Bengal with New Theatres but later migrated to Mumbai where he was to first work with Bombay Talkies and later to set up his own production company. Some of the most famous songs from Bollywood are from his films, such as Suhana Safar Aur Yeh Mausam Haseen from Madhumati (1958) and Mora Gora Ang Lai Le from Bandini. Music for these films was composed by the two legends from Bengal - Salil Chowdhury and Sachin Deb Burman.
Coming back to Dilip Gupta – I do remember an occasion when he had visited my grandparents’ home in Kolkata and had talked about a film that he was shooting on the life of Thakur Ramakrishna – the famous religious and spiritual leader of Bengal – whose teachings greatly inspired him. Since I was very young at that time, I didn’t have the slightest interest in asking him details about his work – again I look upon that as a huge lost opportunity. By then, he had retired from full-time work and was on a vacation in Kolkata from Mumbai. He along with his wife had spent quite a few hours with my grandparents on that occasion and it would have been the ideal time to talk to him about his work.
I also remember another occasion when I had met him – I don’t remember where this was – along with my father. The two of them had chatted about Jhunu-Jetha’s recent visit to LA, where he had spent a nostalgic vacation amidst memories of the time when he had gone there as a young student of the techniques of film-making. Again – had I listened their chat with a greater degree of attention, I’d probably have got a better understanding of the world of LA than I was to later get from my own visit to Universal Studios – excited at being at the Mecca of Hollywood, all by myself. In fact, my sister, with her artistic sensibilities has probably had far richer interaction with Jhunu-Jetha than me – she’s even visited him at his Mumbai home and had a glimpse of the Dark Lady – his Filmfare award for Madhumati!
I’ve heard from family members that one of Dilip Gupta’s daughters – my cousin – is now working at putting together a book on him with articles contributed by Hollywood greats such as Dilip Kumar and other material that she has with her on her father. I wish her all the best with this project and look forward to its completion.


majorseventh said...

Music of Bandini was composed by Sachin Deb Burman - not Salil Chowdhury.

ishani said...

Thanks for correcting me.