I can imagine Hrishikesh Mukherjee, or Hrishida as he was affectionately and respectfully called in the film fraternity, at 99. That’s what he would have turned today, And even though my interviews always took me to his bedside because by then he was already ailing, I would want to see him on a film set.
It could be in his own home where many of his films, including Gol Maal, was shot. Amol Palekar as Ramprasad Dashrathprasad Sharma ‘lived’ on the ground floor of Hrishida’s Carter Road bungalow with his sister Ratna, played by Manju Singh. The first floor had served as the in-film residence of Utpal Dutt’s Bhavani Shankar and his daughter Urmila, played by Bindiya Goswami.
Hrishida himself would be sitting on the sofa in the living room, directing a film while bent over his chessboard and plotting his next move.
The reason I remember Gol Maal is because had things gone according to plan, Hrishida’s last film, Jhooth Bole Kauwa Kaate, which opened in 1998, would have come much earlier and completed the trilogy which began with this comedy of errors.
While the sanskari Ramprasad with his stick-on moochi, his moochi-less twin Laxmanprasad aka Lucky, and his moustached boss Bhavani Prasad are unforgettable from the 1979 laugh riot, not many remember a lovely little film called Naram Garam which quietly trooped into the theatres two years after Gol Maal.
It featured both Utpal Dutt and Amol Palekar, again as boss Bhavani Shankar and desperate-to-hold-on to-his-job-and-his-girl Ramprasad. And while it was not a follow-up to Gol Maal, Naram Garam was also a comedy of errors, revolving around Kusum, whom Ramprasad is determined to marry despite all the men popping up with proposals, including his boss, an elderly widower, who believes she is the reincarnation of his dead wife. Hrishida himself believed that Naram Garam was a better film than Gol Maal, but it wasn’t as big a success.
Jhooth Bole Kauwa Kaate was to be the third film in this series. Hrishida did complete the trilogy but without Utpal Dutt and Amol.
By the time he started work on Jhooth Bole Kauwa Kaate it was the late ’90s. Utpal Dutt had succumbed to a heart attack in 1993 and Amol was in his fifties, too old, as Hrishida acknowledged, to play a young and eligible bachelor.
That’s how Anil Kapoor, the son of his old friend, producer Surinder Kapoor, entered the picture. Perhaps because he was not Amol, Hrishida chose Ramanuj, and not Ramprasad, as the name for his character Shankar’s impersonator.
Sajid Khan, making his debut as the guy who won’t get the girl and connives to ensure he doesn’t, is Chanakya. And Chunky had traces of Lucky.
Amrish Puri stepped into Utpal Dutt’s rather big shoes as the girl’s orthodox father, a retired cop. And Bhavani Shankar became Abhyankar, who has to be tricked into giving his consent to a match.
While both Amrish Puri and Anil are commendable, they are not Utpal Dutt and Amol Palekar, which is perhaps why Hrishida’s last film, which ended his decade-long vanvas from the theatres, does not leave you crowing. But yes, I still remember the film for its crow.
I had seen the kauwa in its stuffed avatar in Hrishida’s bungalow long before the film went on the floors. I was used to the dogs who lay sprawled around him, but the crow perched on the table was new. When I asked him about it, Hrishida told me that it was one of the actors in a film he was planning. “You will see it in the title role,” he shared.
Back then, I had no idea a cawing crow could create so much confusion, but Hrishikesh Mukherjee was a master of his game.