The truth of a man who made Amitabh Bachchan

By Joginder Tuteja

Ok, so veteran filmmaker Prakash Mehra is no more and the round of obituaries has begun.

'Oh, he was a great filmmaker!', 'He was the one who made Amitabh Bachchan', 'His presence would be sorely missed', 'Industry has lost a major asset' etc. etc.

Quite a lot of these being canned quotes, considering the fact that Prakash Mehra was ill for quite a while and most news channels and other media forums had already done their 'homework' on writing obituaries.

Makes sense - after all in the cut throat competition where 'Breaking News' ceases to be 'breaking' in two minutes flat, it all boils down to 'being their first'.

Which brings me back to all the kind of things being said on the lines of 'Industry has lost a major asset'.

So let's dissect this statement - There is a truth and a lie here. 'Major asset' - Yes, 'Loss' - No! Reason? If Prakash Mehra was such an asset, where was the same industry which refused to give him a second chance when he tried to rebuild his production house with four odd announcements that he made around 15 years back?

I still remember how excited Prakash Mehra was when he decided to get back into the industry with a big-bang and made four announcements in one go with newcomers leading the cast of his films.

Sadly, none of the films went beyond the announcement stage and were subsequently shelved/ignored. Again, around a decade back, Prakash Mehra had talked about reviving his production house by beginning work on a film with Satish Kaushik. No, this one too didn't materialise.

Now if Prakash Mehra was an asset, where was the same industry? Why didn't it give the man another chance?

Let's talk about the Amitabh Bachchan factor in his life. The fact is that once he made Zanjeer with Amitabh Bachchan, he could seldom see similar success with any other actor.

The man made innumerous attempts at re-launching himself but that was futile.

Even when he made Zindagi Ek Juaa which was an ambitious project starring the likes of Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit and Amrish Puri and was a genuinely well made film and as contemporary as it gets (the film was made in 1992, close to 25 years after he first made a movie), it couldn't do well at the box office.

Now if Prakash Mehra was an asset, where was the same industry and the audience? Why didn't it give the man another chance?

Analysts say that with Zanjeer, Prakash Mehra kick started a new beginning for Bollywood with his unique style of story telling. I agree. After all the lethal combination of story telling, technique and style was pretty much first of it's kinds when seen close to four decades back.

What he brought to the screen never went out of fashion. He gave a magic formula to the industry that has worked decade after decade.

Whether it was Amitabh Bachchan or Sunny Deol or Ajay Devgan or Akshay Kumar - each of these stars have at some stage or another benefited immensely from the 'angry young man' image.

Now if Prakash Mehra was an asset, where was the same industry? Why didn't these actors give the man another chance?

Today I, along with dozens of others Bollywood followers are talking about the man. We are building stories about him, doing our Google search, browsing through Wikipedia, unearthing our Prakash Mehra DVD collections, finding whatever material we can to bring his memories back to the world. It won't be surprising if a book about him comes on the stands in next three months as well.

Now if Prakash Mehra was an asset, where were we? Why didn't writers give the man another chance and keep him alive and kicking for the current generation?

In an interview with a prominent news channel, I was asked a question whether Prakash Mehra was really upset with Amitabh Bachchan for not having worked with him again after Jaadugar.

I am amazed that we love to talk about such 'issues' because at the end of the day, whatever transpired between two individuals would be known only by those who were in the confines of the four walls.

Any outsider can only speculate or assume but never claim to know about 'what really happened'. And here comes the million dollar adage about an individual's professional life being different from personal life.

An Amitabh Bachchan may choose not to work with Prakash Mehra but how could it have any bearing on his personal relationship with the filmmaker? Why is his 'visit to hospital' being spoken around in the same vein as 'him refusing to work with him for more two decades'?

So next time when someone says or write that Bollywood has witnessed a great loss with the passing away of Prakash Mehra, let's really mean what we say. That's because till the time he was actively making films, he was 'the' asset for the industry.

Let's not state what Bollywood has lost 'today'. Let's rather reflect on what Bollywood earned from him 'yesterday'.

That's because if he wasn't there, we don't know how much longer it would have taken for some other filmmaker to invent the concept of an 'angry young man'!