On 27th August 2006 celebrated Hindi film maker Hrishikesh Mukherjee passed away in Mumbai. Mukherjee directed 42 films throughout his career spanning forty years and is remembered for establishing what is now known as the “middle cinema” of India. Mukherjee’s films focused on the Indian middle class and its changing dynamics over the years.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee was born on 30th September 1922 in Kolkata and graduated from the University of Kolkata. Following his graduation he also taught science and mathematics for some time. Mukherjee began his career as a cameraman and film editor in Kolkata in the 1940’s with film editor B.N. Sircar. He also acquired most of his skills from Subodh Mitter, a famous film editor of his times. Following this, Mukherjee began working as a film editor and assistant director with legendary film maker Bimal Roy in Mumbai in 1951. Mukherjee was a part of Roy’s famous films, like Do Bigha Zamin and Devdas.
In 1957, Hrishikesh Mukherjee made his directorial debut with the film Musafir. Even though this film did not do well, Mukherjee did not lose hope and made his second film Anari in 1959 for which he received much praise. Anari, starring Raj Kapoor and Nutan went on to win five Filmfare awards, with Mukherjee losing the Best Director Award to his guru Bimal Roy.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee entered his golden period when he made a series of films starring Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna. Some of Mukherjee’s most notable and well loved films are Anuradha, Gol Maal, Anand, Asli-Naqli, Bawarchi, Namak Haraam, Mili, Guddi and Khubsoorat.
Mukherjee is credited with introducing Dharmendra in a comic role in his film Chupke Chupke and giving Amitabh Bachchan his big break in Hindi cinema through his film Anand, alongside Rajesh Khanna. Jaya Bachchan was also introduced to Hindi films by Mukherjee in his 1971 film, Guddi. Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed his last film in 1998, titled Jhooth Bole Kauwa Kate, starring Anil Kapoor and Juhi Chawla.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee passed away on 27th August 2006 in Mumbai; he was suffering from chronic renal failure. Mukherjee is remembered for creating a “middle path” between the flamboyance of mainstream Bollywood, with its extravagant location and singing and dancing and the hard hitting realism of the other end of the prism, also known as art or parallel cinema.
Most of Mukherjee’s films were very realistic and very different from the usual Bollywood films, which was one of the reasons why they appealed to his audience so much. All his famous comedies were not so much based on situations, but on false characters; this can be seen in his films such as Chupke Chupke, Bawarchi, Gol Maal and Jhooth Bole Kauwa Kate. Even though Mukherjee did not like violence and crime he did make Buddha Mil Gaya which was a comedy-crime film. Mukherjee’s films had a simple plot, but a deep meaning and were heart warming, feel-good films. Mukherjee’s characters were urban educated, middle class people, who worked day jobs for a living, yet found themselves in interesting situations.
In 1999, the Government of India honoured Mukherjee with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his contribution to Indian cinema. He was also awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 2001 by the Government of India again for his work in the area of Indian cinema. Mukherjee was also the Chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification and the National Film Development Corporation. Mukherjee is also known for having worked with all the top Indian actors since Independence.
Also on This Day:
1781: Hyder Ali fought the Battle of Pallilore with the British.
1870: Sasipada Banerji of Kolkata established the first labour organization, namely Sramajivi Sangha.
1976: Major General Gertrude Ali Ram, the first woman General of the Indian Army, became the first Director of Military Nursing Services.
1982: Indian saint, Anandamayi Maa passed away.
1999: Sonali Banerji became the first woman marine engineer.