Production Journal: Mumbai

 

If shooting “THE GOLDEN PEN — Following the Footsteps of a Bollywood Scriptwriter” in the city of Lucknow was like a romp through fantasyland, filming in Mumbai was like stepping back in time, despite the vibrancy of a metropolis that I and everyone I know still call Bombay.

 

As we walked up Cumballa Hill Road, the street where Babba, my father, moved to after he wrote hit after hit, and rented a flat in a building called Keki Court, it did not seem like anything had changed.

The tiny cigarette shop at the foot of the Lane was still there and I could have sworn that the bidiwala had aged chronologically backwards. But no, it was his son Suresh.

The only difference: with globalism and liberalization of trade, Lucky Strike and Marlborough could now be purchased at more reasonable prices. Talk of marketing death with panache. Continue reading

Production Journal: Lucknow

LUCKNOW, INDIA – The residents of Wazir Gunj, an old ‘mohalla’ or neighbourhood, rose up to lend a helping hand in the digital rebirth of the late Bollywood scriptwriter, Aghajani Kashmeri. And it was quite an experience, talking to the children and grandchildren of the friends my Babba played with. (SEE SLIDESHOW BELOW AND LISTEN TO THE MELODIOUS VOICE OF LUCKNOW’S LEGENDARY GHAZAL SINGER, THE LATE BEGUM AKHTAR)

After all, he was one of their own, who rose to capture the No. 1 spot in the world’s largest movie industry as a screenplay, dialogue and storywriter. And here we were, myself, Howard Bernstein (my co-producer and co-writer), his wife Lani Selick (our director), Tony Wannamaker (the director of photography), assisted by Samal Prashant from New Delhi, recreating the early life of Babba.

Filming the Aghajani Kashmeri documentary in Lucknow, India - The Golden Pen team

The Golden Pen documentary team in Lucknow’s Sarovar Portico

He was born at 9 Wazir Gunj. The original home still stands, an open courtyard surrounded by living quarters, a terrace up top running all the way around. All the houses connect to each other through the terrace. You could in fact, jump from one terrace to another and make your way around the old mohalla. Babba did, he writes in his autobiography, Sahar Honé Tak.

SLIDESHOW OF THE LUCKNOW SHOOTING

On one occasion, as a youngster, he and some friends found an opening in the roof of a nearby home from where they peeped at a newlywed couple enjoying their first night. Babba told me years later that he never forgot the nuptial conversation! And would reproduce those dialogues in one of his movies, with crfitics acclaiming the scene as one of the most realistic pieces of scriptwriting. Continue reading

Production Journal: Toronto

I wish I could find words to describe the first day of shooting a documentary on my late father’s life. When I look back at the weekend of September 25 and 26, 2010, it went by so quickly, so quickly in fact that I had no time to be nostalgic or emotional. I didn’t even have time to cry.

Without giving away too much, because I would like you all to see my father’s documentary when we complete it next March, the moment that stays with me was at my father’s grave. We were filming a sequence with Murtaza Amarshi, his two sons and his young daughter. Murtaza is the owner of the fabulous fountain pen shop, with the most gorgeous collection of writing instruments, papers, note books, and everything classic and nice that you can think of in Toronto’s (stock) Exchange Tower. It is called The Sleuth & The Statesman.

In brief, here is his story (you will see the real thing in the documentary): in 1998, just after my father died and his grave was still fresh at the York Cemetery in the North end of Toronto, a dad with his three children stumbled upon the newly placed tombstone on Aghajani’s grave. The title on the tombstone read: Bombay Movie Legend. Continue reading

Production Journal: Looking for my Babba

When I started writing for a daily newspaper in India four decades ago, the last thing I imagined was that one day I would produce and write a documentary on my father, Aghajani Kashmeri.

What is so special about Babba? Well, other than being my father, of course, 🙂 he was one of the most famous scriptwriters (screenwriter if you wish) of his time in Bollywood – the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s. His last movie was Khilona (1970), starring Jeetendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Mumtaz, Durga Khote, Shabnam, and other then famous names. This added to his huge list of hits, those that have run 25 to 50 weeks continuosly in one theatre. It was produced by L.V.Prasad and directed by Chander Vohra and won the Filmfare best movie award for 1970. Continue reading