Bollywood icon Shammi Kapoor passes away

Shammi Kapoor in a scene from The Golden PenThe crew of The Golden Pen offer their condolences to Shammi Kapoor’s wife Neela Devi, our gracious host when we filmed him; and to his children Aditya Raj and Kanchan Desai.

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It is hard to believe that the most flamboyant star of Bollywood, an actor who lived life to the fullest, driving the fanciest cars and drinking the finest Scotch whiskies, has passed away, just nine months after being interviewed by me for The Golden Pen, a documentary on the life of my father, Aghajani Kashmeri, being produced in Canada with funding from OMNI-TV.

How can I or anyone else from my generation forget the most famous song, better known as the Yahoo song, in his best known hit, Junglee, written by my father. More on that later in this post. Watch just the song and you’ll understand why he was also called the Elvis Presley of India. Continue reading

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

An Interview With Aghajani Kashmeri Reveals the Source of the Golden Pen’s Title

Our one-hour documentary on legendary film writer AGHAJANI KASHMERI has been officially titled THE GOLDEN PEN — Following the footsteps of a Bollywood scriptwriter — The previous working title was Bollywood or Bust.

 

The Golden Pen - documentary on the life of Aghajani Kashmeri

THE GOLDEN PEN is being produced with funding from OMNI-TV under its independent producers program. It will be aired later in 2011, exclusively on OMNI-TV in Canada for one year. We have begun to market the documentary in India, England, America and other parts of the world.

The title, The Golden Pen, is taken from the last interview that Aghajani Kashmeri gave in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, in March 1991. The journalist was the veteran writer, Rafique Baghdadi. It was published in Mumbai Daily, Mid-Day, and we reproduce it below. 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