Humane, witty, genius: Amitabh Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Rajit Kapur remember Basu Chatterjee

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June 4, 2020 5:19 PM

Bachchan remembered Chatterjee as a "quiet, soft-spoken, gentle human" and recalled working with him on 1979 feature "Manzil", while quoting the lyrics of the film's popular monsoon track "Rim Jhim Gire Saawan".

Chatterjee, known for his relatable and slice-of-life films such as “Chhoti Si Baat” and “Rajnigandha”, had been suffering from age-related health issues for a while. (Express archive photo)

Remembering him as gentle human and a pioneer in middle-of-the-road cinema, whose films were part of the childhood of many, members of Indian film industry, including megastar Amitabh Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Rajit Kapur, directors Sudhir Mishra, Shoojit Sircar, paid tributes to veteran filmmaker Basu Chatterjee who passed away on Thursday.

Chatterjee, known for his relatable and slice-of-life films such as “Chhoti Si Baat” and “Rajnigandha”, had been suffering from age-related health issues for a while. He died in his sleep at his Santacruz residence, aged 93.

Bachchan remembered Chatterjee as a “quiet, soft-spoken, gentle human” and recalled working with him on 1979 feature “Manzil”, while quoting the lyrics of the film’s popular monsoon track “Rim Jhim Gire Saawan”.

“Prayers and Condolences on the passing of Basu Chatterjee .. a quiet, soft-spoken, gentle human .. his films reflected the lives of middle India .. did ‘MANZIL’ with him .. a sad loss these climes often remembered for ‘rim jhim gire saawan’,” he tweeted.

Azmi, who worked with Chatterjee on three films, also paid a tribute to the filmmaker. “Deeply saddened to hear about Basu Chatterjee’s passing away. A prolific filmmaker, he was the pioneer of what came to be regarded as middle of the road cinema. I was fortunate to have done 3 lovely films with him ‘Swami’, ‘Apne Paraye’ and ‘Jeena Yahan’. All lifelike characters. RIP.”

Actor Rajit Kapur, who played the title role as the ‘satyanweshi’ (truth seeker) in Chatterjee’s hit DD detective series “Byomkesh Bakshi”, remembered the director as “practical” man with a “great sense of humour”, who was never bogged down by crisis.

“That attitude kept him going. He’d look for solutions and I’ve learnt that kind of practical approach from him. That’s the approach he applied to his work,” Kapur told PTI.

The actor said his colleagues from the series “Yugantar” recommended his name for “Byomkesh…”.  “He must’ve seen ‘Yugantar’ obviously, and somewhere must’ve clicked in his head. We met and within ten minutes he told me ‘I want you to play this’,” he said.

“He had an extremely simple, basic approach with no frills attached. He’d straight get to the point, which was reflective to the kind of person he was: honest. If something wasn’t working, he’d tell. He was a very no-nonsense person,” Kapur added.

Anil Kapoor, who worked with the director in the hit “Chameli Ki Shaadi”, remembered Chatterjee as a filmmaker who was always ahead of his time. “Basu Chatterjee will be truly missed. He was an effortless genius and an amazing human being. May he rest in peace,” Kapoor tweeted.

Director Sudhir Mishra said it is just another sad day for Bollywood, which recently lost personalities like Irrfan Khan, Rishi Kapoor, veteran lyricist Yogesh and Wajid Khan of Sajid-Wajid.

“Everyday brings with it some bad news! You were part of my childhood Dada. Humane, gentle, witty! “These days you are the main inspiration for a lot of young film makers. They are mimicking your films. N they lie when they say different films didn’t work in the past. Yours did,” Mishra wrote.

Filmmaker Goutam Ghosh recalled how Chatterjee had readily agreed to arrange him an ariflax camera when he was in desperate search of one during the making of the 1984 film “Paar”, starring Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri.

“Basu da was very supportive to young directors. When I had requested him to arrange me an ariflax camera he readily agreed at a much lesser rate than the market price then,” Ghosh told PTI.

Ghosh also recalled the ‘adda’ sessions among directors like Chatterjee, Mrinal Sen, Hrishikesh Mukherjee in Kolkata and Mumbai in the 1980s which lasted for hours “where the wit and humour and camaraderie among them was very much visible”.

“He was an actor’s director having extracted unforgettable performances from stars like Amol Palekar and Rekha among others,” Ghosh said. In a brief tweet, Kashyap wrote, “Basu da”, accompanied with a heartbreak emoji.

“Gulabo Sitabo” director Shoojit Sircar recalled starting his own film journey with a Bengali television show with Chatterjee. “My 1st job as an assistant director was with Basu Chatterjee for a Bengali tv serial shot in CR park, New Delhi.. May his soul Rest In Peace,” Sircar said.

Listing his favourite films directed by Chatterjee, filmmaker Hansal Mehta said, “‘Rajnigandha’, ‘Chhoti Si Baat’, ‘Baaton Baaton Mein’, ‘Khatta Meetha’, ‘Chitchor’, ‘Swami’, ‘Saara Akash’, ‘Ek Ruka Hua Faisla’, ‘Shaukeen’, ‘Rajni’… What a legacy. What a filmmaker. Basu Chaterjee RIP.”

Filmmaker Tarun Majumder said he had fond memories of visiting US years back with Chatterjee to attend the cultural meet of an organisation of Bengali expatriates. His films bore the stamp of his subtle sensibility, his simple narrative style having dollops of humour and yet having humane and underlying message,” Majumder, himself one of the pioneers of middle-of-the-road, family entertainers in Bengali films said.

“I hadn’t talked to him for long. But many memories keep flooding at this moment,” Majumder told PTI.

“Sri #BasuChatterjee, The man who has been one of the change makers of Indian cinema, will be alive forever through his stupendous body of work! Rest in Peace Sir,” music composer and singer Jeet Gannguli tweeted.

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