Sunday, April 5, 2009

When Dilip Kumar Refused the Role in Sohrab Modi's Remake of Pukar - 2


We do know that the late Sohrab Modi (1897-1984) was adept at creating an aura of the bygone eras in his films. Besides producing, directing and also acting in many films, he had produced and directed the historical classic, “PUKAR” (1939) based on a script written by Kamal Amrohi and others. Many key scenes were actually shot in magnificent courts and palaces of the Mughal Emperors, which gave grace and authenticity to PUKAR.

The story focussed on Adl-e-Jahangiri or the fairness of the justice system of Mughal Emperor Jahangir. It revolves around the story of Mangal Singh who is involved in a family feud and has slain the father and brother of his romantic interest, Kanwar. Sohrab Modi plays the role of a loyal Chieftan, Sardar Sangram Singh who eventually captures his own son, Mangal Singh, and turns him over to the justice of the Emperor who sentences him to death, claiming that no one is above the law. As fate would have it, Jahangir's sense of justice is put to a great test when Noor Jehan accidentally shoots a washerman dead with an arrow during her hunting expedition, and his wife, the washer-woman seeks retribution. The Emperor, sensing that justice is at stake, is forced to pass the sentence against Noor Jehan and orders the washer-woman to shoot an arrow at the Emperor himself in the same manner in which Noor Jehan had shot the washer-man. Such was the high drama portrayed in PUKAR which is one of the landmark films in the history of Bollywood.

Stellar performances were given by Chandra Mohan as Emperor Jahangir and Naseem Banu as Empress Noor Jehan. Chandra Mohan was known for his powerful voice and his mesmeric grey-green eyes. Naseem Banu, who was introduced by Sohrab Modi in HAMLET, was known as “Pari Chehra” i.e. having such beauty as only the fairies have. She gave a heart-warming performance with the tenderness of a Mughal Queen. The role of washer-woman was memorably played by Sardar Akhtar – the original Mother India who had starred in AURAT (1940) and who later married Producer-Director Mehboob Khan. Sadiq Ali played the role of Mangal Singh, while the character of Kanwar was enacted by Sheela. PUKAR was released in January 1939 under the banner of Minerva Movietone.

Just nine years later, Chandra Mohan would be donning the role of a Public Prosecutor and father of Ram (very young Dilip Kumar) in the super-hit movie SHAHEED (1948). Ten years later, (1958) Dilip Kumar would be acting opposite Sohrab Modi in YAHUDI under Bimal Roy's direction. And, eight years later (1966), Dilip Kumar would be marrying Naseem Banu’s beautiful daughter, Saira Banu.

In one of his interviews, Chandra Barot, the maker of the original DON (1978) did reveal to Indu Marani (DNA 25.3.2006) while discussing "Remakes", that once Sohrab Modi suggested to Yusuf Saab (Dilip Kumar) and Saira Banu the remaking of PUKAR but Yusuf Saab said, “No,” because they would be compared to Chandra Mohan and Naseem Banu.

A friend of mine,  who was a witness to this interview,  informed me that Sohrab Modi had a meeting with Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu on the subject of remaking of PUKAR one fine morning at about 11 or 11.30 A.M. I'm not sure about the year but it may be 1979-1980. The scene was the drawing room of Dilip Kumar’s Pali Hill Bungalow. Now, here’s what actually seems to have transpired in the meeting:

Dilip Kumar: Modi Sahaab...

Sohrab Modi: Ji...

Dilip Kumar: Aap ki film PUKAR mein Chandra Mohan Sahaab ka ‘role’ Jahangir ka thaah. Chandra Mohan Sahaab Jahangir ke ‘role’ ke liye Theek bhee theh... Unki aankhen aur awaaz Shahenshah Jahangir se bilkul mutaashabihaath rakhthi thee.n.

Sohrab Modi: Ha.n, Ha.n... Aage Kahiye.

Dilip Kumar: Doosri taraf Noor Jahan ka ‘role’ meri saas, Naseem Banu, ne kiya thaah. Uss Waqt meri saas waqiye mein itni khoobsoorat thee.n jitni ke Malika Noor Jahan thee.n.

Sohrab Modi: Aakhir aap kehna kya chaahte hain?

Dilip Kumar: Modi Sahaab, dekhiye, naa toh meri aawaaz aur aankhen Chandra Mohan jaisi hain; aur na hee Saira Banu meri saas Naseem Banu jaisi khoobsoorat hain.
Lihaaza, mera aur Saira ka ‘role’ kamm kar dijiye, aur Mangal Singh aur Dhoban ka badhaa dijiye.

(Now, Dharmendra was to do the role of Mangal Singh and Zeenat Amaan that of the washer-woman. Hearing this, Sohrab Modi said)

Sohrab Modi: Kahaani mein raddo-badal mutlaq naheen hoga.

(Dilip Kumar answered thus)

Dilip Kumar: Phir main ma’zarat chaahtaa hoo.n.

(Sohrab stood up saying)

Sohrab Modi: Aap ki Marzee.

Thus the curtains were drawn for ever on the remaking of the 1939 classic PUKAR.



1 comment:

  1. Correction:
    I'm told that the meeting between Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu on one hand and Sohrab Modi on the other, had taken place not in Dilip Kumar's Bungalow, but at Saira Banu's Bungalow. The error is regretted.