Long before dark, dysfunctional and gritty cinema became an instant hit with reality-loving movie buffs in Indian cinema, there was National Award-winning director Basu Chatterjee who spun gold out of middle-class existence and made their ordinary lives seem extraordinary.
Basu, who died in Mumbai on June 4 at 93, was the creative genius behind Hindi blockbusters such as ‘Baaton Baaton Mein’ ‘Chitchor’, ‘Rajnigandha’ and ‘Khatta Meetha’ and brought alive the trials and triumphs of the middle-class Indians.
His humane stories were simple but never simplistic in their tone.
The architect of ‘Byomkesh Bakshi’, the smart Bengali detective, also leaves behind a cinematic legacy that remains unparalleled.
Actor Amol Palekar’s common man’s hero image can be largely attributed to Basu and his films. His films were an effective antidote to action-filled, angry-young-man films that were immensely popular in Hindi cinema the 1970s. The master story-teller relied on his relatable characters and amiable situations to form the backbone of his films.
Often compared to veteran filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Basu was also considered as one of the pioneers of enjoyable, but realistic films. His works had immense repeat value and was the by-word for feel-good, but relatable cinema.
CELEBS MOURN CHATTERJEE
Award-winning actress Deepti Naval, who has acted in mainstream and parallel Indian films, described Basu Chatterjee as a significant filmmaker who made "delightful" films.
"I remember watching his film 'Rajinigandha' while in New York and loving the movie. We were also neighbours, he lived in the ground floor of my apartment in Versova (a suburb in Mumbai). His films were significant and realistic. His films weren't dark and had an innocence to them," said Naval in an interview with Gulf News over the phone.
Director Ram Kamal Mukerjee, who considers Chatterjee a pioneer filmmaker, remembers meeting the legendary filmmaker.
"When I met Basu Chatterjee during my early days in Mumbai I remember how he surprised me saying that his blockbuster movie Rajanigandha was made in 3.5 lacs and added that these days movies are made with money, our time we used to make it with passion. That stayed with me," said Mukerjee in a separate interview.
Describing Chatterjee as a filmmaker who aced the art of 'simple narrative', Mukherjee believes that the filmmaker was a part of a new wave of Indian cinema.
"When I watched his remake Ratadeep with Hema Malini and Girish Karnard, I realised his art of simple narrative. Films like 'Baaton Baaton Mein', 'Chitchor', 'Choti Si Baat' created a new genre in Hindi cinema which is still sustained by filmmakers like Sujoy Ghosh, Pradeep Sarkar, Shoojit Sarkar, Zoya Akhtar and Meghna Gulzar. Needless to say as a filmmaker even I am influenced by his style of story telling," said Mukherjee.
As soon as the news of his death emerged, Bollywood filmmakers such as Madhur Bhandarkar and Ashwini Chaudhary took to Twitter to mourn the loss of a noted visionary.
Filmmaker and Indian Film & TV Directors’ Association president Ashoke Pandit took to Twitter to announce the director's demise.
“I am extremely grieved to inform you all the demise of Legendary Filmmaker Basu Chatterjee ji . His last rites will be performed today at Santacruz creamation at 2pm (12.30pm UAE time). It’s a great loss to the industry. Will miss you Sir. #RIPBasuChaterjee.”