Saturday, September 02, 2006


Only when the pillars start crumbling, one after the other in quick succession, do you realise that a generation is breathing its last and the next has taken over. The transition can happen even before you bat your eyelid. In just five years, the pillars that propped my childhood have fallen like ninepins. These are people whose immortality you take for granted — people like Ashok Kumar, or Dadamoni, the evergreen jovial father/grandfather.

Sometime in 2001, Ashok Kumar gave a long interview to Filmfare, in which he pondered about life and death. At the time, he was one of the few who could talk with authority about both: he had lost his two brothers and his wife in the late 1980s. He did not go for their funerals because, as he said in the interview, he hated saying goodbye like that. Ashok Kumar died soon after.

Today I am reminded of the interview because he had also mentioned, while bemoaning his lonely life, that a handful of people still kept in touch with him, and one of them was Hrishikesh Mukherjee. “He called me the other day to say he loves me,” the veteran actor had said. Today, Dadamoni and Hrishida could be scripting another Aashirwaad or a Mili — to be screened exclusively in the theatres up there. Between 2001 and 2006, so many seemingly-permanent fixtures of Hindi cinema — and of my childhood — made an exit from this world.

These are people who you wish never died, because when they die, you not only feel sad about their passing away but are also reminded about your own mortality. When the icon of your childhood dies of old age, it means you have left your childhood far behind and are set to approach middle age. This is a fact you really can’t make peace with, and that is why the death of actors is so disturbing.

But they died: even the ones who were thought of to have conquered death. Like Sunil Dutt. The man pulled himself through innumerable tragedies — his wife’s painful death from cancer, his son’s addiction to drugs, a plane crash, paralysed legs and what not. Yet he capped his political career by becoming a minister at the Centre. But one day he dies, suddenly and painlessly. Can you beat that?

But death beats all. My generation’s association with Om Prakash and Lalita Pawar goes back to the day we first bought our black-and-white TV. The TV went on to change shape and colour, but the two remained on the screen — the comedian father/uncle and the wicked mother-in-law. I had thought they were immortal, but they left this world. So did the mother of all screen mothers, Nirupa Roy.

One feels so helpless. Amid such helplessness, Dev Anand provides a ray of hope: he is perhaps the only actor who seeks to defy nature by playing roles that are half his age, which, currently, is eighty-plus. But his younger brother Vijay ‘Goldie’ Anand, who directed Dev Anand in landmark movies like Guide, died in 2004.

Three more people died between 2001 and 2006: Johnny Walker, the king of unadulterated comedy; Amrish Puri, the unadulterated artiste but highly ‘adulterated’ villain; and Naushad, who I believed would live on forever as a testimonial to the era when making music required the precision of a surgeon rather than the promises of a general practitioner who never let his patients down.

Why is death so impatient in rushing people out of this world? Maybe it is not. It is just that we humans refuse to recognise death as reality: we always see it as a distant reality— distant to the extent of being an impossibility. But when someone like Hrishikesh Mukherjee dies, it amounts to the death of not just a human being but also a generation.


Anonymous said...

That's why i thot that Hrishida was called up in the Heavens by the BIG DADA of all coz he had sent Ganesh Dada here on earth on that day in ours n urs houses and to fill this space He called Dada up but Ganesha comes back every year to visit our houses but Hrishida will never come back on earth again surely coz God needs this Master Work up in the heaven..right from the Anari to Jhoot Bole..Hrishida i miss u n i hope to see u up there very soon but sadly my place is booked in the hell but i dont worry..TV rahegana.

phantom363 said...

around late 1963 or early 1964, there was an item in the paper that jawaharlal nehru claimed that he will live upto 100.

a few months later he was gone.

i am sorry to hear that hrish's passing on has hit you so hard. i am not sure if this blog was written with an artistic concept of an admirer losing his icon. or of a personal friend. :(

either way, wishing you a 'getting over it' soon. celebrate life. when death comes, i pray mine would be quick and painless. :)

till then god bless. :)

Srivilasica said...

White Magnolias
by Helen Deutsch

The year when I was twenty-one
(John that year was twenty-three)
That was the year, that was the spring,
We planted the white magnolia tree.

'This tree,' said John, 'shall grow with us,
and every year it will bloom anew.
This is our life. This is our love.'
And the white magnolia grew and grew

Oh, youth's a thing of fire and ice
And currents that run
Hot and white,
And its world is as bright
as the sun

I was twenty-one
And I wore a plume in my hat, and
we went to the movies and wept over
'Stella Dallas,' and John sang
'Moonlight and Roses' (a little off-
key, but very nicely, really), and we
hurried through our crowded days
with beautiful plans, boundless
ambitions and golden decisions.

There is so much the young heart
clamors for; this it must have, and
that it cannot live without, and
it must be all or nothing, for
aren't we the masters of creation?

Oh, valiant and untamed were we,
When we planted the white magnolia tree!

And the white magnolia grew and grew,
Holding our love within its core,
And every year it bloomed anew,
and we were twenty-one no more.

No more untamed, no more so free,
Nor so young, nor so wild and
aflame were we.

Dearer to us then grew other things:
easy sleep, books, a dayĆ¢€™s quiet
holiday, good talk beside a fire,
the beauty of old faces

We have known many things since
then: the death of a child and the
bitter lesson that a heart which
breaks must mend itself again
(that it can and must be done), and
what loyalty can mean, and how
real a word like courage can be-
come, and that solitude can be
rich and gratifying and quite
different from loneliness

There is so little the serious heart
requires: friends, faith, a window
open to to the world, pride in work
well done, and strength to live in
a world at war and still maintain
the heart's own private peace

Dear Heaven, I give thanks to thee
for the things I did not know before,
for the wisdom of maturity,
for bread, and a roof, and for
one thing more

Thanks because I still can see
the bloom on the white magnolia tree

Anonymous said...

Death is inevitable. So, why cry over it?