Meeting the Arzoo Man

Many of us believed that Ramanand Sagar was a downtown boy, brought up in Maharaja Gunj

Srinagar, Publish Date: Feb 24 2018 11:39PM | Updated Date: Feb 24 2018 11:39PM
Meeting the Arzoo ManFile Photo

It was dreamland. For many  of my friends, it was a fabulous city that neither they nor their fathers had ever visited but only heard about it from those few in our Mohalla who visited this city of seven islands for selling silver trinkets, carved and embroidered crafts. Their fathers, grandfathers had shared with them lots of stories about Lahore- the city of splendor and culture. But, after having lost this city, which for centuries had been a second home to Kashmiris, it was Bombay that some of my friends imagined as an Eldorado. 

Sitting on shopfronts, with Kangri tucked underneath their pherans, and listening film songs from the community Radio speaker hoisted on the pedestal of naked flag post of an old “Halaqa”- notorious for having been once a torture center for the voices of dissent some of my friends talked about trying their luck the metropolitan. Somehow Bandra Bandstand- a famous hangout had got stuck in their mind and they believed it was a place for making to films.   Couple of my close friends in the Mohalla, who profusely oiled their hair and combed after every fifteen minutes topped the list of fantasists. Dilip Kumar used to their role model. Those were the days when reading Urdu fiction and film magazines was a favorite pastime with boys and girls in our generation. Of the three magazines, Shama, Bano, and Khilona published by Dehlvi family, monthly Shama that related to literature and films were popular with us. I remember having read short stories of eminent story writers like Ramanand Sagar published in the magazine. One of the nation de plume used by this writer and filmmaker was Ramanand Kashmiri.  Besides pictures of film actors, actresses, and film-related functions, it was the film reviews published in the magazine that attracted us most—a good review in the magazine would make us buy a ticket in black- nicknames of some “blackers” still live in my memory.

Many of us wrongly believed that Ramanand Sagar like us was a downtown boy who was brought up in Maharaja Gunj and had made it to the film world. Some friends would say ‘if he has made it they could also do it.’  The elders remembered him for having written story and screenplay for Raj Kapoor's film Barsat the film for presenting women in bad color had ruffled feathers in Kashmir.   Nevertheless, we remembered him for his film Arzoo staring   Sadhana, Rajendra Kumar and Feroz Khan and Mahmood. It was not the story and performance of the superstars of the super hit film but the captivating scenic beauty of Kashmir captured by the filmmaker that had left an ineffaceable imprint on our minds. The enthralling scenes of interiors of Dal and Nageen Lakes and shimmering waterways under awnings of willow trees resembling damsel’s tresses captured in the film surprised us. How did Sagar explore these virgin scenes, this question often bothered me. In 1983, on my posting in Bombay, when a co-worker casually mentioned that he knew Ramanand Sagar and occasionally visited him, the question again cropped in my mind, I thought of meeting him to know the answer of this question and about his Kashmir connection. 

In October 1983, I got him introduced in a big way when he organized mega late night party, at his house for the scion of Abdullah family who had taken over as Chief Minister of the State after the death of his father and was on a visit to the city. Sagar had an admiration for his father.  Entire, film crowd, the elite of the metropolis and bigwigs in politics had been invited to the event. On this occasion, he offered a lead role to debonair Chief Minister in his future film. Later, on I visited him on many a Sundays- every time, I was welcome at his home and without any airs and graces he shared his ideas with me. Once, when I asked him about picturizing of the unexplored beauty of backwaters of the lakes in Arzoo – he told me he had spent whole childhood in the old Srinagar.