Tarun Bose (Part 2): Silence is golden

In part 2 of her memories of Tarun Bose, his daughter Shilpi shares this about a film I really love!

‘Silence is Golden’ is an oft-repeated phrase which has relevance not only in real life but also in reel life—particularly in those ‘edge of the seat’ suspense thrillers-murder mysteries.

I always felt that silence followed by sudden background music—usually the crash of drums—makes a huge impact in a suspense film, particularly within the close confines and darkness of a cinema hall. Every time I watched such a scene, my heart beating expectantly I couldn’t help but notice the nervous coughs and giggles in the cinema hall. Alfred Hitchcock was a master at using silence—his film ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ is a case in point.

But this is not about Alfred Hitchcock or ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’; it is about ‘Kohraa’ and its director Biren Nag and of course my father. Biren Nag, who directed ‘Bees Saal Baad’ and ‘Kohraa’, was adept at making excellent use of prolonged silence followed by sudden background music—a surefire method of scaring the audience. There were several such scenes in ‘Bees Saal Baad’. In ‘Kohraa’ it was not background music but the sudden laughter of a maniac that proved to be quite effective.

I do not wish to go into too much detail for when you see the film (if you have not seen it already) the impact will be lost. To put it briefly, in the film Waheeda Rehman after her marriage to Biswajit goes through a great deal of emotional turmoil due to the mystery surrounding the death of her husband’s first wife. In one particular scene she moves around rather worried; there is no background music, the silence is interrupted only by the rustle of her sari, her footsteps and the sound of a dog barking somewhere in the background. She enters a room and the camera suddenly cuts to an extreme close-up of a bearded man with wildly flashing eyes, tipping his head back and laughing loudly—the laughter of an insane man. This man was none other than my father. Needless to say the way the scene was conceived by Biren Nag, it made a huge impact. A producer’s daughter almost fainted while watching this scene.

It was not just the audience who were affected by this scene, there was one more person who was affected. At the film’s premiere as my parents were silently watching Waheeda Rehman moving around and the scene suddenly changed to the sudden laughter and the close-up, my father was so startled that he involuntarily reached to clutch the arm rest of his seat. Since mum’s hand was resting on the arm rest dad clutched her hand instead. Surprised, mum looked at dad questioningly; dad having recovered grinned sheepishly and said, “I was taken unawares”. Later when I had grown up and heard about this incident, I asked dad, “But why were you startled? After all you were the one enacting the scene.” He said he had not been able to visualize the final impact of his face filling up the big screen coupled with the sudden laughter. In those days actors and directors did not have the benefit of television monitors on the sets as they have today. Nowadays actors rush to check the results on the monitor after every shot.

My father always said that no matter how well you perform, if the director is not able to conceive a scene well then an actor’s effort is totally wasted.

My father who could scare the audience—himself too, if I may add—was a soft-hearted person in real life. He felt uneasy whenever he had to rough up kids or his female co-stars. Part 3 is going to be about my soft-hearted dad.

42 Comments to “Tarun Bose (Part 2): Silence is golden”

  1. I just commented on the Kohraa post about how scared I was watching Kohraa. I was just a child, and had to be taken home midway. I had nightmares for a long time afterwards, and wowed never to watch scary movies.

    • I didnt have nightmares but I do remember watching this as a kid and having the bejeezus scared out of me! I think Bees Saal Bad was scarier but this movie left a greater impact.

      It’s nice to know even the man who scared me got a start watching it!

    • It didn’t scare me (thank goodness) but it was really suspenseful for sure…

      I love Shilpi’s story about the premiere too :)

  2. When I watched Gumnaam(1965) for the first time, I didn’t quite know who was this actor. But I was very much impressed by his polished way of acting and his menacing eyes.

    I watched him in Bandini (1963) eventually and this time it was such a soft spoken role.

    What impressed me was that he was so convincing to watch. Its as if I am wanting to change something inside me by just watching him act. I’m not sure why his name is not taken in the same breadth as that of Balraj Sahni or Ashok Kumar.

    • My mother says that had he lived long he would surely be in the same league as Balraj Sahani and Ashok Kumar, in fact he had begun to move in that direction.

    • Gumnaam is the film I first remember noticing him in, and he was great in it.

      As Shilpi says, I am sure he’d have made a huge impact if he hadn’t been taken away too soon :( He may not have made a huge number of films, but he made good ones and was really good in them. Quality over quantity any day, I say!

      • How right you are memsaab, that is what dad believed in. If he wanted he could have done a number of films but he usually refused to do insignificant roles even if the offer was from a well-known banner or roles he did not believe in or roles he was was not comfortable doing.

  3. That’s such a nice read along with Part 1 of course. This post brought a lump in my throat for a little while. Very nicely, written. I want to see movies with Tarun Bose in them now.

  4. Very well written. And it is a lovely incident that yoy shared with us. It is a lovely anecdote, well told.

  5. Thanks to these lovely comments more of our memories are stirred up. I will try and share as many as I can.

  6. What an awesome piece of insight. Lovely lovely readng it. Thank you Shilpi and thank you Memsaab for making this happen :)

  7. He might have actually started a tread with that character from ‘Kohraa’… later there were a couple of movies that had a mad laughing character in them. But none of them managed to recreate that effect.

    On screen he often comes across as a tough guy. So next one is going to be interesting.

  8. Directors Actor= Dada, says it all.

    Carry on sharing Shilpi, we really appreciate it. .)


  9. Thank you for sharing Shilpi and please continue to do so.

    “My father always said that no matter how well you perform, if the director is not able to conceive a scene well then an actor’s effort is totally wasted.”

    So true!

    And there isn’t enough thank yous around for you Memsaab for introducing us to such that make us appreciate Indian cinema even more.

  10. Thanks again Shilpi, for sharing your recollections of your dad!

    Like many others here I thought he was so good in GUMNAAM and KOHRAA, and I will add that I loved him in GANWAAR where he had a very sympathetic role opposite Nishi as his shrewish second wife. He was adept at playing so many different characters.

    I will look forward to finding out what he thought of various directors.

  11. I’m really grateful for all these inside stories, and it’s going to be very interesting to read anecdotes with other directors.

    I’m so happy that all old hindi film lovers are having this lovely opportunity. I still can’t get over it. Thanks Shilpi.

  12. Very touching posts – both of them. Thanks Shilpi and Memsaab.
    I’ve always admired Tarun Bose in all the movies that I’ve watched of him – Sujata, Gumnaam, Anupama – to name a few. He was also briefly in Madhumati, a doctor friend of Dilip Kumar. Have yet to see Kohraa.

    He played such different shades of character in the 3 movies with him as one of the central characters. In Sujata, he brings tears to my eyes everytime I see that movie where he struggles between his wife and aunt’s reluctance to admit Sujata into their family. That scene where the little Sujata, when she’s to be sent away with the tutor later in the afternoon, gives Tarun Bose his hat to shade him from the sun, his pained expressions at the imminent separation is heartwrenching to watch. You can almost feel his love and helplessness regarding the little girl.

    In Gumnaam, he’s a suave serial murderer with vengeful eyes. Even till the last minute you woud’ve never guessed him – a kindly doctor – as the merciless killer. Superb acting.

    And of Anupama – his cold distance from his daughter whose very face reminds him of his painful loss is a convincing portrayal of how a man desperately in love with his wife can actually feel that coldness toward his own child whom he psychologically accuses of killing her.

    Tarun Bose – may you rest in peace! And we all wish we could’ve seen more of you!

  13. Hey Greta, when is your post on Chandramohan coming up? Waiting eagerly and thanks a ton in advance :-)

  14. Oh, I haven’t seen ‘Kohra’. Must catch up on it. That’s a frightening screen-cap to be sure. What a lovely story of the premiere.

  15. Thanks for this lovely post, Shilpi.
    I have just finished watching Kohra and I must say I am totally in love with the movie. Have written a long comment on the other thread (the Kohra thread) about what I felt about the movie.

    I thought your dad’s performance was just amazing. That maniacal laughter and that look in his eyes – coming after the build-up with all that silence – was just absolutely awesome! He plays his role so convincingly – he could have been a real drunken maniac! (thankfully he was not. :-) ).

    I fully agree, had he lived longer, he would have been a much better-known actor. As has been said, he may not have acted in many movies – but the roles he did play, he did a fantastic job with. I have seen a number of his movies but many of them were a long time ago. Now I have the urge to see them again.

    And oh, I want to let you know that I remember reading his obituary in the Statesman (Calcutta edition) when he died. Like I mentioned earlier, I was a young boy then, so I do not remember all the details very well but, from what I can remember, news of his death (and a pic) was on the front page with an obituary in the inner pages.

    Do keep sharing with us memories of your father, if you can. We really appreciate this and are keen to know more about him and his experiences/views.

  16. @Shilpi – Thanks for giving us this, though I must say this has made me (and others too) want to know more. In your next installment do share more thoughts about his films and people he worked with.

  17. Oh,, how I love these tidbits you’re sharing with us, Shilpi. I know we sound greedy, but please, please keep writing.

  18. Thanks to this response I am all charged up. I am well into the third part and will be ready with it quite soon, just giving some finishing touches. There was a childish streak in him which was reflected in a comment of his, I am sure all of you will find it as amusing as we did. I will try my best not to keep all of you waiting too long, actually I am just trying to put some photos together.

  19. I am sure I speak for everyone when I say photos would be so so so fun to see :) It feels very special to have this intimate look at a man you and your family clearly adored, and who was clearly worthy of it :)

  20. I have to get Kohraa now!!!! I love the song Yeh nayan dare dare and always felt something very mysterious about it. I didn’t know it was an adaptation of Rebecca. I remember reading the book long long ago. Have seen the maniac laughter in few shows but haven’t got to watch the entire film yet. He was amazing in the other films of his that I have seen Madhumati, Bandini, Gumnaam, Anupama . I truly admire his work.
    It’s really interesting to read about him. And it feels very special to hear of all these incidents from you. After 3 posts I already feel like I know him better now – both as an actor and as a person!

  21. P.S : Just saw Kohraa’s review here…will be back tomorrow to read it.

  22. I grew up in Mumbai in the 60s – my parents raved about Anupama but I was too young to appreciate then. I have since watched this movie perhaps over 20 times and have never tired. That silence is golden is bext captured in the last scene of the movie where your father is at the railway station – each of the 20 times I have watched it, I have had tears in my eyes just as your father did – he was a wonderful actor.

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