Tarun Bose (Part 4): Dacoits and other strange experiences

Since Mujhe Jeene Do’s seed was sown during the making of Usne Kaha Tha, it is only right that the latter forms a part of these memoirs. The making of Usne Kaha Tha was quite eventful for my father. Without going into too much detail I will just briefly touch upon the so called ‘events’. During the wedding scene (dad and Nanda’s wedding), he suffered an electric shock; then during the war scene his leg landed in a trench. There was a plank of wood placed on the trench which broke as he ran over it, and the last straw on the camel’s back was when he almost got trampled by an army tank. If Sunil Dutt hadn’t pushed him out of the way just in the nick of time he would have been—well I do not need add anything, it is pretty obvious what would have happened.

Mr. Dutt may have already been toying with the idea of making a film on the dacoits of Chambal Valley, but it was during the making of Usne Kaha Tha that it took concrete shape. Sunil Dutt launched his banner Ajanta Arts with this film. You will find quite a few of Usne Kaha Tha’s cast and crew in Mujhe Jeene Do. The director (Moni Bhattacharjee), dad, Durga Khote and Rajendranath were common to both films. Significantly, the narration of Mujhe Jeene Do was absolutely different from Usne Kaha Tha. While I found Usne Kaha Tha quite tedious, Mujhe Jeene Do in sharp contrast held my attention throughout. Barring a few scenes the film was quite dramatic. Facts were inter-woven with fiction which made for some engrossing viewing. Though Ganga Jamuna—also a dacoit film—was made earlier, I think it was Mujhe Jeene Do’s success which later spawned a slew of dacoit films.

Dad’s role of Superintendent of Police was based on a real life character. The film was shot on actual locations in the heart of the dacoit-infested Chambal Valley. Since there was no question of staying in a hotel, Swiss tents with all the comforts of a hotel were provided for the cast and crew.

The unit needed continuous police protection, and needless to say family members of the cast and crew spent some sleepless nights—at least my mum sure did. There was no way she could be in touch with dad; this was before cell phones.

The villagers obviously watched the shooting daily, but one day it seems some dacoits also turned up to watch the shooting of the film. Of course the film unit and the police were clueless about their presence, dressed as they were like ordinary villagers. The people who recognized the dacoits were too scared to inform the police, but revealed this fact the following day when the dacoits were safely ensconced again in their hideouts.

This was one close encounter with dacoits. Now I will take a leap forward, several years later to describe another strange experience. The film was the Rajendra Kumar–Vyjayantimala starrer Ganwaar. Dad, Pran and Jeevan were off to shoot on location in a village. They were picked up by the production car from Delhi airport and were cruising along the highway to some village located probably in Uttar Pradesh (north India). It was late in the night and pitch dark; nothing was visible barring the street lights. On either side of the highway all that one could see was forest and bushes. As the threesome chatted, suddenly a ‘tap tap’ sound from the roof of the car intruded upon their conversation. Guessing that it had to be the luggage which was strapped onto the carrier on the car’s roof, dad asked the chauffeur to halt the car so that he could check out. Sure enough it was the metallic end of the strap of his luggage which was hitting against the car’s roof.

As my father was fixing the strap a bearded man with a rifle strung across his shoulder emerged on a bicycle from the the forest beyond and asked the chauffer, ‘Yahan kya kar rahe ho? Kya ho raha hai?’ (‘What are you doing here? What is happening?’). My father was impressed thinking that this man was some sort of guard appointed by the authorities to patrol the lonely highway during the night. Noticing that the chauffeur refused to answer the man, my father went on to explain to the man what the problem was. However, the man ignored dad and grabbed the collar of the chauffeur and once again asked the same questions—this time more roughly. Fortunately at that point a truck with its headlights on came from the opposite direction, and the man was slightly distracted and turned to look at the oncoming truck. Taking advantage of the distraction the chauffeur pushed the man, got into the car and started it up uncaring whether dad had gotten into the car or not. Dad had in the confusion jumped into the car, and being quite irritated with the chauffeur asked him what was wrong and why he hadn’t answered the guard. The chauffeur replied, ‘Woh guard nahin daku tha.’ (‘He was not a guard but a dacoit.’)

Needless to say, dad was shocked: he was travelling very comfortably with reel-life villains—but would they have been a match for the real-life villain? I think not.

Before I wind up I would like to share this funny and embarrassing experience he and his colleagues once had. I will not be able to name anyone, particularly the heroine who was a newcomer then, for she is a big name today and may not be amused by this revelation. They were shooting at the Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur. One day after pack-up they noticed a procession of villagers nearby and on enquiring learned that it was a marriage procession. Someone from the unit joked ‘Arey shaadi hai, mooh to meetha karo!’ (‘It is a wedding, why don’t you give us some sweets!’) The wedding party happily distributed some sweets and went on their way. After some time everyone began behaving strangely. The film’s hero caught hold of some foreign tourists and introduced himself: ‘You know I am an actor!’ He said a lot more but I don’t remember much. The film’s heroine insisted that she would jump into the lake: ‘I want to swim!’ she said. Dad found himself staring hard at his palm and when someone cracked a joked he found he just could not stop laughing despite trying to slap his own mouth shut. The villain was trying to jump over an imaginary hurdle, and one of the character actors—who had a sweet tooth and had treated himself to quite a large quantity of sweets—had to be hospitalized. They later learned that the villagers, as was their practice, had added bhang (Indian cannabis), an ancient Indian herb. If used in the right quantity it has medicinal properties but excessive consumption gives a real high.

In Part 5—the penultimate part—I will talk about his observations on his favourite directors, noteworthy roles and films.

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29 Comments to “Tarun Bose (Part 4): Dacoits and other strange experiences”

  1. Thankyou for putting these up, there so interesting, cant wait for part 5!! It’s so amazing that they’re written by his daughter, Shilpi!!!

  2. Waah , waah, it is another great episode. As I mentioned earlier, it gets better and better. Encounter with real life dacoits- I do not thing we would like to be in his shoes in this respect.

  3. I love the idea of Jeevan, Pran and Mr. Bose being confronted by a real dacoit!!!

  4. Lovely!!! :-) Just wonderful to read these anecdotes, especially as they come from Tarun Bose’s own daughter.

    I can imagine how it must have felt shooting (no pun intended) in the middle of the Chambal valley. No mobile phones to even check on haal-chaal. Nothing glamourous about it – the unit would have wanted to finish the job at the earliest and get the hell out of that place.

    And then, running into a dacoit (rifle et al) late at night on a lonely road in UP – hmm, that’s some experience!

    I think the bhang incident must have been quite hilarious. These things happen – and nobody should feel odd or embarrassed about something like this.

    Thanks, Shilpi, for sharing these lovely stories with us.

  5. Engaging vignettes from the life and career of a talented actor!
    What just five parts?!?! We want more, we want more please!!!!

  6. @Shilpi- Thanks again for bringing this out. This part makes interesting reading. It must have been quite risky for the film unit to shoot on location in a dacoit infested place. Elsewhere I have read and also seen an interview where Waheeda Rehman recounts her experiences of the Chambal valley during the making of Mujhe Jeene Do.
    I wonder if he was in a police uniform when he had the real life encounter with a dacoit.

    The incident about the bhaang laced sweets has me all curious. Perhaps, it might be impolite to ask which movie and which heroine. But it would be a fun quiz for the readers, dont you think @Memsaab.

    • Yes, Faldo, I have seen that interview too–Sunil Dutts last interview I believe.

      I was in Chambal a few months ago (on a visit to Gwalior). Some dakus now work as security guards!

      • Sophy, that’s right.
        Dakus working as security guards – wow. To give this a filmy touch we would say ‘lohe hi lohe ko kaat tha hai’.

  7. Shilpi is planning 6 parts, but hopefully we can talk her into more :))) And I am with you Faldo on the bhang incident, but we have to respect Shilpi’s sensibilities (although as Raja says: how was that anybody’s fault, and has probably happened a LOT, and so no embarrassment should be involved). But still. :)

  8. Wah shilpi! Thanks once again for another interesting episode. Keep them coming. Memsaab, thanks for sharing this with us. Being confronted by real dakus in the 50s to 70s was no joke. Our landlord in Meerut ( story shared by my parents) in UP was a daroga (police inspector) who shared a lot of real daku stories and most of them were hair rising!

  9. Iam glad to see that everyone is enjoying this. Actually there are quite a few anecdotes that I haven’t shared. I am not sure how the families of the celebrities (the celebrities themselves are not alive) will react to these disclosures though nothing scandalous actually quite harmless. Maybe I should narrate them without revealing the names.
    My mother says almost every film even the most insignificant ones usually have some interesting story or anecdote. In fact, as part of my research for part 5 I was going through some of the dvds and vcds of dad’s films when mum was reminded of an incident. I plan to share this in part 5, but I request you to bear with me I will take a little time over it

    • Take all the time you need, we will be very happy to read it when it does come along. Do share names when you are comfortable doing so, because we love getting glimpses into the people behind the characters we all know so well too :)

  10. Highly appreciate to hear more about Dada and his ‘real’ experiences en route. Thx a lot.

    A lil tribute to him, will post a rip of this song-

    thodisi aur pee le o rangeele- Asha Bhonsle from Ummeed

    Here yu will see Dada in a very different role during this song.

    All songs coming up on YT today, I think we have only one song Online so far, the rarest ones are sung by Ravi Saheb himself, in fact 2 of them in this movie. And one of Laxmi Chaaya with that other wonderful dancer of our times Madhumati.

    The print is a VHSrip but it can easily be converted to a audio file of yr choice.

    Just search for Ummeed on YT, later today.

    Cheers .)

  11. Correction pls in my message as above, it shud read Jeevan Kala and Laxmi Chhaya, Madhumati has a sole number as far as I can recall correctly.

  12. Thank you, Shilpi – that made for very interesting reading, as always (though I must admit I found myself trying to remember all the films I could that featured Tarun Bose and had the Lake Palace as one of the settings! ;-))

    Do, do please try and give us more stories about your father and his films. I know I’m being greedy, but this is just too wonderful to stop at a mere 6 instalments. As memsaab says, take your time – but do give us more.

  13. The part about the dacoits disguised as villages, and come to see the shooting reminded me of many films where this does happen (though of course not to watch the shooting of any film). :-)

    I’m also trying to remember films with Lake Palace. :-D
    If I can think of one I’ll email.

    Thanks once again Shilpi. Looking forward to the next one.

  14. Sunil Dutt seems to have had good reflexes, and saved many co-stars from accidents. Good for him!

    All this makes such interesting reading. The idea of Jeevan and Pran tackling a real life daku. :)

    I hope Shilpi shares more stories with us, beyond her 6 planned posts.

    • On a lighter vein, Nargis may have made Sunil Dutt to swear after their marraige “Aaj ke baad, agar aap ne kisi bhi heroine ko aag se bachaane ki koshish ki, to app ko Durga Maa ki saugandh”.

      They got married after Sunil Dutt saved her from fire on the sets of “Mother India” (1957). Maybe that’s why he started saving only his male co-stars to be on the safe side :-D

      • @ Shilpi : This was very interesting and it’s getting better with every post.
        Your dad’s looking so dashing in the second screencap, that I forgot to scroll down for a while. Police Officer’s uniform really suits him very well and that intense look was wow!
        Dacoits coming to watch the shooting in plain dress are much better than a dacoit on a lonely highway in the middle of the night. That’s scary!
        And the bhaang incident was rather entertaining – but something that could have happened to anybody. Things like this often happen in my place during Holi. It’s a tradition to mix bhaang in all the sweets then. Those who know of this tradition avoid buying sweets and make them at home instead but those who don’t usually suffer. As an onlooker it’s quite funny to see people behave the way they do after a dose of bhaang. But it would be quite embarassing to be on the other side of the fence.
        @ Shashi : LOL!!!! He started saving only male co-stars to be on the safe side! ROTFL :-D

        • I think he looks really dashing in the FIRST screen cap :) He was such a handsome man, although he seemed to really enjoy covering it up with wigs and such :D

        • Dacoits coming to watch the filming in plain dress. I wonder if watching the making of films like this one went a long way in inspiring the dacoits to reform and turn over a new leaf :)

    • Well coming to my favourite, I have read that even Dharmendra saved a female artiste in the famous fire scene of Phool Aur Patthar (1966). I don’t think that’s Meena Kumari, but maybe one of the junior artistes.

      No wonder these two heroes were considered so rugged and macho in those days.

      Incidentally Sunil Dutt was the original choice for this movie, but due to date problems, Dharmendra had to step in. It proved beneficial to both of them – Dharmendra was acknowledged as a ‘star’ for the first time and Sunil Dutt didn’t have to save yet another female from the fire on the film sets :-D

  15. Lovely!
    How did Pran and Jeevan react to being accosted by the dacoit in the dark? Would be fun to hear how reel-life villains would feel in the face of a real-life one! :-)

    Thanks Shilpi! I was in Mumbai in early June this year for an HIV/AIDS conference. Would’ve been nice to meet you. I remember spending half a day with my friend looking for Sanjay Dutt’s place and to possibly get a glimpse of him. I’m a big fan of his. I remember seeing Sunil Dutt’s pictures on a large billboard in front of Sanjay’s building. It seems Mr. Dutt had a penchant for saving lives – he saved Nargis from the fire in Mother India and your dad from the army tank. Now that is what is real heroism!

  16. Many years back SunilDutt stopped a hit and run car driver by jumping on to the bonnet of the car or something like that — I do not remember the exact details of what I had read in a press report —- and stopped the driver from escaping. That shows the kind of man he was. He has helped several cancer ridden patients. Recently director Anuraag Basu in an interview recalled how Mr. Dutt helped when he was suffering from blood cancer.

    • That’s amazing—he really had a lot of courage. I remember reading about his pilgrimage with daughter Priya in support of peace with Pakistan as well, which many people feared would result in his being killed, and of course he worked in the government for a long time as well (NOT for his own benefit, either!)…It’s nice that he and your father were close friends :)

  17. Hey Shilpi, When is the next post on your Dad coming up?

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