On May 25 Mahesh Bhatt’s masterpiece on the finality of death Saraansh completed 37 years.
Anupam Kher was only 29 when he played the 70-year old protagonist B V Pradhan whose only son is killed in a freak mugging incident in the US.
The role was to be played Sanjeev Kumar. It was director Mahesh Bhatt who convinced the producers Rajshri Productions that Anupam was the right person for the job.
Recalls Anupam. “I had my heart set on the role. It never occurred to me that as a 29-year old I would not be convincing as a 65-year old. As far I was concerned, B V Pradhan was mine. I was Pradhan.
So when Bhatt Saab informed me that that I was in all likelihood going to lose the role to the great Sanjeev Kumar , because the producers wanted a more commercially viable actor, I packed my bags and decided to return to my home town Simla. But something made me decide to drop in at Bhatt Saab’s on the way to the station. He convinced me to stay back.He decided to try one more time to get me into the project. This is how dreams come true.”
Mahesh Bhatt had just directed Arth, the most avant garde hit of Indian cinema. Everyone wanted him. Saraansh was an old commitment with the Rajshris.
Recalling his association with Rajshri and its scion Tarachand Barjatya Mahesh Bhatt fondly said, “I have the most amazing memories of the doyen Tarachand Barjatya. I had gone to the NFDC, the body set up to help meaningful cinema. But they had literally shut the door on my face saying. ‘Baad mein aaiye.’ I was heartbroken . I realized the NFDC was no different from the other producers in the industry. No matter who the producer, priority is given to stars and not to the script.”
Dejected at being rejected a miracle happened while Mahesh was on his way back from the NFDC office. “I was traveling back by bus when I saw the Rajshri banner in Prabhadevi. I walked into their office .Raj Babu(Tarachand Barjatya’s son, Sooraj Barjatya’s father) was there. I pitched him the story of Saraansh and he said yes. Much later I asked him what made him say yes to me. He said, ‘I saw a kind of unbridled passion in you. It was palpable in your every pore. We bought your hunger.’
Paying the highest regards to the Barjatyas Mahesh says, “For decades they’ve made films that challenge the mass-consumption Bollywood products. I’ve never seen a producer being more courageous than the Barjatyas .They agreed to produce Saraansh although it debunked the entire theory of reincarnation.I cannot forget that Tarachandji’s son Raj Barjatya took on his father only once in his life ,and that was to convince the doyen to produce my film Saaraansh. “
Apparently Bhatt’s film was seen to mock at the Barjatyas’ tradition of upholding cultural values . “ You see, Saaraansh attacked the theory of reincarnation. Sethji(Tarachand Barjatya) was closely associated with the Shri Aurobindi Asrham. He strongly believed in reincarnation. Saaraansh dared to question after-life.Sethji wanted the theory of reincarnation not to be questioned.
But Bhatt wouldn’t budge. “ I wasn’t willing to make disastrous compromises. It was Raj Babu who convinced Sethji.Raj Babu took a position opposite to his father. Considering I was a nobody then I thought that was exceptional.”