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‘Padmavati & Bajirao Mastani Inspired By Lekh Tandon’s Amrapali,”  Says Sanjay Bhansali

Padmavati

One of Bollywood’s most underrated director passed away quietly at the  age of 88. Lekh Tandon gave us a slim slew of scintillating cinema starting with the blockbuster Professor in 1962. The oddball comedy paired Shammi Kapoor with, of all people, Lalita Pawar! Many decades later Reema Rakeshnath remake Tandon’s blockbuster –very shabbily– as Dil Tera Aashiq.

After  directing the  much-loved musical Jhuk Gaya Aasman(Rajendra Kumar-Saira Banu in an  afterlife comedy), Prince(bringing together the Professor  hero Shammi Kapoor with Vyjanthimala for  the first time and last time) Lekh Tandon directed Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaye in 1977.

The small-budget  film starring two newcomers Prem Kishen(actor Premnath’s son) and Rameshwari Talluribecame the  biggest hit in the history of  Rajshri Productions,. If we look at its austere budget and  the staggering profits Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaye was even bigger than Rajshris’ Hum Aapke Hain Koun.

After the  hit Agar Tum Na  Hote in 1983  Lekh Tandon  kept  a low profile  as a director choosing to act  in  films like Ashutosh Gowariker’s Swades, Amol Palekar’s Paheli and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti.

Shabana Azmi who did  two remarkable films with Lekh Tandon says, “Sad to hear he has passed away.But what is wonderful is that he did so with his boots on . He was working in his latest film with the enthusiasm of a newcomer. I did two lovely films with him Ek Baar Kaho and Doosri Dulhan a film way before its time on surrogacy. Shekhar Kapur often says that he learned a lot from Lekhji.He was an underrated  filmmaker.”

Perhaps Tandon’s most celebrated film was the historical Amrapali in 1966 recreating the  legendary romance  between the courtesan Amrapali(Vyjanthimala) and  the Magadh emeperor Ajayshatru(Sunil Dutt). The  film’s opulence and periodicity had stunned the world then as it continues  to do now.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali an ardent admirer of Lekh Tandon’s work says, “Amrapali inspired   my historicals Bajirao Mastani and Padmavati. The way he  recreated the war scenes and specially the way he  presented the amazing Vyjanthimalaji in  those incredible songs  like  Tumhe yaad karte karte,  Jao re Jogi tum jao re ,Tadapyeh dil raat ki and Neel gagan ki chaon mein were definitely my reference point  for Deepika Padukone in Bajirao Mastani and Padmavati.”

Bengali legend Victor  Bannerjee who worked with Lekh Tandon in  Doosi Dulhan, “I owe my living happily in Mussoorie to Lekh Tandon and Professor is one of the very few Hindi films I’ve seen and I absolutely loved its tomfoolery. But, Lekhji was also a follower of Sri Ram Krishna Paramahansa and hence a deeper individual than he let on to be.”

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