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Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Nawazuddin Siddiqui Pay A Tribute To The Great Sagar Sarhadi

I was  a fan of Sagar Sarhadi’s writing. Mellow, mordant  and modern, his  perception  of love and related  issues was  unique  and  yet so  inured  in  tradition that  a film like Kabhi Kabhie  which Sagar Sarhadi  wrote, almost seems like  romantic confection  until you  peer into its heart.

 A noted  Urdu  shortstory writer,  Sagar Saab started  his  writing career in films  with  the dialogues  of  Basu Bhattacharya’s Anubhav which were so real, they seemed to have been thought up by the  protagonists played by Tanuja  and Sanjeev Kumar. Stardom  of a kind,  came to Sagar Saab when Yash Chopra took  him under his wings.

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For Yashraj Films Sagar Sarhadi wrote the memorable Kabhi Kabhie,  Doosra Aadmi,  Silsila, Faasle, Chandni  .Sagar Saab also directed the stunning social critique Bazaar  about an underage girl (Supriya Pathak) being  sold to  an old Sheikh in  the  Gulf and  the  pricks  of  the conscience that   the other characters suffer at this  heinous crime. Among  its  other  great virtues Bazaar also had  Khayyam’s  best  music score ever  . Songs  like Dikhayee diye yun  ke bekhud kiya, Phir chidi raat, Dekhlo aaj humko jee bhar ke and Karoge yaad toh har baat yaad aayegi are going to be remembered  for as  long as cinema  exists.

Sagar Saab also directed  Agla Mausam and Chausar(the latter  featuring  Nawazuddin Siddiqui) which  never got  properly released.

Shabana Azmi who knew Sagar Sarhadi closely recalls, “I seem to have known  Sagar Sarhadi forever. My mother(the great Shaukat Azmi) worked with him  in a  play called Tanhayee.He used  to come to our house  regularly from a young age. Of course I knew  him as someone who  supported the IPTA. But to me he was one of the  great  supporters  of the  slum-dwellers’rights  association the  Nivara Haq of which I used to be the President. He used to come  for all meetings by train. He  never bought a car because he  always said, ‘Mujhe bus  aur train mein  insanon ki khushboo aati hai aur wohi mera inspiration  hota hai mere writing mein.’ He was  a freebird. H e never wanted to get trapped  in marriage  or any kind of relationships. The   only focus of his life was  writing. In his death we’ve lost a powerful voice which had the guts to show  a mirror to society. His  plays were  thoughtprovoking By telling it like it is, he  wanted to  rip aside social hypocrisy. I mourn his loss . I was speaking to his nephew filmmaker Ramesh Talwar. Rameshji said the  lockdown took away  Sagar Sarhadi’s energy to  fight. He   lost the will to live.My condolences to his family…why should we  say his family? We of the IPTA were his family. So we’ve  lost one of us.”

 The great Naseeruddin Shah whom  Sagar Sarhadi directed in  Bazaar says, “I knew him only as a dialogue and script writer of big-budget movies. Until I met him  and he confessed to his disgust with mainstream cinema and talked of making films he believed in did I realise the extent of his commitment to meaningful work. On a personal level I didn’t know Sagar sahab at all except for the fact that he used really colourful language and was very affectionate to me whenever we met. His unit also served absolutely the best meals I’ve ever eaten on an outdoor shoot. I also believe that till age caught up with him he’d walk from Sion where he lived to Juhu where he had his office. His film Bazaar though justifiably popular, is unevenly made and too influenced by the kind of films he was used to doing .But it succeeds in packing a punch while delivering its disturbing message. His subsequent experiences with using the popular format to present unconventional ideas, Agla Mausam (incomplete), and Tere Sheher Mein (never released) were heartbreaking enough to discourage him from making any more films. It’s a classic example of how the system devours its own and it’s a tragedy. But Sagar Sahab did enough to ensure immortality for his writings.”

Nawazuddin Siddiqui  who had the privilege   of being directed  by Sagar Sarhadi in Chausar recalls, “The  first thing  that comes to my mind when I  think of Sagar Sarhadi Saab is  books, When I  had gone to his  house in Sion for the  first time  the  entire large  house  was filled with shelves  of books in  every room. I had seen so  many  books only at  the NSD  library in Delhi. I couldn’t imagine  any  individual  would possess so many books. Sagar Saab was  a well-read, learned articulate  writer. The  dialogues that he  wrote  for Bazaar which he  directed, give me goosebumps even today when I  think about them. Not  too many people saw Chausar  the  film which he directed with me  in the lead.  But I’m very proud of having worked with one of the finest minds  of  India and Indian cinema.”

Adds Rakesh Shrivastav general secretary  of  the  Indian People’s Theatre Association, “National committee of IPTA condoles the sad demise of veteran playwright,film script writer,theatre and film director Sagar Sarhadi yesterday at mumbai.He was 91.Known for scripts of films like kabhee kabhee,silsila,chaandni,fasle,anubhav he wrote and directed classic film “bazar”which was another milestone in the series of realistic films.His other films “tere shahar me”and “chausar”could not get place in commercial bollywood market.A true Marxist Sagar sarhadee was averse to any  compromise.His plays on bhagat singh and ashfakullah were performed by Mumbai IPTA and other groups many times.His famous  play “Raj darbar”has been performed by various theatre groups throughout the country.I had about four decades long association with him.He wished to make a film on my play”Ram leela”and we had several interactions but it could not materialize.He was a close relative of noted film and theatre director,NC member of IPTA Ramesh Talwar.Paying our richest tributes we share the grief of family,friends and his countless admirers.”

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