Writer-director Prayag Raj who passed away on September 23 was a prolific artiste. He scripted a majority of Manmohan Desai’s films including Aa Gale Lag Jaa, Roti, Dharam-Veer, Amar Akbar Anthony and Parvarish.
Prayag also directed ten films none of which was very successful . One of his early directorials was Paap Aur Punya in 1974 which starred Shashi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore.
Sharmilaji who is currently in London spoke to me about Prayag Raj. “I didn’t know he was gone until you told me. He had a full life. He wrote many hit films for Manmohan Desai and others. I recall the one-month outdoor shooting in Jaipur of Paap Aur Punya which he directed. The film was not a success. But I recall it with fondness because we had so much fun . Shashi’s family was there. My husband and Saif who was just a toddler , were there.There was a Tiger who accompanied Shashi. I still don’t know what his real name was. I only knew him as Tiger(Shashi’s cousin Tiger Kapoor).”
Sharmila reveals that toddler Saif was very attached to Shashi Kapoor. “In one sequence of Paap Aur Punya that we were shooting Shashi was being beaten by goons.Saif toddled into the frame to rescue his Shashi Uncle from these bad persons, since no one else was doing the needful.”
Amidst a good laugh Sharmila recalls the fun she had shooting for Paap aur Punya. “Shashi and I would be shooting while the two families explored the areas nearby. Shashi’s wife Jennifer and his sister-in-law Felicity were there. Felicity would organize all kinds of fun adventures for the children.Yes, shooting this film was a picnic.”
There were hardships, though. “This was the first film where I had to do some daring stunts. I played this brave bold girl called Jugni. In one sequence I had to jump off a high place with a briefcase in my hand. I thought it would be easy . But it was quite tough . In another sequence Prayag asked me to slide down an iron rod. I refused. I realized doing stunts needed a lot of preparation.”
About Prayag Raj’s relative non-success as a director Sharmilaji says, “I guess one doesn’t have to succeed in another domain of cinema just because you are successful on one area. Sachin Bhowmick was another very successful screenwriter. But his directorial Raja Rani with me and Rajesh Khanna was not a success.”
She mourns for the loss but she also celebrates his life. “Prayag lived long and was very successful.He was not in good health for the last ten years. Lucky are those who go peacefully in their sleep.It is not easy for those who have suffer in their last years, as those close to them also have to suffer.”