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Dipti Nagpaul-D'Souza : Wed Jun 13 2012, 03:31 hrs

One of art critic and writer Sadanand Menon’s most vivid memories of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Carter Road residence is heading in the direction of the washroom, only to find actor Utpal Dutt rehearsing his lines in an easy chair. The case of such confusion: Mukherjee had converted the washroom into an office space. Working on low-budget often made Mukherjee redesign his bungalow to suit the purpose of a set.

Today, however, Gol Maal (1979) — one of his popular movies made on a modest budget — has been remade on a grand scale as Bol Bachchan, and is releasing on July 6.This heart-warming story of a young man trying to please his boss is now a high-action comic caper with Abhishek Bachchan as a conman. “Many people have a sense of humour and comic timing, but Hrishida’s cinema was unique and there has been no real successor to him,” says Menon.

Menon may be right. But the trend of remaking popular Hindi films is now looking beyond the action-packed Don or Angeepath. So, the current crop of filmmakers are looking at Mukherjee’s contemporaries, including Basu Chatterjee and Sai Paranjpe, to give their movies a contemporary touch. In Bol Bachchan, Bachchan plays Amol Palekar’s characters Ramprasad and Lakshmanprasad, whereas Ajay Devgn steps into Dutt’s rather large shoes as Bhawani Shankar. David Dhawan, meanwhile, is keen on remaking Chupke Chupke (1975) even as he readies to release a contemporary version of Sai Paranjpe’s Chashme Buddoor (1981).

Dhawan says that as a comedy filmmaker, to be influenced by Mukherjee’s works is inevitable. “He gave cinema a streak of humour in the ’60s and ’70s when melodrama ruled. However, the new generation may not connect with them. The remakes with contemporary settings may introduce them to Hrishida’s films,” he explains.

Bhavna Talwar, director of the slice-of-life comedy Happi, with Chaplinesque Pankaj Kapoor in the lead, confessed to have imbibed the simplicity of the plot from Mukherjee’s movies. Raghav Dar, who directed My Friend Pinto, too owns up to similar influence. “He viewed the everyday problems of the common man with a special lens. So a tyrant boss in Gol Maal or a cynical doctor in Anand (1970) would become ‘villains with hearts of gold’ in his stories,” says Dar.

Mukherjee moved to Mumbai in the early ’50s and started assisting Bimal Roy. Later on, Mukherjee edited latter’s movies such as Do Bigha Zameen. Mukherjee’s early films Musafir (1957), Anuradha (1960) and Anupama (1966) were inspired by Roy’s cinematic style. “Raj Kapoor, one of his closest friends, also impacted Hrishida’s work,” says Menon. The director worked with most top actors of his time, including Guru Dutt, Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Sharmila Tagore, Rekha and Jaya Bachchan. Amol Palekar, Farooque Shaikh and Deepti Naval also worked with him later.

The director suffered from severe arthritis which left him bedridden for weeks. Therefore, by the ’70s, he had nearly stopped penning his own scripts. He remade several Bengali films. For example, Chhadmabeshi was remade as Chupke Chupke. His illness also made him shoot several films, including Gol Maal, at his bungalow.

Even though there is a buzz around Chupke Chupke being remade soon, such attempts are being eyed with skepticism.

Director Basu Chatterjee believes that very few can do justice to the originals. Menon adds, “The way Hrishida paced his films gave the characters their comic timing.” Dar points out that after initial marketing, the makers are playing down the fact that Bol Bachchan is modelled on the 1979 classic. “That innocence of the ’70s is lost — a young man from a small town no longer feels lost on his first job in the urban jungle,” reasons Dar, adding, “Young audience has exposure to cinema from across the world. Indian cinema today is a battle of avant-garde films with little space for simplistic storytelling like Hrishida’s.”