Ananth Mahadevan's memoir looks at SRK's boxing bout, Kishore da's song for TV
Once Upon A Prime Time: My Journey on Indian Television, the memoirs of actor-filmmaker Ananth Mahadevan looks at his time in Indian television.
Do you know that Shah Rukh Khan had a sparring match with the director before he was chosen for the television serial Fauji or Kishore Kumar charged for the title song of the popular comedy soap Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi an amount that would amortise to less than 400 rupees a week? And also Govind Nihalani initially wanted to adapt Tamas into a movie and had even asked the then prime minister Indira Gandhi whether her government would extend support if a "serious film were to be made on Partition".
These are a few of the many snippets that find mention in Once Upon A Prime Time: My Journey on Indian Television, the memoirs of actor-filmmaker Ananth Mahadevan about his journey on Indian television.
From theatre to television and then cinema, it has been, as Mahadevan puts it, an "academic progression". He has been an integral part of 36 years of sponsored television in India, both as an actor and director.
The Kindle version of Once Upon A Prime Time: My Journey on Indian Television, published by Embassy Books, is out and the paperback is due for launch on July 15.
Mahadevan writes that Nihalani got hold of a copy of Bhisham Sahni's novel Tamas in the winter of 1980 and discovered that it was about a subject he loved.
Around that time his first film Aakrosh was selected in the Indian Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India, held that year in Delhi. The directors of the films screened were invited for a tete-a-tete with Gandhi.
Nihalani, who was deeply under the influence of the book, came straight to the point, says Mahadevan.
"Madam, if a serious film were to be made on the partition, would the government extend support?" Nihalani asked the then PM.
When enquired when he wanted to make it, he replied, "It is a sensitive film. It will all depend on the political situation at that time."
Nihalani realised that Gandhi's sharp mind had taken cognisance of the Hindu-Muslim elements in the film.
But later he "could not muster the funds required for a full-length feature. So he settled for television instead", the book says.
According to Mahadevan, director Kundan Shah at first didn't buy the idea of Satish Shah essaying a cameo in each episode of Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi.
Satish Shah failed the look-tests for both the roles Shafi Inamdar and Rakesh Bedi played and Kundan Shah had no inkling how to incorporate him.
"Then Manjul Sinha, who scripted most of the episodes, had a brainwave of making the rotund actor essay an important cameo in each episode. At first Shah didn't buy the idea but Sinha's convincing powers saw the actor, in chameleon fashion, don different garbs every week," the book says.
On the title song of Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, Mahadevan writes: "When pop star Ajit Singh composed it, S S Oberoi blew a bugle, 'let's get Kishore Kumar to sing it!' Kumar had not stepped out of the movie circuit before. In his legendary style, without batting an eyelid, he rattled off a figure of Rs 18,000, the fees he charged for a film song."
Oberoi didn't blink either as he could see the song playing on television every week.
"Over 52 episodes it would amortize to less than Rs 400 a week. And so Kishore Kumar sang for television."
Mahadevan has acted in many television serials including Ados Pados, The Sword of Tipu Sultan and Khandaan besides a number of films.
From first-hand experiences with filmmakers who were the founding fathers of television serials to today's consumerism-driven shows, the book, billed as the first-ever story of Indian television, incorporates exclusive moments with many celebrities and award winning directors.
Mahadevan also writes that the semi-autobiographical Fauji was initially meant to be a film.
Colonel Raj Kapoor first ran into the 23-year-old lad named Shah Rukh Khan at Gulmohar Park in New Delhi. Kapoor's brother-in-law auditioned him along with a bunch of others and let them loose on the training ground.
"The colonel put them through a grind unfamiliar to them. Not surprisingly three of them dropped out with a curt, 'we haven't come here to join the Army'. Only Khan kept up with Kapoor. It ended in a sparring match with both donning boxing gloves.
"I goaded him to hit me and he finally did. I could sense his aggressive nature. It was a presence that the camera loved. My Abhimanyu Rai was born, though honestly I hadn't pencilled him in for the part," Kapoor is quoted as saying.
Kapoor also says how Shah Rukh was a bit of a bum though, turning up late for shoots.
"Once, I ran behind him with a stone and that put an end to his punctuality ills."