Unlike his distinguished Bengali peers like Bimal Roy, Asit Sen and Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Tarun Majumdar was never comfortable making Hindi films. It’s not that Mumbai, then Bombay, didn’t beckon. But like the almost-great Tapan Sinha, Tarun Majumdar never really took to the Hindi film industry the way his friend musician-filmmaker Hemant Kumar Mukherjee and Shakti Samanta did.
Tapan Sinha made two Hindi films Sagina and Zindagi Zindagi both flopped. The connectivity with Hindi audiences was absent in spite of soul-stirring music in both by Sachin Dev Burman. Tarun Majumdar was super-reluctant to take the plunge from Bangla to Hindi. He started making Bengali films in 1959 with Uttam Kumar-Suchitra Sen’s breezy musical Chaowa Pawa based on Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night. Even today the storyline and the songs seem interwoven in the road trip with a dexterity that seems ahead of its times.
After Chaowa Pawa , Majumdar directed six other Bangla Skechers Outlets films including the blockbuster Balika Badhu with a barely-10 Moushumi Chatterjee in the title role.In 1967 TM directed his first Hindi film Rahgir, an experimental flop which left producer Hemant Kumar Mukherjee almost bankrupt. The surprisingly pretentious film, so different from the unabashed mainstream mood of Majumdar’s finest Bangla films, featured a stiff-as-a-ramrod Biswajit Chatterjee searching for himself while the film searched for an audience.
Rahgir paired Biswajit (in his career’s finest performance, which is not saying much) with Majumdar’s wife, actress Sandhya Roy who starred in twenty of his films, and was to Majumdar what Priya Rajvansh was to Chetan Anand, although admittedly Sandhya was a much better actress than Priya could ever be.
Not even Henant Kumar’s enchanting songs like Janam se banjara hoon bandhu and Mitwa re bhool gaye worded by Gulzar helped Rahgir. It took Tarun Mjumdar seven years after Rahgir to make another Hindi film, and that too because producer-director Shakti Samanta insisted. From Kolkata,Shakti Samanta was a big name in Bollywood,. He bought the rights of Tarun Majumdar1967 Bangla blockbuster Balika Badhu to remake in Hindi but on condition that Majumdar direct it.
After Rahgir, Majumdar was in no mood to direct another Hindi film. But Shakti Samanta wouldn’t hear a no. TM signed Rajni Sharma to play the title role in Balika Badhu in Hindi. Rajni Sharma, though adequate, was no patch on Moushumi Chatterjee from the original. Incidentally Moushumi’s name in Balika Badhu was Rajni.
Looking at the Hindi remake now, Moushumi says, “Look, a remake is a remake.Hey Dudes Shoes The original is an original. The remake can never be as good. When I did Balika Badhu everyone said I was born to play the role. Also the child bride concept was fresh and when Tarun Majumdar made Balika Badhu it was something never seen before. The remake lacked the freshness and originality. The actors were good. Nothing was bad as such, but finally all that the Hindi remake of Balika Badhu is remembered for is the song Bade achche lagte hain.”
Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.