Kolkata: Hrishikesh Mukherjee was shooting the climax of Namak Haram. After two takes Rajesh Khanna requested the director for a third one. To this Hrishikesh Mukherjee replied sternly and asked the actor to pay for the extra raw stock from his pocket. Rajesh Khanna dared not to annoy his director anymore and was satisfied with the second take which was finally canned. This was one aspect of the multi-talented Hrishikesh Mukherjee whose centenary is this year. Hrishida as he was called with respect by the entire film fraternity was a technician in the true sense.
After completing his graduation in science from Calcutta University, Hrishikesh Mukherjee was well known as a teacher of science and mathematics. He was also an accomplished chess player. His fondness for cinema started with his viewing of Pramathesh Barua’s Mukti. Hrishikesh Mukherjee was deeply moved by Pramathesh Barua’s sense of acting and technical finesse. In Hindi, the socially concerned films of V. Shantaram also inspired him to turn to filmmaking. So along with Bimal Ray, Salil Chowdhury and Nabendu Ghosh, he moved to Mumbai to seek a fortune in the world of celluloid.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee joined Bimal Ray’s team as an editor and also participated in the scripting process of Do Bigha Zamin. Assisting Bimal Ray as an editor for seven years he ventured on his own to become a director. His debut was Musafir which starred top actors like Dilip Kumar, Suchitra Sen and Kishore Kumar. He and Ritwik Ghatak penned the script of Musafir. The film was a flop yet Hrishikesh Mukherjee carved himself a secure niche in films with his second directorial venture Anari starring Raj Kapoor and Nutan. It was a super hit and there was no looking back for Hrishikesh Mukherjee.
After Nitin Bose and Bimal Ray, he took forward the movement of middle cinema in Hindi films to true heights. Anuradha is supposed to be his best film content and technique-wise. Hrishida is remembered forever for emotionally gripping films and rollicking comedies like Anupama, Abhiman and Golmaal. Though he considered Satyakam as his truly personal creation many others feel Anand and Guddi were his truly memorable directional ventures. Hrishikesh Mukherjee concentrated mainly on directing and editing. He could handle actors with rare abilities and everyone from Ashok Kumar to Dharmendra to Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachhan and Sharmila Tagore as well as Jaya Bachhan cherished memories of working with the charismatic director.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee considered Pramathesh Barua, V. Shantaram, Bimal Ray and Satyajit Ray his idols. He always confessed to learning the art of storytelling from Pramathesh Barua, choice of subjects from V. Shantaram, technical perfection and aesthetics from Bimal Ray and flawless presentation of cinema from Satyajit Ray. Directors from Bengal be it Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha ox Chowdhury found an ideal host in Hrishikesh Mukherjee at Mumbai. Madhabi Mukherjee still fondly remembers how meticulous Hrishida was in his chess play.
While directing Amol Palekar in Golmaal Hrishikesh Mukherjee often said him Dev Anand. He deliberately named the evergreen hero whom he successfully directed in Asli Naqli to inspire movement and pace in Amol Palekar knowing well that Amol was a Dev Anand fan.
Besides his movies, Hrishida edited Ganga Jumna and Yakeen crisply and gave Coolie a true story format based on sheer editing skills.