Wanna guess what is common in these films? Well, if you are an avid filmmaker, you would certainly identify that all these films have been tailored around the lives of the common man or the subject of these films is similar to your abode or your surroundings. The major highlight of these films is that almost all these films convey the sorrows and traumas of the common man laced with icing of gentle humor. The Master Filmmaker who made these classic films is Basu Chatterjee – A Brilliant Filmmaker who made ‘uncommon’ films on the ‘common’ man’s life!
On June 4, 2020, Basu Chatterjee breathed his last at the ripe age of 93. Mourning his sad demise, renowned actor cum filmmaker Amol Palekar lamented, “I feel sad because Basu Da was never given the paramount status that he deserved in the Indian film industry. He was one of the pioneers of the ‘Middle of the Road Cinema’ cinema, which was a perfect blend of Art and Commercial Cinema.”
Explaining the kind of Basu Da films, Palekar added, “On one hand, while his films were realistic and based on the earthy subject like the films of Satyajit Ray and Shyam Benegal, similarly, on other hand his films were commercially a huge success at the box office like a Manmohan Desai or Prakash Mehra‘s film. Yet, it is surprising that the film industry and the media never acknowledged his contribution to Indian cinema. Basu Da, was never ever given the due that he rightly deserved.”
Basu Chatterjee shared a rare coincidence with Indian cinema’s two legendary filmmakers viz- B.R.Chopra and K.A.Abbas. Like these two legends, Basu Chatterjee too began his career with media as a cartoonist with Mumbai’s popular newsweekly Blitz. Basu Chatterjee’s career took a new turn when he decided to assist his friend filmmaker Basu Bhattacharya in the film Teesri Kasam (1966) starring Raj Kapoor and Waheeda Rehman. Two years later he made his debut film Sara Akash in 1969, which fetched him recognition as he won the prestigious Filmfare Best Screenplay Award.
Impressed by his talent film legend Tarachand Barjatya of Rajshri Films offered him to direct Piya Ka Ghar (1972). The film was made on a shoestring budget but proved a gold mine at the box-office. Encouraged by the success of Piya Ka Ghar, Tarachand Barjatya repeated Basu Chatterjee for Chitchor (1976). Once again Basu Chatterjee hit a sixer at the box-office! The film celebrated Silver Jubilee and Basu Chatterjee became a name to reckon.
What makes Basu Chatterjee a Master Filmmaker is the fact that he made commercial Silver Jubilee hit films on subjects that were off-beat and genuinely ‘Hat Ke’ in an era of Dishoom-Dishoom’ action-packed Masala films of the 70’s starting Amitabh Bachchan (Sholay, Don, Zanjeer, etc.) and Dharmendra (Yadoon Ki Baraat, Kahani Kismat Ki, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, etc).
Overwhelmed by Basu Chaterjee’s Golden Touch at the box-office even Superstars of the ’70s willingly worked with Basu Chatterjee like Rajesh Khanna (Chakravyuha), Amitabh Bachchan (‘Manzil’), Dharmendra (‘Dillagi’), Dev Anand (Man Pasand), Jeetendra (‘Priyatama’), Sanjeev Kumar (Tumhare Liye), etc. Besides, superstars, even top film producers invited Basu Chaterjee to direct their films like B.R. Chopra’s (Chhoti Si Baat), Prakash Mehra (Chameli Ki Shaadi), and Mahesh Bhatt’s (Gudgudee).
Interestingly, even the commercial Filmfare Award saluted Basu Chaterjee as Basu Da won the Filmfare Best Director Award in 1978 for his film Swami overtaking Manmohan Desai who was nominated the same year in Best Director category for Amar Akbar Anthony.
Besides, Cinema, Basu Chaterjee’s created waves on Television with his hard-hitting TV serial ‘Rajani’, which motivated the housewives to fight for their rights. Other serials that became successful were ‘Kakkaji Kahin’, Darpan, ‘Byomkesh Bakshi’, and others.
With the death of, Basu Chaterjee the era of good, healthy cinema that could be watched with the family has come to an end. Indian Film History pays its humble condolence to Basu Chatterjee and prays to let his soul RIP!