Vijay Anand – Goldie’s touch.
If genius is genetically predetermined, is the course of life also predestined? Vijay Anand vouched for a dialogue from Guide, “Jab socha idhar jaoon toh zindagi haath pakadkar udhar Ie gayee.”
Goldie’s earliest memories were of loss and deep loneliness. Deriving his pet name from his blonde curls, he lost his mother before his 7th birthday and was raised by his bhabhi Uma (Chetan Anand’s wife) who brought him from Gurdaspur to Bombay.
It opened a fascinating, new world to the desolate child. Goldie remembered, “Chetansaab’s house used to be filled with poets and writers. They were all starving at that time so it wasn’t a filmi atmosphere but one of tremendous talent and intense discussions.”
Even before he graduated from Xavier’s College, he wrote the story of Taxi Driver, co-scripting it with Uma. The film’s success encouraged him to approach Dev with another script, Nau Do Gyarah (’57). Dev was on his way to Panchgani with wife Mona for the weekend and asked Goldie to narrate it on his return. However, Mona conspired to get Goldie into their car much to Dev’s annoyance. He made it clear that the prodigy had to hop out the minute his narration was over. Goldie made sure he kept Dev engrossed right till their destination. Just before the climax, he stopped. And dropped the bombshell – he would give Dev the script only if he were allowed to direct it. Dev finally relented.
“Even as a child, I used to stand behind Chetansaab while he would be writing his scripts late into the night. Sometimes, when he was stuck, he would look back at me and I would take his pen and complete the dialogue silently. He would just smile. Later, I began to visit his sets straight from college. One day, he was upset by a song he had to picturise for Funtoosh (’56) and left the studio. Then he sent back a note, saying, ‘Let Goldie complete it, he will do better justice to it.” The song was ’Ai meri topi palat ke aa.”
Despite flashes of inventiveness in its clever script, a Hitchcockian climax and his flair for song picturization (which would become his signature) Nau Do Gyarah got an average response. It was only with Kala Bazaar (’60) that he learnt to integrate the myriad facets of his talent.
The collegiate got the idea in a novel way, while observing tickets being sold at a premium outside Metro cinema. A random thought evolved into an immensely watchable marriage of romance and reformation.
He wrote Hum Dono (’61) at an unbroken stretch of eighteen days in the dead of winter in a houseboat in Srinagar! Not one line was changed (as he probably ghost directed) . The boy wonder became the toast of the town. It was followed by the sweet, Tere Ghar Ke Saamne (’63), a Dev-Nutan starrer whose sophistication flew way over heads. However, the film impressed Nasir Hussain enough to sign Goldie to direct Teesri Manzil (’66) with Dev originally in the lead.
However, to Dev’s mind, Goldie was now a perfect fit for Navketan’s most ambitious project, Guide (’65). Dev’s part in masterminding one of the century’s greatest classic has been grossly overlooked. He ran into every obstacle imaginable but surmounted them all with monumental fortitude. He didn’t take kindly to Goldie looking his gift horse in the mouth by taking an outside film. Dev begged off Teesri Manzil but was appalled when Goldie stayed back to direct his replacement, archrival Shammi Kapoor.
On his part, Goldie felt confined by Dev. So Guide went to Raj Khosla, who’d given Dev two hits, CID (’56) and Kala Pani (’59). However, Waheeda refused to work with Raj. Chetan then agreed to take up Guide. The English version was shot first. Just as the Hindi version was all set to roll, Chetan left to make Haqeeqat (’64). Guide was orphaned yet again.
Goldie recalled distinctly, “I didn’t like the novel. How could I convince my audience to accept a heroine for whom I had no respect? The woman was a conniving adulteress, the hero was a loser.”
Finally, Goldie gave his nod only after Dev offered him a free hand. And then, with masterly strokes, he elevated a sordid affair into a complex treatise on human frailties and spiritual salvation. “Kala Bazaar was about worldly character whereas Guide showed the triumph of the spirit.”
Remarkably, Goldie worked on Guide and Teesri Manzil (’66), as disparate as two films can be, at the same time. He rode the crest by creating the template of Indian whoddunits, Jewel Thief (’68) and mother of masala mix, Johnny Mera Naam (’70). The commercial failure of Tere Mere Sapne (’71) hurt him terribly. A mercenary star system disillusioned him further and he slowly kept backing away from films until the distance between his early success and later failures (Blackmail, Chupa Rustom, Bullet) became immeasurable.
An avid Rajneesh disciple, he caused consternation by marrying his much younger niece, Sushma and was instrumental in galvanising the film industry to vote for Janata Dal when emergency ended in 1977.
Championing pro choice – free speech, his brief stint as Censor Board chief ended prematurely, when he became a vocal advocate of public exhibition of films with adult content, after being suitably rated. The I&B ministry was aghast at the proposal and he quit in disgust.
His four Filmfare awards came for writing dialogue and directing Guide and screenplay and editing for Johnny Mera Naam.
Ten years ago, on 23 Feb 2004, he succumbed to a massive heart attack at the age of 70.
Goldie saab has left so many lingering, enduring images but it is the sheer genius of his creative eco-system that has immortalized him.
And the rediscovery of hi genius by a new breed of directors is solace to my soul.
Starting with this brief biography, an in depth analysis of his work shall follow shortly.