Saif Ali Khan, like Salman Khan and other B-Town stars, shared a close rapport with the late veteran producer Raj Kumar Barjatya.
February 21, 2019 —
Saif, who worked with Raj Kumar in Hum Saath Saath Hai, remembers the Rajshri productions head honcho fondly as he calls Raj Kumar ‘the encyclopedia of cinema’, adding that he knew the exact year in which a film released and also had the capability to understand why a certain film didn’t work.
Not just that, Saif also recollected how people came to the Barjatyas just so they could help these filmmakers understand what it takes to make a movie like Maine Pyar Kiya and Hum Aapke Hain Koun…!, adding that all Raj Kumar wanted was to create a movie which would run in theatres for five years, just like Sound Of Music.
Saif’s open letter to the late Raj Kumar Barjatya, as posted by Mumbai Mirror, talks about his fond memories with the deceased. Here, read it:
“Working with Raj babu (as we fondly referred to him) was like working with cinema royalty. I first met him while working on Hum Saath-Saath Hain. Back then, it was the most anticipated film and my role, the most coveted. I remember him being the most gentle and charming man. He would speak to us with his left hand over his mouth, bowing ever so slightly and elegantly.
When I’d tell him, I was going to Pataudi for the weekend, he’d ask me if there was a movie theatre there. To him everything was about the movies; he was an encyclopaedia of cinema. He would sit there with this big trunk underneath his desk, with all this information hidden away in his files. He could name the release date of films and what exactly went wrong with every major release.
I remember Raj babu telling me about my mother doing this film in the ’60s, which didn’t work. He studied it and made a note in the margin of his book after watching it. He connected its failure to how Sharmila Tagore was under-utilised in the film and how the audience didn’t like that.
I also remember him once telling me that it’s good to have eating scenes in films. He reasoned that films should have eating scenes, particularly before the interval because it makes people hungry and that benefits the theatre as well. So, he had this holistic approach to movie making.
He used to say that if an actor speaks too much English, he alienates the audience. But if he speaks a little bit of English, he impresses them.
His ambition was to make a film like The Sound of Music, that ran for five years continuously and didn’t come off the screen.
He also believed in the four-line rule that Syd Field talks about where you should be able to describe your film in four lines. If you can’t, you can see the problem right there.
I call Raj babu Bollywood royalty because I’ve seen distributors coming and almost lying down in front of him on the sets, praying for a quality product like Maine Pyar Kiya and Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! to salvage the drought they’d be facing with the lack of quality in films in general around them. They were really counting on the Bharjatyas to constantly deliver this high-quality family entertainment that was doing something so positive for the self-image and culture of the Indian family.
And that was the kind of person he was too. I remember somebody getting me a pair of Labrador puppies on the sets of Hum Saath Saath Hain and I asked Raj babu which one I should adopt. He turned to me and said, “Look at the film we are making, how can you separate the two?”
He was also very funny and had a naughty sense of humour. He would shake his head at me disapprovingly but knowingly because I wanted to make films like Agent Vinod, which was his film once upon a time. He gave me the title with the ease of a handshake. He would tell me to analyse the audience and know the kind of films that run and make money in this country… He told me he wanted to make pirate films and swashbuckling cinema but had learnt his lessons… he told me, “If you could have my wisdom at your age, you’d be a special guy.”
He taught us many things and I suppose he’s now gone to that part of history and that part of our minds where my father (Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi), Yash Chopra and others close to me, have gone. Slowly, as we start to lose these pillars, we begin to think about what’s important. If he’s up there somewhere I’m sure he’s figuring out if there’s a cinema theatre around.
We’ll miss him very much. He did something incredible for movies and should always be remembered and respected as a true Raj Kumar or Raj babu as we call him.