Mumbai : Kundan Shah’s “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro” was made on a shoestring budget and had its origin in the struggles of his friends two FTII graduates who ended up opening a photo studio in Hyderabad.
The 1983 cult classic came into being “by chance” for Shah, who died of cardiac arrest today.
“I was very clear that I wanted to make a comedy. At that time, (early 1980s) I was actually writing another film based on the idea from ‘One Wonderful Sunday (1947)’ by Akira Kurusawa. It is the story of two penniless lovers and how they spend a Sunday together.
“I had not seen that film (One Wonderful Sunday) but I was inspired by the idea and was trying to write a screenplay.
‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ happened in between. By very, what you call, chance of circumstance,” Shah recalled in an interview with ‘NFDCCinemasofIndia’ in 2012.
There were not many opportunities when Shah graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune in 1976.
“There was no television then and we did not want to join the film industry, that we were clear about. I think (filmmaker) Manmohan Desai at that time had 17 assistants and somebody had tried to put me there and I realised I would be the 18th, which I did not want.
“So we formed a commune –a group of cinematographers , editors and others — because we knew the struggle was going to be grim. We had based it in Hyderabad. Eventually, everyone dispersed and even I returned to Mumbai.”
Only two of Shah’s friend stayed back — Ravi Ojha, a direction student and Rajendra Shaw. They ended up opening a photo studio.
“One day Ravi came over to Mumbai. We spent the night together at my home and he recalled the grimness of this dark period of struggle, how it was to run a photo studio. And normally what happens when you talk of all the grimness and struggle you look at it as a third person.
“So, he was laughing and I was also in splits all through the night. The next morning when I got up, although I was working on the script inspired by Kurusawa, I told Ravi that I could see a film in this (his story) and wanted to attempt a film on two photographers,” Shah recalled.
“Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro” mixed comedy with themes of corruption and unemployment that lifted the modest National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) production into one of the best dark comedies in Indian cinema.
The film featured actors Naseeruddin Shah, Ravi Baswani, Om Puri, Pankaj Kapur, Satish Kaushik, Satish Shah, Neena Gupta, Bhakti Bharve and Deepak Qazir.
Shah was assisted by Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Sudhir Mishra, who became celebrated directors later.