Rakesh Roshan: The Reinventor of Bollywood

By Pickle  February 14, 2018

The five-decades-old journey of Rakesh Roshan is decorated with mega hits. But still, the humble filmmaker says, “No matter how big a film, it’s the people who buy the ticket. They decide the fate of the film”.


In his nearly five-decades-old career as an actor, writer, producer and director, Rakesh Roshan has worked very hard to paint his own success story in the Indian film industry — but at his own pace. “I always think that you have to go to the bus stop and stand. Some bus will take you and some will not…The bus will never come home,” says the 60 plus passionate filmmaker, whose 2013 blockbuster ‘Krrish 3’ made a box office collection of over 200 crore.

Yet the humble filmmaker doesn’t bunk the unpredictability of the business. “No matter how big a film, it’s the people who buy the ticket. They decide the fate of the film on that Friday. My aim is to make a family entertainer, which can be watched by people from Jhumri Talaiya to Manhattan. The rest is destiny.”

There are few in his fraternity who have attempted the range of genres that Rakesh Roshan has attempted. His safeguard against redundancy: Constant reinvention. “I always made different kind of films. I never follow one trend. If ‘Khudgarz’ was a film on true friends, then I also made ‘Khoon Bhari Maang — a female-oriented film with Rekha… Every film is a challenge for me. ‘Karan Arjun’ was based on a story of reincarnation while ‘Kahona Pyar Hai’ was a love story. In ‘Koi Mil Gaya’ the hero was an autist. Then I made ‘Krish’, a superhero film and, ‘Krrish 3’ broke all the box office records.”

So, what makes Rakesh Roshan stand out.The veteran filmmaker believes that the itch to take risk keeps him going. “Risk to me is to make usual films. I don’t make usual films as risky proposition.Risk is when you make an unusual film. That gives you sleepless nights and keeps you going. To make ‘Krrish’ and ‘Koi Mil Gaya’ is not easy.”

The way up wasn’t easy for Rakesh Roshan and his life can inspire many. His father, late Bollywood composer Roshanlal Nagrath (referred as Roshan), used to work with All Indian Radio in Delhi while his mother, Ira Moitra, was a singer in AIR. After the couple’s marriage, they moved to Mumbai looking for greener pastures.

“My father was from Bariely (in Uttar Pradesh) and my mother was from Delhi. She was a Bengali and my father was a Punjabi. When they came to Mumbai in search of work, they stayed in a garage that belonged to noted music director duo Husnlal-Bhagatram. I was born in 1949 in a stable next to the garage where we stayed in Versova.”

His father’s first break came with director Kidar Sharma’s “Neki Aur Badi”. But the film did not do well as the box office and the family decided to move back to Delhi. “But the day we were leaving, Kidar Sharma told my father that he was starting another project, “Bawre Nain”, and he was to give the music.”

The film starring Raj Kapoor and Geeta Bali proved a turning point and then there was no looking back. “My father did the music. Kidar was the lyricist. It had memorable songs like ‘Khayalon Mein Kisike’, ‘Tere Duniya Mein Dil Lagta Nahin,'” recalls the filmmaker.

But then at a very tender age of 16 his father passed away. He was 49. “I went to a school in Mumbai and then shifted to a boarding school (Sainik School, Satara). I did my schooling over there before joining Nowrosjee Wadia College-Pune in April 1966. In November 1966 my father passed away.”

The young Roshan had to make a choice to be with his family or pursue education in filmmaking. And he chose the former. “My mother was alone in Mumbai and had a younger brother to take care of. I had a choice to go to the Pune filmaking institute. But I chose to be with the family and became an assistant director at the age of 16.”

He began his career by assisting directors like H.S.Rawail and Mohan Kumar. “I assisted Harnam Singh Rawail in ‘Sunghursh’ (1968) starring Dilip Kumar, Vyjayanthimala and Sanjeev Kumar… After Sungarsh, I joined Mohan Kumar as an assistant director. I did two films ‘Anjaana’ (1969) and ‘Aap Aye Bahaar Ayee’ (1971). Both had Rajinder Kumar in the lead. ‘Anjaana’ had Babita as heroine and ‘Aap Aye Bahaar Ayee’ had Sadhana in it. I also used to do production work.”

“I used to earn Rs 200 a month (I used to give Rs 100 to my mother and rest for travel expenses). Although my father had left enough money for us, my mother was of the view that I have to work hard to earn my living.”

So how did the fair, handsome and light-eyed talent land a role as an actor?

“After working as an assisting director for four-five years, it so happened that Rajinder Kumar asked me once what I wanted to become. I said I wanted to be an actor. And then, he got me roles in two films — ‘Man Mandir’ (a 1971 drama film directed by Tapi Chanakya starring Waheeda Rehman, Sanjeev Kumar and Helen and Nagir Reddy’s ‘Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani’ (1971).”

But his acting career did not take off as he wanted it to be. “As an actor, my career didn’t take off… But whenever I got a good break, I was appreciated — in ‘Khel Khel Mein’ (1975), ‘Khatta Meet’ and ‘Khoobsurat.’ I knew I was not getting a push to come to be recognised as a full-fledged hero. But I never gave up. I started doing parallel roles and villain roles.”

Unlike his other contemporaries who faded away, Rakesh Roshan took the struggle to his stride and never quit. “I always had in my mind to have my own banner (and that’s how FilmKraft was born). As Raj Kappor and Gurudutt ji had. I started producing films. I produced four films (‘Aap Ke deewane’, ‘Kaam Chor’,

‘Jaad Utha Insaan’, ‘Bhagwan Dada’). During this period, I learned a lot about production and direction. I learned film editing. I was involved with all the aspects of filmmaking.”

And then one day while his acting career was diminishing, Rakesh Roshan thought of becoming a director. “I made ‘Khudgarz’. It had Jeetendra and Shatrughan Sinha in the main lead. I didn’t cast myself. I depicted my acting in others. What I used to visualise as an actor, I visualised for others to emote it. That was a big success.”

‘Khudgarz’ proved to be the first of many hits to come. “After that there was no looking back. I made ‘Khooon Garima’ (with Rekha in the lead), ‘Kishen Kanhaia’ (Anil Kapoor in the lead), ‘King Uncle’ (Jackie Shrff in the lead), then I made ‘Karan Arjun’, ‘Koila’, ‘Kaho Na Pyaar Hai’, ‘Koi Mil Gaya’, and then I made ‘Krrish’ and ‘Krrish 3.”

In his career as a director, he has made just 15 films — a reminder of the fact that he works at his own pace and believes in quality over quantity. “Out of 15 film, I have given 14 hits and all are different kind of films. The audience has a lot of respect for me. Wherever I go, people ask me the films I am doing and that why I am doing films every three years.”

Though the after glory of ‘Krrish 3’ is all for him to cherish, he says, “After every project, I tell myself isske baad films nahin banaoonga. I take a break… till the thirst awakens again.”

“I have lot of stories in my mind. I am taking my own time to develop it. I develop from beginning to end. I am making the dots now. When I feel, it is not working, I drop it. I take it off my mind. I don’t worry too much.” he says.

The 60 plus filmmaker believes that new generation of filmmakers “will come and push our generation and make space for themselves. Now, it is upto us to how long to compete with them or say now it is your turn.”

He believes that the Indian film industry is moving forward and the Internet has a big role to play in it.

He is also impressed with the emergence of regional films even as he feels that filmmakers making commercial films are not ready to experiment. “Regional films are bold and very well made. Our commercial films are not growing.

They are making the usual films all the time. Although they are hits, we are not taking one step forward. We are capable of doing great films.”

Some Hindi commercial films that had an impact on the filmmaker include “Queen”, “Lagaan” and “Three Idiots”.

“Recently, I saw Kangana’s film ‘Queen’. They made such a beautiful film. I was also impressed with Aamir Khan and Aushotosh Gowarikar’s ‘Lagaan’. After ‘Kaho Na Pray Hai’ I was planning another romantic film. But after I saw Lagaan, I said I cannot make a romantic film. I have to make a different film. So, I made ‘Koi Mil Gaya’.”

His thirst for learning hasn’t faded after so many years in the industry. “I see all kinds of films. I don’t miss any film. Every Friday, I see a film. Even today, I learn a lot from each and every film I watch. Every film teaches you something.”

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