Sadak 2 is the end of the road for Mahesh Bhatt. Is this the same director who once made those memorable masterpieces? While we sit and lament over the Sanjay Dutt and Alia Bhatt-starrer for being one of the biggest disappointments of an already dreadful year, here are the three hit films we would like to remember Mahesh for.
- Arth (1982)
The story of an abandoned wife who scratches and claws her way back to the surface has Shabana Azmi in one of Indian cinema’s finest performances. The bold strokes of feminism in the storytelling never seem painted on. Mahesh once said to me, “Arth came into my life after a string of duds. These included Vishwasghat and Lahu
Ke Do Rang which were fairly big-budgeted commercial films. Arth was a personal statement on the man-woman relationship that shattered the belief of the traditional power centres within our film industry that only a certain kind of formula works at the boxoffice.”
But did Mahesh ever expect the film to become so iconic? “I made Arth on the firm belief that any work which originates from a filmmaker’s heart inevitably connects with the aam junta (general public). And it hit home in ways that shocked the industry, but not me. I remember India won the Cricket World Cup on the very day when Arth was declared a hit. I remember I was at the Plaza cinema in Delhi watching the film on the Friday it was released. We were tense, since this was not the kind of entertainment the public was used to. The scene where the deserted wife Shabana Azmi rejects her husband Kulbhushan Kharbanda
and walks away from him got a standing ovation from the so-called front-benchers at this hardcore mass-entertainment theatre. I knew then and there that our film was a hit.”
- Saaraansh (1984)
A 65-year old man, played by the 24-year old Anupam Kher, in a role earmarked for Sanjeev
Kumar, who comes to terms with mortality after his only son’s sudden death, many consider Saaraansh a better film than Arth, and they are probably right. The pain of the protagonist is expressed in welters of creative eruption that Mahesh never tried to streamline in the plot. He just let it all flow out. No wonder Anupam is so proud of Saaraansh. He once said, “35 years ago I played the age that I am now. I am grateful to the great Sanjeev Kumar for opting out of that project. Because of him I got to do one of the most brilliantly written characters at the beginning of my career.”
- Zakham (1998)
Every time you forget how brilliant an actress Pooja Bhatt is capable of being, watch her as a woman who steals time with her husband whenever he can get away from his first family. It’s hard to believe Pooja had never worn a saree before this. She looked as though she was born in one. This is the last film Mahesh directed before Sadak 2. And that’s the way it should have remained.