- Team SWA
- 24 July 2019
A tribute to writer-director, and one of the earliest Writers Rights activists in India, B. R. Ishara (September 7, 1933 - Jul 25, 2012) on his death anniversary
He left, no he created a place in our hearts. Not by design; it just happened before anyone knew it. When he left, he also left a vacuum- A vacuum that refuses to fill. I just have to shut my eyes and you can hear him smiling his innocent smile and saying “Hi Young Man.” Everybody was a young man for Babuda.
The phenomenon named B. R. Ishara did not belong to this world. His personality had traits which can only be attributed to a divine figure. For countless strugglers who could come to Babuda’s office for food and shelter, he was a Godly intervention, rescuing them from adversities. He was a saint who never closed his doors to anyone, a fakir who never wore shoes on the sets of his films and a rebel who singlehandedly laid the foundation of thought-provoking cinema in the Indian mainstream filmmaking.
Renowned as a writer-director, B.R. Ishara was lovingly referred as Babu’da. He was born as Roshanlal Sharma, in Himachal Pradesh, and lived a life, which is overwhelmingly inspiring. He had run away from home to come to Mumbai and first served as a tea-boy on film sets. Before graduating to become a spot-boy Roshanlal, in affection, started being called by the name Babu by one and all. Babu it remained all life long.
The young lad spent time living at the house of a famous lyricist of that time, Qamar Jalalabadi where he discovered his artistic streak before beginning to assist various dialogue writers. At this time, he added Ram to his name to become Babu Ram and later adopted the pen name ‘Ishara.’ Thus, was born Babu Ram (B.R.) Ishara.
BR Ishara was a prolific dialogue writer. His intensity can be understood from what veteran screenwriter and ex-General Secretary of SWA, Mr. Kamlesh Pandey shares in his article written as a tribute to him, “Babuda’s dialogues felt as if he dipped his pen in acid whenever he wrote those searing lines.” Ishara wrote dialogues and scripts for several hard-hitting films that revolved around sexual hypocrisy in the society and questioned the middle class morals of Indian families. He could manage to be hard-hitting without being vulgar and pierced through the social conscience of the entire nation without resorting to dirty talk. He defied the norms without alienating his audience in the name of experimentalism and kept away from any kind of self-indulgence. He avoided the abstraction of the then fashionable and arty Parallel Cinema but set a new trend instead, within the mainstream. His films were about unashamed, unapologetic realism, which was not borrowed from foreign films but from his own life.
Today issue-based, gritty cinema has become the trending fashion statement among contemporary Indian filmmakers. Everyone agrees that the seeds were sown by BR Ishara as far back as in 1973.
After making a couple of initial films, Babuda ventured, with producer-editor I.M. Kunnu to make Zaroorat, a film so bold film in theme and content that it was stuck with the censors for ages. With this offering Babuda proved that he was far ahead of his times. He went ahead with Kunnu and made Chetna (1970), which did not have explicit scenes but a daring story and provoking dialogues. Chetna created a sensation. By then, in the year 1972, a much watered down version of Zaroorat made it through the censors and got released. Both these films created a wave and B.R. Ishara was now unstoppable.
Before becoming a writer-director himself, Ishara had assisted director Basu Bhattacharya for the classic film Teesri Kasam (1967). Kamlesh Pandey who has spent time with Babuda has a surprising anecdote related with the making of that film. He says--“I was amazed when Babuda told me that one of the lines in the film was not written by Phanishawar Nath ‘Renu’ because the shooting was scheduled and he was not available, so Babuda filled in. The line is ‘Aisa Na Ho Ki Teri Vajah Se Hirabai Ko Koi Chahnewala Na Rahe Aur Hiradevi Ko Koi Poojanewala Na Rahe.’ How seamlessly Babu Da blended his style of writing with Phanishwar Nath ‘Renu’s style of writing is the mark of a truly great writer. And in one line, Babu Da skillfully encapsulates the character of Hirabai played wonderfully by Waheeda Rehman--the world looks at her as Hirabai, the Nautanki dancer to leer at, but Hiraman looks at her as Hiradevi, the Goddess at whose feet is worship.”
Ishara was best known for his films of the 1970s and made more than three dozen films between 1969 and 1996. He also produced two films named Log Kya Kahenge (1982, as writer-director-producer), Sautela Bhai (1996, as writer-director-producer). BabuDa’s filmography is as follows:
AS A DIRECTOR
Sautela Bhai (1996)
Kis Kaam Ke Yeh Rishte (1995)
Janam Se pehale (1994)
Police Ke Peechhe Police (1989)
Who Phir Aayegi (1988)
Sautela Pati (1985)
Hum Do Hamare Do (1984)
Aurat Ka Inteqam (1984)
Jai Baba Amarnath (1983)
Log Kya Kahenge (1982)
Pal Do Pal Ka Saath (1981)
Khara Khota (1981)
Ghar Ki Laaj (1979)
Rahu Ketu (1978)
Kaagaz Ki Nao (1975)
Bazaar Band Karo (1974)
Prem Shastra (1974)
Dil Ki Rahen (1973)
Ek Nao Do Kinare (1973)
Haathi Ke Daant (1973)
Nai Duniya Naye Log (1973)
Ek Nazar (1972)
Man Jaiye (1972)
Man Tera Tan Mera (1971)
Gunah Aur Kanoon (1970)
Insaaf Ka Mandir (1969)
Awara Badal (1964)
AS A WRITER
Sautela Bhai (Writer) (1996)
Kalyug Ke Avtaar (Dialogues) (1995)
Janam Se Pehle (Writer) (1994)
Do Qaidi (Dialogues) (1989)
Aakhiri Badla (Dialogues) (1989)
Telephone (Dialogues) (1985)
Yaar Kasam (Dialogues/Screenplay) (1985)
Hum Do Hamare Do (Dialogues/Screenplay/Story) (1984)
Bhemaa (Writer) (1984)
Log Kya Kahenge (Writer) (1982)
Kashish (Writer) (1980)
Aag Aur Toofan (Dialogues/Screenplay) (1975)
Charitra (Writer) (1973)
Ek Nazar (Writer) (1972)
Zaroorat (Writer) (1972)
Chetna (Writer) (1970)
Dharti Kahe Pukaarke (Dialogues) (1969)
Chand Aur Suraj (Dialogues) (1965)
Awara Badal (Dialogues) (1964)
BabuDa not only had a creative insight intoissues and subjects but also an eye for talent. After introducing FTII Gold Medalist and National Award winner Rehana Sultana (whom he later married) and Anil Dhawan in Chetna Babuda went on to pick many newcomers including Danny, Rakesh Pandey, Vijay Arora, Jaya Bhaduri, Amitabh Bachchan, Reena Roy, Shatrughan Sinha, Raj Kiran, Aruna Irani and RazaMurad for several of his films and also gave break to BappiLahiri who was then a new composer. The tale of him spotting Parveen Babi at Ahmedabad University and offering her the lead role in Charitra (sequel to Chetna) opposite famous cricketer Salim Durrani is also quite a famous one.
To say Babuda was a rooted soul would be an understatement. As a person he somehow stood at the zenith of simplicity. He would say to people around him, “One should never treat himself as the king but as a worker. Only when you remain a worker, covetous worries keep away.”
Babuda was not only famous for offeringhis brand new books sitting pretty in his office shelves to anyone who seemed interested but could go till the extent of offering his whole collection to worthy contenders. “If books can’t be shared to spread knowledge, what use do they have?” he would quip.
Ishara never had an ounce of haughtiness in him. He was against anyone touching his feet and so his office had a poster which read-- ‘Don’t touch anyone’s feet here.’ There were occasions when cultural organizations wanted to felicitate Babuda for his contribution to Indian cinema but none could pursue him to attend the award ceremony.
Babuda was in fact against receiving awards and trophies. His ideological reason behind this choice reflects in his thoughts, which he shared with Jalees Sherwani who had requested him to receive such an award. Babuda said “Why do they want to honour me? I have done nothing in my life. All these events have ‘happened’ to me. Why shall I accept the credit for something that has occurred to me by sheer chance? Forget the films; I don’t even have a name of my own!”
But Babuda was a fountain of inspiration to young filmmakers who flocked to him all his life for inspiration. He was always willing to lend a hand, to change or write a scene, to advise his friends in how to write or direct a scene. When he shot his films in Pune in the 1970’s FTII students flocked to his sets and were always rewarded with lessons in filmmaking and in humility. In Babuda there was a fountain of youth, a fountain which refused to dry up even on the eve of his demise.
Babuda passed away on Wednesday, July 25th due to a terminal disease. The cremation ceremony on the same day and the commemorative assembly two days later saw a swarming gathering of people from every walk of film industry who loved him including Jaya Bachchan, Ranjit, Salim Khan, Raza Murad, Anees Bazmee, Abbas-Mustan, Gajendra Chauhan, Shakti Kapoor, Dinesh Chaturvedi, Dheeraj Kumar, Sameer Anjan, Kamlesh Pandey, Vinay Shukla, Jalees Sherwani, T.P. Agarwal, Sudhakar Sharma, Anjum Rajabali, Robin Bhatt, Imteyaz Hussein, Rakesh Bedi, Ashoke Pandit, and many others.
Apart from his filmmaking endeavors, Babuda was also one of the founder pillars of the Screenwriters Association (then, Film Writers' Association). He switched between functioning as their honorary General Secretary and one amongst the office bearers for many years. It can be said without doubts that if the entire Indian writers’ fraternity owes it to a certain people than Babuda was surely one of them, andhe will continue to be their guiding light. Babuda was also very active with the Indian Film and TV Directors Association and the FWICE.
BR Ishara will be remembered with love and respect and his presence will be missed.Mr. Kamlesh Pandey sums up, “I will personally miss Babuda, his films and his writing. And ‘Parchhayiyan’, the building he lived in, will even miss his shadow.”
(Courtesy: SWA Archives. Written by: Dinkar Sharma & Mazahir Rahim)