Shakti Samanta, the legendary film-maker who gave us innumerable hits like Kashmir Ki Kali, An Evening in Paris, Amar Prem breathed his last on 9th April, 2009 in his Mumbai residence. He was 83.
- “The guy from Burdwan, West Bengal, who rocked the Bollywood silver screen by his genius.” Yes, Shakti Samanta was born in Burdwan on 13th January, 1926. Burdwan in 1926 was quite a village. He moved to Calcutta and graduated in 1944.
Even before independence, Shakti couldn′t find any suitable job for him. And the only option left is becoming an actor in Bombay cinema. But he couldn′t become an actor. Then he decided to take a job of a school teacher 150 miles away from Mumbai. But the thoughts and attraction for cinema remained. He came back to Mumbai in the late 40′s when everyone out of three in the film industry was a Bengali. Nabyendu Ghose, Bimal Roy, Ritwick Ghatak, Salil Choudhury, Hrishikesh Mukherjee - all came from Calcutta to create something new and unique in All India Cinema. Samanta in 1948 joined Bombay Talkies, run by Devika Rani. He became assistant director. He worked under Gyan Mukherjee, Phani Majumdar, Satish Nigam.
Some of Shakti Samanta′s noted films
But Samanta was not that kind of person who would like to remain as assistant director whole life. In 1955 he directed his own film Bahu starring Pran, Mehmood, Sashikala and Usha Kiran. The music was by Hemanta Mukherjee. Bahu didn′t do that well, but he continued making films like Inspector, Sheroo, Detective and Hill Station. This was the learning period of Shakti Samanta. He was in search of his own kind of film. He chose best way. He felt ‘romance’ is the keyword of success. Audience always like romantic cinema, with a little bit of sex. He deliberately decided to avoid unnecessary violence. So he started keeping villains, but they were romantic too.
In 1957, he established his own movie making company - “Shakti Films”. Under his banner he made a murder mystery Howrah Bridge starring Ashoke Kumar and Madhubala with music by O. P Nayar. But this in the first time Indian audience found different Helen in this film. Helen was supposed to be a mere cabaret dancer, but he made her a sex symbol in his film. This is clearly evident in the song sequence, “mera naam chin chin choo…” This film clicked like anything and Shakti Samanta was recognized as a front line director.
Romance, Sex and the other important aspects of Samanta′s film was Music. In his next success he re-invented Shammi Kapoor in double role. China Town (1962) was a super-hit film. The music was by Ravi and Rafi′s song “bar bar dekho, hazar bar dekho…” is still considered as timeless. The heroine was Shakila. Shammi Kapoor was his favourite those days. Samanta used his charm and all mannerism very cleverly. In his Kashmir Ki Kali (1964) he introduced Satyajit′s heroine Sharmila Tagore. Samanta discovered some kind erotic quality in her which was absent in Hindi cinema till that date. In his next film An Evening In Paris (1967) where we found bikini clad Sharmila whom we saw as an intelligent female magazine editor in Satyajit Ray′s Nayak just a year back. Before this we saw Sharmila Tagore in another Samanta film Sawan Ki Ghata with Manoj Kumar and music by O. P Nayar. “zara haule haule chalo mere sajna…” by Asha Bhonsle was the USP of the film.
In 1969 he gave a solid platform to a new comer named Rajesh Khanna. Here Khanna also played a double role with Sharmila Tagore. The “rup tera mastana…” song sequence at that time created a new dimension and imagery of sexuality in Hindi cinema. The music was by R. D Burman. Shakti-Rajesh-R. D was a golden trio at that time. Shakti again used the suppressed sexuality in Asha Parekh′s character in Kati Patang (1970). And again he brought back Sharmila in his Amar Prem (1971). This was a remake from Uttam-Sabitri starrer Bengali film Nishipadma. Seeing this film both Rajesh and Samanta first understood how great was the actor, Uttam Kumar. Rajesh copied all the mannerism and style of Uttam Kumar in this Hindi version. R. D composed eight remarkable song including “kuch to log kahenge…”
After this film Samanta seriously thought about Uttam Kumar. He planned a double version film starring Uttam Kumar and Sharmila Tagore. He started shooting of Amanush which was released in 1974. But before this, Samanta made Anuraag (1972) where Moushumi Chatterjee played a blind girl against Vinod Mehra. It was a low budget film. But due to the treatment it became super-hit.
Amanush became a hit, both in Bengali and Hindi. Music was by Shyamal Mitra. This was the first success of Uttam Kumar and Shyamal Mitra. Samanta again used Uttam Kumar in his another double version Ananda Ashram in 1977. Sharmila was again in the lead. Samanta made six Bengali films, the four of which were double version. Anusandhan (1981) was the Bengali version of Barsaat Ki Ek Raat with Amitabh Bachchan and Amzad Khan and Rakhee as the female lead. With Amitabh Bachchan, Samanta did another film which would be sequel to China Town. This was planned with Shammi Kapoor in the early 60′s, but he could not do it then. In 1979 with Amitabh, he made The Great Gambler. Alag Alag (1985) was another Samanta-Rajesh-R.D film. It was Khanna′s production debut. But by that time the trio magic was gone and the film failed very badly.
Samanta did at the same time a Bengali film Anyay Abichar (1984) with Mithun Chakraborty where he played an angry but not so young man. The film also starred Rejina, Nutan and Utpal Dutt. This also had a Hindi version Aar Paar. The Bengali version did well but the Hindi version was very poor. His last film was in Bengali Devdas was made in 2002 starring Prosenjit Chatterjee and Arpita Paul with Indrani Halder as Chandramukhi. This was not the first Sarat Chandra by Samanta. Earlier he made Charitraheen in 1974 with Sanjeev Kumar and Sharmila Tagore. Both the Sarat Chandra by Samanta miserably failed.
In total he made 42 feature films out of which 36 were in Hindi and 6 were in Bengali. Samanta was the president of the Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association for 5years, chairman of the Censor Board of Film Certification for 7years and was the chairman of Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata for 2years. With his death, an era of Hindi cinema has ended.