Remembering one of Hindi cinema’s revered filmmakers, Shakti Samanta, on his 10th death anniversary today.

Image for post
Image for post

Remembering one of Hindi cinema’s revered filmmakers, Shakti Samanta, on his 10th death anniversary today.

The man who launched the careers of Sharmila Tagore and Rajesh Khanna, Shakti Samanta demonstrated his ability to gauge audience tastes and made a variety of films ranging from suspense thrillers to musicals, and the melodramas that he is perhaps best remembered for today.

Born in Bengal’s Burdwan district, Shakti Samanta studied science at Calcutta University and later joined his uncle’s construction business in Dehradun. After this he went to Dapodi, where he was a school teacher. His desire to act in movies took him to Bombay. When he was offered the opportunity to move to South Africa, he quit his job and took the plunge as an assistant director on Raj Kapoor’s Sunehre Din (1949). He assisted Gyan Mukherjee and Phani Mazumdar at Bombay Talkies before making his directorial debut with Bahu (1955). Samanta launched his own company Shakti Films with Howrah Bridge (1959), the film with the famous club song performed by Helen, “Mera naam chin chin choo.”

Singapore (1960) and China Town (1961) continued this series of crime movies with a Far Eastern setting. In the mid-1960s, he started making colour films, notably Sharmila Tagore’s Hindi debut Kashmir Ki Kali (1964), in which she plays a poor flower-seller who falls in love with the wealthy heir Rajiv (Shammi Kapoor). A huge musical hit featuring O P Nayyar’s memorable songs including “Ye chand sa roshan chehera” and “Ishaaron ishaaron mein”, the successful team went on to work together in An Evening In Paris (1967). It gained popularity for Tagore’s appearance in a bikini in the song “Aasman se aaya farishta”, creating a sensation amongst audiences. However, with the musical romance Aradhana (1969), Samanta started the most interesting phase of his career. Starring Rajesh Khanna in a double role as father and son along with S D Burman’s classic score, the film established the template for the 1970s melodrama with its theme of unwed motherhood and sacrificing women. It also established Kishore Kumar as Hindi cinema’s foremost male playback singer.

Samanta’s string of hits continued through the 1970s and some of them were made as bilinguals in Hindi and Bengali — Kati Patang (1970), Anuraag (1972), Amanush (1974), Mehbooba (1976), Anand Ashram (1977) and The Great Gambler (1979). But the film that received widespread appreciation was Amar Prem (1971), based on the Bengali film Nishi Padma (1970). The story of the film was adapted from a novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay. Samanta repeated Aradhana (1969)’s hit pair of Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore in the film, and both R D Burman’s music and Ramesh Pant’s dialogues became immortal, especially Khanna’s famous “Pushpa, I hate tears” and Kumar’s rendition of “Chingari koi bhadke” and “Kuchh toh log kahenge”.

Apart from his prolific career as director, he also served as President of the Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association for five years, as Chairman of the CBFC for seven years and Chairman of the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata for two years.

Samanta passed away at his Mumbai residence on 9th April, 2009.

Written by

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store