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Manmohan Desai's Films by Connie Haham

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By: Praveen Lance Fernandes, IndiaFM

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

"Now I realize... There's a saying: you know a person's worth when he's not there." These were the words of a person we may not remember right now but may be accustomed to some of the classics he had made in the past. It is indeed sad that a forgotten and retired celebrity is remembered only during his funeral. They say 'Out of Sight equals to Out of Mind' and that is exactly what has happened to Manmohan Desai. From the director of such movies like Roti, Amar Akbar Anthony, Parvarish, Chacha Bhatija, Dharam-Veer, Suhaag, Naseeb, Desh Premi, Coolie and Mard, Desai is surely forgotten.

So does this book on Manmohan Desai do justice to the account of his life, films and fans? What does one expect from a foreign author when she decides to write a book on a person whom today's generation may not even recall?

To term Connie Haham as a foreigner writing a book on a great Indian director would sound too harsh - especially when this book can put some Indian writers to shame. More and more books are coming out on yesteryear's movie celebrities, which is something a film buff should really enjoy. It's not really easy getting information and facts of an era where digital technology was not easily accessible and some vital information could get lost forever.

Lucky for us, Haham takes transcripts of her interviews with Desai which she conducted back in the 80's, therefore giving us Manmohan Desai's own account of a life dedicated to cinema. Not only cinema but also about his personal life - his vices, his womanizing ways, his opinion on God, etc. One can surely call this a cache which Haham somehow managed to acquire and maintain.

An in-depth study of some of his films like Coolie and Amar Akbar Anthony with a first hand conversation from Desai himself provides us with a good read especially when he speaks about the way in which some of his movies were actually conceptualized. Haham goes into detail about the various characters and Desai cliches in his films but still manages to have a social message. In fact her analysis of Desai's films from the viewpoint of the times he lived is probably the highlight of the book.

Any let-downs? There are too many quotes from people in the industry from his time like Amitabh Bachchan, Mrinal Sen, Om Puri, etc. disturbing the narrative at places unnecessarily.

Also Connie Haham is more like a fan in some places rather than a writer when she praises some of his films to no end.

With a foreword by Amitabh Bachchan (who is doing a lot of it these days) - a star in a lot of Desai's films, this book is a thorough read on one of India's finest masala film-makers.

Put down by critics and fellow industry members during his time, Desai still showed an astounding talent and interest in his work. "Laugh at me today, but mark my words, you'll appreciate my work some day, even if it's too late" , says the trendsetting filmmaker in this book. The time has come but it's never too late.

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