Hemaa, who is one of the seven children of the late actor, said that nobody in the family made an effort to document his life and that this film is completely her baby as she wants people to know about her father who had made an immense contribution to the film industry. Hemaa is thankful to her old-time neighbour, Johnny Lever, who helped her get contacts in the film industry for her documentary. “Johnny Lever was of great help because he knew my family and lived in the same vicinity in Matunga. He helped me get in touch with people of the industry and had great respect for my father, and always held his ears before taking my father’s name,” relays Hemaa.
The aspiring filmmaker also met Dharmendra, who has worked with Kanhaiyalal. “I had the privilege of interviewing him for the documentary and he mentioned that he was one of the most respected men in the film industry. He also said that when we take his name, there is a kind of vibration that one feels,” she narrates, adding that she was congratulated by the veteran actor for making a documentary to showcase her father’s contribution to the film industry. “He also added that the film industry and government of India should be supporting this documentary,” she smiles.
The documentary will also have some interesting anecdotes related to ‘Mother India’, which featured Kanhaiyalal in a memorable role. The Mehboob Khan film is remembered not only for Nargis and Sunil Dutt but also for Kanhaiyalal’s portrayal of Sukhi Lala. Hemaa recently shot a few portions of the documentary in Mehboob studio, where some important portions of the film were shot by Mehboob Khan.
She goes on to inform that Shaukat Khan, who is Mehboob Khan’s son, welcomed her and told her that she resembles her father a lot and that she is free to shoot on stage 1 and stage 2 of the studio where ‘Mother India’ was shot. Shaukat also helped her with memorabilia of the film including posters and a coffee table book of the film.
Sharing an anecdote about the iconic film, the veteran actor’s proud daughter, says, “During the premiere of the film, my father told my mother to go home during the interval, saying, ‘Ab joote padne wale (now, I’ll be bashed)’. She told him that she would watch the whole film as she knew that her husband had done a fine job and that nobody could substitute him.”
Kanhaiyalal hailed from a conservative family from Banaras. His father wanted to keep his children away from films but made sure they attended literary functions and watched plays. It was during one such Kavi Sammelan (Poetry event) that he met Amitabh Bachchan for the first time. The megastar also features in the documentary. “During such events in Bombay, stalwarts like Harivanshrai Bachchan, Neeraj, Balraj Sahani, Kaka Hathrasi, were always in attendance. It was during one such event that my father entered the venue and was honoured with a place on the dais with great poets of that time. We used to sit in the audience, as would Amitabh Bachchan. I haven’t told him that he had earlier sent me a video byte wherein he had praised my father and mentioned that Kanhaiyalal Chaturvedi ne who shikhar chua hain, jab koi saadhan nahi thi; main unke saamne, apne ko chhota manta hoon (Kanhaiyalal Chaturvedi scaled such heights and that too at a time when the resources were limited, that I find myself to be humbled in front of him)”.
The documentary also features Anupam Kher who is all praise for the veteran actor. When Hemaa asked him what would have happened if Kanhaiyalal were part of the film industry today, he said, “Agar Kanhaiyalal aaj hote toh saare actors ghar baithe hote aur Kanhaiyalalji mere acting school ke principal hote (If he were alive, all the other actors of the film industry would be out of work and he would be the principal of my acting school).” She also reveals that Govinda is a family friend as his father and Kanhaiyalal were friends and the actor often visited their house in Banaras, which was his mother’s hometown.
Hemaa plans to make a one-and-a-half-hour documentary and take it to film festivals across the world, and later to OTT platforms. She reveals that her father was generous and believed in charity and therefore contributed to various causes frequently. She tells us that her documentary also features senior actors from the industry who have now fallen on bad times.
The film industry is a ruthless place and Hemaa has experienced it too. “It is true and I experienced it when I tried to get in touch with some present day actors and my experience was not good. Stalwarts like Kanhaiyalal, Motilal and Ishwarlalji have contributed immensely but the response I received from the new lot was not welcoming,” she rues.
In conclusion, Hemaa makes a plea, saying, “My father, who has acted in over 120 films, has made an immense contribution to the film industry and now needs recognition in the form of Dadasaheb Phalke award.”