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From Amitabh to Aamir, the show goes on...

Tinnu Anand may not be able to draw crowds to first-day, first-show. But he is the man who gave Bollywood a hero called Amitabh Bachchan. And he is not willing to rest on lesser laurels. ZIYA US SALAM speaks to the man passionate about Bollywood... .

Different Strokes, Different Folks: Tinnu Anand waits for his hour under the sun. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

MANY, MANY summers ago Amitabh Bachchan stepped into his shoes. And has not looked back ever since. Strangely, the two continue to be the best of friends. Their friendship going back all the way to 1968 and K.A. Abbas. The film was "Saat Hindustani". As Abbas was finalising the cast for the film, a friend asked Tinnu Anand -- yes, he is Tinnu with an extra `n', not Tinu or Tinnoo as some Bollywood producers would have us believe - to show some pictures of Amitabh Bachchan to Abbas in the hope that he would give the gawky young lad a break. As luck would have it, Amitabh Bachchan bagged the role for which Tinnu was originally pencilled in. That turned to be the defining moment of their respective careers. But there were no hard feelings, the two men laughed over it and life was the same again. That was the first sign of a friendship based on something wider than individual need.

"Initially, like others, I too had come to Bombay in the hope of becoming a hero. Later, I realised that my face was not cut out for it. Hence, other roles came my way," Tinnu Anand recalls, more than three decades after the incident. Well, the friendship took different forms and Tinnu went on to do one better than Amitabh - he got to direct the only super star of Bollywood in not one but four films. "Yes, Amitabh and I have worked in four films together - `Kaalia', `Shahenshah', `Main Azad Hoon' and `Major Saab'." His modesty prevents him from saying that he has directed Bachchan in these films.

Doesn't he miss the Bachchan stamp today when he works with lesser artistes like Sunil Shetty or Mamik for "Ek Hindustani" or "Aa Gale Lag Ja", the ongoing serial on Zee TV, to promote which Tinnu was in Delhi this past week?

"It has always been a pleasure to work with Amitabh. It has been fun to work with the best, but I am looking forward to work with upcoming best," Tinnu says in a deflection too obvious to be neat. On second thoughts, he adds, "Things change along the way. I miss the times I used to work under Satyajit Ray. It was a different culture then. One got to learn so much from the maestro. However, in some of the stars today I see the same zeal that was there in Amitabh when he started his career. Guys like Akshaye Khanna, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan are passionate about their work. They are very serious and are willing to work hard. These guys are what Amitabh was. Fresh talent keeps coming in and that's the beauty of it all. The Hindi film industry needs people willing to take risks to get rid of its image of being a mediocre industry. We need people willing to spend without any guarantee of returns. We need guys like Aamir Khan who would spend a thousand rupee though he may not be guaranteed to get back even Rs 100. See, what was `Lagaan'? It was a milestone film all right but it was a huge risk which worked.

Over the past three decades or so, it has been an eventful journey. But a new kind of discipline is coming about in Bollywood. Discipline is a long road but the journey has started. There is now a corporate culture coming up with finances being available from banks. Now it is possible to insure films, to insure each day of work. Film-making is becoming a professional job and I, am sure, over a period of time, the association with the underworld will diminish."

Talking of Bollywood's very obvious underworld links, are not the film industry's bigwigs guilty of not speaking up in defence of one of their own at the time of crisis? Music director Nadeem faced it alone. So did Salman Khan and Hrithik Roshan. Ditto for Sanjay Dutt.

"Bollywood is also like rest of the country. I don't agree that only film stars are threatened by the underworld dons. Don't people get killed in Delhi? Why is the entertainment industry only blamed for the underworld connections? If any prosperous Indian is secure, then why do the Wadias and the Ambanis move around with a guard all the time?'

Clearly, he has a point. But he has said it all. Not yet. To substantiate it, he cites an example from his recent visit to Kolkata. "A boy was being beaten by a group of 20 guys on the road. Everybody was watching. Nobody bothered to come to the rescue of the boy. Until, one 70-year-old man walked up. Handing me his bag, he went to the boys, beat the daylights out of the assailants and rescued the boy. Don't we all see such things in metropolises these days? Nobody stands up for another man. Bollywood is not the only place inhabited by treacherous people. It is just like rest of the country."

Clearly, the man is passionate about the industry and the people he works with. Does he feel the same way about his works? Or his audience? "Though film-making is becoming a safe proposition, still when you try to make a different film, it does not work. People don't see an intelligent film. For instance, `Main Azad Hoon' was a different film from the masala culture of Bollywood but it did not work. It was a bold film, an intelligent film which flopped at the box office. Unfortunately, there are more less intelligent people in the world."

If you think that the man is full of himself and would rather heap the blame for his box office directorial debacles, do a quick double think. "See, very few people turn up to see off-beat films. Like Gurudev Bhalla's `Shararat'. It was a beautiful film, relevant to our times but it failed to click. However, I don't blame the audiences because most of the guys in Bollywood are making films not out of a creative pursuit but to make money. Films are flopping like nine pins because they do not have anything interesting to offer. The directors paid no importance to the script."

Fine. But all this when, as Tinnu Anand claims, Bollywood is changing? "Well, there is a need for creative writers in Bollywood and more and more people are looking for writers who can come up with good, original stuff. Earlier, anybody who could hold a pen, could become a writer."

Tinnu Anand, on his part, is poised for some good times. "Yes, I have done some roles in recent years which have not given me a great deal of satisfaction. But now I am working in films like `Hasil', `Saathiya' and `Chupke Se'. They are all with newcomers but I have got a good chance there and the films look promising. They should be ready to release by the end of the year." Meanwhile, his directorial ambitions have not been nipped. Having just wrapped up work for Sunil Shetty-Raveena Tandon's "Ek Hindustani", he is working on two films for Sahara. One of them is a courtroom drama, starring Amitabh Bachchan. The other, stars Sanjay Kapoor and Arbaaz Khan where "script is the hero'.

Thus, the man who could have been a hero, soldiers on. Knowing that in a war it is often the foot soldiers who win the battle. And in his own way, fashioning the careers of many a hero. As for his shoes and "Saat Hindustani" even Tinnu agrees that he could not have found a better Hindustani to step into his shoes.

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