J. Om Prakash: a personification of an older, genteel Bollywood

J. Om Prakash with his grandson Hrithik Roshan and family

J. Om Prakash with his grandson Hrithik Roshan and family  

Look closely and there has been much more to producer-director J. Om Prakash — who passed away on Wednesday — than the fact that the titles of his films began with the first letter of the English alphabet. They all had an underlying pattern. Even the one and only film of his that began with a ‘B’ — Bhagwaan Dada — followed a defined grid.

Prakash’s films were romantic musical dramas, very high on their emotional quotient. About relationship conundrums and complications, people torn asunder, about mistakes committed out of baser feelings like jealousy, betrayals and doubts and learning lessons the hard way, chastened by the many vicissitudes in life. He looked at contentious issues like fidelity and extramarital affairs squarely in the face. The representation of women could leave one conflicted. Some of the strong ones were the kind who knew how to move on in life and remarry when saddled with a loser, a classic example being Mumtaz in Prakash’s superhit directorial debut Aap Ki Kasam (1974). Then there was also the classic prototype of the ‘suffering yet strong’ woman. However, some of them, even when they sacrificed for love, like Reena Roy in the titular role in the blockbuster Aasha (1980), did so with their eyes wide open and while being in control of their destiny ahead.

A lot of his films have also had children at the centre — sometimes abandoned, at others adopted — with adults figuring their own lives around them. In fact Hrithik Roshan, his own grandson, acted as a child star in three of his films. As a six-year-old, he is the boy dancing to the song ‘Jaane hum sadak kelogon se’ in Aasha, a year later he was dancing in yet another song, ‘Shehar mein charcha hai in Aas Paas and then he was seen in Bhagwaan Dada in 1986 as Rajinikanth’s adopted son. Bhagwaan Dada was dubbed in Tamil as Agni Karangal. Earlier, Aasha was remade in Telugu as Anuraga Devatha (1982) starring N.T. Rama Rao, Sridevi and Jayasudha and in Tamil as Sumangali(1983) starring Sivaji Ganesan.

Prakash took to direction after producing a string of films through the 60s — Aas Ka Panchhi, Ayee Milan Ki Bela, Aaye Din Bahaar Ke, Aya Saawan Jhoom Ke — usually with Mohan Kumar or Raghunath Jhalani as the directors, Rajendra Kumar or Dharmendra in the lead and with Shankar Jaikishan or Laxmikant Pyarelal providing the music. His own directorial ventures almost always had Rajesh Khanna and Jeetendra in the lead with Anand Bakshi and Laxmikant Pyarelal teaming up for the music. Those were the heydays of sticking to trusted teams.

Like most filmmakers of yore, a big part of Prakash’s legacy has also been the music and songs that are hummed till date, be it RD Burman’s ‘Jai jai shiv shankar, Karvatein badalte rahe, Zindagi ke safar mein in Aap Ki Kasam or LP’s ‘Sheesha ho ya dil ho’ in Aasha.

The retiring and reclusive man, personifying the older and a more gentle and genteel Bollywood, had in his later years taken a back seat to have his son-in-law, filmmaker-actor Rakesh Roshan, and Hrithik take centre stage.

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 6:26:30 PM |

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