Basu Chatterjee: Baton Baton Mein

June 5, 2020

They say that people who can laugh at themselves are the best ones who can make others laugh better. In a TV serial which he was directing, There is a scene in one of TV serials in which a passenger hails a cab and on entering, as the cab moves, he notices that his picture has been kept where cabbies normally keep the photo of their chosen Gods and Goddesses. Amused, the passenger comments on the photo to which the cabby informs that he is in fact is looking for the man whose photo he has placed. Impressed, the passenger tries to probe why he has been placed on a pedestal to which the cab driver, not knowing who his passenger was declares that he wants to beat up the man, some director who in a TV serial has shown the cab drivers of Mumbai in poor light. Basu Chatterjee, the director, was himself playing the cameo role of the passenger. This was Rajni which was a runaway success on Doordarshan in the mid 80’s.

If most people remember him for his sense of humour – after all he was a cartoonist with Blitz – most Indians identified themselves with his characters, locations, incidents, emotions. Simply, no one portrayed the Indian middle class better than Basu Chatterjee.

It is difficult to say which films he will be remembered for, will it be Choti Si Baat, Rajnigandha, Baton Baton Mein…it is a never ending list. One of the features in his film was the way he captured the essence of Mumbai. Though some critics felt that he presented Mumbai the way it has never been presented before, for many, it was very salt of Mumbai that was dusted all over the story. Local trains, Mumbai rains, bus stops, good old Fiat taxis, Marine Drive, suburban lanes, even the restaurants his characters visited.

His actors seem to have come from the next door, his leading lady has been the one every young man wanted to date. Amol Palekar, Vidya Sinha. Manzil. Madhu Chakravarty, Nandita Thakur. Dinesh Thakur.

All this despite the fact that in his first film, Sara Akash, he was able to touch the raw nerve of small town ethos like no one else. The story ( Rajendra Yadav) set in Agra is a commentary on conflicting middle class values. Chatterjee seems to have held on to the pulse of the characters and the events. Incidentally, the film was shot in Yadav’s old family house in Raja ki Mandi, Agra. Cinematographer K K Mahajan made his debut in Sara Akash and went on to win the National Award for Cinematography.

Maybe all this was possible as he was born in Ajmer and grew up in Mathura and then he shifted to Mumbai. He was and stayed deeply rooted in his middle class upbringing. He himself was the man next door, full of simplicity and would be casually found in the local market buying his subzi. That way he kept rooted to his roots and all of that reflected in the songs in his films.

How many can you sing? You will surprise yourself.

Travel back to good times. Check out films of Basu Chatterjee in ShowMyFlix and sit back. Recreate the old romance.

Courtesy : Artpickles

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