6 Jul

 Aziz Mirza, Shah Rukh Khan’s mentor and partner, returns after a self-imposed hibernation, with Kismat Konnection. The film stars Shahid Kapur because “at 42, Khan is no longer the young kid he used to be”. Only one force could have kept Aziz Mirza away from his true calling, filmmaking-his childhood sweetheart and wife of 44 years, Nirmala. With her by his side, Mirza made some memorable movies like Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman, Yes Boss and Chalte Chalte. When she passed away three days after his last film Chalte Chalte released in 2003, Mirza, one of the last few men representing Hindi cinema’s bygone era, hung up his boots.

Four years later, on the insistence of daughter Rahila who came up with “a brilliant idea”, Mirza returned behind the camera to make Kismat Konnection, with Shahid Kapur and Vidya Balan, which releases next month. “My daughter said people would forget me but I was not in a mental state to make a fun film. This project came back to me again and again. Many people loved the idea of this film,” says 66-year-old Mirza, who had moved to London to cope with his personal loss. “I guess some films are destined to be made.”

The cloudy afternoon at the director’s terrace apartment in Khar, Mumbai, is an ideal backdrop for a tale of love: that of Mirza and his wife. “When we were in college, we decided to part ways since Nirmala knew our families would oppose our relationship. After two years, when we could not take the pain of separation any more, we decided to get married,” says the director. “Today, the song is over, but the melody still lingers.” About his comeback film, Mirza is rather realistic. “It’s a nice film. But at 66, I can’t say that it’s a great movie or a masterpiece,” says Mirza, who, years back, treated the Doordarshan audience with delightful television series like Nukkad and Circus (his prot
 Shah Rukh Khan’s second stint on television).

Mirza’s films draw heavily from the story of his life: films like Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman and Yes Boss narrate the stories of lovers who hail from humble backgrounds and finally unite after overcoming the odds of life, a feel-good genre that has now almost become extinct in Hindi cinema. “Kismat Konnection, though set in Toronto, is a story of middle-class people who struggle to retain their values and live a good life,” says Mirza, who launched a production house with brother Saeed Mirza, renowned writer and director, and Kundan Shah in the Eighties. In the early Nineties, the director’s first film Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman carved out an identity for the now superstar Khan, who was then just one film-old. The movie successfully paired him with Juhi Chawla, then already a big star. Over the next one decade, the duo emerged as one of silver screen’s most loved couples.

“Juhi is also part of Kismat. When she first heard the idea, she said that the hero’s role would have been ideal for Shah Rukh 15 years back. But at 42, Shah Rukh is no longer the young kid he once used to be,” says Mirza, one of the people who had faith in Khan’s potential in his early days of struggle. The long-lasting friendship of Khan, Chawla and Mirza that began with Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman culminated with Dreamz Unlimited, their production house. However, Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, the first film to come from Dreamz (starring Khan and Chawla), ended up as a box-office disaster, leaving the three devastated. The topic still enrages Mirza. “Phir Bhi was loved by many people; I still get congratulatory messages. It is just that the movie was written off by critics, even before the audience’s verdict was out,” he says.

After Chalte Chalte, the second and last film from Dreamz, the friends were said to have drifted apart for a while, and the company’s shutters were downed. Though they reunited very soon (both Shah Rukh and Juhi followed Mirza in London), Dreamz is yet to resume. “It’s true Juhi was disappointed but it was not because she was not cast as the heroine of Chalte Chalte,” clarifies Mirza. “We will produce a film together the moment we find a good script. In fact, I am writing a script for Shah Rukh. I will narrate it to him sometime.” In a career that spans nearly two decades now, Mirza surprisingly had made very few films (this despite his films hitting the box office jackpot)-a far cry from today’s factory-like movie production. “I’m laidback,” he says, promising, however, to come out of his self-imposed hibernation.

The Indian Express

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