New Delhi, Saturday, April 11, 2009
Producer-director Shakti Samanta, who introduced Sharmila Tagore to Hindi cinema and made a star out of Rajesh Khanna, is no more. Samanta died at his residence in Mumbai last Thursday night after a brief illness at the age of 83.
Samanta had suffered a stroke more than two months ago and was recovering from that when the end came at his Santa Cruz house.Samanta, born in West Bengal's Burdwan district and educated in Kolkata and Dehradun, would be best remembered for giving a number of box-office hits like “Kati Patang,” “Aradhana” and “Amar Prem,” the last two films starring Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore.In a career spanning over four decades, Samanta made 43 films including six in Bengali -- “Amanush” and “Anand Ashram,” both starring acting legend Uttam Kumar and Sharmila Tagore. The two films were, in fact, bilingual as they have their Hindi versions too with the same cast. It was “Aradhana” (1969) which turned Rajesh Khanna a star of the 1970s. This film, along with “Kati Patang,” also re-launched the singing career of Kishore Kumar who sang hit numbers like “Ye Shaam Mastani” and “Mere Sapno Ki Rani Kab Ayegi Tu.”Samanta began his career with a flop film “Bahu” in 1955 but found success three years later with “Howrah Bridge” and “China Town” (1962).
He introduced Sharmila Tagore to Bollywood by casting her in “Kashmir Ki Kali” opposite Shammi Kapoor in 1964. The two actors also starred in “An Evening in Paris” (1967), another super-hit movie in which Tagore appeared for the first time in a swimsuit. Hit songs, whose music were composed by greats like O.P. Nayyar ("Kashmir Ki Kali" and "Sawan Ki Ghata"), S.D. Burman (in "Aradhana") and R.D. Burman ("Kati Patang," "Amar Prem," "Amanush" and "Anand Ashram") were the hallmarks of Samanta's films. The filmmaker, however, recreated the same magic with Khanna in some of the later movies like "Anurodh," "Ajnabee," "Mehbooba" and "Awaz" between mid-1970s and mid-'80s.
Samanta is also credited with giving Uttam Kumar's biggest Bollywood hit through “Amanush” in 1975. He also worked with Amitabh Bachchan in the Hindi film “Barsaat Ki Ek Raat” (1981) and the hit bilingual movie (Hindi and Bengali) “Anusandhan.”He was also the President of Indian Motion Pictures Association for five years and head of the Censor Board.