Prakash Mehra the man who contributed immensely into making Big B the living legend that he is, died at a private hospital in Mumbai at 8 am on May 17. The cremation will happen on May 18 because the family is awaiting the arrival of his elder son Sumeet, who is currently in the US. “He had been diagnosed with a severe lung infection,’’ says a family source.
The 70-year-old film-maker (born July 13, 1939 in Uttar Pradesh) was one of the leading lights of the Indian film industry having made some of the biggest and most talked about Hindi film hits including — Hasina Maan Jayegi, Mela, Zanjeer, Haath Ki Safaai, Hera-Pheri, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Namak Halal, Laawaris and Sharaabi.
Mehra began his career as a production controller. It was in 1968 that he found his place in the sun as an independent filmmaker with Hasina Maan Jayegi.
In the 70s, both he and his lead actor Amitabh Bachchan were immortalised when Zanjeer released. After that there was no looking back for either the man or his Frankenstein (Bachchan).
Mehra’s office at a hotel in Juhu and his dubbing theatre, that carried huge framed photographs of Amitabh Bachchan in Namak Halal, were ‘the power centres’ in Bollywood right through the 70s and 80s.
The filmmaker, always dressed in white trousers and a shirt with matching white shoes, would arrive at his office only after lunch time because he of his laid back lifestyle.
Absolutely intolerant of stars, Mehra never indulged in sycophancy and would often call a superstar a spade. “I’m a self-made man, I see no reason to suck up to anyone,’’ he’d say to media members who were a 4 o’clock audience with him.
Mehra also crossed swords with Manmohan Desai, the other big force in Big B’s life, and the media had a field day when the two big daddies of Bollywood had a volley of words in print. Things came to a head when during the publicity campaigns of Mard (Manmohan Desai) and Sharaabi (Prakash Mehra) Desai said, “Only a mard can make a Mard; and a sharaabi can make a Sharaabi.’’
As luck would have it, Sharaabi was a huge box office hit; and Mehra then got back at Desai in his own way. While death seems an inappropriate occasion to raise past rubbles; the whole idea of this exercise is to show what a spirited man Prakash Mehra was.
In recent years he had become a recluse. A close friend of his son says, “Uncle didn’t come out of his bedroom for days on end. And, he rarely interacted with any outsiders.’’
One of the reasons for Mehra’s despondency was the fact that his wife lay in coma for years on end, and passed away a couple of years ago. All through her illness, the filmmaker cared for her selflessly. His sons Amit and Puneet who live in Mumbai look after their father’s business. With Manmohan Desai and Prakash Mehra passing away; the Hindi film industry’s golden hour has passed.
Born in in Bijnaur, Uttar Pradesh, India, Mehra started in the late 1950s as a production controller. In 1968, he directed Shashi Kapoor who played a double role in Haseena Maan Jayegi. This was followed by the 1971 hit Mela starring the Khan brothers (Feroz Khan and Sanjay Khan) together. In 1973, he produced and directed Zanjeer. This mega blockbuster with Amitabh Bachchan started a relationship that spanned 7 more films. It also launched the career of Mr Bachchan (along with Mr Mehra), as a top Director/Actor duo.
Prakash Mehra also directed & produced Zindagi Ek Jua with actor Anil Kapoor in 1991, which was not a commercial success. In 1996, he introduced veteran actor Raaj Kumar's son Puru Raajkumar in Bal Brahmachari which was also unsuccessful. This was the last film he directed. He also produced the movie Dalaal with Mithun Chakraborthy, in the mid-90s, which was a box-office hit. Mr Mehra received a lifetime achievement award from the India Motion Picture Directors Association (IMPDA) in 2006. He also received Lifetime Achievement as Producer from IMPAA (Indian Motion Picture Producers Association) on September 19, 2008.
Prakash Mehra was one of the first Bombay directors to try venture into Hollywood. In the late eighties he tried a joint venture to make the movie The God Connection with Frank Yandolino. The movie was to include Hollywood actors such as Charles Bronson among others, but the project though funded heavily initially, never materialized.
Mehra died on 17 May 2009 in Mumbai after a prolonged illness.
- Haseena Maan Jayegi (1968)
- Aakhri Daku (1970)
- Mela (1971)
- Samadhi (1972)
- Zanjeer (1973)
- Haath Ki Safai (1974)
- Hera Pheri (1976)
- Muqaddar Ka Sikander(1978)
- Laawaris (1981)
- Namak Halaal (1982)
- Sharaabi (1984)
- Jaadugar (1989)
- Zindagi Ek Jua (1992)
- Dalaal (Producer only) (1993)
- Bal Brahmachari (1996)