It was Shakti Films,a movie banner set up by the late filmmaker Shakti Samanta,that consolidated the late superstar Rajesh Khannas position as the soft romantic hero. The 1969 film Aradhana,the banners seventh production,brought out the adorable crinkle-eyed look of Khanna and tilting of his head that became the passport to his superstardom.
Though Shakti Samanta went on to do nine more movies with Khanna each one of them cashing on his romantic appeal the director had tried to elicit a similar effect from actor Shammi Kapoor as well as Ashok Kumar and Dev Anand in the past. After making its debut with Howrah Bridge,the banner made popular films of the 60s,including Kashmir Ki Kali,Pagla Kahin Ka,Jaali Note and An Evening in Paris. Before the banner took a break in 2008,it made films like The Great Gambler,Don Muthuswami,Ahankaar,Palay Khan and Aankhon Main Tum Ho.
Now,after five years,when the banner is making a comeback,it seems pragmatic to fall back on its tried-and-tested formula of love and longing. So,Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai,scheduled to release on August 3,is a romantic movie that also marks the debut of Shakti Samantas grandson Aditya. The name of the film,derived from a famous song from Kati Patang,is produced by Aradhana Films,an off-shoot of Shakti Films,and directed by Shree Narayan Singh,the editor of Gandhi to Hitler and Taranyache Bait. My brother did not want to be a part of the films I was doing,hence I started Aradhana Films in 1992,after which we started making movies under this banner. Shakti Films is still the parent company, says Ashim Samanta,son of Shakti Samanta.
Seated in their Andheri office,one can live through the five decades of films the banner has made. The office wall is covered with photos and posters of movies such as Howrah Bridge,Anuraag and Kati Patang. Having worked with some of the top artistes of the industry like Ashok Kumar,Amitabh Bachchan,Sharmila Tagore,Madhubala,the banner was among the top-rated ones in Bollywood in the 60s,70s and early 80s.
Aditya reminisces the time when as a child he watched every film that his grandfather made. There is so much nostalgia and greatness associated with his banner, says Aditya,adding,I feel extremely fortunate to be associated with the same banner and to have my first film made by them.
Aditya,however,insists that his debut film is a modern day love story,since it mainly targets the youth.
The focus of the banner shifted from romance to action in the 80s. Ashim made films like Aamne Saamne,Aakhri Baazi and Ahankaar,which did average business. The return of romantic films in the mid-90s made Ashim rethink his strategy. I wanted to return to romantic musicals, says Ashim,who started working on a couple of scripts. However,his fathers death in 2009,stymied his plans.
The idea of its revival came from Khanna. During one of Ashims meetings with Khanna,the latter suggested that Aradhana be remade and Aditya should play the lead in it. I toyed with the idea for a while. However,a remake of Aradhana would have drawn comparisons,so I decided on a boy-meets-girl story, says Ashim.The father-son duo are now looking at relaunching the banner in a big way. However,a lot depends on the fate of the film at the box-office.