Karuna Gupta (Part 2)
Duration: 00:41:43; Volume: 0.173; Words per Minute: 67.073
This is the second interview with my mother in Kalpi, April 98. The rough cut of the film was over. An additional shoot was planned. We decided to get my mother back to Kalpi. I wanted to show her the 8mm footage of Kalpi. I had discovered this footage while doing the rough cut.
Pankaj: Do you remember this footage?
Karuna: I think this is of someone’s wedding….
Pankaj: The entire packet sent by buaji, its part of that…. This place, is this bazaar sita ram...?
Karuna: No .. may be this is chawri bazaar. This is Lal Kuan. (both are adjoining places to Bazar Sita Ram) Just opposite Buaji’s shop.
Our ancestral house, I remember living there for 2/3 years, and then the family moved to Court Road, Civil Lines, just behind St. Xavier’s once I got admission there. My 2 elder brothers were already studying in that school. My father continued his Hardware business in the building in Bazaar Sita Ram. The market was called Mussadi Lal Market, after my grandfather. He's the one who had built the Dal Mill in Kalpi. The business collapsed just before his death in 1995. And finally in 2010 the property was sold
Pankaj: What is the occasion?
Karuna: May be an election rally or they are celebrating Ramlila … no this is definitely not Ramlila. Someone has won the elections….
This happened in Nationa Stadium, NSCI, ‘Holiday on ice’ in 1959. I remember going for it. I was married, but tauji wasn’t. His would be wife (taiji) was invited. We all went to see ‘Holiday on ice’.
Pankaj: Something similar came when I was young..
Karuna: Yes, once in talkatora stadium, once in Cannaught Place.
Pankaj: You saw the show
Karuna: Yes…it was quiet a wonder. Just like Russian Ballet.
Pankaj: Who used to shoot all this.
Karuna: Phuphaji (my father’s brother in law) He was very fond of all this. He would shoot everything.
Pankaj: or his elder brother ?
Karuna: No. The elder brother didn’t even touch the camera. Phupaji would always carry his camera, wherever he went. It was a status symol, how many had it, at that time? Today everybody owns a camera.
Pankaj: Can you recognize this footage?
Karuna: Vrindavan gardens? … NSCI club …
Karuna: Pragati Maidan! Asia 72. Phupaji would always carry his camera, wherever he went. He would shot all family functions.
Karuna: After Asia 72, lot of exhibitions started coming. This entire complex of Pragati Maidan was built for that, earlier they used to be at Delhi Gate, Ramlia Grounds.
Pankaj: or next to Red Fort..
Karuna: No, there circus used to come… This is a toy train!
Pankaj: You remember Asia 72
Karuna: Ya. It was a big show
Pankaj: Ya, I was 5 yrs old, But Coke was launched in a big way …
Karuna: And they used to give freebies… suncaps, bags, lot of other things … That’s your chacha n Buaji … n rajesh bhai
Pankaj: Some footage has been shot off the train!
Karuna: may be behind Asia72, there are train tracks … it was shot there..
Pankaj: No, its somewhere in the hills…
Karuna: ya,… they went to Shimla, Dulhousie … They’ve seen every corner of the country … they had plans for every vacation …
Pankaj: we’ll thread the next reel … Cooler … all these are from the packet I got … there’s lot of footage, left some in Mumbai … please thread
Mukul: Its rolling
Karuna: Tauji’s entire wedding was shot … my wedding wasn’t shot … they weren’t involved so much, ‘cos your father was adopted … in fact there was trouble, your grandfather even objected to taking of still photos … so very few photos were shot of my wedding…
Pankaj: This was lala mussadi lal ? (my grandfather who made the dal mill)
Karuna: YA. He was a very orthodox person…. But he saw all English films which were released … all … once I expressed a desire to see a film with your father. I sent a message through the elderly servant. He said Ok. Next, he ordered 4 tickets … for me, you dad, for himself and his sister!!! I refused to go with Ghoonghat … one had to wear long long ghoonghats in his presence ! …. Will all this be part of the film too!
Pankaj: I don’t know … the film has to grow
(8mm projector starts again) …
Karuna: Is that the Zoo?
Pankaj: Delhi, I presume
Karuna: Yes, where else could it be…it had just opened, in Sundar Nagar, in 60's… so people were fond of going there … and phuphaji was very fond of taking kids for an outing…. And this is from Kalpi…it must be Abdul Haq sitting on the tonga (the tonga was used to do the publicity for a new film) … and That’s Kumar talkies … phuphaji …
Pankaj: That’s Naveen bhai
Karuna: Yes, … we even went for boating at the river. Divya Swarup’s sister got married the same day… the baraat came from kanpur … so the small town was buzzing with so many visitors from outside …
Pankaj: You remember any of the faces in this
Karuna: No, I can’t place anyone … we were just too busy in receiving Mr.Seth, the chief guest (he was the local DM)… that’s your eldest bua and her husband. Panditji (an elderly servant) was there too and so were elders from Kucha Pati Ram. Ther’s no footage of my parents?
Pankaj: I don’t think so...
Karuna: But they were there for the opening … that time this bridge wasnt there. That’s Lanka. Everyone stayed for 2/3 days. We all had a great time! … opening film was Gunahon ka devta …
(8mm Projector stops)
Kumar Talkies: inaugration
Karuna: A pair of scissors was kept on a silver tray to cut the ribbon… after that it was handed over to the orderly … there were news all over that your father had gifted a silver tray to DM … so much so, the next day The DM sent it back …
Pankaj: But there is no footage of you and dad
Karuna: we were busy with the DM. Next day people went for sight seeing and we were busy selling tickets, making money …
(8mm projector starts again)
Pankaj: Check focus
Karuna: this is Old Fort or Thuglakabad …
Pankaj: I remember seeing Laurel Hardy … in fact those films still exist in the package … even Charlie Chaplin is there…
Karuna: that’s your uncle. Even a band had come for the opening …
Pankaj: gunahaon ka devta
Karuna: yes, jeetendra and rajshri … that’s your phupha …
Kumar Talkies: inaugration
Looks like we projected footage twice to get her varied responses! Documentary filmmaking!
Panakj: That’s the adjoining paper factory … there was a lot of crowd
Karuna: ya, a lot. The cinema hall being built, that too by somebody from Delhi, there was lot of buzz in Kalpi… and this footage is next to the river … it was March, even then people are wearing sweaters … that’s the old bridge, we even did boating ... That’s Naveen (my eldest brother), that’s your Uncle … that’s Lanka Minar…
Panakj: You people went up …
Karuna: yes, we weren’t expecting so many steps ... it was quiet tiring. That was quiet goo
Surabhi: How many peole were there?
Karuna: The hall had a seating capacity of 400.
Pankaj: Today, it’s much less
Karuna: 465 seats and a 15 seater balcony … plus lot of onlookers who had just come for the inauguration … from neighboring villages. That time there was no cinema in Pukhrayan or Chaunrah, there was a cinema in Orai only. A cinema hall in Kalpi, not touring but permanent... that too from a businessman from Delhi … it was a big thing … so lot of peole had come to witness the inauguration. First few days it was House Full. There was a craze, plus it was vacation time ‘cos of Holi.
Surabhi: Where were all the kids?
Karuna: Pankaj was 6 months, and Neeraj was 2 years old. They had severe mosquito bites. We took him to a Doctor at Orai. He was surprised. He said ‘you couldn’t find a better place for cinema’
Surabhi: How did you react when your husband said he was about to start a cinema?
Karuna: I felt nice. There is so much glamour! It was a big ego boost. And he (Rishi Kumar) brought it up just like his own child.
Surabhi: How did Uncle react when he said he was going to the film school?
Karuna: When he was young, he had participated in a school drama ‘andher nagri chaupat raja’
Pankaj: That was in Class 5
Karuna: Pankaj got the best actor award. So he encouraged children to decide for themselves.
Pankaj: But Dad never discussed films or cinema hall at home.
Karuna: Yes that’s true. In fact Pankaj’s grandfather had his doubts. He said first cinema, next he’ll be visiting dancing girls. These are not businesses for civilized people. He’s an adopted kid, so he’ll blow up money. Neeraj and Pankaj were with us in Kalpi, and the eldest son stayed back in Delhi. He did not like this too.
Pankaj: But what prompted him to make a cinema hall?
Karuna: It was glamour. Earlier in Delhi, we used to stay with owners of Amba cinema. Their cinema was under construction. Next he came here and the broker suggested that you convert the dal mill to a cinema hall. It was a glamorus thought. Like people in Delhi, we too will own a cinema hall!
Pankaj: He had his own business in Delhi …
Karuna: yes. But it wasn’t a flourishing one… they were basically landlords and bankers. And simultaneously the market was built in Delhi… Mussadi Lal Market. There were rumours that he (Rishi Kumar) has made a lot of money. He moved out of Bazar Sita Ram and moved into a bunglow in Civil Lines.
Pankaj: But we were there in Bazar Sita Ram till 71
Karuna: No, we left in 64, when Guddu fell ill. Then we moved to Bela Road. We came back to Sita ram for 3 years when your chacha got married. By that time cinema had started.
Pankaj: that way he was enterprising … how did my uncles and my grandfather react to all this
Karuna: Everyone was happy, cos it’s so glamourous. It costs lakhs in Delhi. So everyone happy that he converted a defunct dal mill into a cinema hall. He went there 2/3 times to Kalpi. Initially he thought of starting a chemical factory. That didn’t work out. Next, the broker (he was connected to film industry in some way) suggested why don’t you make a cinema hall here. That idea got engrained in his mind.
Kumar Talkies: history
Pankaj: But did he have a very clear cut future for this place, cos its turned out to be very different.
Karuna: We had decided to admit Navin (my eldest brother) in a hostel and we would move here with you and Niraj and run the cinema. We had so much of open land here, may be even start a nursery … we’ll have a horse for kids for horse riding … we’ll have our own sweet abode! … But the 2 thefts broke his spirit; he appointed a manager and left for Delhi … he never went back. First he gave to Mr Jain, and then Wajid took over. Initially Dad would come here regularly, then he stopped completely. Wajid too lost interest slowly, he started his own looms, our monthly earnings too dropped … he was all set to sell it off …sometime back, Wajid complained that business is not good, so dad shut it for 2/3 months … then at his request we opened again. He was quiet fed up lately, since there was no return, he wanted to sell it off.
Pankaj: It’s strange but he never discussed all this with us
Karuna: I don’t know the reason, but he never talked about it … also you were so young
Pankaj: No, even in his later years …
Karuna: No, he never used to discuss these things openly with anyone…
Pankaj: I wish there was some more footage of the town … even the inauguration footage was too little … we were just watching all this footage you had sent … and suddenly this footage came …
Surabhi: Pankaj was sleepy and he jumped … we were all so excited …
Karuna: Ya, he called up and after a long time, had a long pleasant chat … since there were no stills of the event, this was very exciting …
Pankaj: Yes, the only photos I had were of the hall under construction, I found them after Dad’s death … navin bhai found them when he was going through old files…
Karuna: I don’t have any idea about that… its only when you started making the film, all these things came into forefront … who thinks about al these things … market was made, there are no photos of that …
Surabhi: you never know he might make a film on the market …
Karuna: I don’t remember much of market … this was so glamorous …
Surabhi: How was it for you, leaving the city and going there…
Karuna: I didn’t join him in initial stage … he stayed alone for 6-8 months, getting the hall constructed, he would call saying, a snake would go past him at night … there were lot of snakes in this area … in fact our locker used to be kept inside, we were told a snake couple comes and sits on the locker … I don’t know how true is that … Mr Jaitley would send food or the servant would cook or he would do it himself … I moved here after the hall got built.
Kumar Talkies: history
Pankaj: (can hear soundtrack coming from kumar talkies) The level is so high, you can hear it even over here..
Karuna: Yes. Earlier I would stand in the house corridor, I could see the film from here…at least get a sense which scene is running … once ‘Dil ne phir yaad kiya’ was being screened … I wasn’t informed about the film by the projectionist … I complained, ‘A owner is not able to see the film’ … the print was held back, the hall was cleaned and a special screening was held for me… that was the first and last time, me and your father saw a film together… I said ‘what luxury … an exclusive screenig for us!’ … One big advantage of this cinema hall was that we only had relatives in Delhi, ‘cos of the hall we now have relatives in Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Jaipur, Kota … we met so many people and made friends with them…
Surabhi: and now that Pankaj is making a film, you’ve come back to Kalpi …
Karuna: No, I used to come once in a while… like after Pankaj’s father surgery I came here for 2 days… when cinema was under construction he was here and I was in delhi… he would call me and ask me to come … that was the first time I started traveling alone …
Major: (our production manager) You live in city now, when you go to a cinema hall, how do you feel…
Karuna: Earlier we were crazy for films; we used to see a film every day
Major: And after marriage?
Karuna: Yes, before marriage just saw one film after bunking college … at Golcha, ‘Apradhi Kaun’ … my brother reached college to meet me, he didn’t find me, he asked me ‘where I had gone’. I asked him, ‘where did you go?’. So basically both of us used to bunk and see films. He’ll see matinee and I’ll see noon … we would later tell peole at home … but after moving to Kalpi the craze for films ended. You see ‘Halwai apni Mithai nahin khata’ … earlier it was 6 films a week.
Mukul: Pankaj, you too will react to the film like that.
Pankaj: It’s like this only! ... I’m finding it difficult to put together…
Karuna: when we would go back from Kalpi to Delhi, it used to look as if we’ve come back from the village, we would all go black …
Pankaj: this palce must have been more pleasant?
Karuna: No, it wasn’t. Here in Kalpi, you would dress up and come down in the evening … like in ‘Kothas’ … you would rest the whole day and come out in the evening, it used to annoy me … once he asked me if he could help me in the kitchen. I was shocked. I asked him to make a small office and go there every morning. He started doing that; he would only come home for lunch. So the craze of ownership faded soon.
Major: When you went out in social gatherings, people would ask about your cinema…?
Karuna: hardly anyone, cos people got to know that we don’t live there anymore … Navin’s daughter got to know now. She was surprised. ‘Is it true? That means we have a lot of money?’
Surabhi: Did you boast about it in school?
Pankaj: No, in fact at FTII one day there was a government delegation, they came to my editing room to observe. They asked me about my family background, if there was a film connection. That time, I realized and told them that we own a cinema hall.
Karuna: we never used to boast about it, never. Once I remember PAKEEZA got released at Kamal cinema, 70mm. I planned to see the film. I called up and booked tickets on the phone. I reached and was told that it was all sold out. I shouted at the manager. ‘I too run a cinema, it doesn’t suit a person of your rank to lie like this, I too own a cinema’. He immediately gave us two tickets. My husband was surprised.
Mukul: How do you react to the fact that along with film it’s a complete family documentation of family history?
Karuna: I liked it … old memories got fresh, lot of new things came to light.