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Expecting a politician-turned-filmmaker, who started his career as an educator and later going on to be elected as an MP to expose some of the grave misdeeds his party committed would surely be sacrilege. Even more unbelievable it would have been if one expected it to be left unnoticed by the political outfit in question! In fact, this is the fascinating case of Amrit Nahata (1928-2001).  

Nahata made the controversial film ‘Kissa Kursi Ka’ an expose of the inglorious phase of Emergency the country endured through the years of 1975-77. There were very real like and uncomfortable references to the main leaders who were in the political sphere at that time, including Indira Gandhi. 

Having been a politician representing Congress prior to the Indira Gandhi era, he was obviously uncomfortable with the change she initiated in the Grand Old Party. This film obviously caught the attention of the party bigwigs who, after the initial enquiry phase about the movie’s making saw that the film prints got burnt, including its master negative which ensured no copies circulated for posterity. 

In fact, the blame lay at the door of Sanjay Gandhi, the younger son of Indira Gandhi who had ordered the then I&B minister, VC Shukla to do the needful to see nothing comes out of this film, which had actors like Manohar Singh, Utpal Dutt and Shabana Azmi playing key roles.  The ‘netas’ were later sentenced to a short jail term by a local court, which was subsequently overturned.

Nahata made just three films from 1965 to 1977 and went on to retain his political identity by switching his allegiance to Janata Party and winning for the third time. He died 17 years ago in 2001.

Phani Majumdar (1911-1994), a director who remained active from 1938 to 1965, was a forerunner who had a major role in shaping up the careers of noted playback singers like KL Saigal, gave memorable films to Meena Kumari and Feroz Khan who had his first major hit with him. He was multilingual across the globe as he made films in Malay and also in Magahi and Maithili. 

A few other celebrities – Himanshu Rai, Hansraj Behl and Prakash Mehra – who died this week have been written about in the earlier columns.