During an interaction with the audience, veteran filmmaker Rahul Rawail spoke about how it was to work with his guru Raj Kapoor. Kapoor, he said, was the only person he knew who had a “360° degree knowledge of cinema”, and who, when he made a film “eat, sleep and dreamt” around that film.
Through the picture he went on to draw of the Awaara filmmaker was much quirkier that this may lead one to believe.
Rawail remembered how he had walked into a Raj Kapoor film’s music session when he was 16. Seated there were some of the legends of Indian cinema, such as Raj Kapoor, Shankar-Jaikishan, Hasrat Jaipuri, Shalinder Singh and Mukesh.
They were discussing a song and were serious in their work. They were composing a tune and didn't have the lyrics yet, so were using dummy lyrics. What shocked a teenager Rawail was that the words they used were the “choicest abuses you could think of”.
“But I looked at them and they were very serious about their work,” he said.
Rawail refused to repeat the words but said there were enough “Tumhari ma ki” and “Tumhari been ki”.
He also said Raj Kapoor never let financial trouble get to him. After the box office debacle that his great 'Mera naam joker’ was, the industry laughed at him for wanting to make a teenage love story like ‘Bobby’.
“But at no point in the making of Bobby did he look like he had financial trouble. He made Bobby exactly the way he wanted to”
He would shoot only on days he felt like shooting. Kapoor took a unit of 200 people to Kashmir for 33 days. “It was big thing in those days.”Out of those, he shot for “exactly 15 days”. The crew lost two days to the weather, but the rest of the days, he did not feel like shooting.
Kapoor rationale for this was: “I am not a slave.”
The team shot the song 'Hum tum ek kamre me’ in a hotel called Highland Park in Gulmarg.
The first time around the crew shot it was at 9 or 10 in the morning, “although for Raj Kapoor, morning meant 2 o'clock in the afternoon”.
Kapoor saw through the camera and said “there is something wrong”.
“None of us knew what he meant. I was close to him as an assistant, so asked him whether the problem is with Chintu (Rishi Kapoor) or Dimple (Kapadia) or the camera. He said no”.
Kapoor simply couldn't figure what was wrong. He decided to take some time off the shoot to think. So, he puts a set of 200 people on hold, and “for Raj Kapoor, a break always translated to ‘Let's have a party’.
Over beer and food, the director said, “You know what was missing in that shot? The colours! “When the camera goes through the foreground, we need colours.”
But flowers were not available in Gulmarg at that time. Rawail suggested a change of location, but Kapoor liked the cottage they were shooting in.
For flowers, they had to go to Srinagar. The flower market opened there at 5.30 in the morning, and it was a two-hour drive back from there.
So, Rawail went to Srinagar early in the morning and brought back the flowers, while the crew continued on a break.
The team got a carpenter to arrange the flowers with respect to the trolley. Kapoor would look through the camera, and would inidividually ask for flowers to be kept in certain places.
But the problem was that by the time Kapoor got to the end of the massive 150-feet trolley line, he wouldn't like the order he had just decided on and demand that it be redone.
And finally when everything was done, the cinematographer Radhu Karmakar, “a genius in his own right”, said the scene will look the best if the song is shot in the morning between 6.30 and 7.30.
“For Raj saab, that was a shock. ‘I have come for a shoot at 6.30 in the morning? Bengali pagal ho gaya hai (The Bengali has gone mad)’, he said,” says Rawail.
Finally, the shoot was arranged for 6.30. But they had a lot of time till then. Kapoor had his solution ready: “let’s party!”
He told Rawail that night: “In the morning, get Chintu and Dimple ready. Everything must be set. When things are absolutely ready, wake me up. Not before that!”
Rawail and crew watered the flowers at night, they did a couple of rehearsals and in the morning, Rawail woke the director up. Kapoor got up grumpily mumbling Karmakar had lost his mind -- it wasn’t 6.30 as yet. “He sat on the bed. He looked out his window at the set. Chintu and Dimple were rehearsing the same scene for the last three days and they were bored. Raj sahab asked for another rehearsal. All this while, he had not got up from the bed. We did a take and then we did a second. For the third take, sahab said ‘that’s terrific, we did a great job, let’s pack up and go back to sleep,” Rawail says.
“So at 7.15 in the morning, this director who had just been through the debacle that was Mera Naam Joker packed up and it was a holiday for us. This is the way he worked. He worked with all his passion. He loved filmmaking, but he made his films he wanted them made”.
Fortunately for Kapoor, his lack of hard work did pay off: Bobby went on to become the greatest hit of 1973 and the second highest grosser of the 1970s.