Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan has very special connection with Nepal. ‘Big B’ often fondly recalls his Nepal days where he shot some of his super hit movies ‘Khuda Gawah’ and ‘Mahaan’. Here is his very beautiful piece on his own words.
‘Nepal was a dream, a geographical location in the early years of growing up. A foreign land, but one that displayed several universal qualities with India. It was next door, much like the next door neighbour in our living residential conditions, and there was an emotional connect with the region.
I visited Nepal in 1954. We were still living in Allahabad, and had taken a trip with the family to Patna and across the river in a steamer to Muzaffarpur. Babuji had desired a meeting with some of his very close literary contemporaries. Having done that we flew from Patna airport to Kathmandu, the Capital of Nepal, in a twin engined propellor Dakota aircraft, that warhorse of the WW 2 era, and perhaps those that have interest in aeronautics, the most sturdy and long lasting aircraft to date.
It was my very first experience on a plane, and of course my very first visit to a foreign country. The excitement generated was beyond compare. I was in some very superior space during those times, my worth and value among my friends reaching its peak.
Kathmandu, in 1954 was in the process of development. It was bare and scarce and basic. Babuji’s dear friend Maharaj Kishen Rasgotra, of the Indian Foreign Service, was posted there as 1st secretary in the Indian Embassy. The Ambassador then was Shri Bhagwan Sahay, a most senior old time ICS, Indian Civil Service, as it was called during the time of the British Raj, and also a great admirer and friend of Babuji.
The landing strip at the airport was still a mud and earth track. And I still remember being told that the only metalled road in Kathmandu then, was the road from the Indian Embassy to the Royal Palace, then of King Tribhuvan, subsequently then of King Mahendra his heir, and after, to that tragic incident in the Palace when the heir to King Mahendra, who was the ruler, and his entire family being shot and killed by his own son.
The Royal family had been admirers of Babuji’s poetry, and later during my more recent trips to the land, always gave us audience.
Two aspects of that Nepal visit remain still in memory – ping pong balls from China, that were available there ; an imported delicacy, so vital for us to talk about – the possession of imported goods having stature and value in social conversation, and the bandgala Jodhpuri jackets, the formal attire of India, which my Mother had made for us, my brother and me, prior to the visit, because we were told that would be occasion to wear it at one of the formal ceremonies. The ceremony was the Investiture Ceremony of the Ambassador of India to the King of Nepal, where Diplomatic credentials were presented to the host nation by the diplomatic mission of another. We had the great honour to be a part of the audience at that prestigious moment !!
The jacket top was a greyish bluish spotted material and colour, the trousers were black. It was our most prized possession ! For someone that possessed no formal attire, or to be more precise, barely a pair of trousers and shirt in my clothings, this acquisition was supreme !!
In Nepal the other memory was of poetry symposiums at various homes of dignitaries, politicians and people of eminence. Some who had spent time during revolts in prison, often talked of how my Father’s works inspired them during their time in jail, and kept company with them. I remember that great big open space, a large maidan in the centre of the city, Tundi Khel. And the only Nepalese that I learnt then which has remained with me since :
Kankdo kayo ! Kausto lago ? Ramro lago ramro lago !!
( Did you eat the cucumber ! how was it ? it was good, it was good )
And .. in a scene in my film ‘Mahaan’, where I play 3 characters, I used these words in the character that has Zeenat Aman opposite … the scene in a white suit and red sunglasses, and the legendary Ashok Kumar with us, where he has gathered some prospective suitors for his daughter !!
It is quite remarkable that what was stored in the computer memory of the brain in 1954, was given presence in 1981 (?) or about !! Apparently, during my recent meetings with the medical profession in connection with a campaign that I am aiming to associate myself with, I gained the knowledge that, old time memories remain fresher as we age, than what transpired a day ago !!
Coincidentally and quite ironically, it was during this trip that I took a strong aversion to cucumber salad !! I remember being served this during one of the lunches, and when I was passing it off as an item I did not want to consume, my Father insisted that salad was good for health, and that until I consumed it, I would not be allowed to leave the dining table. Despite hours of teary eyed pleas, I devoured the product, only to bring it all out moments later !! Of course now I do relish the odd sliced cucumber with my lunches, but most of all its use in modern day cosmetic treatment is garnering greater value. Sliced cucumber over the eyes, is meant to take away eye fatigue and they say, those ugly dark rings and swellings beneath !!
The later trips to Nepal have been for films I shot there – ‘Khuda Gawah’ and ‘Mahaan’. Those were most exhilarating. Nepal was completely different from those 1954 days. Developed and gushing with its modernity, yet still preserving its history, tradition and culture. The love of the people, their hospitality, the frenzy with which they gave audience to us, and of course their love for our films.’
Jalsa, Mumbai Apr 29, 2015 Wed 11:23 pm
(From Amitabh Bachchan’s Facebook after devastating earthquake)