Business Standard

When Balraj Sahni told son to spit on his face


Press Trust of India New Delhi
"You have to spit on my face! Otherwise we will keep retaking the shot," said veteran actor Balraj Sahni to his visibly frustrated and angry son Parikshit.
The father-son duo were shooting for film "Udham Singh" where Parikshit was supposed to spit on his father's face for a scene. Of course, the son was not fine with the idea and tried his best to save himself from the perceived embarrassment.
"... I could never get around to spitting on dad's face. I managed to speak my lines forcefully enough, and then I spat on the floor in front of dad. I was confident I had given a great shot.
"The director 'okayed' it, but dad wasn't satisfied. He wanted a retake," writes Parikshit in the recently out biography of his father, "The Non-Conformist: Memories of my Father Balraj Sahni".
To persuade Sahni, best known for his realistic cinema, on the scene was easy said than done. Forget the son, even the director saying 'there was no need for a retake' was not enough to cajole Sahni.
Hence there were retakes after retakes -- all at the expense of the then high-priced raw stock.
"I made a lot of noise and made the action of spitting, but did not actually spit out any saliva. 'Another retake!, dad announced'... This was our eleventh retake. The director was at his wit's end.
"(Next) I actually tried spitting on the side of his face, just below his face, just to the left of his face, but no, dad was not satisfied. The director, by now in tears, reassured dad that it looked very convincing. But to no avail," he added.
Finally, the now 75-year-old actor gave in and spat on his dad's face. Doing it he felt "depressed, upset and guilty", stark opposite to his father's "jubilant" expression to the same.
"'Well done!', he said. 'Remember, acting is not acting. It is believing. You are not my son when the camera is switched on. You are Udham Singh. And I am not your father. I am your enemy.
"So, before every shot, create a magic circle. Forget about the unit, the director or the onlookers," he said quoting his father.
Replete with many such anecdotes, like what he did to get into the skin of his much acclaimed characters in movies like "Do Bigha Zamin" and "Kabuliwala", the book also gives an intimate glimpse of Balraj Sahni as a "man and an actor, as a husband and a friend, as a parent and a patriot".
Published by Penguin, its foreword has been written by megastar Amitabh Bachchan.

Disclaimer: No Business Standard Journalist was involved in creation of this content

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First Published: Aug 31 2019 | 3:00 PM IST

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