The directorial debut of Shekhar Kapur was an adaptation of Erich Segal‘s novel Man, Woman and Child, (1980) was released on October 22, 1983 seven months later the Hollywood version starring Martin Sheen and Blythe Danner. The film is a rare attempt in the coming-of-age genre in Bollywood. The screenplay, dialogues and lyrics were penned by the inimitable Gulzar and the music was by R.D. Burman.The film went on to win five Filmfare awards for Best actor (Naseeruddin Shah), Best music (RD Burman), Best lyrics (Gulzar) and Best female playback singer (Aarti Mukherji) and Best Film judged by Critics. It had further garnered nominations for Best Film, Best Director and Best Actress.
Shekhar Kapur completed his chartered accountancy course from London and after some years of the routine grinding returned to Mumbai to seek a career in films. Dev Anand gave him the first break in Ishq Ishq Ishq (1974), he got his full fledged role in Jaan Hazir Hai (1975) along with Prem Kishan and Loveleen. Both films failed to register at the box-office and with the audience. He next featured opposite Shabana Azmi in his cousin Ketan Anand’s debut vehicle Toote Khilone (1978).
In 1984, the year his last mainstream film featuring him as an actor, Bindiya Chamkegi, was released, Shekhar Kapur made the low-budget Masoom with Naseeruddin Shah, Kapur’s then-girlfriend Shabana Azmi and a trio of child artistes. Kapur still recalls with fondness the period he stayed at the Taj West End for three weeks along with Gulzar, while writing the script for Masoom. And although he has never shot any film in Bangalore but the gulmohur trees around the hotel in full bloom is a sight that has stayed with him.
The Urban middle-class India was mesmerised by the film and Bollywood itself mostly a cynical fraternity fell for it hook, line and sinker! Javed Akhtar was so impressed by Kapur’s directorial debut that he went to the extent of lowering his price to work with Shekhar on his next venture, Joshilaay (1989) the critically correct film that was a dud at the box-office! It was during the making of Masoom that Shekhar Kapur met and married Medha Gujral, niece of former Prime Minister I. K. Gujral.
Naseeruddin Shah considers Masoom as one of his favourite films in a career lasting over four decades and lambasted the buying of remake rights of the movie by actor-singer-producer Himesh Reshammiya in 2013 saying Masoom cannot be made in the present world of emails and mobile phones in which a father has no clue of the existence of his 10 year old son! The original film had a far more innocent and technologically laid back world as its setting! Shekhar Kapur regrets that Naseer and he never worked together after Masoom, the director feels that Naseer’s character was so finely etched and was so humane that nearly four decades later, generations of film-goers still respond with the same warmth as if the film was made yesterday!
The film belonged to the child actors in a forceful way and had the premise been not a lost love story, reconciliation and coming of age then you would be fooled in believing that one of the finest films after Bootpolish or Jagriti was unfolding before you! Jugal Hansraj was a successful child model from the age of 2years and had 75 ad campaigns under his bet when at 11 he acted in Masoom. Jugal shot for Masoom in his summer vacations. The 80s saw him in cast of hits like Sultanat, Karma and Loha. He made his adult debut with Aa Gale Lag Jaa (1994), opposite his Masoom co-star, Urmila Matondkar. In 2000, he made another comeback in Aditya Chopra’s Mohabbatein as the refomist at heart. He directed the animated film, Roadside Romeo (2008), jointly produced by Yash Raj Films and Walt Disney Studios, the first mainstream CGI feature film to come out of India.
Urmila Matondkar had a tiny role in the Marathi films Karm (1977) at 3, Zaakol (1980) at 6 and then found herself at a tender age of seven playing the son Parikshit in Benegal’s, Kalyug (1981). At the age of nine, she got Shekhar Kapur’s Masoom and later made her adult debut in N. Chandra’s Narshima. Her as a heroine arrived with Chamatkar (1992), opposite Shah Rukh Khan. Her biggest and critically hits were with Ram Gopal Varma in films like Rangeela (1995), Satya (1998), Kaun (1999) and Bhoot (2003).
Aradhana Srivastav was recommended by writer-lyricist composer Gulzar to Shekhar Kapur to play the youngest child in the film. She bonded and had found a mother figure in Shabana who fondly called her Ijji-Bijji. After Masoom, Aradhana was cast and did her own playback in Kidar Sharma’s Khuda Hafiz (1983) with her Masoom co-star Urmila and Ram Terey Kitney Naam (1985) , these films flopped and Aradhana faded away from public memory.Aradhana completed her studies at Pune’s Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce and got a PhD in Hindustani vocal music. Aradhana Shrivastav is at present teaching in one of the best music schools of the country in Delhi. She wrote the lyrics for the Delhi anthem, One Billion Rising, in 2013.
This film was among the critical milestones in the life of a genius called Rahul Dev Burman. The 80s as a decade saw him bag two back to back film fare awards for Sanam Teri Kasam (1982) and Masoom (1983). Sagar (1985) failed at the box office and his stock plummeted to the extent that he lost Ram Lakhan (1989) which Shubash Ghai had promised him, to Laxmikant Pyarelal, the duo who had played in his orchestra! Rahul Dev Burman once said that his best tunes came to him in his dreams and that he had to be in happy frame of mind even while composing sad tunes, he is also reported to have said “…When I am down, I end up making a mess of things!”.
Aarti Mukherjee won the Metro-Murphy music contest, where the judges were music directors like Anil Biswas, Naushad, Vasant Desai and C. Ramchandra. She got her first break as a playback singer in Hindi film Sahara (1958) .Aarti Mukherjee, won the Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer in 1983 for the song, Do Naina Aur Ek Kahani from Masoom, but her career graph in Bollywood didn’t progress due to her limited oeuvre. Arati Mukherji joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2014.
Anup Ghoshal is known in Bengal as one of the foremost Nazrulgeeti exponents. He first performed at 4 yrs, for Shishu Mahal children’s programme from All India Radio, Kolkata. Anup Ghoshal got dream break as a playback at 19 yrs, in Satyajit Ray’s classic Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne and got National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer in 1981 for Ray’s Hirak Rajar Deshe. Anup Ghosal was elected in 2011 to West Bengal Legislative Assembly as All India Trinamool Congress candidate. In an interesting episode, Anup Ghoshal not a gifted orator, found that hardly anyone was listening while he was delivering a brief speech during the Budget session in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly. He swirched to singing to make a point and started crooning Tujhse naraaz nahin hain zindagi, hairaan hoon main, his most famous ditty from Masoom and got the rapt attention of everyone in the House both from the Treasury benches as well as the Opposition.
Anup Ghoshal despite his hugely popular Tujhse Naraz Nahi Zindagi from Masoom, was never repeated as a playback for any other Hindi film. Both Mukherjee and Ghoshal though, were highly popular Bengali playback singers in their native film industry.
Shekhar Kapoor tweeted about his directorial debut in 2017-“Masoom. My first film. Never learnt filmmaking, never assisted anyone. No knowledge of filmmaking at all. Nothing but pure instinct.” Not vainglorious words from a man who has just directed 8 complete films and walked out of 2 films midway in a career lasting 35 years and is still considered one of the greatest filmmakers in the world!