indian cinema heritage foundation

"Dekh Lo Ishq Ka Martaba Dekh Lo" - B S Thapa

30 Mar, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
B S Thapa. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Translated by: Shri Gajendra Khanna

B.S. Thapa! I was very impressed with this name which I used to hear since my childhood though neither had I met nor did I personally know that person. The only thing I knew was that one B.S. Thapa of my native city lived in Mumbai and was a film maker. His association with films was the only reason of my being impressed with him. Years later I also became a part of the Mumbai metropolis. 

I first met with Thapa ji in the year 2002 through well-known poster collector, presently the Vice President of Osian’s auction house & an integral part of Beete Hue Din, Mr. S M M Ausaja at the Gemini Studio, MIDC-Andheri (East) where Mr. Ausaja was working as an executive producer. Thapa ji was serving with Gemini Studio’s film school The Digital Academy as an acting, scripting & direction teacher and I was working as a researcher-writer for the documentaries being produced by Gemini Studio on various film veterans.

Thapa ji was serving with Gemini Studio’s film school The Digital Academy as an acting, scripting & direction teacher and I was working as a researcher-writer for the documentaries being produced by Gemini Studio on various film veterans.
  
Soon I became very close to B.S. Thapa ji.  Besides being from the same city, Thapa ji’s friendly behaviour was another reason behind our closeness. We often met at the Digital Academy and the centre of our discussion used to be the history of Hindi cinema as well as our city. But some time later B.S. Thapa ji left Digital Academy to join Zee T.V. group’s film school Zima and I lost all the contact with him. 

Years later, one fine day I saw Thapa ji near my home in 2010. I met him with all the warmth but may be due to his age, Thapa ji failed to recognize me. Though he tried his best to keep himself normal still I could clearly sense his confusion. During our conversation I came to know that he, along with his wife had recently shifted from four bungalows, Andheri to Mira Road and was residing in Versha Tower, located behind my building. He invited me to his home and promised that he would also visit my home soon. We met a couple of times again but neither could I visit his place nor could he fulfil his promise to me. 

When I tried to interview B.S. Thapa ji for Beete Hue Din which was founded in the year 2012, I came to know that he had already shifted from Versha Tower around 2 years back. But no one could tell me about his present whereabouts. I didn’t even have his mobile number. I kept on searching for him and in this process I personally went to the offices of The Digital Academy, The Documentary Film Maker’s Association at the Famous Studio at Mahalaxmi & The Film & TV Director’s Association at Andheri and enquired about B.S. Thapa ji but all in vein. Considering his age, even negative thoughts started pouring in my mind. But suddenly my quest got fulfilled on its own one day.
A couple of months ago I came in contact with a well-known & elderly actor of Gujarati theatre Mr. Mahesh Udeshi and we started meeting regularly. One day we were sitting at a restaurant at Goregaon when Mahesh Udeshi ji got startled to see the elderly waiter who came to us to take the order. In fact, he was a cinematographer who, after working with many renowned cinematographers of their time in big movies as an assistant to chief assistant, had himself shot a couple of movies as an independent cinematographer and was compelled to work as a waiter under the odd circumstances now. 

(To protect his dignity, it is a must to hide his identity and that’s the reason why the names of the movies which he did and / or the names of the cinematographers he worked with are not being revealed here.) 

Due to the presence of many customers in the restaurant and being on duty, he could not talk to us much. But whatever little conversation took place between us, I could easily sense that he had his roots in Nepal. Since Thapa ji was also from the Nepali background, I immediately asked him if he knew film director B.S. Thapa ji? And before he could say something, Mahesh Udeshi ji asked, "Which B.S. Thapa? Of Himalay Se Ooncha fame? But he lives in four bungalows." And my years old quest suddenly got fulfilled. 
Actually Mahesh Udeshi ji’s daughter and B.S. Thapa ji’s daughter Simran Subedi are close friends. When I contacted Simran Subedi with Mahesh Udeshi ji reference, I came to know that she resides at Mira Road, very near to my home only. Finally I succeeded meeting with B.S. Thapa ji with Simran’s help. Thapa ji’s interview took place in 2 sittings. First in the evening of 24 August 2015 at his Four Bungalow-Andheri home and second and the final sitting in the evening of 26 August at Simran’s home at Mira Road. 
 
B S Thapa with his daughter Simran. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Bir Singh (B.S.) Thapa was born on 3 July 1923 at the Gorkhali Mohalla, New Cantt Road, Dehradoon in a family of Nepali origin. His father served with the British Army and mother was a housewife.
Bir Singh (B.S.) Thapa was born on 3 July 1923 at the Gorkhali Mohalla, New Cantt Road, Dehradoon in a family of Nepali origin. His father served with the British Army and mother was a housewife. B.S. Thapa was youngest among 2 sisters and 3 brothers. Thapa ji says, “Like an ordinary Gorkha family, ours was also a family of soldiers. Apart from my father, my elder brother and husbands of both my sisters were in Army. My second brother, the middle one died very young due to prolonged illness. People expected that as per family tradition I would also join the Army after completing my schooling, but I wanted to study more and more.” 

After passing his 10th from Mission School and 12th from D.A.V. Inter college, B.S. Thapa shifted to Lucknow for higher studies. During his 4 years stay in a hostel in Lucknow, he did B.A. & M.A. (Political Science). He says, “In those times the students of B.A. & M.A. were allowed to do the LLB side by side so I did LLB too. Meanwhile I was married off when I was studying in B.A. My wife Saraswati was from Delhi and was the only child of her parents. Her father had a flourishing business of Tours & Travels. Her mother had died long back and the family consisted of the father-daughter duo only. That’s why I had to shift to Delhi after completing my studies from Lucknow.”
B.S. Thapa ji always had an inclination towards cinema. He was very fond of the actor Motilal. While in Lucknow, Mr. Thapa participated in radio plays. After shifting to Delhi he associated himself with theatre as well.
B.S. Thapa ji always had an inclination towards cinema. He was very fond of the actor Motilal. While in Lucknow, Mr. Thapa participated in radio plays. After shifting to Delhi he associated himself with theatre as well. He acted in many stage plays. Meanwhile the Government of India announced scholarships for youth to attract them towards cinema. 
B.S. Thapa says, “One of Chetan Anand’s close friends was associated with the theatre in Delhi. He was very impressed with my clear speech and artistic inclination and he always said that I was made for cinema only. He introduced me to Chetan Anand. I expressed my desire to Chetan Anand to work with him but he clearly said, ‘I’ll take you with me only if you get the scholarship otherwise won’t.’ Luckily I got selected for the scholarship. I was asked by the Government of India the name of the film maker who I wanted to join. And considering my desire, I was sent to Chetan Anand. Thus I shifted from Delhi to Mumbai in the year 1949. Chetan Anand was making the film Afsar at that time which I joined him in as an apprentice.” 
B.S. Thapa says, “One of Chetan Anand’s close friends was associated with the theatre in Delhi. He was very impressed with my clear speech and artistic inclination and he always said that I was made for cinema only. He introduced me to Chetan Anand. I expressed my desire to Chetan Anand to work with him but he clearly said, ‘I’ll take you with me only if you get the scholarship otherwise won’t.’ Luckily I got selected for the scholarship.
(Mr. B.S. Thapa is now 92 years old. The obvious effect of age on his memory clearly reflects now. Recollecting things troubles him a lot and he doesn’t even remember many important things now. That was the reason, we had to interview him in 2 sittings. We also had to speak to Mr. S M M Ausaja and Mr. Jay Shah who were Thapa ji’s close associates to confirm many facts.) 

After Mr. S M M Ausaja left Gemini Studio - Digital Academy, Mr. Jay Shah, who is presently the Deputy General Manager at the Shemaroo Video, took over. Jay Shah says, “In those days educated people like Thapa ji used to be a rarity in films. Mr. Thapa got the benefit of his degree in LLB. Since he was a good writer as well, whenever there was a court scene in a film, he was especially invited to write the said scene or to guide the writer. Once he was especially invited to Madras by the renowned producer-director of South and the owner of the Madras based Gemini Studio S.S. Vasan for the same purpose. “ 
"Mr. Thapa got the benefit of his degree in LLB. Since he was a good writer as well, whenever there was a court scene in a film, he was especially invited to write the said scene or to guide the writer. Once he was especially invited to Madras by the renowned producer-director of South and the owner of the Madras based Gemini Studio S.S. Vasan for the same purpose."
(We would like to clear that Madras based Gemini Studio has no connection with the Gemini Studio based at M.I.D.C., Andheri (East) Mumbai and these two are entirely different concerns with entirely different ownership.) 

Apart from gathering knowledge about various aspects of film making as an apprentice under Chetan Anand, B.S. Thapa ji also worked as an actor in his films Anjali, Arpan (both 1957) and Kinare Kinare (1963). Thapa ji says, “For the film related work I often visited the composer of Kinare Kinare Jaidev ji’s home at Churchgate. Jaidev ji was also doing Sunil Dutt’s Mujhe Jeene Do at that time. Through him I came in contact with Sunil Dutt who, apart from Mujhe Jeene Do, was making Ye Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke at the same time. Based on Mumbai’s infamous Nanavati case, the movie Ye Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke was a court room drama. Sunil Dutt gave me the responsibility to write all the court scenes of this movie. Ye Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke was also a 1963 release. Here onwards my friendship with Sunil Dutt remained intact forever. I also worked as Sunil Dutt’s associate director in Reshma Aur Shera (1971) which was produced and directed by him only.”
"Based on Mumbai’s infamous Nanavati case, the movie Ye Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke was a court room drama. Sunil Dutt gave me the responsibility to write all the court scenes of this movie. Ye Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke was also a 1963 release. Here onwards my friendship with Sunil Dutt remained intact forever."
B.S. Thapa ji’s debut movie as director Maiti Ghar released in 1966. The main leads of this film were Mala Sinha and C.P. Lohani. Music was composed by Jaidev. Sunil Dutt and Rajendranath were seen in this film as guest artistes and Thapa ji also played an important role in it. This was the first Nepali language film made under a private banner and it proved to be a platinum jubilee hit. The music of Maiti Ghar was also well appreciated by the masses. During the shoot of Maiti Ghar Mala Sinha fell in love with the hero of the film C.P. Lohani and they got married in 1968. 
Maiti Ghar. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

B.S. Thapa ji’s debut movie as director Maiti Ghar released in 1966. The main leads of this film were Mala Sinha and C.P. Lohani. Music was composed by Jaidev. Sunil Dutt and Rajendranath were seen in this film as guest artistes and Thapa ji also played an important role in it. This was the first Nepali language film made under a private banner and it proved to be a platinum jubilee hit.
In the year 1973 B.S. Thapa ji directed Mann Jeete Jag Jeet. In 1974 he directed Dukh Bhanjan Tera Naam. Both these Punjabi language movies were produced by the 1950’s & 60’s decade’s renowned composer S. Mohinder in partnership with his cousin and renowned Punjabi poet Kanwar Mahendra Singh Bedi. Himalay Se Ooncha was B.S. Thapa’s first Hindi film which released in the year 1975. This film was produced by Prakash Mehra
 
Man Jeete Jag Jeet. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din


Jay Shah says, “Himalay Se Ooncha was to be shot in the higher areas and glaciers in Kashmir. Due to health reasons it wasn’t possible for Prakash Mehra to shoot at the high altitude. Moreover, he was busy with the shoot of his other movies Khalifa and Hera Pheri (both 1976). Therefore, on behest of the hero of the film Sunil Dutt, Prakash Mehra gave Himalay Se Ooncha to B.S. Thapa ji to direct.“
Himalay Se Ooncha.  Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
"Therefore, on behest of the hero of the film Sunil Dutt, Prakash Mehra gave Himalay Se Ooncha to B.S. Thapa ji to direct.“
B.S. Thapa ji’s next Hindi movie was Charandas which released in the year 1977. This movie was also produced by S. Mohinder & Kanwar Mahendra Singh Bedi. With Vikram and Lakshmi in main lead, this movie had Rajesh Roshan as composer. Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra played guest roles in this movie and the qawwali Dekh Lo Ishq Ka Martaba Dekh Lo was pictured on them only. Giving very important information, S M M Ausaja says, “This is the only qawwali ever pictured on Amitabh Bachchan in his career till date. And this is the only qawwali ever sung by Yesudas in his singing career. Sung by Yesudas and Aziz Nazan Qawwal, the Yesudas part of this qawwali was pictured on Amitabh Bachchan whereas Aziz Nazan Qawwal sang for Dharmendra.”
Charandas. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

“This is the only qawwali ever pictured on Amitabh Bachchan in his career till date. And this is the only qawwali ever sung by Yesudas in his singing career. "
B.S. Thapa ji’s 1980 release Gangadham was a diamond jubilee hit. Apart from directing, Thapa ji also acted in this movie. In the year 1982 he made Lakshmi with Raj Babbar and Reena Roy in the main lead. This film was produced by Reena Roy’s brother Raja Roy. Jay Shah says, “When Laxmi was announced, it was Rajkumar Kohli’s name as director in its publicity. But later B.S. Thapa ji came on board. According to Reena Roy’s sister Barkha Roy, Rajkumar Kohli was too busy directing Badle Ki Aag (1982) to spare time thus the replacement. Released 1-1/2 years after lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi’s death this movie also had 2 Sahir songs with Usha Khanna as composer. This was the last film of Sahir’s career.”
Gangadham. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

B.S. Thapa ji’s 1980 release Gangadham was a diamond jubilee hit.
In the 1980’s decade Mr. B.S. Thapa directed 2 more Nepali language movies and the both were silver jubilee hits. These were 1984 release Kanchhi and 1989 release Maya Priti. Apart from this, two of Thapa ji’s stories were made into Telugu language movies Sudigundalu and Maro Prapancham. In 1972 Sudigundalu was awarded with the National Award of the best regional film and Maro Prapancham won A.P. government’s Golden Nandi Award for the year 1973-74. Mr. B.S. Thapa directed another Hindi film Geet Ganga with Arun Govil, Zarina Wahab and Kajal Kiran released in the year 1982. 
 
B.S. Thapa ji’s relation with Prakash Mehra remained intact even after Himalay Se Ooncha’s release. He was the second unit director in Prakash Mehra’s movies Zindagi Ek Juaa (1992) and Baal Brahmachari (1996). 
 
Lakshmi. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din


B.S. Thapa ji is known as a good teacher among film fraternity. He has been a teacher to many stars including Vinod Khanna, Leena Chandavarkar, Sanjay Dutt, Karishma Kapoor, Bikram Saluja and Somi Ali to teach them the correct pronunciation of Hindi-Urdu words and proper delivery of dialogue in the initial stage of their respective career. Mr. Thapa was invited by the Digital Academy to give lessons to the students of film making since the time of its founding in May 2002. Mr. Jay Shah took over as Centre Manager in January 2003 after Mr. S M M Ausaja left. When Mr. Shah resigned from his job with Digital Academy in February 2005 to join Zee TV group’s film school Zima as Centre Controller, he took along B.S. Thapa ji as well. Mr. Thapa taught at Zima for next couple of years. 

After his wife Saraswati Thapa’s death, Mr. B.S. Thapa remarried. He has 1 daughter and 3 sons with his first wife. Daughter Reshma lives in Dubai with her family. Thapa ji’s sons Arun, Anil and Akhil are based in Mumbai only and none of them has any connection with the films. Thapa ji’s second wife Pratima was a choreographer. His daughter Simran Subedi is with his second wife only. After serving with Bahrain Airlines for a couple of years, Simran returned to India 4 years back and now lives at Mira Road. Simran’s daughter Deena played an important character of the ill child named Titli in 2006 release Apna Sapna Money Money.  

Simran says, “My Dad could not live very long at Mira Road. After staying at Versha Tower for a year he shifted to some other place at Mira Road. But after my mother’s sudden death in April 2012 he had to shift back to Four Bungalows where he now lives with his second son Anil.” 

B.S. Thapa ji who completed 92 on last 3 July may not be active in films now but his contribution to the Cinema as a teacher and a director can’t be denied with.

Shri B.S. Thapa passed away at the age of 93 at his Andheri (West), Mumbai residence on the morning of 9 August 2016. 

Part of Shishir Krishna Sharma's Beete Hue Din blog series.
 

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