Pahlaj Nihalani has always been fascinated by art. He used to watch movies in large numbers in his childhood, and the movie-viewing led him to the Indian film industry
Second in row of our ‘Success Series of Living Legends’, we are presenting today, a well known film producer, distributer – Pahlaj Nihalani, who has always endeavored to introduce and provide opportunities to new talent in keeping with his large hearted and helpful nature. Pahlaj Nihalani is the Producer and Distributer of Motion Picture, Former President Association of Motion Pictures and TV Programme Producers and Founder Member of Export Promotion Council (SECP), and Former President of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
Pahlaj Nihalani has always been fascinated by art. He used to watch movies in large numbers in his childhood, and the movie-viewing led him to the Indian film industry. He entered the film distribution business in 1965 when he was fifteen years old. This was five years after his father expired. He gradually progressed from distribution and in 1979 he began producing films, and since then there was no look back for him. Though a producer he take interest in each and every activity of film-making; be it music or editing. He takes interest in every department of film making – right from the role of a spot boy to the financing of films. For he believes he is the one who has to take the blame or praise for the film’s success or failure. However, he always gives credit to his staff who are truly responsible for the various aspects of film making. He has produced twenty-three films till date. Previously, he used to produce one or two films a year. However recently, he has been devoting some time to social service. Following are excerpts from conversation:
It has been observed, that you always give chance to new talent in your films. Is it genuinely for the promotion of new talent or just to avoid the star system?
There is ample talent available but unfortunately no opportunities are available for this to be showcased. I feel pleased and satisfied when, with a bit of encouragement from my side, new artists and technicians can be introduced. As long as they are able to devote the time, as per my needs, and are dedicated to their work, I back them without considering the possibilities of success or failure.
Despite being involved with showbiz, you have been extending a helping hand in the cause of the Sindhi community. How do you combine these two?
I have observed that most successful Sindhis, besides carving a niche for themselves in their own field have always been involved in social service. There are 30 to 40 colleges, hospitals like the Hinduja, Raheja, Jaslok to name a few, established by Sindhis. I too felt the need to contribute to the welfare of my community and country. When cyclone created havoc in Orissa, or Gujarat was shaken by earthquake, I felt the need to share the government’s efforts and I organized several fund raising programmes.
You had organized ‘Hum Ek Hain’ programme. Can you tell us something about it?
It was done in the wake of communal riots. Vested elements try to create a wedge between the different communities of India, which should be discouraged. I tried to convey a message of unity and equality to the masses of India through ‘Hum Ek Hain’ programme which was a joint effort with Doordarshan. It is an accepted fact that the word of a well known artist carries weight and people sit up and take notice of their endorsements. This can be channelized for fund raising or other such activities and since I have some leverage with big artists of Bollywood, I have always participated in such efforts. To cite an example, I was able to raise some 4.5 crores of rupees for the ‘Gujarat Earth Quake Relief Fund’.
Just one call from you and you have all the artists responding. What is the secret of your influence on them?
The secret lies in sincerity. People know that wherever there is involvement of finance, Pahlaj will never dip his hands in the sill but will rather contribute from his own pocket. People trust Pahlaj and are always prepared to assist in the cause where I am involved. I am indeed grateful to the artists who respond to my call, stand by me and convey the message on behalf of the industry.
There was ‘Indian Motion Pictures Association’ (IMPA) for film producers of India, so what was the need for another organization named ‘Association of Film Producers & T.V. Programmes’, initiated by you?
‘IMPPA’ or ‘Guild’ was meant for film producers, while there was nobody to represent T.V. producers. To give those people a voice, ‘Association of Film Producers & T.V. Programmes’ was established. Actually, it was the brainchild of GP Sippy. He was the pioneering President of the said association. But after just one year, he handed over its reins to me on the ground that the younger generation should be entrusted with such jobs. I have been its President since the last thirteen years. So, in fact the creator of this association was GP Sippy, not me. He was also the first builder and promoter. When he came to Bombay from Sindh, he was the first to build ownership flats in Bombay. His contribution to film production has also been great and he could also foresee the immense potential of television. It is rightly said that the Sindhi brain has tremendous foresight and in this case too GP Sippy’s concept is vindicated, as is obvious from the tremendous reach of television today.
Have you ever made T.V. serials?
Initially it looked liked too small a business but with the passage of time, TV production has created its own niche in the market. It has got a huge potential. I feel I am late now, but my children have got into the production of TV serials.
Sindhis have been demanding status of belonging to a ‘landless state’! This way, we can have increased rights and increased funds, which can be used for the preservation and progress of our community, language, culture and traditions. Do you agree with this?
Everything depends upon the will of the government of India. There is lot of land in India and if it agrees, it can easily provide a piece of land for Sindhis, which we can call our own state.
We have got the electronic media, and also producers like you. Is it not possible to spread Sindhi culture and language?
I urge everyone via this powerful electronic media to re-discover the hidden potential of Sindhis, and raise their voice, so that powers that be in Delhi take notice. We should awaken them from their deep slumber.
We have got the resources. We can also launch a Sindhi channel. Can successful stalwarts like you, G P Sippy and Ramesh Sippy undertake this responsibility?
A: Majority of film producers, directors and financiers are Sindhis. The entertainment industry has G. P. Sippy, Ramesh Sippy, Nari Sippy, Ramesh Taurani, Vashu Bhagnani, Gordhan Tanwani etc. They can play a major role in this regard. I appeal to all of them to advance a few steps and I assure you that I shall not lag behind. If we Sindhis join hands, we can do wonders. You will find a Sindhi in every nook and corner of the world. Even if he has changed his surname from Mansukhani to Mans, at heart he remains a Sindhi.
In which community would you like to take your next birth?
Certainly a Sindhi. I am very much proud to be a Sindhi, and to be faithful to one’s own community is a matter of great pride. I think, Sindhis do not lack anything. They just need to get united, as unity is of the greatest essence for us Sindhis today.
At a young age you have, by leaps and bounds, achieved great success. To what extent can you attribute the contribution of Bhabhi Neeta?
It is a fact that a woman is behind the success of every man, and in my case it is Neeta.