Mehra recalled the memory with his characteristic visual imagery. He said, “I remember, he was sitting against a window and had a halo around his head. I was shaking inside-out and when he asked what I wanted, I said, ‘Will you write ‘Devdas’ for me?’ We spoke about our takes on ‘Devdas’ and Gulzar saab said, ‘I had started making ‘Devdas’ with Dharmendra and Hema Malini and in 10 days it folded. I realised it was not an easy film to make and that it was not for me, why you do want to make it?”
Mehra revealed to Gulzar that he had watched the film and always felt that they had got the story wrong. He explained, “The book was actually about an adolescent boy who falls for a lady much elder than him. When it didn’t work out, he became an alcoholic and died with all that love in his heart. I thought that maybe the hero should be younger, but humara yaha aisa hota nahi hai (that’s not how it works in our films). I explained how when it comes to love, it is the women who have more strength than the men.” Gulzar appreciated a young Mehra’s ideas and agreed to write the film. Mehra further revealed, “He liked the idea. I told him I’ll come back to him when I get the money to fund the film. 25 years later, Gulzar gave me ‘Mirzya’.”
When author Kiran Manral, who was conducting the session, asked him about his ‘Devdas’ passion and if he’d still want to make it, Mehra said, “Yes, sure. It is an evergreen piece of literature. Why not?”
Tune into Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s full interaction with author Kiran Manral at the Times LitFest today at 5 pm.