Kaka was my favourite uncle . Not that we saw him very frequently or were extremely close. But he was very childlike and innocent. There was always a sense of wonder about him.
His eccentric ways weren’t just for outsiders. If others complained that they weren’t allowed past his gate, his behaviour was not any different with us. He’d do it with us too. There were times when he would himself invite our family over for lunch, we’d go up all the way to Juhu and end up waiting at the gate. There, right within our view, Kishore Kaka would ask his man to tell us he wasn’t in, if he wasn’t in the mood to receive us. Mummy would get irritated, then hand over what she had carried for him, and say to the man, “I’ve brought him some of his favourite food. The least he can do is eat it.” And we’d all have to return without getting past those doors.
We had a house in Bangalore, a huge sprawling one on an acre of land near the army establishment. It had always been drilled into our young minds that the land was once a burial ground. We went there for our holidays once. Amit must’ve been about 5 years old. While I was between three and four. The place was spooky, the atmosphere eerie – and we were very scared. So much so, that we would accompany each other to the bathroom too. And Kaka would insist on telling us a story – a ghost story, at the dead of night. He’d take us to a certain room from where you could see willow trees swaying outside in the wind. Kaka would insist that we sit with our back to the window and we’d obediently do that. Then he would point to a tree under which a Colonel had supposedly committed suicide and start narrating a spooky tale. That wasn’t all. He would deliberately provide eerie sound effects to go with that story: tan tan, thak thak thak. And he’d even jump at us suddenly. All this was most nerve-racking – Amit and I would literally be quaking with fear. If we turned our heads to look at the trees, he’d say,”Peechhe se haath aaya”, and then add “Colonel abhi nahi aayegaa, baad mein aayegaa.” Which made it worse. There was one particular story (one of the many cooked up by Kaka) called The Golden Hand, which was the worst. Whenever I heard that one, I wet my pants. Literally.
Like Dad, Kaka was quite paranoid about money, and about not being paid. But Kaka’s eccentricities made him do funny things. ……………..At another time when he discovered his dues hadn’t been fully paid, Kaka landed up for shooting with make-up on only one side of his face. No one really noticed, until all the lights were switched on. “What’s this?” asked the shocked director. Kaka nonchalently replied, “Aadha paisa to aadha make-up. Pura paisa to pura make-up.”………
Kaka’s mad ways could take other forms too. Once, when his car was caught in a traffic jam, he happened to be outside a grocer’s shop. “Yeh laal laal kya hain?”, he asked his driver Abdul. “Masur ki daal hain”, Abdul replied. In a flash Kaka was reminded of Mussoorie and he told Abdul, “Chalo Mussoorie chalen.” And then he took off for Mussoorie right from there itself.
When I was at FTII, I was exposed to a lot of his films. Half Ticket, Chalti ka Naam Gaadi and all the rest. I marvelled at his sense of timing. Some of his films were totally mad but he had a terrific feel for the absurd. During the shooting of Badti Ka Naam Daadi, some clothes, without which the continuity of the scene would be affected, had been inadvertantly left behind. It would have been too much of an effort and expense to fetch them. Kaka improvised and introduced a new scene right in the middle of the first. The scene showed him sitting on a chair in the middle of nowhere, saying, “I’m the director, I’ll do anything I want”. The next scene had everybody continuing with the earlier scene – in different clothes!……..
What an actor he was…Occasionally when he’d come home, I would ask him, “Kaka, why don’t you act anymore? You’re so brilliant.” He’d reply firmly. “No. I’ll never act for other producers again.” He hated to collect payment from people, to chase them for his money……..
Kaka was also very fond of food, especially of amangshor jhol, a thin Bengali-style mutton curry, with maida puris. He loved the way Mummy cooked it, and she’d prepare it for him everytime he came here. When he came here after Mummy died, I had it especially made for him. He was very touched and said, “You remembered, Pallu.” He also loved tiny bits of gobi (cauliflower). He’d say, “Cover me with mounds of fried gobi. I’ll lie under them and keep eating the gobi. Even after I’ve finished it all, I’m sure I won’t be satisfied!”