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‘Big-hearted, innovative & always tried new things’

Posted by jahanzaibmemon on January 1, 2008

GP Sippy’s reputation as the maker of Sholay (1975) is enough to earn him a position in any listing of eminent Indian filmmakers. But there were other successful and critically-acclaimed movies to his banner’s credit like Andaz (1971), Saagar (1985) and Brahmachari (1968).

Though Brahmachari propelled his GP Sippy Productions into the league of the then reputed filmmaking banners, it was also during the making of Brahmachari that Sippy contemplated bidding adieu to filmmaking and concentrate on his hotel business. He ran into frequent bottlenecks in the making of the Shammi Kapoor-starrer that eventually got him the best film Filmfare.

Ups and downs dogged the career of this indomitable scion of a rich Sindhi family like the success of Sholay being followed by the colossal multi-starrer dream gone astray in Shaan (1980). Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman (1995) was perhaps the last significant film from the Sippy banner that won him production credits before the forgettable Hamesha (1997).

Sippy, 93, who was suffering from age-related ailments for the past few months, died on Tuesday night and was cremated on Wednesday.

Sippy (1915-2007) started with carpet-selling business and moved on to construction—many even call him the pioneer of introducing flat system in Mumbai—before being bitten by the filmmaking bug in the 1950s.

Launching the GP Sippy Productions with the Dev Anand-starrer Sazaa (1951), Sippy switched over to direction with Marine Drive (1955) starring Ajit, Bina Rai and KN Singh. As producer-director he enjoyed a sustaining run through the fifties with films like Adil-e-Jahangir (1955, Pradeep Kumar, Meena Kumari and Durga Khote) followed by Shrimati 420 (1956, Johny Walker, Meena), Bhai Bahen (1959, Daisy Irani, Kanwaljeet) and Mr India (1961, Johny Walker, Om Prakash) with modest star casts.

The banner’s first tryst with big stars and box office success came in the sixties with Mere Sanam (1965, Asha Parekh, Biswajeet), Brahmachari (1968), Bandhan (1969, Rajesh Khanna, Mumtaz) and Andaz (1971), all of which had GP Sippy limited to the producing brief. Andaz also marked the debut of son Ramesh Sippy as a director with GP Sippy Productions. The success of the “different” film revolving around a widow and a widower brought together by their respective kids encouraged the producer-director duo to opt for a bigger gamble with Seeta Aur Geeta (1972). At a time when hero-oriented films ruled the box-office it was considered harakiri to do a film with a new female actress in a double role with the heroes Sanjeev Kumar and Dharmendra reduced to supporting props. But the film’s success not only set on roll Hema Malini’s rule on top through the 1970s as Bollywood’s longest reigning leading star actress, but also gave the industry one of its most successful and experimentative father-son producer-director jodi making some of the most memorable films of Bollywood, topped by Sholay in 1975.

Though the duo’s box-office touch went missing in subsequent partnerships like Shaanand Saagar, the elder Sippy continued to be an inspiration to the third generation filmmakers from the family like Rohan Sippy at home and the film industry at large as chairman of the Film and TV Producers Guild of India four times through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Shammi Kapoor, who worked with him in films like Andaz and Bharmachari, said, “His contribution to the film industry is fabulous. He made the biggest blockbuster Sholay and gave the film industry a brilliant director in Ramesh Sippy. He was big-hearted, innovative and always tried new things. I knew him before he became a film producer. In the ’60s, I would visit his Marine Drive house with my late wife Geeta. He was a great pal of mine. We would go for races together. He was very fond of dog races held in London. He was a great man.”

Dev Anand, who acted in Sippy’s first film Sazaa, which was directed by Fali Mistry, said, “He was the leader of the movie industry. We will miss him.”

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