Arun Bhatt on the sets of Mota Gharni Vahu

Arun bhatt's Career in films

Bhatt started his career as an assistant to his father in popular films namely Patrani, Goonj Uthi Shehnai, Hariyali Aur Rasta and Himalay Ki Godmein. After the success of Himalay Ki Godmein, where Bhatt’s story was used but was not credited for, he went on to write stories for two more films. Banphool starring Jitendra and Babita was one of them.

Arun Bhatt with Vijay Bhatt
On the sets of Hariyali Aur Raasta – Arun Bhatt (3rd from left) seen here with his father Vijay Bhatt (4th from left) whom he assisted as a director.

In the early 1960’s Arun Bhatt scripted and directed short films and documentaries under Vijay Films – a production company started by Bhatt and his brother-in-law, Kishore Vyas. He also produced several documentary films for the Government of Gujarat on various interesting subjects such as the “The Lost Tribes of Gujarat”, “The Migratory Birds in Gujarat”, etc. He won prestigious government awards for his documentary “The Poet Saints of Gujarat”, “The Industries of Gujarat” and “The Land and People of Gujarat”. 

Arun Bhatt’s friend of close to 60 years, Shri Nikhil Mehta shared some interesting facts about his documentary shooting days. Their common friend Shri Pravin Sampat had a passion for automobiles and would purchase second hand vehicles often. He once purchased a discarded army truck from Pune. It was in this truck that Bhatt travelled to interiors of Gujarat for his documentary films!

In 1971, he founded Vijay Films International with Kishore Vyas and in 1974, under their banner, he directed his first Hindi film, Vardaan starring Vinod Mehra, Reena Roy and Mehmood. The film was successful and celebrated 100 days in theaters across India. Mehmood also received a Filmfare Award for his comic role as a Gujarati businessman in this film. Arun Bhatt had a distinctive sense of humour and that was discernible in all his films.

Arun Bhatt with Vinod Mehra on the sets of Vardaan
Arun Bhatt discussing the dialogues with Vinod Mehra on the sets of Vardaan

After the success of Vardaan, Bhatt and Vyas thought of venturing into regional Gujarati cinema. He had become very familiar with the land due to the time spent there for his documentaries. In those days, Mr. Ravindra Dave was a very successful filmmaker in Gujarati films, whose films were based on folklore. Since folk stories were popular, Bhatt also thought of making a Gujarati film in the same genre.

In 1976, Bhatt co-produced and directed “Verno Vaaras”, starring Arvind Joshi and Usha Solanki.  “Verno Vaaras” did average business but was praised for the comedy of actor Ramesh Mehta.

On the sets of Arun Bhatt's first Gujarati film, Verno Vaaras with Ramesh Mehta
 Arun Bhatt and Kishore Vyas having some fun with Ramesh Mehta on the sets of Verno Vaaras – Arun Bhatt’s first Gujarati film

In May 1977, Vijay Films International produced “Hira Aur Patthar” in Hindi, starring Shashi Kapoor and Shabana Azmi, which was directed by Bhatt’s father, Vijay Bhatt. Midway, the film got delayed so they turned to Gujarati films once again and produced  ‘Maa Baap”. At that time, Gujarati films were made with a particular set of artistes, but Arun Bhatt and Kishore Vyas took a risk and cast comedian Asrani as a lead, and that too, in a serious role with a new heroine, Sushma Verma. On 20th of May, 1977, Heera Aur Patthar was released, which failed miserably and exactly a week later, on the 27th, Maa Baap was released, which turned out to be a humongous hit, running for 25 weeks in cinema halls.

Arun Bhatt on the sets of Mota Gharni Vahu
Some serious thinking on the sets of Mota Gharni Vahu – (L-R) Asrani, Snehlata, Rita Bhaduri and Arun Bhatt

After that, he had a dream run at the Gujarati box office. “Mota Gharni Vahu” starring Snehlata, Asrani, Rita Bhaduri and Rajeev, also hit bulls-eye and was a Silver Jubilee hit yet again. “Navrang Chundadi”, produced under his banner and directed by Kishore Vyas, also turned out to be a super hit. 

This was followed by a string of hits directed by him, namely “Lohini Sagaai”, “Ghar Gharni Vaat” and “Hiro Ghoghe Jai Aaviyo”.  Vijay Films International also produced hits such as “Sau Dahda Saasu Na To Ek Dahado Vahu No and “Tejal Garasni”. Bhatt directed successful films for other producers such as “Parki Thapan”, “Pooja Na Phool”, “Pankhi No Malo”, “Odhu To Odhu Taari Chundadi”, “Sachu Sagpan”, “Sonani Jaal”, “Jugal Jodi”, “Paras Padamni”, “Via Viramgam”, “Lakhtar Ni Laadi Ne Vilaayat No Var” etc. Parki Thapan, produced by Prasannkumar Patadia was one more Silver Jubilee in Bhatt’s career.

Arun Bhatt with Snehlata on the sets of Lohini Sagaai
Arun Bhatt directing Snehlata on the sets of Lohini Sagaai

Also noteworthy is the fact that all the films that Arun Bhatt was a part of had super hit music. He worked closely with the legendary music director Shri Avinash Vyas and his son Gaurang Vyas for most of his films and took an active part in co-writing the lyrics and in composing many of the songs.

Popular singers like Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Kishore Kumar, Mahendra Kapoor, Bhupinder Singh, Suresh Vadkar and Alka Yagnik lent their voices for the songs in Bhatt’s films. Some of the songs such as “Hu Amdavad No Rikshawalo” from “Maa Baap”, “Khaati Meethi Vaangi” from “Mota Gharni Vahu”, “Aaj No Chandalio Maney Laage Bahu Vahlo” from “Lohini Sagaai” and “Dikri To Parki Thapan Kehvay” from “Parki Thapan” were written by him and are fondly remembered even today. In fact, his film “Ghar Gharni Vaat” had an “Aarti of leading ladies” that he had written in an hour’s time at home.

Arun Bhatt in a song recording with Kishore Kumar
Celebrating the song recording of the “Khaati Meethi Vaangi” song of Mota Gharni Vahu (L-R) Prasannkumar Patadia, Harin Mehta, Vijay Bhatt, Avinash Vyas, Arun Bhatt, Gaurang Vyas, Kishore Kumar and Kishore Vyas

Arun Bhatt won the Gujarat State awards for many of the films he directed. “Lakhtar Ni Laadi Ne Vilaayatno Var” won 11 Gujarat State Awards. He won the best director awards for three years consecutively for “Ghar Ghar Ni Vaat”, “Pooja Na Phool”, “Sonani Jaal” respectively and also for and “Shetal Taara Oonda Paani”.

It was after “Shetal Taara Oonda Paani” that the Gujarati film industry started to see a decline. The 1980s brought in the video revolution and with that came piracy. Television also started providing quality entertainment at this time. As a result, the entire film industry went through a bleak phase. Gujarat also suffered due to the heat waves and droughts.

Close to 1990, Bhatt was signed by Producer Pranlal Mehta to direct a film called 100 Dyas. While Bhatt was working on the script, the director of Mehta’s other film, Bhaskar Shetty passed away. Pranlal Mehta roped in Bhatt to direct the film Jawani Zindabad. This film was inspired by the Kannada film Avale Nanna Hendthi and it released on August 17th, 1990. In spite of an interesting storyline, good music and stars such as Aamir Khan, Farah, Utpal Dutt and Kadar Khan, the film was average at the box-office. 

In 1992, Arun Bhatt directed Ghar Jamai for producer Rajkumar Shahbadi starring Mithun Chakraborty, Varsha Usgaonkar and Kadar Khan. The film proved to be a surprise hit and did very well at the box-office. It is said that Kadar Khan really enjoyed working with Arun Bhatt during Jawani Zindabad and he was happy to work with him again in Ghar Jamai.

Arun Bhatt turned to television in 1994 and directed a series of short stories called Katha Sarita for producer Jayendra Shah. The 13 episode series was telecast on Ahmedabad Doordarshan and received a lot of appreciation, so much so that they got an extension for 13 more episodes. The series was a hit at TRP (25+) and there was rerun on Doordarshan by public demand. It was in the papers that Shri Dhirubhai Ambani never missed a single episode of Katha Sarita!

1998, Bhatt directed “Lakhtar Ni Laadi Ne Vilayat No Var” for Ram Rishi Productions. The film won 11 Gujarat State Awards including Best Screenplay and Second Best Director for Bhatt.

He started “Rangaai Jaa Ne Rangma” for the same production house. After recording all the songs for the film, Bhatt began shooting the film but suddenly passed away on 17th April 2001, leaving the film incomplete