Arun Bhatt - the Person

The PersoN

Arun Bhatt was born on 26 September, 1934 in Mumbai. He was the eldest son of
legendary movie producer-director Vijay Bhatt, the founder of Prakash Pictures. His schooling was done in Mumbai at M.A.High School in Andheri. He did his bachelor’s in Sanskrit and English Literature from St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai.

A learned and creative man of many attributes, Arun had an avid interest in history, geography, literature, classical and folk music, theater, and both Indian and world cinema. He could speak on these subjects for hours. He had an innate and infectious sense of humour and he was an engaging storyteller.

His close friend Shri Nikhil Mehta, founder of Sudeep Audio said he and Bhatt were friends since the age of 8. “Arun was good at studies. He was our Vinu Maankad when it came to cricket as he bowled with his left hand and batted with his right,” says Mehta. He also spoke of how Bhatt would come to his ancestral home in Andheri to play tennis every other day.

Arun Bhatt with Snehlata and unit members during Mota Gharni Vahu
Arun Bhatt sharing a rib-tickling joke during a tea break while shooting for “Mota Gharni Vahu” and actress Snehlata and the unit members laugh!

Bhatt was a voracious reader and took a deep interest in literature, music and art. From K.M. Munshi to Ishwar Petlikar, Tagore to Premchand, he’d soaked them all. Alexander Dumas, Somerset Maugham, John Steinbeck, Dostoevsky and Maupassant were among his favourite writers. Bhatt was a treasure trove of knowledge. In words of Shri Nikhil Mehta, “On our picnic to the Ajanta Ellora Caves, Arun explained details of the paintings and architecture to some foreigners and they thought Arun was an official guide!”

In the early 60s, while reading a book on Albert Schweitzer, Arun was inspired to write a script for a film that later became the basis for “Himalay Ki Godmein”, which was directed by Vijay Bhatt.

Bhatt admired the work of many Indian and international directors like Mehboob Khan, Satyajit Ray, Bimal Roy, Raj Kapoor, Raj Khosla, Cecil B De Mille, Akiro Kurosava, Alfred Hitchcock and William Wyler.

Arun Bhatt had a connoisseur’s ear for music. He had an unparalleled knowledge of Indian classical music and was also well versed in Indian folk music, especially the folk music of Gujarat. He loved playing the flute and harmonica and was very good at it. He could talk in detail about each of the ragas and was equally well informed on western classical music as well. He had a vast collection of vinyl records of music from around the world.

As a teen, Arun dreamed of becoming a music composer. He idolised the composers Shankar Jaikishen, and would often hang out with Jaikishen after college at the famous Gaylord’s Cafe in Churchgate, Mumbai. He veered towards filmmaking once he started assisting his father as a director. However, his love for music did not take a back seat as he involved himself completely in the matters of lyrics and music in all the films that he was a part of. Some of the songs from his films are immensely popular even today and have achieved the status of folk songs. Not many people know that since Bhatt could play the flute well, Vijay Bhatt filmed his fingers on the Shehnai instead of Rajendra Kumar’s in some of the portions of the film, Goonj Uthi Shehnai.

Arun Bhatt's fingers in Goojh Uthi Shehnai
Some close-ups in “Goonjh Uthi Shehnai” had the fingers of Arun Bhatt instead of Rajendra Kumar’s as Bhatt could play the flute well.

Arun Bhatt was also a skilled painter and pursued it as a hobby. He worked with water colours and was partial to impressionists such as Van Gogh, Renoir, Paul Gaughin, the landscape artist Whistler and the Dutch master, Rembrandt.