Child Artists, they always amuse me. Always make me wonder how these little fellows perform to instructions, project emotions they may never feel in real life. Last year we saw Sautela Bhai (1962), thanks to film collector Surjit Singh, a simple story of two step brothers. We could not help but notice the child who played young Guru Dutt in the film. He exuded a certain calmness and gave an effortless restrained performance.
His facial features indicated that he was most likely related to the well-known child stars of their times, the Irani sisters – Daisy and Honey. We scanned through the opening credits and found the name, Sarosh Irani (सरोश ईरानी). On further searching, it was confirmed that we had indeed found the right name. As luck favoured us, we happened to contact his daughter Delnaaz, who helped us connect with Sarosh ji. We spoke to him for the first time on 31st October and met him on 25th November last year. This blog is an essence of our various conversations.
The Journey Thus Far
Sarosh ji was born to Perin and Noshir Irani on 7 August, 1948 in the then Bombay. He is third among five siblings, namely, Menka, Bunny, Sarosh, Daisy and Honey. In 1979 he married Mona ji (adjoining picture) and the couple is blessed with two lovely daughters, Sabah and Delnaaz. He did his initial schooling in Deolali’s well-known boarding school, The Barnes School. After he joined the film industry he went to St. Teresa’s High School in Bandra.
After his stint as a child-actor he and his brother, Bunny started their own construction company, B Irani S Irani. They successfully completed few assignments but the demands of the business were high and tedious on the young boys, hence after some time they had to shut it down. He then worked as an assistant director for about five years. In 1976 looking at favourable opportunities he went to Iran where he worked in the construction business. When the war broke out he was forced by the family to return and he came back to India with his wife towards the end of 1983. On his return he joined his brother Bunny (now retired) who by then was looking after the Irani Cafe, B Merwan which was started by their grandfather. Since then Sarosh ji has been running the cafe-cum-bakery, now with his first cousins Bomi Irani and Perrin Irani.
Sarosh ji’s first film as a child-actor was Masoom released in 1960. Sarosh ji recalls, “I was about 12 years old when I had come down to Bombay for vacation from my boarding school, Barnes School in Deolali. One day we were heading towards Juhu for an outing when director Satyen Bose who was coming from the opposite side happened to spot us. He had already worked with Daisy in Bandish (1955). He stopped by to have a chat with our mother. He spotted me sitting in the car and enquired about me. Mummy told him that I am Daisy’s elder brother. He then mentioned that he was looking for a boy around my age for his next film titled Masoom and would like to consider me for the role.”
Soon Sarosh ji went to visit Satyen ji in his office with his mother. There they took his pictures and screen-test. Shortly he was finalised to play the eldest of the three siblings in the film. Little Honey Irani was chosen to play his younger sister. The song ‘Nani Teri Morni Ko More Le Gaye‘ picturized on her, sung by Ranu Mukherjee (daughter of the legendary singer Hemant Kumar) under the music direction of Robin Banerjee is famous till date. Ruby Sen won the Filmfare Award for Best Story for this film while the film itself was nominated in the Best Film category along aside Parakh (1960) and Mughal-E-Azam (1960) during the 8th Filmfare Awards.
Debu (Debesh, character played by Sarosh ji) was eldest among three siblings, understanding, responsible, patient, caring and brilliant in studies; a son whose father had great expectations from him seeing his conduct. Going by the character sketch, with one look at the adjoining picture it’s not difficult to guess why Satyen ji must have decided to cast Sarosh ji in this role. He just looked like Debu. We have seen this film thanks to film collector, Sumeet Gupta. It’s a lovely film with beautiful performances by all the three children.
Sarosh ji says “Satyen Bose was a good Director. He had a lot of patience, he would wait till we gave the shot just like he had visualised. He would keep encouraging, even enact and show us at times. He was very friendly, never rude. I had a nice time shooting with him. Soon I got offers for Aarti (1962) and Sautela Bhai (1962). I started liking acting.”
Tarachand Barjatya‘s Aarti (1962) was directed by Phani Majumdar, the cast included Ashok Kumar, Meena Kumari, Pradeep Kumar and Shashikala appearing in pivotal roles. This film was a milestone in Shashikala ji’s career, her first negative role which won her the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress during the 10th Filmfare Awards. Sarosh ji played her son who suffered from polio. We have seen the film and it seemed like Sarosh ji’s role was largely edited out from the DVDs like has been the case with many old films. When we enquired about this, Sarosh ji said many of his scenes in the film were edited out on the editing table and never made it to the final cut. He particularly remembers one scene, “There was a beautiful scene which we had done between Meena Kumari, Shashikala and me. In the film I was playing a boy suffering from polio. It was an emotional scene where I was getting beaten up by the mother and ‘Aarti’ comes to my rescue. During that scene we cried so much that even after the scene was over we could not control our tears. But that scene was totally edited out from the film.”
Alok Bharati‘s Sautela Bhai (1962) directed by Mahesh Kaul was based on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay‘s “Baikunther Will” and had Pranoti Ghosh, Bipin Gupta, Guru Dutt, Raj Kumar and Kanhaiyalal playing pivotal parts. It’s a story of two step-brothers, the elder one a good-hearted rustic played by Guru Dutt and the younger, an educated weakling, spoiled by his crooked friends played by Raj Kumar. The film was honoured with the All India Certificate of Merit for the Third Best Feature Film at the 10th National Film Awards. The film is also known for Guru Dutt’s best ever performance as an actor. Sarosh ji played his childhood part. This adjoining scene from the film made us instant admirers of this child star.
Sarosh ji did a total of 5 films as a child actor – Masoom (1960), Aarti (1962), Sautela Bhai (1962), Man Mauji (1962) and Grahasti (1963). By the time Grahasti (1963) was released Sarosh ji was about 15 years old, an age when one is neither a child nor an adult and child stars hardly get acting assignments. In his short acting career Sarosh ji has left a mark, Masoom (1960) and Sautela Bhai (1962) are among our most loved films.
Around 1967 Sarosh ji joined his brother-in-law Kamran as an assistant director. The first film he assisted on was Watan Se Door (1968) which had Dara Singh and Nishi in leading roles. He assisted Kamran ji on about six films including Chalbaaz (1969) and Aisa Bhi Hota Hai (1971). Since then he hasn’t been associated with the film Industry directly but is glad to see the next generation, his nephews and nieces, Farah Khan, Sajid Khan, Farhan Akhtar and Zoya Akhtar do well and make a mark in the entertainment industry.
Mrs P. N. Irani (Mrs Perin Noshir Irani), Sarosh ji’s mother produced a film, Bachpan (1963) starring her eldest daughter Menka Irani and Salim Khan (well known scriptwriter from the Salim-Javed duo) under the banner of New Panchratan Pictures. This film was directed by Nazar with music by Sardar Malik. Jeevan, Daisy Irani, Manorama, David and Budo Advani played important parts in the film. Sarosh ji was actively involved behind the scenes and played the duplicate for his sister Daisy in long shots, etc. When the film was in its last stages, director Nazar left the film due to creative differences. At that time, actor and filmmaker Kamran came to their rescue and helped finish the film. Soon Kamran married Menka Irani; their children Farah Khan and Sajid Khan are well known names in the entertainment industry.
When we enquired about this film, Sarosh ji said that unfortunately the film’s original print was destroyed in fire; however it seems there may be a print available across the border and he is trying hard to find if he can get a copy. When we told him that we have been curious to see how young Menka Irani looked, he shared an interesting tidbit. There is a scene in the first half of Om Shanti Om (2007) in which the film’s leading man Shah Rukh Khan is walking through a corridor which has a lady’s picture on the wall. It is Menka Irani’s still from Bachpan (1963).
Menka Irani‘s still from Bachpan (1963) in Om Shanti Om (2007)
Irani Siblings (from left to right) : Sarosh, Honey, Menka, Daisy and Bunny
Seeing a child actor in an old film, wishing to know more and then to actually meet him feels wonderful. It’s been a lovely experience knowing Sarosh ji. This post has gotten delayed for months due to various reasons but he has been patient and answered all our queries whenever we called him. We would like to thank him for traversing down the memory lane with us. We wish him good health & lots of happiness and hope B Merwan completes 100 years of running.
– Maitri Manthan
* Sautela Bhai (1962) is available in great print and can be downloaded from here. If any one has a copy of Bachpan (1963), please let us know.
* The information provided in this blog is to the best of our knowledge, if any discrepancies are found please let us know. Thank you.