Stay tuned to our new posts and updates! Click to join us on WhatsApp L&C-Whatsapp & Telegram telegram Channel
ISSN 2231 - 699X | A Publication on Cinema & Allied Art Forms
Support LnC-Silhouette. Great reading for everyone, supported by readers. SUPPORT
L&C-Silhouette Subscribe
The L&C-Silhouette Basket
L&C-Silhouette Basket
A hand-picked basket of cherries from the world of most talked about books and popular posts on creative literature, reviews and interviews, movies and music, critiques and retrospectives ...
to enjoy, ponder, wonder & relish!

Director’s Chair – Hindi Cinema’s Golden Age: In Conversation with Manek Premchand

January 23, 2024 | By

In a candid conversation with Silhouette Magazine, renowned film historian, music critic and author Manek Premchand talks about his latest book Director’s Chair – Hindi Cinema’s Golden Age, published by Blue Pencil in January 2024.

The book takes readers through the enthralling landscapes of Hindi cinema, exploring the lives and works of the eminent film directors who held the reins during the glorious golden era.

Manek Premchand

A distinguished music critic, Hindi film connoisseur and author, Manek Premchand has always been fascinated by Hindi cinema’s music. The music of the golden era has motivated him to write several books on the subject — Yesterday’s Melodies, Today’s Memories, Musical Moments From Hindi Films, Romancing The Song, Shiv Kumar Sharma, The Man and His Music (co-authored with two others), Talat Mahmood—The Velvet Voice, Hitting The Right Notes, The Hindi Music Jukebox, The Unforgettable Music of Hemant Kumar, Majrooh Sultanpuri — The Poet For All Reasonsand Windows to the Soul. Besides these, he has written hundreds of music-related articles for a variety of newspapers.  

But this time he has ventured into an unchartered territory. His latest book – DIRECTOR’S CHAIR — Hindi Cinema’s Golden Age is an entertaining and educative study of the work and lives of most of the notable film directors from Hindi cinema, ranging from people who created films from the silent era in the early 20th century, running down the golden age of the ‘50s and ‘60s, and ending in 1980. The thoughtful, serious, flippant, romantic, thrilling films of this period have a class that is not only unparalleled, but they also provide film critics and connoisseurs valuable material for examination. 

Manek Premchand, armed with his passion for Hindi cinema’s music, coupled with his extensive industry experience, brings a unique perspective to the table and adds depth to this exploration of the golden age’s cinematic gems.

Read on as we uncover the inspiration, challenges, and fascinating anecdotes that went into the creation of this 572-page masterpiece. Whether you’re a film enthusiast, a history buff, or someone with a keen interest in the magic behind the silver screen, you will find this conversation enlightening.

You can order the book on Blue Pencil Online and Amazon

Jyoti Babel: What was your inspiration behind the idea of DIRECTOR’S CHAIR — Hindi Cinema’s Golden Age? What motivated you to dive into the mammoth task of writing about the lives and works of Hindi film directors spanning 7 decades?

Manek Premchand: I have been writing on music, especially our film music, for decades, but I have also known that there is a visual world such songs have. It was the proliferation of visuals on TV and the popularity of YouTube that triggered my desire to try to also look at the song as it was filmed. My rudimentary attempts to do so made me write a bit from the director’s angle, which in turn helped find me an opportunity to become a Jury Member at the Bangalore International Film Fest, in early 2022. That’s the evolutionary start to my desire to attempt painting such a canvas.    

Director’s Chair – Hindi Cinema’s Golden Age

Director’s Chair – Hindi Cinema’s Golden Age by Manek Premchand

Jyoti Babel: Selecting a specific topic for a book is one challenge, but creating an encyclopedia, especially on a vast and diverse subject like Hindi film
directors, raises the dilemma of deciding what to include and what to omit from the extensive pool of material, research, and insights. The book covers directors from the silent era to 1980. Why did you decide on 1980 as the cut-off year?

Manek Premchand: You are so right, the book was an enormous challenge for me. As I have mentioned in the book’s introduction, I imagine that it may have posed a challenge to other historians too, some of whom many of us admire, like BD Garga, Mihir Bose, and Bunny Reuben. Perhaps that’s why they never touched this subject, although there was a crying need to address it. Because look, several generations have enjoyed impactful films, right? Their makers have left deep impressions on our minds, so their stories had to be told on a common platform. 

As for the cut-off year, the project was already threatening to look unmanageably large when I spent a few days considering the idea. Thus the curtain had to be dropped somewhere. So what I did was look at my earlier book, Yesterday’s Melodies, Today’s Memories. In that book, I had lowered the curtain in 1980. That book was first published in 2003, and not a single reader (it has sold in 1000s) ever suggested that 1980 was the wrong time to stop. They did find other small issues, like why wasn’t so-and-so not enough there, or such-and-such song absent, etc. But no one contested that by 1980, the magic of the music had dropped significantly. I imagine most people feel the same way about Hindi cinema. The quality fell precipitously by that year.   

Jyoti Babel: Your earlier works were chiefly on music – on singers, music composers, lyricists, musicians. How was writing about directors different? What challenges did you face in researching and compiling information about directors from different eras?

Manek Premchand: This book was a departure from my other work, and it was tough deciding whom to take, and whom not to. Then which films to talk about, and which to give a miss. A lot of subjectivity then, but helped in large doses by a ‘jury’ of 12 friends who helped me decide the personalities to attempt. Resource matter had to be found, and old films had to be watched and rewatched. I had to make perhaps three dozen changes in virtually every para of the book to offer a sharp focus on the people who needed to be saluted. But I’m not complaining at all. It was fun, oh yes! It was fun, and I’m not glad the writing and publishing is over.

Jyoti Babel: The golden age of Hindi cinema produced iconic film directors whose works are considered classics today. Is there any specific director or film that you found particularly fascinating or inspiring during your research?

Manek Premchand: Many, many. But Sohrab Modi, BR Chopra, V Shantaram, Nitin Bose, AR Kardar…oh my goodness, so many! These guys were mad I tell you. I don’t mean it clinically of course. But I can’t find the right word to describe their obsession. Junoon I think in Hindustani. It’s when an idea or project consumes you. I got inspired by Dadasaheb Phalke when he staked his all to make India’s first feature film. The amazing K Asif just forgot what money was–and time was–because he somehow found both, to aspire for excellence in Mughal-e-Azam. Hrishikesh Mukherjee and his feelings for the common man, in film after film. BR Chopra who was just exceptional is espousing social causes. It’s a huge list!  

great hindi film directors

A few of the hundreds of film directors profiled in Director’s Chair
L to R top row: Nitin Bose, K Asif, Sohrab Modi, Bimal Roy
L to R bottom row: Hrishikesh Mukherjee, AR Kardar, BR Chopra, V Shantaram

Jyoti Babel: Are there any lesser-known directors or films from the golden age that you believe deserve more recognition, and why? 

Manek Premchand: No one comes to mind as such. But a lot of people are remembered for their cinema, like Raj Khosla, M Sadiq, Gulzar, and HS Rawail. These people were very gifted too. 

Jyoti Babel: What do you believe is the most significant legacy of these Golden Age directors on the Indian film industry and film culture in general? How has their influence shaped the generations that followed?

Manek Premchand: The important thing the filmmakers from the golden era did was to generally offer saaf-suthra films with good music. They used imagination and spared no effort. They took from published literature, both Indian and foreign, and interpreted it well. They did not rely on camera zooms or flash cuts to give us too many headaches. They romanticized the idea of love, of brotherhood, of loyalty. The idea of loyalty was showcased by a Hindu Rajput (Ajit) for a Muslim Prince (Dilip Kumar) in Mughal-e-Azam. Insaf Ka Tarazu made us worry about crime and punishment. Mere Mehboob showed us to look at Sadhana’s ethereal beauty, without a ton of makeup. Sangam advanced the idea of sacrifice. Many films of this age were like Aesop’s fables, which had moral messages.   

samadhi 1950

Nalini Jaywant and Ashok Kumar in the very popular movie Samadhi (Pic: NFAI)

Jyoti Babel: How did the evolving socio-political landscape of India shape the themes and narratives explored by directors during the Golden Age? Did their films actively engage with or mirror these changes?

Manek Premchand: Oh films and society took from each other all the time. They had a symbiotic embrace. The early talkies, ie, the 1930s and ’40s for instance had plenty of cinema that echoed Gandhiji’s call for independence. Stories and songs also moralised about becoming good human beings. Teri gatthri mein laaga chor musafir jaag zara from Dhoop Chhaon (1935) tells us to stay alert. By dozing off, here’s what will happen: Neend mein maal gawa baithega, apna aap luta baithega, phir peechhe kuchh naheen bachega laakh machaaye shor. Films handled narratives to tell us what was happening, so for example, Kismet (1943) highlighted Gandhiji’s call for Independence, while Samadhi (1950) reflected the events of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and his INA. Films mirrored what was happening in society but society also mirrored what was happening in cinema. This is true even today, except there’s some distancing between such art and real life. Perhaps that’s why we don’t take films so seriously. But Guru Dutt, and Bimal Roy, such people were giants who managed to make an impact on our psyches. 

Jyoti Babel: In the book, you emphasise the director’s significance in the filmmaking process. You also touch upon the challenges faced by filmmakers in the absence of today’s technological advancements. How did these challenges shape the creativity and ingenuity of directors during the golden age, in your opinion? Could you also elaborate on how the director’s role extends beyond that of other members of a film’s cast and crew?

Manek Premchand: It was like this. Directors were like children who had a Lego set in their hands, with infinite possibilities of creating the product they imagined. This was inspired by others excelling in the medium, not only in India but also abroad. It was an age when everyone just rolled up their sleeves to make a thing of beauty. Everyone needed money of course, but most of these people were first concerned about doing something to be remembered for. That has changed now. Most directors do exactly as the producer says, meaning money is perhaps 90% of the story. It’s as if they are following Warren Buffet who famously said, “There are two rules in the business. First, don’t lose money. Second, follow rule number 1.”

As for his role, the director is the boss, just like a captain is the boss in a plane or ship. The director interacts with everyone, the story writer, and then every single person, across the diverse areas that come together to complete a film. Most other people have really nothing much to do with the others. It is the director who takes the blame for a film’s dismal performance or a successful one. That’s why he is always named in Film Fest brochures, even if no one else is mentioned. 

Chupke Chupke

Lily Chakraborty, Jaya Bhaduri, Asrani and Hrishikesh Mukherjee at the shooting of Chupke Chupke

Jyoti Babel: Your previous works include books on Hindi cinema’s music. How did your fascination with film music contribute to your exploration of directors in this book, and do you see any notable connections between directors and music in the golden age? 

Manek Premchand: So for example I love the songs of Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966). But when I looked at the visual treatment the director gave the songs, I went wow! For example, the song Dilruba maine tere pyaar mein kya kya na kiya is sung by Dilip Kumar as he sings for Waheeda, who is also around. At one point, the lyrics get to where he needs to assure her and perhaps himself of his love for her. The setting is the ruins of Mandu, with a statue of Lord Shiva, who is the mute companion in their romance. So he looks at Lord Shiva and sings Kaun duniya se dare, jab nigehbaan hai tu? When you watch the song, the mise-en-scene amazes. Director Kardar chose the same location later to highlight Waheeda’s angst when she thinks her sweetheart has died. Only this time she has a questioning look for Lord Shiva.

Jyoti Babel: While writing about these directors did you miss writing elaborately on their music and songs because many of these films had golden songs that remain evergreen to this day? Some of the films may not have been memorable but their music was.

Manek Premchand: The subject was directors and not music, so I tried focusing on the director’s work. Since he is also involved with songs, some songs have been featured, in some detail too. Bad movie, good songs? I gave them a miss.

Jyoti Babel: DIRECTOR’S CHAIR spans 572 pages, covering numerous directors. How did you manage to maintain a cohesive narrative while delving into the diverse filmography and personalities of these directors?

Manek Premchand: By making different sections, and then looking at and crafting each person, again and again, and reading it as the reader would, maybe 40 times. Going back to the project; oh, concentration, hard work, imagination, but all that means fun, rewarding fun! I was daunted by the size and depth of the project but also excited by the fact that I was attempting it before anyone else. My own feeling is, I have climbed my own Mount Everest in this book. But as the Manna Dey song goes, “Tumar shesh bicharer aashaye“.

Baburao Patel

Baburao Patel

Jyoti Babel: Could you shed light on your writing process? How did you organize the vast amount of information you gathered during your research, and how did you decide on the structure of the book? Writing process?

Manek Premchand: My pen and pad in my living room, then to my computer in the bedroom. Then spending time in my favourite library with an ipad, reading the unfinished drafts I would mail myself. Coffee helped, excitement helped, and the discovery of great directors and their cinema helped. I learnt that Baburao Patel was a Maharashtrian whose actual surname was Patil. That there were highly educated folks making films, JBH Wadia for instance. I have always thought learning can be fun. Incidentally, I teach at Xavier Institute of Communication, Mumbai. Here I try to make my teaching driven by fun.      

Jyoti Babel: You’ve been associated with the film industry and have written extensively on music. How do you see the relationship between directors and music directors during the golden age, and did this dynamic contribute significantly to the success of the films?

Manek Premchand: Directors knew music was a key to a film’s success, and many of them were singers too. Raj Kapoor and Raj Khosla for example, were fair singers themselves. Guru Dutt had a great feel for melody. 

Jyoti Babel: With a repertoire of several books, if I ask you to compare your own books against each other, how satisfying would you say the Director’s Chair has been? 

Manek Premchand: All books are like an author’s children and since I have over 10 books, I must have been productive making babies. But on a sober note, they have all been with much merit. But I feel Director’s Chair is my best shot. It certainly flies in a higher, bigger orbit. 


Jyoti Babel: While celebrating the past, you also point out shortcomings in contemporary cinema. What do you consider the most significant lessons to be learned from the Golden Age for contemporary filmmakers? Are there values or practices from that era that should be revisited or reinterpreted in today’s context?

Manek Premchand: We cannot be divorced from the society of our time. But a clever director can and should take small risks to help make a change. Munnabhai MBBS is a great example of a contemporary film that teaches us Gandhian concepts while adding dollops of comedy and aesthetic values to the film. Club 60 is an excellent picture of a couple who lost their only son. Sarfarosh was excellent and had violence, but it wasn’t what we call gratuitous violence; the theme needed it. Three Idiots is a great take on our education. There are good filmmakers today, but maybe we do not have true visionaries. And there’s no crowd of such people. The thirst for greatness seems absent.

 Jyoti Babel: What is the next idea you are looking forward to working on?

Manek Premchand: Oh dear, nothing. Please suggest ideas. I am taking a break, getting some spa treatment, and defogging my mind too, I hope. Thanks for the interview, Jyoti

Jyoti Babel: Thank you! Wish you all the very best for many such books to come from your pen.

Manek Premchand can be reached at and 9820362010

DIRECTOR’S CHAIR — Hindi Cinema’s Golden Age

Genre : Non-Fiction/Cinema
Binding : Paperback (6.14″ x 9.25″)
Pages : 572 pages
Published : January 2024
ISBN : 978-81-956660-8-9
Price : Rs.899

More Must Read in Silhouette Interviews

Majrooh Sultanpuri: The Poet For All Reasons — ‘I Would Rate It As My Best Work,’ Says Manek Premchand

Yeh Un Dinoñ Ki Baat Hai – In Conversation with Yasir Abbasi

Exploring the World of Clayfaces with Author Shiladitya Sarkar

‘Films Must be Restored Like a Work of Art’: In Conversation with Shivendra Singh Dungarpur

‘He Only Wanted to Make Films About People He Had Direct Contact With’: Kunal Sen Remembers His Father Mrinal Sen



Creative Writing

Whether you are new or veteran, you are important. Please contribute with your articles on cinema, we are looking forward for an association. Send your writings to

Jyoti is a Content Developer and a lover of books, an Engineer by education who finally found her calling in words. Taking long walks, practising yoga, listening to music, meeting a good friend over a cup of tea, baking the perfect cake – all these little things make her happy in their own way. Jyoti enjoys writing on a wide range of topics but her favourites are food, books, travel, and culture.
All Posts of Jyoti Babel

Hope you enjoyed reading…

… we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting our creative, informative and analytical posts than ever before. And yes, we are firmly set on the path we chose when we started… our twin magazines Learning and Creativity and Silhouette Magazine (LnC-Silhouette) will be accessible to all, across the world.

We are editorially independent, not funded, supported or influenced by investors or agencies. We try to keep our content easily readable in an undisturbed interface, not swamped by advertisements and pop-ups. Our mission is to provide a platform you can call your own creative outlet and everyone from renowned authors and critics to budding bloggers, artists, teen writers and kids love to build their own space here and share with the world.

When readers like you contribute, big or small, it goes directly into funding our initiative. Your support helps us to keep striving towards making our content better. And yes, we need to build on this year after year. Support LnC-Silhouette with a little amount – and it only takes a minute. Thank you

Support LnC-Silhouette

16 thoughts on “Director’s Chair – Hindi Cinema’s Golden Age: In Conversation with Manek Premchand

  • Monica Kar

    Thanks for this interview, Jyoti and Silhouette. Loved the questions asked! If Manek’s YMTM has been my favourite so far, followed really closely by his book on Majrooh which is a class apart and perhaps not in this league as it is resplendent with Majrooh’s poetry, Director’s Chair has beat YMTM by a hairline. As Manek says in his answers above, it was a much-needed resource for film buffs. But it doesn’t stop there. It is also an entertaining and intriguing read, a feat Manek seems to have achieved effortlessly. My congratulations to you once again, Manek. May you continue to write on cinema, and may your books be read by the generations that follow for a feel not only of cinema, but of history.

    1. Manek Premchand

      Monica, your observations are spot on! This should prove to be a valuable resource, while entertaining readers at the same time. Jyoti has done her homework well, and all you guys at L n C need a round of applause 👏 ☺ Beautiful job!

    2. Jyoti Babel

      We are so glad that you enjoyed the interview. Manek Sir’s books are a gift to all cinema lovers. DC as a book is one of its kind and indeed a much-needed resource for film buffs.

  • Manek Premchand

    Monica, your observations are spot on! This should prove to be a valuable resource, while entertaining readers at the same time. Jyoti has done her homework well, and all you guys at L n C need a round of applause 👏 ☺ Beautiful job!

  • Sneh Dhingra

    A great interview by Jyoti, with Manek, elaborating on so many salient points on films, music and, importantly, film directors. There was a vast expanse to cover from how the initial foray into films must have started, when the current spate of technology had not reared its head, and film makers relied on available resources to present their stories, all the way to the current time when technology is depended on for almost everything in a movie.

    Film direction is the spine of a film. It is essential for the flow of the movie along with the brain for the completion of the idea, story, script etc. All in all, direction makes or breaks a film.

    Great interview, great thoughts from Manek in response to Jyoti’s questions. Thank you Silhouette! Good luck to Manek for the continued success of his book!

  • Sneh Dhingra

    A great interview by Jyoti, with Manek, elaborating on so many salient points on films, music and, importantly, film directors. There was a vast expanse to cover from how the initial foray into films must have started, when the current spate of technology had not reared its head, and film makers relied on available resources to present their stories, all the way to the current time when technology is depended on for almost everything in a movie.

    Film direction is the spine of a film. It is essential for the flow of the movie along with the brain for the completion of the idea, story, script etc. All in all, direction makes or breaks a film.

    Great interview, great thoughts from Manek in response to Jyoti’s questions. Thank you Silhouette! Good luck to Manek for the continued success of his book!

  • N S Rajan

    Amazing and revealing !

    To even think of undertaking such a monumental task would have been daunting. To have accomplished it with such efficiency and comprehensive coverage is a FEAT.

    I am at a loss of words to compliment Shri Manek Premchand on this labour of love and a precious record of the legends of directors of Hindi films and their work.

    I also heartily concur with his view that this book covers the era that was the most productive in terms of ‘Quality’ in the realm of Hindi films.
    KUDOS !!!


  • R Vasudevan

    Having observed or watched closely great directors at work through their movies Gurudutt was not in your list.
    Nevertheless, I am sure you would agree that he was a very good director. If yes what aspect of his direction you like most.

    My suggestion to Manekchand Sahib – idea for his next book. Masters of Song picturisation in
    Hindi films.

  • Manek Premchand

    Vasudevan ji, the world of film lovers will roast me alive if I write a book on Hindi film directors and give Guru Dutt a miss☺ In fact my wife, a Guru Dutt devotee, would probably never forgive me for such an omission. He is there sir, not only prominently in a story, but sitting centre stage on the book’s cover. Your point about him being super in the filming of songs has much merit🙏☺

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Silhouette Magazine publishes articles, reviews, critiques and interviews and other cinema-related works, artworks, photographs and other publishable material contributed by writers and critics as a friendly gesture. The opinions shared by the writers and critics are their personal opinion and does not reflect the opinion of Silhouette Magazine. Images on Silhouette Magazine are posted for the sole purpose of academic interest and to illuminate the text. The images and screen shots are the copyright of their original owners. Silhouette Magazine strives to provide attribution wherever possible. Images used in the posts have been procured from the contributors themselves, public forums, social networking sites, publicity releases, YouTube, Pixabay and Creative Commons. Please inform us if any of the images used here are copyrighted, we will pull those images down.