In 1988, Mansoor Khan was drifting through life, unsure of whether he wanted to work as an engineer, having studied at IIT Bombay, Cornell and MIT. His father, Nasir Hussain, offered him the chance at directing. He responded with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, which not only launched the career of one Aamir Khan, but also Udit Narayan, Anand-Milind and cinematographer Kiran Deohans. It also rescued the careers of Juhi Chawla and Alka Yagnik.
More importantly, QSQT rescued Bollywood itself, providing it with a lease of life after the depths the ’80s had dragged it down to. Here was a new form of storytelling, a genre that did more than just satisfy a male urge to see bad guys beaten up by a superhero figure. It also made music relevant again, with Anand-Milind’s glorious melodies paving the way for the great film music of the ’90s, and winning the first Filmfare for music awarded since 1985. In Papa Kehtey Hain, the film provided an anthem to a generation that would go on to privilege their dreams over their parents and break the stranglehold of conventionality on their lives.
The industry would eventually play true to form, appropriating the film’s Romeo-and-Juliet storyline as its new default formula, after a while producing films that weren’t much better than its offerings in the late ’80s. Khan himself chose not to slave it with the hacks, gracefully retiring after three more films — Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, Akele Hum Akele Tum and Josh — to take up organic cheese farming, a new trend he is backing in an attempt to break the dependence on an agriculture that he calls “taking steroids”. While his contemporaries remain absorbed in the giant fishbowl that Bollywood has become, Khan has engaged with the real world, having maintained an association with the Narmada Bachao Andolan and the various environmental questions that agitation has thrown up. More recently, as author of The Third Curve: The End of Growth As We Know It, Khan makes a passionate, powerfully-argued case for alternate energy sources, arguing not just from a moral platform but from a deeply pragmatic one as he explores the inevitability of slowing growth as resources dwindle.
Well-reviewed and critically acclaimed, the book serves to establish Khan as a powerful, vocal voice in India’s energy debate; one who offers tangible solutions and a valuable blueprint for policy and decision-makers seeking to find sustainable solutions.