Indian American filmmaker and stage director Krishna Shah passes away

Indian American filmmaker Krishna Shah, who had made several films in India before immigrating to the United States where he gained fame in Hollywood and the Broadway stage, passed away earlier this week in Mumbai.

Aged 75, he had been ill since he suffered a stroke last year.

Shah is best remembered in India for ‘Shalimar’, which he wrote and directed in 1978. It starred Dharmendra, Zeenat Aman, O P Ralhan, Shreeram Lagoo, Rex Harrison, Silvia Miles, John Saxon, Shammi Kapoor, Prem Nath, and Aruna Irani among others.

Other films that he is remembered for include ‘Cinema Cinema’, a documentary about Bollywood that screened at the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes which he co-wrote and directed; ‘Hard Rock Zombies’, released by Cannon; and ‘American Drive-In’, which he also co-wrote, directed and produced. Indian films included ‘Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Ramayana’ (1992), which he re-wrote as ‘The Prince of Light’ in 2000 when it was directed by Yugo Sako.

In the last few years, Shah had been more involved with films about India, and had been working since 2009 on the research on an ambitious biopic of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

He held a series of story-telling seminars for aspiring filmmakers in Mumbai; while he also helped fledgling diaspora filmmakers such as Harish Saluja and Nagesh Kukunoor by presenting the films at festivals and in the marketplace in India.

Born in India and a graduate of Yale and UCLA, Shah was probably the first Asian-American writer/director/producer to win critical acclaim both in Hollywood and on Broadway.

He co-authored and directed a South African stage play called ‘Sponono’ on Broadway, and adapted and directed an adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘The King of the Dark Chamber’ which ran for a year and received two OBIE awards.

Other off-Broadway productions included Kalidasa’s ‘Shakuntala’, Athol Fugard’s ‘Bloodknot’ and Milton Hood Ward’s ‘Kindly Monies’ staged at the New Arts Theatre in London.

His screenplays included ‘Island in Harlem’ for MGM, ‘April Morning’ for Samuel Goldwyn Jr. and the psychiatric thriller ‘Rivals’ which he also produced and directed. ‘River Niger’ starring Cicely Tyson, James Earl Jones and Lou Gosset Jr. earned awards at festivals and a Golden Globe nomination as well. His animated feature film ‘The Prince of Light’ was long listed for the 2002 Academy Awards in its feature animation category.

He was known in American television as well, having written and/or directed several hit shows such as ‘The Man From UNCLE’, ‘Love American Style’, ‘The Flying Nun’ and ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’; and was an entertainment entrepreneur who served as president and CEO of Double Helix Films, the Carnegie Film Group and MRI Inc., a production and distribution company.

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