"Ali Baba and 40 robbers": Why they did not shoot a movie with the top artists of the USSR on a musical hit, although they sold 3 million records
"Ali Baba and 40 robbers": Why they did not shoot a movie with the top artists of the USSR on a musical hit, although they sold 3 million records

This performance, according to its author, was born as a result, and as a result became one of the brightest cultural events of the early 1980s. In the USSR, 3 million records of "Ali Baba" were sold, and the actors, whose voices spoke and sang the heroes of the fairy tale, were recognized on the street: the phrase "Eat an orange!" became among the people as beloved as once "Mulya, don't make me nervous!" After this triumph, Veniamin Smekhov, the author of the cult performance, ceased to be perceived by Soviet audiences only as "Athos". In 2021, it will be 40 years since the recording of the performance at the Melodiya studio.

Once, in the late 70s, Veniamin Smekhov, together with his colleagues, the actors of the Taganka Theater, went on a tour to Tallinn. On the way, so as not to get bored, Veniamin Borisovich read aloud his new play - "Ali Baba and 40 robbers". Colleagues laughed so long and sincerely that the author had to admit: the new creation really deserves attention. Cheerful and light text, subtle humor and at the same time a real oriental flavor - the new interpretation of the old plot was unique. The tale immediately found so many fans that the decision to make a film based on it was made quite quickly.

Album cover "Ali Baba and 40 robbers

For the future movie fairy tale, even a director was identified - Vladimir Alexandrovich Grammatikov was ready to take on the work, who had just finished filming "The Dog Was Walking on the Piano." According to the authors' idea, Rolan Bykov must have taken part in the new "Ali Baba". However, when the script was brought to the studio for filing an application, an unpleasant detail emerged: a similar film is already being filmed, and it is Rolan Bykov who plays the chieftain of the robbers in it.

The large-scale international project "The Adventures of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" became a real gift for the Soviet audience: the film, following the canons of the beloved Indian cinema with stars in the lead roles, filmed in the historical scenery of Tashkent, Dushanbe and Bukhara, amazed the imagination. Of course, a year later, this tape became the leader of the film distribution, but on the adaptation of Smekhov's play a fat cross was put up - our cinema at that time could not afford two fairy tales with almost the same name.

Posters of the Soviet-Indian film "The Adventures of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves"

To prevent the project from gathering dust "in the tables" of the authorities, Veniamin Borisovich decided to turn his creation into a musical performance and release it on a disc. The script was brought to "Melody", but even then a snag arose. The new version of the Arab fairy tale seemed to the studio management "dubious", the author had to "barter": Smekhov wrote the script for a patriotic audio performance based on the early works of Gorky, which was released for the anniversary of the Komsomol, and received full carte blanche to create his "hooligan" fairy tale.

It is interesting that at first Smekhov dreamed of completely different music for this performance. According to the idea, the songwriter was supposed to be Alfred Schnittke. Yuri Vizbor advised him against, telling Smekhov that there are composers who are more understandable, with a sense of humor, however, they are candidates of science. Sergei Nikitin and Viktor Berkovsky were indeed not only musicians, but also professors: one of physics and mathematics, the other of technical sciences.It was they who became the authors of the music that could soon be heard from open windows in any Soviet courtyard. By the way, the number of music tracks in the performance is huge - more than 25 songs were written for it.

Oleg Tabakov Armen Dzhigarkhanyan - the main characters of the fairy tale "Ali Baba and 40 robbers"

The list of actors for the unusual production was truly stellar: Oleg Tabakov, Tatyana Nikitina, Sergei Yursky, Armen Dzhigarkhanyan, Natalya Tenyakova, Leonid Filatov and, of course, the author himself, Veniamin Smekhov, in the role of Mustafa the shoemaker, the storyteller of the fairy tale “in a new way ". By the way, the two main characters-antagonists of the play then staged this performance on the stages of their own theaters: the theater of Armen Dzhigarkhanyan began with the production of "Ali Baba", and in "Snuffbox" they were going to make the play their trademark, like Vakhtangov's "Turandot".

A real movie based on a script by Veniamin Smekhov never came out. The only attempt (not counting the New Year's remake) was the shooting of the TV show, which took place in 1983 at Lentelefilm. They created the play heroically, overcoming many difficulties: for the sake of some actors, the shooting had to be moved to Moscow (all the scenery was brought there), but even so Tabakov was able to devote to Ali Baba only a few days out of his busy schedule. As a result, after 24 hours of continuous work, he was taken away from the studio in an ambulance. The finished performance, as often happened, was put on the shelf. The leadership of the State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company explained this decision by political motives: "a possible misunderstanding of 'our humor' and insult on the part of modern Iran and our Arab friends."

TV version of the play "Ali Baba and 40 robbers"

Theatrical fate of the musical Soviet "Ali Baba" was much more successful than the television fate. For 40 years the play has been staged with great success on the stages of different theaters, in different cities, throughout the now former USSR. It was shown even in Haifa, in Hebrew, - the author himself became the director of this production.

Veniamin Smekhov can serve as an example of a hackneyed phrase about "people who are talented in everything." We all know him as an actor, however, in addition, Veniamin Borisovich is a director of television plays and documentaries, screenwriter, TV presenter and writer. All the women of the USSR dreamed of him, but already in adulthood, Sudden love and eternal spring fell like snow on his head

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