Saturday, December 02, 2006

Tej Sapru Fan Club

In the idealistic days of college, when we used to watch Battleship Potemkin and The Bicycle Thieves in standing-room-only auditoria, we always wanted to do something to uplift the level of cinematic knowledge of the country. We - as in - yours truly and a gentleman whose roll number was just one before mine and has distinguished himself to the readers of this blog by his comments, which are at least as frequent as the posts!

So, Nilendu and I figured that the French New Wave, the avant garde makers from FTII and the Italian maestros were getting enough publicity from everybody (Satyajit Ray downwards). So, we needed to promote artistes from a much-neglected yet as influential ouevre - namely, Bollywood B-grade cinema.
With this lofty aim, we started the Tej Sapru Fan Club.
If this had been a speech, I know my next three sentences would have got drowned under the din of "WHO THE F*** IS TEJ SAPRU???" But since this isn't, I will now explain who he is, why we intended to be his fans and what was the broader aim of this club.

Okay, first things first, Tej Sapru is son of the character actor - Sapru. Oh damn, now you want to know who Sapru is? All right, all right... I will start again!

Well, in Hindi cinema, there are the stars. And there are the character artistes. We only remember the stars - and completely forget the rest. But these character artistes (having acted in hundreds of films) are sometimes as recognisable as the stars themselves. However, the tragedy is that nobody knows their real names - except for a few like Iftekhar, A K Hangal and Jagdish Raaj.
(Interesting aside: While Iftekhar and Jagdish Raaj made their millions from playing police officers in countless films, the biggest film they starred in – Deewaar – had both of them playing smugglers!)
For us, Tej Sapru was the symbol of all the nameless millions who worked day and night raping heroines, judging trials and getting beaten up - all for entertaining us! So, the mission of the Club was to identify these wonderful people (in general and Tej Sapru in specific!) and popularise them to the public by associating them with their most recognisable film role!
For example, we envisaged the following conversation:
X: My favourite actor is Robert De Niro. Whose work do you like?
DC: Tej Sapru.
X: (Pregnant pause) Umm... which picture did he last appear in?
DC: Last I don't know. But he was the crooked show manager in Tezaab who wants to marry Madhuri Dixit.
X: Ah... him!
So, you see Tej Sapru is not as vague as it sounded initially! In fact, he has an impressive body of work as Amrish Puri's son in Tridev, one of the rapists in Zakhmi Aurat and Pathans in several movies because of his fair complexion and light eyes!

Other artistes of such stature include:

Yunus Parvez - Rahim Chacha of Deewaar.
Though, Nilendu is inclined to believe that his most impactful role is that of the nose-hair-pulling clerk in Golmaal! He has also been seen as a poetry publisher in Saajan and Raveena Tandon's boss in Mohra. Incidentally, Mohra is the only film that we can remember where he died!

Sharat Saxena - Raunaq Singh a.k.a Ronnie of Ghulam.
He spent all of 1980's being the inaugural side-kick of the villain (who is the first goon to be beaten up, when the hero makes an appearance) to slowly work his way towards the climax. The crowning glory of his career being the bloody fist-fight he had with Aamir Khan in Vikram Bhatt's first hit.

Goga Kapoor - Juhi Chawla's dad in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak.
He probably holds the world record of appearing in the maximum number of movies with his real name as his screen name! The rest of times he has been featured with very un-confusing names like Shaitan Singh (Toofan), Durjan Singh and Zaalim Singh.

Huma Khan - the doodh-waali of Maine Pyar Kiya.
Before she attained some amount of respectability as a staple side-piece (usually comic) in the Barjatya wedding videos, Huma was the undisputed queen of that genre of Hindi films, which specialised in lady dacoits and Tarzan romances. Though, considering that she was Shakti Kapoor's love interest in Hum Saath Saath Hain, how much more respectability she got out of Rajshri is debatable!

Satyen Kappu - Ramlal (the Thakur's servant) of Sholay.
He was the orginal do-gooder of Hindi cinema before Alok Nath came and usurped that position. A noted theatre actor (associated with IPTA), he had to supplement his earnings by playing munim-naukar-chacha to far lesser actors. It is rumoured that he was the one whose recommendation of Amjad Khan to Ramesh Sippy led to one more junior actor going past him!

Unfortunately, Bombay is the only place in the country where such artistes are recognized – and that too, in a perverse way... through the identification of their residences. But even within that, there is a rigid caste system as lesser actors have to anchor themselves on to bigger stars!
Sample this conversation between my aunt and her chauffeur, for example:
My Aunt (MA): Mahesh, yeh Kabab Mahal restaurant kahan hain?
Mahesh (Ma): Madam, Shefali Chhaya ke ghar ke paas! (:-o How does one go about finding out where Shefali Chhaya lives?)
MA: Matlab, Bipasha Basu jahan PG rehti thi? (Wow – this combines history with geography!)
Ma: Nahin madam, Sanjay Dutt ke purane flat ke baju wala galli! (Speechless!)
MA: Achha – Dilip Kumar ke ghar se aagey!
Ma: Haan madam!

Brilliant... more such people are required to take forward the ideals of TSFC!


nilendu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
OrangeJammies said...

You blogged what's often been on my mind! I've always wondered about side-kick actors ..or character artistes, as anybody not from Bombay would call them ;-)
Was going to mention Mac Mohan but Nilendu already did.
Seriously, Diptakirti...your blog should be made required reading for any Bollywood Appreciation course anywhere!

the mad momma said...

Dipta: I actually recall Satyen Kapu and Huma Khan.. i am sorry to say, Tej Sapru still doesn't ring a bell.

And I have finally figured out your modus operandi.... you insult bloggers so that they come to your blog to insult you and so you get traffic... hmm....

Diligent Candy said...

Sir, we have been fans of your blog for a month now, just thought I would drop in to say hello and thank you!

anantha said...

Aaah Tej Sapru! Incidentally, I saw Bloodstone just a couple of days ago. I am sure no one apart from hardcore Rajinikanth fans will remember it. But in 1987, Rajinikant did his first and only mainstream Hollywood movie (if you can take the liberty to call it that) directed by Dwight Little, whose resume includes gems such as the Wesley Snipes flick, Murder at 1600 and the second of the Anacondas. Anyways, it was set in India and among the smattering of Indian side characters were Tej Sapru and Bob Christo. Both of them played the henchmen of the Brit art smuggler, wearing pathan type salwars minus the head gear. Tej Sapru even wears oversized Aviators and his introduction scene is as cheesy as it can get.
Sapru walks to the foyer of the smuggler's lair / bunglaow and see's a bevy of swimsuit clad white and brown babes and ogles at them! The smuggler dude tiptoes to Sapru and actually puts a knife at his throat and mouths some inane line about how he (Sapru) makes his life interesting or something. He leaves Sapru with a bloody scratch and orders him to clean up the blood (cos he hates it) before meeting him elsewhere! Typical 80's kistch! And to top it all, it had my man Rajinikant at his best as the taxi driver Shyam who finds the blood red diamond called Bloodstone in the trunk of his taxi! Priceless movie!

Aqua said...

oh i reber tej sapru all right...mostly in judge wala roles. trivia abt him - his daughter's name is preeti sapru and she used to act in hindi films as well...mostly the hero's sister roles.

i think iftikar had more roles as "doctor uncle". my abiding memory of iftikar is him in a white coat saying "ab isse davaon ki nahin, duaaon ki zaroorat hai".

i used to really like this actor called naseer hussain (not the director). he had such nice kind eyes. he used to play the 'dad' wala roles. and would balraj sahni come in this category?

Sunil Deepak said...

Once in a Delhi cinema hall, while watching Sholey, I saw Sudhir & Macmohan. I guess Sudhir can also be part of your list. I felt bad for them, they were known and recognisable, but no body gave them any bhaav! I remember almost all the persons you mention including Taj Sapru and his dad and his sister as well - maybe you need to be a small timer to understand and sympathasize with other small timers, those who missed the bus! I wonder if they do feel that way?

Gautam Ghosh said...

good one !

I knew about Yunus parvez, Huma Khan and Satyen Kappu !

I guess our parents knew more about these artistes as the number of stars in the 60s and 70s were so limited too :)

Idle Muller said...

Just bumped into your blog whilst browsing around on a slow work day. It was worth every minute.

One of the old blogs from your cinema section reminded me of the 1st day 1st show of Hum I saw at Priya, where the pragmatic public were showering the screen with bottle caps rather than coins.

Re. Tej Sapru, I was thinking in a similar vein about Ranjeet, the unsung hero (for want of a better word) of the Bollywood lowlife. There have been numerous lecherous baddies before and after him, but none of them can touch him for the sheer pleasure he derives from an impending rape.

If there can be any criticism, it cannot be of his acting prowess in those scenes, but only his technique which always started by ripping open the blouse sleeves and performing obscure moves from roman wrestling, that led to very little success aside from giving the hero ample time to 'aglay' the best laid plans of mice and men.

After all, Ranjeet is still the most popular name given to lecherous eye candy seekers.

Dipta Chaudhuri said...

I usually don't reply to comments but now there are too many of them to ignore!

OJ: Thanks. Bollywood Appreciation Course is exactly what our contry needs!

MM: I will buy you a CD of Tezaab and show who Tej Sapru is!

DC: Thank you. Thank you. Pls drop in oftener!

Anantha: Fantastic. Only shows that that Tej Sapru is the only foil to Rajnikanth this country could produce!

Aqua: The person you are referring to is Sapru, Tej and Priti's dad. He is the one who played Neetu Singh's dad in Deewaar.
And Balraj Sahni is way too big for this category!

SD: Macmohan was mobbed for the first time after he starred in Sholay. Read Anupama Chopra's lovely book on the film.

GG: Only old fogeys like you and me remember the 70s!

IM: If you were in Priya for the FDFS of Hum, you beat me by 3 hrs. I watched the matinee show! And Ranjeet IS the epitome of lechery. He made a film called Karobaar (I think) starring Vinod Khanna, Anu Agarwal and himself. Imagine the mayhem!

Nilendu: WHY THE EFF HAVE YOU REMOVED YOUR COMMENT??? It makes the whole post incomplete!

nilendu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George said...

If I'm not mistaken, Tej Sapru made his debut with the Mithun classic Surraksha (he had an "introducing" credit) ... he plays an ill-fated agent and participates in one of the most egregious chase sequence montages in Bollywood

RangaKhush said...

finally i found some like minded people....hey guys if u find this kinda stuff entertaining then come visit my newly opened blog, its just a bit more insulting and degrading.
The blog can be visited by clicking on my Nickname

malini said...

Usually these unnamed actress are available for night duty. I have myself humped quite a few of them like, sonu walia, khusboo, neelam, anita raaj etc., Some of them come very cheap too.

Anonymous said...

I'm obsessed with character actors (and I'm a gori girl who's only been watching Hindi films for 5-6 years!) dream is to write a book about all these unsung people (and I know who all the ones you listed are too :-)

Great post! (I am starting a Ranjeet Fan Club, because I think he's totally hot)...

TheQuark said...

awesome man!! even i am hooked to character actors who never got their fair due.

Yunus Parvez had an awesome role as the diamond cutter in Angoor. He had such an impeccable Urdu pronunciation, poori nafasat aur nazakat se saath

I had a humble posts which stands no water against this master piece :

lesser known is sulabha deshpande because she got stereotypical mother roles way below her histrionic skills. e.g. as Deepti Naval's mother in Ghar ho to aisa where she dies in front of her daughter's house and Bindu the mother in law asks her son to throw her body somewhere!!

@memsaahstory: You know at least one person would buy your book for sure, go ahead write that book.

Abhishek Mukherjee said...

Huh? Do all these people mean that Tej Sapru is someone people actually DO NOT know? :O