Sunday, August 31, 2008

Trivia of Epical Proportions

Two of India’s most fascinating stories – Ramayan and Mahabharat – thrive on repetition. Right from the time we hear it from our grandparents to the time we are subjected to the Ekta Kapoor version, there is no suspense element in the stories. We know exactly what is going to happen, how, when and where. We are in it to track our favourite characters and their antics. And repeated viewings / hearings only make the associations stronger and lead to more layers being unearthed.

For example, my favourite story (sub-story?) of Mahabharat is the part about Abhimanyu. Here is this foetus who hears his father explain to his mother how to enter the Chakravyuha. Obviously, the technique was not breathtakingly interesting stuff and his mother falls asleep – and so does he along with her – and the unborn child never gets to know how to break out of it. As a teenager and a hero in the battle of Kurukshetra, he offers to break into the Chakravyuha. Inside the vyuha, he is trapped all alone and fights the seven Kaurava maharathis (Karna, Duryodhan, Duhshasan, Dronacharya, Kripacharya, Ashwathama, Jayadrath) valiantly before being killed.

Now, there’s more to this story.
We know that Abhimanyu did not know how to come out of the Chakravyuha, but how come none of the Paandavs managed to follow him inside? Arjun was engaged in a battle elsewhere. But the other four brothers were thwarted by Jayadrath. And what gave Jayadrath such powers that he managed to beat them? Jayadrath had been given a boon by Lord Shiv that he would be able to defeat all the Paandavs except Arjun for one day. Just one. And Jayadrath encashed that boon on that day, when Abhimanyu was killed.
End of story? Not quite.
On hearing of Abhimanyu’s death, Arjun put the blame squarely on Jayadrath and vowed to kill him the very next day before sunset. Or else, he would self-immolate. Now this caused huge hope in the Kaurav camp. Dronacharya summarised that if they managed to protect Jayadrath for that one day, the Paandavs would lose Arjun and that would be the end of their campaign. So, Jayadrath was hidden inside a Shuchi-vyuha (eye of a needle) inside a Chakravyuha. And in a day of battle like no other, Arjun made a mad rush towards Jayadrath. However, when it became obvious that he wouldn’t reach him before sunset, Krishna did a trick and covered the sun. Thinking it was the sunset, Jayadrath jumped out of his chariot and ran up to Arjun, exhorting him to immolate himself. Seeing the defenceless jerk, Krishna uncovered the sun and there was still an over of play left. Arjun hit a six and chopped his head off in one clean shot of an arrow.
All’s well that ends well? Yes, but one twist was still left.
Jayadrath’s father had blessed his son once by saying that if any person causing Jayadrath’s head to fall to the ground would have his own head broken into a thousand pieces. Lovely. So what does Arjun do? He cuts off Jayadrath’s head with one arrow and with six more arrows, he transported the severed head several hundred miles away, where his father was sitting in meditation and dropped it on his lap. Jayadrath’s father saw his son’s head on lap and stood up in shock, causing the head to fall on the ground. And his own head shattered into a hundred pieces.
This one small plot has enough twists, turns, dilemmas, solutions, bravery and bravado to last us a lifetime. Is it possible to learn something from the mother’s womb? Was it ethical to for seven warriors to gang up against a teenaged boy? Why was it necessary for Arjun to make a promise that could have killed him? How could Krishna cover the sun when he promised not to interfere in the battle?

Bengalis are fortunate enough to have access to a brilliant man’s translation of the two epics. Rajshekhar Basu (also known by his nom-de-plume, Parashuram) had a lucid writing style and he transcreated the two epics wonderfully. Generations of Bengalis brushed up their childhood memories of the two epics with these two volumes and continuously returned to them for both the seamless narration and the gripping storylines held great appeal.

Recently, I bought two books on the two epics, which were summarised readings of the two along with a collection of trivia. Trivia is something that I am inexhorably drawn towards. On top of that, there are enough references in these two epics to our socio-cultural history to make them quite addictive.

For example, the dyansty of Ram is documented from 63 generations before him and had Harishchandra (he of truthfulness and Dadasaheb Phalke fame) among the earlier kings. It also had a king by the name of Mandhata (estd 3458 BC) and that is why, extremely old things in Bengali are referred to as Mandhatar aamol (the age of Mandhata)!

Raam and Sita got married when he was thirteen and she was six! They remained in Ayodhya for about 12 years before their exile and in exile for about 14 years. This means, Ram became the king at the age of 39 and ruled for about 30 years before he passed away.

Interestingly, the North Indian view of the world (as it existed beyond the Vindhyas) was quite partisan. The inhabitants of Kishkindhya (present day Bellary district of Karnataka) were monkeys and the inhabitants of Lanka were demons. Even if you are an Indian cricket fan and have seen this often enough, it does strike you as rather demeaning to the Lankans!

The geographical coordinates of Mahabharat are also firmly entrenched around the Delhi NCR. For services rendered in teaching the Hastinapur princes, Dronacharya was given a village on the outskirts of the capital. People started calling it Guru Gaon before DLF and Ansal made the Mall Mile and it became famous as Gurgawan!

In a last ditch attempt to avoid war, the ultimate do-gooder Yudhishthir asked for five villages for the five brothers (which Duryodhan rejected by saying he won't give "enough earth to cover a needle head" without war). The five villages were the eminently recognisable Indraprastha, Sonepat, Panipat and Baghpat while the fifth one is relatively unknown Tilpat.

The two most important parts of the two epics - the two wars lasted only about 18 days each. The Mahabharat war has been documented more accurately with a day-wise casualty list, while the Ramayan war is less accurate but now signposted with festivals. The first day of the Durga Puja (Mahalaya) is when Ram invoked the goddess for her blessings when the battle got really tough and ten days later, he KO'ed Raavan on Dussehra / Vijaya Dashami (before returning to Ayodhya couple of weeks later on Diwali).

And the details... the five Paandavs had codenames for each other when they were in exile (Jay, Jayanta, Vijay, Jayatsen, Jayadwal). The five brothers assumed names when they were hiding in King Viraat's court (Kanka, Ballab, Brihannala, Granthik and Tantipal). Even their conches had names (Anantavijay, Poundra, Debdatta, Sughosh, Manipushpak). Wow! Not to mention that each of them had one overwhelming sin, for which they were unable to reach heaven alive. Even the super-virtuous Yudhishthir had to go through a tour of hell for that one itsy-bitsy-teenie-weenie-yellow-polka-dotted sin that he did!

You know about that, don't you?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shakti: Dialogues of Bollywood Actresses

A good blog post deserves another. JAP has extended his erudition to Bollywood and written very entertainingly on the wonderful lines that our stars have maaro-ed in landmark films. He has ended his post with a thought on the lack (or paucity) of great lines uttered by women on-screen - which obviously merits a long post (and that's the one you are about to read).
Indeed, it is worth a sweat to see if there are lines beyond "Beta, yeh to khushi ke aansoo hain" and "Nahhhhiiiinnnn"!

Indian heroines - mothers, sisters, heroines - have simpered in the background for most part and even when they have come to the foreground with a solid author-backed role, they have remained the stoic, silent and resilient types - leaving the chest-thumping part to Sunny Deol and the like.
Jaya Bhaduri, Nutan, Meena Kumari did tons of roles like that and won megatons of awards but I cannot think of a single dialogue from Kora Kagaz, Bandini or Pakeezah. Bobby said "Mujhse dosti karoge?" and that was it. Rekha did a landmark tawaif role in Muqaddar Ka Sikandar and all I remember is the song, Salaam-e-Ishq.
So much so, when I sit down to compile the list of my favourite dialogues by actresses, I am often stumped because I clearly remember the context and the content but the exact words often escape me.
This was definitely not a problem for me when I compiled my list of favourite dialogues (which, by an unhappy coincidence, were all by actors) and I got the words down exactly. But trying to recall my favourite dialogues by actresses, I had trouble recalling the exact words.
But even then, I believe that there can still be a substantial list consisting of the best words spewed by a woman - usually in the context of a complicated quote involving hell, fury and scorn!

Hema Malini is arguably the most successful Hindi film heroine of all times. She ruled tinsel town from mid-60s to end-70s (early 80s?) and looks breathtakingly beautiful in her Baghban-type roles even now.
She spoke so much in Sholay that you were hard-pressed to remember the memorable lines from the encyclopaedia. Of course, there is the landmark Chal Dhanno, aaj tere Basanti ka izzat ka sawaal hain, which immortalised Dhanno in filmi folklore!
But my favourite is the one in which she shatters all notions about simple village folk by saying, Basanti tum jaiso ko tange mein bithake gaon ke char chakkar lagake taisun tak chhod sakti hain... Haan!
But her all-time bestest line has to be the one from Seeta Aur Geeta, in which she hit back at her aunt's (Manorama) pseudo-affectionate Neeche aa jaa, beti with a super-cocky Upar aa ja, Moti! Of course, you remember that she was sitting on a ceiling fan in a police station when she said that.

Deewaar turned the fortune of two people. The obvious one is Amitabh Bachchan. It also cemented Nirupa Roy's position as the Ultimate Mother Icon of Bollywood.
To Amitabh's angry lines in which he exhorted his hapless brother to jao, pehle uska sign leke aao, she aggressively punched back saying - "Jisne tere baap se sign liya tha, woh tera kaun tha? Jisne tere ma ko naukri se nikala tha, woh tera kaun tha? Jisne tere haath likh diya tha ki tera baap chor hain, woh tera kaun tha? Koi nahin. Lekin main to tera maa hoon. Tune mere maathe pe kaise likh diya ki tera beta chor hain?" Warped logic - but very potent.
But then, this is nothing compared to her pre-climax adrenaline pump.
First, she handed the official revolver to her younger son and said, "Goli chalate waqt tere haath na knaap jaaye." And then, she left for the mandir. "Ek aurat apni farz nibha chuki hain. Ab ek maa apne bete ka intezar karne jaa rahi hain..."

The Mother Icon, of course, has been a staple on the Indian screen for a very long time though it was never as memorable (and hyped?) as in Mother India. Nargis wallowed in mud, lost her husband, brought up two wimpy sons (who became fine when they grew up!), rejected the advances of the most despicable looking villain in history (no Indecent Proposal here!), remained pathetically poor and accused Satyajit Ray of glorifyingly poverty in his films!
When she threatened her Bad Son with a gun, he taunted her by saying, "Tu mujhe maar nahin sakti. Tu mera maa hain." She shot back (literally) with "Main pehle ek aurat hoon, Birju, aur gaon ki izzat mera izzat hain."

Mughal-e-Azam is typically seen as the battle between two Alpha Males but it also has some lovely lines by the women of the film. The most famous line of the film is sung and remains unblemished even after five decades - Jab pyaar kiya to darna kya?
In a romantic scene with her lover, she accepts rose thorns with grace and says, "Zeh naseeb, kaanton ko murjhane ka darr nahin hota."
There are other gems to be had as well. In a memorable scene, Jodhabhai (Durga Khote) says, "Hindustan tumhara dil nahin hain ki ek laundi uspar hukumat kare." And Salim replies, "Mera dil bhi Hindustan nahin hain ki aap uspar hukumar kare."

Sridevi - who reigned in the middle 80s - achieved that one hallmark of superstardom that many of her successors have not yet achieved. A superhit with her in a double role. Only the biggest stars of the Bolly firmament have achieved this rare feat.
Chaalbaaz, an unabashed copy of the Seeta Aur Geeta plot, can be considered to be totally original simply because of Sridevi's zany freshness. As Anju and Manju, she was like a schizophrenic on steroids! Romancing Sunny Deol and Rajnikanth, she ate both of them up with her comic timing and OTT dialogue delivery. To Rajni the Taxi Driver, she said, "Main madira nahin peeti ji" and brought the house down.

Another lady who ruled in the 1980s was Shabana Azmi, with a string of powerhouse performances. One of her meatiest roles came in Mahesh Bhatt's Arth, where she is deserted by her husband for a top actress. The film moves rather unwieldily between infidelity, flesh trade, domestic violence and unrequited love before settling towards a very subtle climax. Shabana's husband returns to her (because the star becomes mentally ill) and asks her to take him back. She quietly asks, "Mujhse agar yahin galti hota, toh kya tum mujhe apna lete?" The husband says no and she shuts the door on him.

In recent times, there has been another performer in the same league as Shabana - Konkona Sen Sharma. She has built up an impressive body of work and at least two of her lines have stayed with me.
To a gay friend who she had caught in bed with her boyfriend, she took a wicked dig in Page 3 by saying, "Next time, lock the door" when she saw him chatting up another guy. Very plain in isolation but when taken in context, it does come alive.
And in Omkara, she gets under the skin of a UP village girl effortlessly and gets the nuances and the lilts of the dialect just right. To a depressed friend, she says "Hansi badi mehngi ho gayi hain re" and suffuses the scene with a melancholy air.

One key reason why women have had fewer lines of consequence in screenplays is the image of the demure pativrata. After all, her duty has always been to helpfully hand over a tumbler of warm milk to the husband on the suhaag raat bed.
In Aradhana, when she is actually asked to wish for something, the heroine (Sharmila Tagore) dreamily said, "Main kya mangoo? Mujhe toh sab bin mange hi mil gaya." (one of my favourites, because of the way Sharmila said it).
She is never expected to ask anything. Least of all, sex.
Vyjayanthimala did dress up as a Parisian chorus girl in Sangam and rued her luck because Kya karoon Ram? Mujhe buddha mil gaya! but the wanton displays of desire were typically left to Helen and Bindu in smoky night clubs.
Which is why my jaw dropped when Priyanka Chopra pinned Akshay Kumar to the wall in Aitraaz and said, "Main tumhe apni biwi ko chhodne ke liye nahin keh raha hoon. I am only asking you to sleep with me." Probably for the first time in mainstream Hindi cinema, a heroine asked for sex so brazenly.

And, finally all I have left is a line (which I now realise) that should have been in my list of the favourite dialogues of all times. More so, because the luminous lady who said it was my first (and last?) Bollywood crush. In Prakash Jha's Mrityudand, when Ayub Khan tried to impose himself on his wife, Madhuri Dixit turned around and said through clenched teeth, "Aap mere pati hain. Parameshwar banne ke koshish mat kijiye."
Hallelujah - Shakti speaks!

So, have I managed to make you believe that women have strewn loads of pearls in Bollywood or not? To quote Geet in Jab We Met, aap issi mein convince ho gaye ho ki main aur boloon?

UPDATED TO ADD: Given that 'Bangaliyon ka gender nahin hota', the 'mera's and 'meri's in the above post are all wonky (as several perceptive commenters have pointed out). Thousand apologies for that!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Famous Five!

The first one is from Filmfare and the second one is from Screen. Or, you could call one a Critics' Choice and the other the Popular one. And a thank you speech has been requested as well - on the lines of Dharmendra! Thankfully, I don't have too many people to blame for my misadventures on blogosphere.
There's Udayan - who made me start and then there's Mad Momma - who gave me traffic. In fact, both the gentle ladies who have given me the honour found me through MM.
Or maybe I should thank my Bosses (always a good idea!) who sent me on long tours, where most of the posts happened.
Thanking my wife (an even better idea!) is an option as well, for having to grin and bear it.
Then there's Amitav Ghosh to thank - for lending me the name and a lot of traffic (misguided souls who come looking for Antar and Murugan).
Thanking him is also in order - not only for having provided fodder for about 90% of the content but being the sounding-board for the other 10% as well.
Damn - I go on for eternity after saying I have nothing to say!

Now comes the difficult part, where I have to pass on the prize to seven other worthies. I can wriggle out of the chore by pointing the readers towards my blogroll. Or, I can tick off two names by giving the prize back to DC and ITW.
But instead I will take the opportunity to list down 7 sites, which I read regularly but have been lazy enough not to update my blogroll with.

And in alphabetical order, they are:

55 Words - This is where my Fetish of Pachpan started!

Calcutta, All the Way - 'We were all there once' and these guys have a wonderful sense of humour (not to mention, aesthetics) to prove it.

Ganga Mail - A Kishore Kumar loving Bong from Benares, living in Chennai. Enough said!

Jabberwock - Balanced, humourous takes on books, cinema, sports and life in Delhi.

Kookie Jar - a lovely collection of illustrations and designs, punctuated with pithy comments

Simple Desultory Philippic - Very erudite, very droll, very Bong.

Whatay - Sidin Vadukut's not-updated-enough blog on the Yuppie, Malayali way of life.


to Add (21 Aug):

Wait! Wait!! Wait!!!
Just when I thought that the award season has drawn to a close, two more have landed up - prompting me to change the title as well (from the earlier Ek Ka Do).
You could call them Zee and IIFA, if you wish!

Further Updated (1 Sep):

And the title of the post changes yet again (from One Two Ka Four) as Stardust has come in with yet another award. Really, this is quite stupendous!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Eight: Return of The Preview

About 13 months back, I wrote a preview of 7 books I was eagerly awaiting to on the date 07.07.07. As I took out the multi-creased sheet of paper (on which I maintain my to-buy list) from my wallet today, I realised I have managed to tick off most of those seven books and have a longer list now. Of which, I will list down 8 titles - which should have come out on 08.08.08 but I am getting late for most things these days.  

Sea of Poppies (Amitav Ghosh): Books like these often get crushed under the weight of the expectations. Not only is his existing bibliography super-impressive, even the future (that starts with this one) tends to become awe-inducing with the blurbs that promise a trilogy on the maritime and narcotic history of the country. Currently, this Rs 599 tome is up there in all the bestseller lists, getting fabulous reviews and priming me up to steal my mother-in-law's copy! If the book is really as good as everybody is making out to be, I will seriously consider changing the name of this blog to Sea of Poppies. After all, what do I write that does not sound like ramblings induced by an ocean of opium?

The James Bond Collection (Ian Fleming): Recently, I finished reading two books called James Bond: The Official Biography and Devil May Care. The first book is a fictional re-construction of Bond's life in between Fleming's novels using hints given in them. And the second is a novel by Sebastian Faulks commissioned to commemorate Fleming's centenary. It is supposed to take off from where Ian Fleming's last novel left off. Having read these two, I realised that I have not read any of the Bond novels. Gasp! So, here is an opportunity to pick up all fourteen of them at a discount.

Six Suspects (Vikas Swarup): I just loved his first book - Q&A - which was a super fast account of a penniless, illiterate waiter winning the quiz show Who Wants To Be A Billionaire? What I loved in the book was how certain hugely fantastic plot devices were merged together in a pseudo-plausible manner in the best traditions of a Manmohan Desai blockbuster! This book (which I picked up today - Yay!) has taken off from another very recognisable part of our social history. The son of the UP Home Minister is killed at a party to celebrate his acquittal from a case, where he was accused of murdering a waitress at a private party. This sensational murder has six suspects - a Bollywood sex symbol, a senior bureaucrat, an American tourist, a petty thief, a tribal leader and the UP Home Minister (yes, the father of the victim). Even if the sleuthing is non-existent, it will still be a cracker of a story.

Ghanada Shomogro 2 (Premendra Mitra): Yes, the second and final part of the omnibus edition is now out. I spotted it on a recent visit to Calcutta but the book was obviously selling like hot kachoris and the only copy left in the shop was rather badly soiled. I had bought the first part at the Calcutta Book Fair last year and gulped it down immediately afterwards. Ghanada's tall tales have a charm that is quite undimmed by age and the second volume would contain all the stories I remember reading in the magazines before they got anthologized. For all those deprived souls who have no clue what I am going on and on about, a quick primer is available here.

We are Like This Only (Rama Bijapurkar): India's best known market researcher is probably an unfair description of Ms Bijapurkar, who has written knowledgably and accessibly on consumer behaviour in the Indian context for quite some time now. For those who think all these are jargon best left for Power Point presentations and may want to dismiss her as an academic-type, let me quickly provide a link of her writing on Sarinomics. If you are suitably impressed, I will try to explain to you why she thinks SEC classification needs calibration, especially with HPI. But to do that, I will have to first read her book.

Ogilvy on Advertising (David Ogilvy): If Piyush Pandey is the most famous face of advertising in India, then it would be appropriate to point out David Ogilvy founded the agency he is the Chairman of. He is particularly famous for quotable quotes like "The consumer is not an idiot. She is your wife" and writing whole books full of them. This is one of them, which not only has millions of pictures of his landmark advertising campaigns, but also tells curious onlookers (like yours truly) how they were thought of. I first read this book when I was in b-school and this was one of the books which convinced me to take up Marketing. Actually, who am I kidding? Prasanna Chandra's book on Basic Financial Management convinced me to take up Marketing!

The Falcon's Malteser (Anthony Horowitz): As is obvious, the name is a play on the famous book and film which epitomises the genre of American detective fiction. This book is a sort of a spoof on that genre, starring a bungling detective (Nick Diamond) and his precocious younger brother. Together, the Diamond Brothers make up a spoof on the American Private Eyes of yore, not unlike Tracer Bullet. I read the second novel featuring this duo recently, of which I had seen a very impressive TV series on Star Plus in the early days of cable television. That book called South By South East is yet another spoof and was quite a page-turner. Though it was meant for teenagers, I was hooked enough to finish it one sitting. And now, I am planning to pick up the first one of the series. When I see the quality of production and distribution that is bestowed upon these novels, I am invariably depressed by the neglect of children's fiction in Bengali. Or for that matter, any regional language.

The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction: While on the subject of regional fiction, Mukul Kesavan called this book the best produced paperback in Indian publishing history. Even if that is not true, I presume that he was driven to the hyperbole by the lurid tales of love, passion, aggression, whisky and masala dosa. Every language has pulp fiction, which is devoured on train journeys and lazy afternoons and yet, they are sneered upon quite regularly. James Hadley Chase in English, Swapan Kumar in Bengali are two favourites of mine. Instead of picking up a Business Today at airports and pretending to look intelligent, I pick up a Hadley Chase to keep me hooked till I reach home. Swapan Kumar and his detective Deepak Chatterjee ("who always had revolvers in both his hands and a torch in the other...") kept me entertained for very long periods as a teenager. It would be interesting to see if tales from the land of Rajinikanth and Quick Gun Murugan can command the same degree of attention.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Salamat Rahe: Friendship in Bollywood

Ever since one blind boy latched on to the elbow of a disabled boy, singing plaintive songs on the empty streets of 1950’s Mumbai, Bollywood latched on to the formula that would not be given up EVER! After that, friends have gone on bikes with sidecars, on horseback, in Mercedes convertibles and even on hearses… basically, from here to eternity.

Though some pretence of variety is made (“yeh story thoda hatke hain”), there are essentially three genres of ‘friendship’ depicted in Hindi cinema.
1. Sidekick
2. Sacrificial
3. Sexual

Oye pappe!
The most famous exponent of the sidekick is probably Guddi Maruti. At one point of time during the mid-90s, no filmmaker dared to make films without her august presence. Despite the predominance of male friendships in Bollywood, this is one glass ceiling that was completely shattered!
The only other star to match her would only be seen if we rewind to the 1960s and Rajindernath comes into view as Shammi Kapoor’s ubiquitous henchman. My most abiding memory of this comic genius is from An Evening in Paris, where he played Sardar Makkhan Singh where he came up with the brilliant line – “Oye Honey / Yeh mausam hain bada funny / Charon taraf sannata / Itthe koi na marega mujhko chnaata”. My literary tastes are rather evolved for all you plebs!
This kind of friendship is applicable when solo hero is either too intense (wooden?) to carry off comic scenes, too big a star for the producer to afford a second hero or when a subplot is required to pull the length by a couple of reels.
The sidekick is not involved in any philosophical discussions and is by and large restricted to buffoonery and assistance during eloping.
Deepak Tijori, Raja Bundela, Babloo Mukherjee, Laxmikant Berde in recent times and IS Johar, Paintal, Asrani, Vijayendra Ghatge, Kanwaljeet and Mazhar Khan in olden days have performed this role to perfection on various college campuses of Bollywood.

Dost dost na raha…
This is the formula to apply when two heroes/heroines of similar (if not equal) stature are cast in the same role. It would be safe to assume non-multi-starrers are unable to afford two lead characters in each of the two genders. So, the underlying assumption of this formula is that one person (of the gender containing the excess lead character) will have to sacrifice his love for the sake of his friend.
There are some rules governing the Sacrifice in this kind of films.
Rule #0: No verbal expressions of feelings between the characters are permitted (except in soulful songs sung in solitude).
Rule #1: The first person to fall in love with the girl gets her.
Rule #2: If the first person to fall in love with the girl is depicted as promiscuous, Rule #1 stands cancelled.
Rule #3: The opinion of the girl stands cancelled.
Rule #3a: If the girl does insist on having an opinion, all previous rules stand cancelled.
It is interesting to note that a Hindi film hero often abandons his parents to marry the woman he loves but does not bat an eyelid in sacrificing the same woman for a man he met just 3 reels before.
Sometimes, the sacrifice is not the girl (Sholay).
Sometimes, there is no real sacrifice involved but the vibes of threatening to lay down one’s life, universe and everything for the friend is so strong that one may safely classify the film in this type (Dharam Veer).
Dostana, Yaarana, Saagar, Saajan, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Sangam, Andaaz, Ek Phool Do Mali (presumably), Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na are all landmark films of this genre.
But the hedonistic society of the day is gradually forcing out the ethos of the Sacrifice. It has been such a long time since I saw a guy hand over the love of his life to a disabled poet in a church and walk out with a smile.

Ladka ladki kabhi dost nahin ban sakta…
Hindi cinema is yet to make a single film in which the central characters (of the opposite sex) remain just friends till the last reel. Mad Momma quotes her favourite line from Maine Pyar Kiya (Yay, she says!) and shows how films down the ages (from MPK in the late 80s to Jaane Tu... in the late 2000s) have never been able to keep heroes and heroines from pawing each other. Eventually.
And she is right. Each one of us have several platonic friendships that have continued for ages and yet Bollywood is still shy of taking a star pair and not keeping them apart for the entire duration of the film. I guess ever since SRK and Ash played siblings in Josh and the film bombed, top star aur top star-ni kabhi dost nahin ban sakte!
They make bombastic statements on how love starts with friendship (Pyaar dosti hainKuch Kuch Hota Hain) and how best friends are supposed to find life-partners for each other but eventually end up tying the knot.
My chief grouse against these films is not that the lead pair falls in love (which they could, since they are so well-matched to start with) but that the ‘other man/woman’ are shown as boorish cads or insensitive bitches.
Also, the progression from friends to lovers happens only when the heroine (initially a tomboy) starts to develop femininity. This is to say that a guy finds a girl (sexually) unattractive when she is playing basketball or getting into fisticuffs. The moment she gets into false eyelashes, Tarun Tahiliani lehengas and Moonmoon Sen-esque coquettishness, he gets a hard-on from here to Ludhiana and rides off into the sunset with her.
Incidentally, Kuch Kuch Hota Hain managed to incorporate two kinds of Bollywood friendship – Sacrifice (Salman and Shahrukh) and Sexual (Shahrukh and Kajol) – in the same film, which is one more reason why it turned out to be a monster hit.

The most famous buddy film of all times – Dil Chahta Hain – is probably the most difficult to slot into any of the above types. It was as real as friendship got (Merc trips to Goa notwithstanding) and friendship sometimes meant nothing more than having cakes, pulling legs and cracking abominable jokes. After all, everybody remembers Saif saying, “Ya toh dosti gehri hain. Ya phir yeh tasveer 3D hain…
As I heard that dialogue for the first time in Chandan Cinema (in Juhu), a friend and I curled up in helpless laughter and as our hysterical giggles carried well into the next scenes, other friends (the types who know more about you than anyone should!) sighed knowingly.

Which brings me to the fourth kind of friendship Bollywood has spawned (apart from the types mentioned above and discussed in such pseudo-scholarly detail).
Millions of friendships have been made around the world while watching execrable movies, sealed after discovering commonality of esoteric tastes and revived on Bollywood discussion forums from across continents.
If I never watched a movie with Nilendu, I would know him only as well as my brother. (No, I don’t have a brother.)
If Udayan had not watched Lal Badshah with me, I wouldn’t have taken his advice as seriously as I usually do.
If Anirban had not forced me to watch a night show of Anjaam, I would have dismissed him as a gnatu (padhaku)!
And on the flip side, if she liked Shaan as much as I did, she would have been chatting with me on Yahoo right now instead of putting my son to sleep!

Happy (Belated by a Week) Friendship Day!