Saturday, September 19, 2009

Face Off: Legendary Confrontations in Hindi Cinema

One beautiful thing I miss from the good ol' days of Hindi cinema is the Battle of the Middle Reels. In movies starring two leading characters (usually male), there used to be a fight to the finish (almost), post which the two leading characters discovered -
(a) mutual respect, since they beat the shit out of each other
(b) blood relations, because only sons brought on the same mother's milk could beat the shit out of each other
(c) change of heart, since the anti-heroic of the two usually got more shit beaten out of him.

Usually, this scene was a high-voltage, crackerjack one which laid down the expectations for the climax. When you watched this scene, you would be getting tense because two heroes would be at each other's throats but would also feel reassured that when these two would join forces in the climactic fight, whatay explosion it would be!
With metrosexuals spreading love, aaj kal there is hardly ever a proper fight at the climax - leave alone one in the middle. And this is can be so depressing at times.

So, in memory of this great Bollywood set-piece, here is my list of the my favourite Middle Reel Battles (in no particular order).

Hum Kissi Se Kum Nahin
The first one of the Battles has no fisticuffs!
It has Tariq Hussain and Rishi Kapoor facing off in a music competition with a series of totally brilliant songlets in a trademark Nasir Hussain scene. And what songs they were!
Chand mera dil, chandni ho tum. Tum kya jano mohabbat kya hain. Mil gaya, mujhko saathi mil gaya. Apart from a trumpet ditty at the beginning of the medley, played with gusto by Rishi. The two gladiators were ably supported by Kajal Kiran and an unknown busty babe with energetic gyrations.

Anil Kapoor and Sunny Deol starred in what was a true Western style action-revenge film shot in a very barren-rugged terrain, probably in Ladakh.
Originally supposed to be directed by Shekhar Kapur, this film had a laconic Anil and a garrulous Sunny fighting each other to catch an elusive bandit - Jogi Thakur (played with customary glee by Rajesh Vivek). As they constantly clash, leading to the bandit escaping repeatedly - they make a pact. They would start fighting each other at nightfall and the man who would remain standing at daybreak would get to nab Jogi Thakur.
Needless to say, after the night of bare-knuckled daredevilry, both managed to stagger to their feet when the sun rose.

In this 'very loose' remake of Kane and Abel, Jeetendra and Shatrughan play foes turned friends turned foes turned friends. (Wait! How many times did I write 'foes'? Yup, correct!)
And the first time they meet (as foes) is when they are both kids - Jeetu driven to school in his father's Mercedes which splashes mud on Shatru, who promptly shatters the windscreen with a stone! A very kiddish fight occurs, post which Sushma Seth (Shatru's mother) brokers a truce and they even more promptly become fast friends.
Of course, they grow up to face evil machinations of Kiran Kumar and become foes again. Only to kiss (not literally) and make up in the climax.
Trivia: Just in case you did not get Shatru's state from his accent, his name was Bihari!

A not-so-violent (actually, not-at-all violent) confrontation between Devdas' dames was invented by Sanjay Leela Bhansali for the film as Saratchandra Chattopadhyay did not imagine that his characters would - one day - be played by Bollywood's Reigning Queen On Her Way Out and the Crown Princess On Her Way In.
Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai pulled out all stops in this Saroj Khan choreographed number, whirling like dervishes and sparkling like diamonds - satisfying all Bollywood lovers with a smooth passing of baton.

Amitabh Bachchan is the acknowledged master of these Mid-film Mayhems as he has encountered countless villains, anti-heroes, side-heroes and brothers in breathless displays of dhishoom-dhishoom.

In his first solo hit, Amitabh Bachchan took on Pran - the leading character actor of the times, who got almost equal billing in the posters because he was a bigger star when the film released. Pran and Amitabh met in the police station, where Police Inspector Vijay Verma pushed away the chair when Sher Khan tried to sit down. "Jab tak baithne ko na kaha jaye, sharafat se khade raho. Yeh police station hain, tumhare baap ka ghar nahin."
Sher Khan taunted him back, saying it was the uniform speaking these lofty lines.
To reply, Vijay Verma landed up at Sher Khan's den in plain clothes and had a fight so amazing that when the Pathan gangster said, "Pehli baar Sher Khan ka takkar kisi sher se hua hain", it almost seemed like an understatement.

Amar Akbar Anthony
Amar Khanna was the dutiful inspector, looking for a smuggler who almost killed his foster father. Anthony Gonsalves was the bootlegger in Bandra village, who helped the smuggler escape to make a quick buck.
And they met in front of Anthony's booze shop. And they played a game of verbal one-upmanship. And they decided to go at each other with fists, headbutts, chickens and goats. And after an unseen explosion inside a poultry shed, Vinod Khanna carried Amitabh Bachchan out on his shoulders - unconscious.
As a 7-year old Amitabh Bachchan fan, I remember being devastated by that scene as it was inconceivable for me to imagine my hero getting beaten. Even by his elder brother.

This is actually not a mid-scene fight but nearer to the climax but the situation is perfect.
The two people who could rub the British Empire's nose in the dust were not Mahatma Gandhi or Subhash Bose. They were Raja Azaad Singh (Dara Singh) and his long-lost son Raju (AB).
The devious British have imprisoned both of them and realise the only way they can be killed is by each other in a duel. But of course, the father and son would not fight each other. So, they convince each of them that the other one in the arena would be a masked impostor.
And this sets up the two titans for an epic battle - interspersed with oft-repeated dialogues like Jo mard hota hain, usse dard nahin hota - after which, they realise their blood relation and proceed to polish off the British empire.
Whose bright idea was it to let real father and son in the same arena, so that they can find out about each other? Bob Christo's.
As they say, blood is thicker than water but not as thick as Bob Christo!

Kaala Patthar
This very under-rated Yash Chopra classic about the Chasnala mining disaster had three superstars of the times - Shashi Kapoor, Shatrughan Sinha and Amitabh Bachchan.
This time, Amitabh played the silent and angry young man who was being constantly riled by escaped convict - Shatru. After a super sequence at a chai stall where Shatru's verbosity and Amitabh's silence cause sparks to fly, comes the fuse lighting. Shatru insults Rakhee, who is Amitabh's love interest.
And the two go at each other in a mining area. The simmering build-up is so fantastic that it is almost relieving when the fighting actually starts. And it almost kills the two before Shashi comes and separates them. And at the exact moment - Amitabh holding a spade, Shatru with a chain and Shashi pushing them apart using their collars - comes the Interval slide.
A more Middle Battle cannot be found!

Again, a film about two guys who oscillate between friends and foes - but concentrate on the latter to keep the dialogue writers and action directors well-fed.
Dilip Kumar and Raaj Kumar's pairing as Rajeshwar Singh and Veer Singh was massively publicised. What was not publicised was Kamlesh Pandey's outing as a dialogue writer, who gave at least three Middle Scene Battles, without a single fist being thrown or a single bullet being fired.
I will not go on and on about Saudagar since I have written about it earlier as I did about 100 Days, which explains why I was getting this strong sense of deja vu, writing my earlier post!
But I have to (just have to) write one more brilliant dialogue I remembered.
Some prissy sissy asks Rajeshwar Singh if he will ever make up with his old friend - Veer Singh. And he replies - "Rajeshwar jab dosti nibhaata hain, toh afsaane likkhe jaate hain. Rajeshwar jab dushmani karta hain, toh woh tareekh ban jata hain."
When I make friends, legends are written. When I make enemies, history is written.

That's nine from me. Do you have any to add?


bollywooddeewana said...

Your bollywood posts are always an interesting read my fave faceoff would have to be in Johnny Mera Naam between Dev and Pran

Would Helen and Vyjayanthimala's faceoff or should i say dance off in prince count

panchabhut said...

Great post as always. The only one missing from my list of favourites is possibly the dance off between Madhuri Dixit and Karishma Kapoor in Dil To Pagal Hai

Anonymous said...

Super post! It deserves a place on Passion For Cinema, if you are not strictly against posting your stuff outside.

I love Kala Pathhar and Big B-Shatru face-off was a classic one. I obviously wanted Big B to win but after a point started feeling for Shatru too. Very strange but i guess that's how most of these fights were designed....choreographed, whatever is the right word.

A recent one was in RDB where Atul Kulkarni's character fights with Amir's gang and they finally make up and how!

And didn't know Kamlesh pandey had done the dialogues for Saudagar! Great trivia.

Thanks for a rocking post!

anil said...

Bachchan and Pran in Don ...

Debamitra said...

Though not in the middle of the film...but I remember the boxing fight between pran & Dev saab in Johny Mera Naam

shilpi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shilpi said...

Confrontation between AB & Shashi Kapoor in Deewar? 'Bhai tum sign karoge ya nahi'

White Magpie said...

Karan Arjun?

Mazaa aa gaya padhke.