When Amitabh Bachchan returned from what he called the 'cesspool of politics', everybody was eager to write him off. Anil Kapoor was churning out hit after hit and the media were calling him the new No. 1. Amitabh - as is his wont - agreed wholeheartedly with this theory. There were a couple of new heroes in town - for whom the term 'chocolate box' was being used. Every one expected AB to churn out a couple of flops and quietly move on to father/uncle/judge roles.
However when he did appear in films - coincidentally or otherwise - two of his earliest films were superhero films. Superhero as defined by a caped crusader with a dual identity. (While on the subject, read GreatBong's treatise on Indian superheroes.)
In Shahenshah, he was a bumbling corrupt cop by day and bearded, iron-armed, black-leathered vigilante in the night who roamed the streets of Mumbai's western suburbs ("Andheri raaton mein...").
- Uniform: A very cool black Pathan suit with an orange cape
- Weapon: A hi-tech bow-and-arrow set
- Secret Weapon: Aashirwaad of Bajrangbali (as demonstrated by a leaf garland flying from a Hanuman idol to the child Toofan)
- Raison d'etre: Unjust, brutal murder of honest, police officer father.
- Dual Identity: With a twist. He had a twin brother, who was a bumbling magician
- Calling card: Whenever he appeared, a storm happened. How cool is *that*? As explained by the announcement, "Jab jab zulm ki aandhi badhti hain, usse rokne ke liye ek Toofan aata hain."
All of the above combined to form Amitabh's best entry sequence EVER. No exaggeration. His best ever.
A wedding party was attacked by bandits. They looted the jewelery (including some metallic pots), kicked the groom's ass and were about to make off with the bride when... a dust storm started.
A mere mortal cannot describe the scene in words. Check out the scene here.
Jai Hanuman gyan gun sagar. Jai kapish trilok ujagar.
Amitabh's voice is totally suited for this kind of godly pronouncement and when it was followed by the "Goose bump inducing composure by Anu Malik" (as noted by MrBollywoodDeewana, who uploaded the above clip), many people died of hyperventilation.
This device of a hero appearing by kicking up a literal storm is bloody potent and amazingly amenable to claps, whistles and coin showers in the cinema halls of yore. And the director milked it for all its worth.
The director, incidentally, was Ketan Desai - son of the inimitable Manmohan. While he was reviled for not even coming close to his father's level of success, I felt - at least in this movie - he did a more than competent job.
Take a look at this clip, for example.
Goga Kapoor (who had been established as a super-villain in the movie, having escaped from a prison which was a cross between Alcatraz and Azkaban) arrived at his den and expressed his contempt for Toofan. As he growled "Main aa gaya hoon. Ab na koi aandhi ayegi aur na koi toofan...", he lit a match for his cigarette and right on cue, a gust of wind blew it off. And Anu Malik's 'goose bump inducing composure' kicked in and we could see the orange cape in the background. If you are getting a little excited about this, think about how it would have impacted a fifteen-year old already sold on Amitabh's divinity.
In the late 80s, it was not okay to be a Bollywood fan in polite company - even less so, in culturally evolved Calcutta. Even Filmfare - always the last bastion of Bollywood - had crossed over to the dark side, awarding Best Film trophies to 'art films' in the early 80s before giving it to Ram Teri Ganga Maili and stopping for a couple of years. In this morass of mediocrity and teeny-bopper romance, Toofan came like a - well - gust of fresh air for people of my generation who were too old for birthday balloons and too young for heart-shaped balloons. Though we were about to hit Tina Munim-Rishi Kapoor's age, we certainly didn't share their romantic inclinations.
Toofan was the unabashed Bollywood flick with lots of action and dialogue-baazi with a dash of melodrama, comedy, music and romance thrown to make it deliriously entertaining.
Look at the list of characters.
Honest police officer (Pran). Crooked police officer (Kamal Kapoor). Magician father, who fails to become Houdini (Ramesh Deo). Deadly dacoit, unambiguously named Shaitan Singh (Goga Kapoor). Maudlin mother (Sushma Seth - causing me to worry if Nirupa Roy had passed away). Scantily clad tribal girl heroine (Meenakshi Sheshadri). Adequately clad buxom pick-pocket heroine (Amrita Singh). One side-plot villain (Raza Murad). One dutiful friend (Farooque Sheikh). Friend's sati-savitri wife (Zarina Wahab).
Even the side-villains and henchmen were first rate character artistes (Mahesh Anand and Manek Irani among others).
And in the final scene, Jagdish Raj - the Amitabh Bachchan of police officer roles - too made an appearance!
And the stunts.
Killing an enemy by severing one's own hand. Two Houdini acts - one successful and one fatal. Legs stuck in rail tracks. Climbing on to a flying aircraft using bows, arrows and cords. Jumping off the same aircraft using a tri-colour parachute. An arm-less hero fighting a band of goons. A super-villain's jailbreak.
And of course, each of Toofan's fight sequences in a tornado of blood and sand were just fantastic.
You can even count the musical interludes among the stunts.
AB singing 'Don't Worry Be Happy' which borrowed only the Bobby McFerrin song name and not the tune. Amrita Singh's last-minute cabaret.
And of course, the title song which had a torou torou tou torou torou tou music to the song that announced each of Toofan's entry. And what lyrics it had!
Aaya aaya Toofan / Bhaga bhaga shaitan
Seene mein sholay chhupaye / Aandhi se aankh ladaye (close up of AB's eyes)
Kahein jo badal gusse mein paagal / Qatil kahan bach paaye
I had heard somewhere that it was the last song Kishore Kumar had sung for Amitabh Bachchan - which makes it doubly brilliant.
When I first watched Toofan as a fourteen-year old in a darkened theatre, I was quite convinced - for several days or even weeks - that this was the best film ever made. Best. Better than Deewaar, better than Sholay, even better than Pather Panchali.
You know, a film should evoke a reaction as extreme as this. Before the rationality sets in, before analysis dulls its impact, it should flatten you. It should leave you breathless or in tears or both. Beyond messages, beyond entertainment, beyond box-office collections is this emotion that remains with you for several days like a delicious after-taste.
But then, you could ask how can a movie like Toofan evoke such emotions? It was one of those cliched, revenge-romance potboilers that came and went.
But the truth is that - for me - it did.
Probably because of my lack of exposure to 'good' cinema or because a movie-watching experience was so few and far between then that anything remotely interesting became mind-blowing. Now, I am more 'educated' and therefore, it is difficult to be so swept away by a film. I like many (most?) films that I see but that all-encompassing, choking-breathtaking emotion is missing.
And it is the search for this emotion I wait for a Shanghai or a Baishey Srabon with bated breath.
Shit, what a ramble this turned out to be... But what an enjoyable ramble!