Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Today is the 125th birth anniversary of Sukumar Ray.
I tried to write a post on this man, whose works are virtually unknown outside of Bengal and yet his books are part of every Bengali's DNA. I was hoping to acquaint the non-Bengali readers of this blog how great he was but I couldn't figure out where to start.
Instead of my trying to laboriously explain how important Sukumar Ray was, it would be better if you just saw this documentary on him, made by his son.

I do not know of any other language in which only one author occupies such a large part of the childhood memories of an entire population for several generations. Imagine 'Jack and Jill', 'Humpty Dumpty', 'Twinkle Twinkle' and about fifty more nursery rhymes to be about a hundred times more inventive. And then, imagine they were written by just one person. That, to my mind, is a fair estimation of Sukumar Ray's impact on Bengali childhood.
Sounds like an exaggeration, doesn't it? Believe me... I don't remember what I had for dinner tonight but I can recite most of his poems pretty much in their entirety, thirty years after I last read them. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Reading Pujo: The Nostalgia of Pujabarshikis

This piece was written on the request of the San Diego Bengali Association for their Durga Puja souvenir - Saikat.

* * * * *
For me, the best part of Durga Pujo was always the Pujabarshiki. It started with Anandamela and Sandesh with the occasional Shuktara thrown in. Desh was, of course, read for the Feluda

Before the schools shut down for the Puja holidays, there was always an ‘end-term’ examination to negotiate. Given my dependence on last minute completion of syllabus, the Pujabarshikis were a serious threat to my academic pursuits. As the advertisements tantalizingly promised spine-tingling adventures of heroes, I had to plod through time zone problems and Sher Shah’s myriad achievements before I could get my hands on them. But, oh – they were so worth the wait.

Needless to say, Satyajit Ray was the biggest draw with Professor Shonku in Anandamela and Feluda in Desh, with an additional story thrown in Sandesh. To reach the stories, however, there was a massive battle to be won to decide who would get to read which magazine first. A classmate (who stayed in a joint family) once got his reading slot between 2 – 4 AM and had to take a nap, set an alarm to wake up at 1:45 AM to read Professor Rondi-r Time Machine! Quite tragically, Ray’s quality (especially for Feluda) dropped a lot in the late 1980s due to his prolonged illness and some of his later novels were not satisfying. In fact, he gave a pretty lengthy explanation (in Nayan Rahasya) for the drop in quality and pledged to write only when he felt the plot was up to the mark (which was probably a subtle message to his publishers). Feluda and Professor Shonku continue to remain favourites as Anandamela Pujabarshiki still carries unfinished manuscripts, comic books and other avatars of these evergreen heroes.

Second to Feluda in popularity was, of course, Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Kakababu. Raja Raychaudhuri was a disabled archaeologist, who was always on the trail of priceless artefacts – assisted by his nephew Shontu. Shontu was a more active version of Topshe and was more useful in a fight (since he knew karate). He seemed to be a pretty normal chap till he stood fifth in the Higher Secondary examination in one story. To add a comic angle, a character called Jojo – a purveyor of tall tales – was introduced in the later stories. Some young girls flitted in and out of the stories as well though no overt romantic subplot was pursued. Kakababu continues to be around though he has become bit of a Metrosexual Hulk as he cries at the drop of a hat, fights off swordsmen with his crutches and burns himself in fire. In his early stories, Kakababu solved problems with his brain and overpowered villains with moner jor. That surely seems to have changed.  Srijit Mukherjee (of Autograph and Baishey Srabon fame) is directing a Kakababu film (with Prasenjit as the lead) and I hope it captures some of the old magic.

Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay never had a fixed hero. His stories – usually set in rural Bengal (fictional villages like Patashgarh, Hetamgarh, Aghorganj etc) – always had an ensemble of eccentric characters with offbeat names (Karalicharan, Prangopal, Jatadhar etc) and sometimes, strange abilities. One recurring feature of his story was an elderly character who always missed out on international glory (Olympic boxing medal, for example) due to a quirk of fate (a carbuncle on the back, for example). Two of my favourite stories – Hirer Angti and Gosai Baganer Bhoot – have been made into films and that may be a great way to get the old world charm of his stories to the younger generation.

Moti Nandi was one of the most underrated novelists of our times as his sports stories were brilliant in detail, tight in plotting and extremely satisfying in resolution. Kalabati – the woman cricketer of his stories – faced discrimination, fought indifference and rose over the lack of support to follow her passion. I remember his other cricket story – Jiban Ananta – in a Pujabarshiki (that I read repeatedly) for its goose-bump inducing description of an over in which the fast bowling hero took five wickets. (Yes, five wickets in six balls. And it was a brilliant Pujo!)

The other favourites were Buddhadeb Guha with his pipe-smoking hunter Riju-da, Syed Mustafa Siraj with his bearded Col. Niladri Sarkar, Samaresh Majumdar with his handsome young detective Arjun and Sanjib Chattopadhyay with his tragicomic stories.
It is a tribute to these authors that I still remember vignettes of their stories after so many years. For example, Sanjib Chattopadhyay wrote two back-to-back tragedies in Pujabarshikis – Iti Palash and Iti Tomar Ma – that were just heartbreaking. To lighten the mood and pay a tribute to the recently departed Syed Mustafa Siraj, I have to quote a non sequitur from one of his novels – Knatai knatai raat baarota / Begun bhaja aar parota / Kimba luchi ardho dawjon / Ichhe hoy kortey bhojon.    
All thanks to the Pujabarshiki, a treasure chest of memories.

When I was young, my father used to reminisce about his childhood Puja magazines. Many of them were not special issues of regular magazines but one annual number released during the Pujas. The erstwhile stalwarts of children’s literature (and no dearth of them, ever) contributed. I have read many of them and the thrill of reading Narayan Gangopadhyay, Premendra Mitra, Saradindu Bandopahyay, Shibram Chakraborty and Lila Majumdar in the same book is something else! Deb Sahitya Kutir was the most prolific publisher of these titles and my father used to constantly say, “Aajkal standard ekdum porey gechhey. Amader shomoi ki bhalo hoto…”
I am about to pick up this year’s quota of Pujabarshikis and the natural tendency would be to take refuge in nostalgia and say the same. But having read some of the newer authors and their characters, I’d say it wouldn’t be easy to dismiss them.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Goddess on Silver Screen: Durga Pujo in Cinema

Two Bengali associations of the USA reached me through different contacts and asked me to write a piece for their Durga Puja souvenirs. I wrote the following piece for the Bengali Association of St Louis, scheduled to appear in their souvenir - Punascha. 

* * * * * * *
This is a somewhat quirky and definitely incomplete list of the Goddess’ appearance in Hindi and Bengali cinema. As would be evident, my personal biases are very clear. The idea is to stir the readers’ memories and get them to think of their own favourites. And smile a bit.  

Durga Puja was probably most central to the plot of Joy Baba Felunath where our favourite crime-solving trio landed up in Benaras for a holiday during Pujo. As they went about finding a priceless Ganesh idol, well-loved vignettes of the probashi Pujo came alive. Display of body-building in a variety programme. The community play at Bengali Club. The idol makers who put their life into the pran of the protima. And of course, the King of Africa who took the Ganesh to Atlantis. The mystery unfolded and was solved in the few days of the festival as each element of the celebrations – from the construction of the idol to its immersion – played an important part in the plot, supplying vital clues to our favourite detective.
The community play during Pujo was a favourite motif of Ray’s. In Nayak, Arindam Mukherjee was acting in the lead of one such play under his mentor’s direction when he received a film offer. The turmoil that the offer brought about was resolved in a rather gruesome manner when his mentor collapsed while trying to lift the Durga idol for bisarjan. Arindam’s rise to stardom was kicked off by the Goddess herself.  

Rituparno Ghosh’s Utsab traced the different branches of a dysfunctional family who had assembled at the family home to celebrate – rather unwillingly – Durga Pujo. Old affairs, financial messes and strained relationships were revealed in the six days of their stay. The ensemble cast delivered a stellar performance battling their inner demons as Maa Durga battled the more obvious one.
Rituparno also paid a tribute to two stalwarts of Bengali cinema when he referenced two iconic images of the Goddess. In one scene, it was mentioned that the traditional Puja vessels of the family had been requisitioned by Satyajit Ray for Debi. And in another, an aspiring filmmaker in the family reminded us that Aparna Sen’s Parama opened with the image of Durga’s face caught in a Nikon’s viewfinder.

The Goddess made two guest appearances in Shakti Samanta’s films – each with a different superstar.
Amar Prem closed with Vinod Mehra coming back to pick up his ‘mother’ (Sharmila Tagore) as Rajesh Khanna looked on with tears of joy. This homecoming of his mother coincided with Durga Puja and the film ended with the auspicious images of the Mother Goddess.
The other superstar paid a song length tribute to the Goddess in Barsaat Ki Ek Raat (also made in Bengali as Anusandhan) when he challenged villain Amjad Khan to a dhaak-playing competition. Amitabh Bachchan not only played the dhaak, he also did the arati and finally requested Maa Durga to polish off this villain too!

Bollywood’s best ode to Durga Puja happened in Kahaani.
A pregnant South Indian woman came to Calcutta looking for her Bengali husband as the city was preparing to welcome Maa Durga. The familiar sights and sounds of the festival formed a rich backdrop to the thriller as authentic locations and brilliant actors from the Bengali film industry made a lovely tapestry. The familiar lal-paar shari – traditionally worn by married women – became a symbol of the quest for Vidya Bagchi’s husband. The unexpected and thrilling climax played out in the crowded Dashami celebrations of Triangular Park. And the mystery of the missing husband as well as the horror of a terrorist attack just dissolved in the sea of lal-paar sharis, sindoor and blessings of the departing Goddess.

As a final aside, it would be interesting to mention an advertisement.
If we get past the culture shock of Soumitra Chatterjee holding a cola bottle, Thums Up paid an affectionate tribute to the slowly vanishing banedi barir pujo of Calcutta. A bunch of well-meaning, Thums Up-swigging youngsters revived their dadur pujo, putting lots of cola bottles and cans to good use. The story was far-fetched. The sentiment was not: Ebar jombe mawja!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Amitabh Bachchan Quiz

The good folks at Mad About Moviez (and my friend, Sethu in particular) have hosted an Amitabh Bachchan quiz that I have done. So, you could answer it here on the blog or hop across to their site. 

1. To start with an easy one: which is the first film in which Amitabh Bachchan received on-screen credit?

2. When was Amitabh Bachchan supposed to play the role of Judge Lawrence Wargrave and why did he end up not playing it?

3. What was Amitabh’s qualification in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham? And from where did he get that qualification?

4. Explain the connection of this flower to AB.

5. What is common to Anand, Manzil, Kabhi Kabhie and Baghban?

6. Which stalwart presented the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award to Amitabh Bachchan?

7. In the early 1980s, Jaya Bachchan referred to someone as her ‘souten’. Who was this person?

8. Explain the connection of his precious gem to AB.

9. Orissa Minerals Development Company is currently listed on BSE at a price of approximately Rs 44500 per share (of Rs 10), which is among the highest share prices in the country. In 2011, Rashtriya Ispat Nigam bought a 51% stake in the holding company of OMDC. How is this linked to Amitabh Bachchan?

10. Name this character and explain the slight blooper.

Okay, first the bad news... There were only 11 entries. The good news, however, is the answers were really detailed and well thought. Net net, only the people who knew everything (or could Google it *heh heh*) answered. Sigh... I was really hoping for some innocent entries!
Only two of them were on the blog and the rest were on mail. Mr Abhishek Mukherjee decided to take no risks and mailed his answer to all three of my email IDs he knew!

Without much ado, here are the answers.
1. Bhuvan Shome, it is. Universally correct. His first screen credit was 'Amitabh'.
2. He was supposed to play this pivotal character from Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None in his final year at Sherwood. He had won the Kendall Prize for acting in the previous year and if he won it again, it would have set a record. Unfortunately, he caught measles and was unable to perform. His father kept him company in the school infirmary and said a beautiful line to console him - "Man ka ho toh achha. Man ka na ho toh zyada achha..."
3. He was an MBA from King's College, London. Inferred from the line Hrithik Roshan spoke about doing an MBA from London was about following a family tradition.
4. That flower is from the Singapore Orchid Garden and is called Dendrobium Amitabh Bachchan.
5. These are names of books written by Amitabh Bachchan and NOT films in which he wrote books. The difference is because Manzil was the name of the book he wrote in Ek Nazar.
6. Sunil Gavaskar
7. Shashi Kapoor, who co-starred with AB in a million films
8. That diamond is called the Millennium Star (though not in honour of the Star of the Millennium)
9. The holding company of OMDC is Bird Group, where AB worked as a freight broker while in Calcutta
10. The name of the character - as Rajni says in the Hindi version of Shivaji: The Boss - was Abhiram Bachchan while all the ID proofs show AB Bachchan. You could argue this is fine and this fictitous Abhiram had a middle name starting with B but there's only one AB Senior in this world, okay?

And here are the contestants:
Anonymous                         4.0
Straight Cut, Subbu             5.0
Kaushik Ray, ABbaby         7.0
DS, VinBin, AKBose          8.0
Digant, Abhishek                 9.0
Kinjal Mandawat                 9.5 (given 0.5 points and declared topper for the super-detailed answers)

Digant, Abhishek and Kinjal - Congratulations! Mail me your postal addresses to send you a copy of the book. This promotional tactic seems to have backfired spectacularly because two of the three winners already have the book! Sigh... Gift the book to somebody who would love it and ask them to promote it mercilessly.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Life In Amitabh Bachchan

My (maternal) grandmother was the first Amitabh Bachchan fan in the family.
When India was infatuated with Rajesh Khanna, she saw Bachchan in a magazine and paid him the ultimate compliment in her book. "Wish I get a son-in-law like him", she said. This was around Anand and the angry police inspector of Zanjeer still 24 issues of Stardust away. Her daughters and nieces had laughed at her poor taste. 

A Quick Aside: Sometime in the late 80s, we were watching a TV serial called Circus and she perked up at the sight of the bushy-haired hero. "What a smart boy. Shonabhai (that's her name for me), you should get your trousers stitched like his." Yes, she would have been Yash Chopra if she had been in Bollywood. I am getting her to see a Ranbir Kapoor film soon enough.

My father was the family’s second Amitabh Bachchan fan. One Sunday afternoon in 1975, he gave up his siesta and asked my mother to accompany him to watch a new film called Deewaar. I never found out what prompted him to do so but for his entire life, the discussion of his favourite movies started and ended with only one line - "Main aaj bhi phneke hue paise nahin uthata..."

I was the Johnny-come-lately to the Amitabh Bachchan party. 
Born in 1974, Bachchan's best films happened and his phenomenon unfolded when I was a toddler. The famous India Today cover story that called him the 'One Man Industry' happened before I could read properly. When Manmohan Desai called him a 'Halley's Comet' and ranked him ‘Nos. 1 to 10’, it was before I could devour film magazines on my own.  

When I was growing up, stories about Bachchan and his films were all around me. 
My father told me about the searing intensity of Deewaar. My mother told me how tickets to his movies sold 'in black' at astronomical prices. Elder friends told me about loose change swept off cinema floors. I remember hearing that he charged Rs 70 lakhs per film and trying to write the figure in numerals.

We spent our summer vacations at my grandparents’ place in Dibrugarh, a town in Assam. My theatre experiences of watching Amitabh Bachchan started there when I was an infant. A manservant used to take me to watch Sholay while pretending that he was taking me for an evening walk. We watched the film daily in Jyotsna theatre, where the usher benevolently allowed him and his Munna-babu inside day after day.

I was not taken for Muqaddar Ka Sikandar but I cried so much that my grandfather took pity on me and we entered the theatre when Zohra was dying in Sikandar's arms. Because I got scared by the first scenes of The Great Gambler and forced my mother to take me home half-way through the film, she ditched me for Shaan. And consoled me by saying it was really bad. 

Then, he died. 
My grandmother came back from her evening walk and flatly announced "Amitabh Bachchan mara gechhen". I was just beginning to like him. I hadn't watched too many films. I remember Yaraana and Barsaat Ki Ek Raat. An EP record of Mr Natwarlal was my staple afternoon entertainment. Any actor who could sing so nicely for children had to be a nice guy.  
And here, he was dead. 

A picture in Sunday magazine showed him slumped on a chair immediately after the accident. That magazine and many others recounted his many achievements, his dogged determination, his rise to stardom. They were all premature obituaries of India's biggest superstar. Or maybe that's when they coined a new term – Megastar. I became an avowed Bachchan fan because I got to see his entire life's magic capsuled into a few pages. 

I always feel Amitabh Bachchan the human being died in that accident and Big B the Superstar was born. Because the films that came just after that were really bad and would have got hooted out of the theatres if they starred anybody else. The objective of those films was to cash in on Bachchan (without script or novelty) but they raised his legend to the levels of our mythology. 

The shooting scene in Coolie, where he collapsed magnificently atop the minarets of Haji Ali. The meaningless triple role of Mahaan. The extended guest appearance of Andhaa Kaanoon. The trigger-happy Chief Minister in Inquilaab. These were epic roles that were like all the ten avatars of Vishnu rolled into one. He did action, emotion, comedy, romance, song, dance, preservation, destruction all in one go and almost not pausing for breath.  

By the time he did his first superhero film (where he wore a black leather costume, embellished by a salt-and-pepper beard and a strange arm-guard made of chains), his position in the pantheon of Indian gods was guaranteed. For a long time, the person I hated most in this world was a friend's innocent elder brother – whose only crime was to have watched Shahenshah on the first day, first show.

In 1984, Bachchan stood for election and defeated a former UP Chief Minister on his home turf. I remember his victory announcement during a soporific bulletin on Doordarshan. My interest in that election began when he announced his candidature and ended with that bulletin. HN Bahuguna – stung by this betrayal – famously told his constituency that they had abandoned him for a nach-gaana wala. You were up against a Superman, sir.

More accurately, Supremo.
A comic book series started with Bachchan having a super-hero alter-ego. The book I had was about a plane full of children getting hijacked. Amitabh Bachchan the actor dashed out of his makeup van, flew down to his island hideaway with his falcon Shaheen and dolphin Sona, morphed into Supremo and saved the day. I cannot think of too many film stars getting their own comic books.

Around then, an honest man called VP Singh started saying Amitabh Bachchan ‘ne paisa khaya hain’. The allegations were quite vague but every newspaper or magazine I picked up seemed to have some new 'angle' of his involvement. Everybody was convinced of his guilt. I was not. It is strange that without any fact to back me up, I was convinced of his innocence. How can Vijay do anything wrong?

Between 1987 and 1992, I put together a scrapbook of his pictures cut out from newspapers and magazines and lovingly pasted on multi-coloured pages. I remember thinking of that book as my shrine. I had accepted that my favourite actor would be hounded out of the industry and probably thrown into jail. When the Prime Minister decides a man is guilty, what chance does he have? That was my memento.

But I was used to seeing normal men. Superheroes did not give up. Just like he took bullets on his chest and still managed to throw villains off skyscrapers, he took on the press, the political system and the Prime Minister in a hugely unequal battle. I found it extremely touching that he had ignored the allegations and decided to fight back only when his father seemed shaken by it.

Around then, several new actors staked claim to the No. 1 spot and film magazines started putting them on covers. Jackie Shroff was the first contender but when Allah Rakha (originally planned with Bachchan) flopped, he receded. Anil Kapoor made a bid with a slew of successes like TezaabRam Lakhan and Parinda but when his bad films flopped, people realised he was an excellent actor but not the inheritor.

The true mark of Bachchan's talent that distinguished him from Jackie, Anil, Mithun, SRK, Aamir, Hrithik or just about anybody else was that none of these stars could ever salvage a bad film. Bachchan could. And Bachchan did.
The biggest contradiction of my fandom is that I dislike most of Bachchan's films. An overwhelming majority of his films are very bad and he is the only flawless thing in them. 

SRK delivered Baazigar and Darr but when the formula collapsed (Anjaam), so did he. Aamir Khan broke records with JJWS but couldn't prop up Mela. Hrithik reached an extreme where he cannot deliver with anyone other than his father. Post-Coolie, Amitabh Bachchan did SharaabiInquilaabAakhree RaastaMardGangaa Jamunaa Saraswathi and Shahenshah. Except for Aakhree Raasta, all of them were bad and yet broke every record that there was.

Amitabh Bachchan’s biggest success was that fact that he not only made utterly crappy movies bearable, he made them memorable. If you see films like Desh Premee today, it will be difficult not to cringe. But you cannot fault Bachchan's performances in any of those. He brought the right mix of drama and restraint to the roles to make you forget the remote when they play on TV even now.

I have done several crazy things to watch the films of Amitabh Bachchan. I have heard the dialogue cassette of Agneepath so many times that it tore. I was almost lathi-charged before Hum. I left an end-term exam unfinished to be on time for Indrajeet’s matinee show. I walked out of a meeting with a prospective bride to watch Aks. I watched two successive shows of Ek Ajnabee - alone. 

Though the craziest thing was to have done first day viewings of his post-1992 movies. MrityudaataInsaaniyatMajor SaabSuryavanshamKohraamLal Badshah. They were all stupendously bad. In Mrityudaata, there was a scene in which he kicked a villain off the third floor and he landed straight into an oven (tandoor?), thus burning to cinders. You should have seen how amazingly he performed the pre-fight diatribe in that scene.  

I started to underestimate him again and wished that 'father' roles be written for him (but not painful ones like Mohabbatein) when he changed the screen I was used to seeing him on. For the very first episode of KBC, I rushed over to a colleague's house since it was closer from office to watch Bachchan make a graceful turn and give away crores of rupees to simple, everyday people.

He – with KBC – became to TV what he was to the box-office all his life: the benchmark. Even today, when Salman does his spontaneous tomfoolery or Aamir does his orchestrated sentimentality, newspapers dig out the ratings of KBC and pronounce what I knew all along – the newer ones don't quite match up. In fact, he sometimes gets excited by this and rattles off the numbers himself (which is quite disconcerting). 

I watch KBC for the interactions. The warmth with which he treats contestants is wonderful beyond words. My favourite moment was when a lady returned for her second episode and Bachchan asked if she thought about the money she had won. I didn’t think about the money, she said. “Toh phir aapne kya socha?” “Aap ke baare mein…”, the lady giggled. A 60+ year old blushing on national television? Priceless.    

Post-KBC, he exploded his repertoire. After one decade of angry-young-man and two decades of angry-young-singing-dancing-romancing-joking-man, he started having fun. Boom, for example. Katrina Kaif's debut that drove Jackie to his maushi's you-know-what had Bachchan playing a Mafia don (romancing Bo Derek) with hysterical WTFness. His Babban act in Ram Gopal Verma Ki Aag is, of course, legendary. Bunty Aur BabliKANK, Aladin were all brilliant roles in decidedly mediocre films.  
Simultaneously, some films focused almost entirely on him. With those, he didn't just hit them out of the park but out of the colony as well. KhakeeDev, BlackSarkarThe Last LearNishabd all had such powerhouse performances that it is difficult to imagine all of them came so close together. After decades of being ridiculed as a nach-gaana wala, he showed what heights of acting he could scale. 

In the last decade, I have been least regular in watching his films. I watched most of them on TV or DVD with many interruptions. And yet, he manages to catch attention and does not let go. He manages to charm audiences and hard-nosed journalists alike. Arnab Goswami becomes a fawning wimp when he interviews Bachchan. Anupama Chopra giggles like a schoolgirl. Shekhar Gupta smiles indulgently when he is answering.

Funnily, it was never ‘cool’ to be a Bachchan fan. In the 1980s, everybody was one.  In the 1990s, nobody was one. In the 2000s, his sincerity seems to have a strange anachronistic tinge to it. His devotion to his online extended family is the antithesis to the use-and-throw policy most cool people adopt. His incessant retweets of praise for Abhishek’s films is deemed desperate. He is just not cool.

And of course, his performances – however legendary – never seem to attract the gushing newer actors get for their ‘method acting’. His effortless sign-language in Black is no match for Barfi. His Paa gets missed in front of a Guzaarish. But I guess I have grown used to having him for myself. Though – for the life of me – I cannot figure who these three million people crowding him on Twitter are!

For me, there are still so many things I want to see him do. 
He has to romance Madhuri Dixit.
He has to play Atticus Finch, directed by Anurag Kashyap.
He has to act in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Rajnikanth.
He has to act in Bridges of Madison County with Sridevi.  
He has to act in a film that will wow my son.

He is only seventy, for God's sake.

Inconsequential Trivia: Each paragraph in this post has 70 words. 

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Have we heard this before? (Updated)

Scroll down to read the additions.

Quiz question: Which legendary film-star said the line: "Hum jahan khade hote hain, line wohi se shuru hoti hain"?
Of course, not. If you have an iota of faith in my grey matter, you wouldn't say Amitabh Bachchan. Oh - you did? Well, you should buy yourself a good book on Bollywood trivia and mug it up. *end of commercial break*
You see, what Amitabh said in Kaalia was - "Hum bhi woh hain jo kabhi kissi ke peechhe nahin khade hote. Jahan khade ho jaate hain, line wohi se shuru hoti hain." This was a retort to the original line said by Bob Christo a minute before Amitabh stole his thunder. 
For ready reference, watch the scene here.

This got me thinking about other lines/sequences that have happened earlier but we remember only the later - more popular versions. 

Some time back, I had blogged about a father-son duo who gave the same advice three decades apart. 
Abhishek Bachchan, in an Idea advertisement, thought the best advice a doctor can give to a patient was to exercise and be healthy. His father - in the role of Dr Bhaskar Banerjee - told one of his hypochondriac patients the same thing. (Watch here, from 14:30 onwards.)
Like father, like son! 

In recent times, I have heard several debates about a particular sequence in Kahaani was a tribute or a lift. Knowing the popularity of the earlier sequence and Sujoy Ghosh's penchant for tributes, I'd like to believe it is the former. 
Well, you know about the 'running hot water' in Mona Lisa Guest House. Duh, of course you do! 
And now you do where the original came from. Watch here, from 12:30 onwards. Actually, watch the whole damn thing. Its too good! 

This whole thought got triggered when I saw a scene in Lakshya.
I remembered a scene in Chak De India where an Indian national cricketer thought an Indian national hockey player was wasting time by playing hockey. You could look at it from the POV that hockey gets bullied by cricket in India. Or you could look at it as a woman's career never being seen as important as the man's. 
A TV journalist (Preity Zinta) told her fiancee that she intended to cover the Kargil war. The hitherto liberal dude suddenly turned all possessive and defended his travels as "yeh mera kaam hain..." while refusing to acknowledge her work as anything serious. (Watch here, from 7:44 onwards).   

Which brings us to yet another legendary dialogue (5:00 onwards) about kapkapati raaton mein, dhadakti dilon ki bhadakti hui aag bujhane ka. As Jeevan told Prem, ladka ladki kabhi dost nahin hote...
About twenty years, yet another brilliant character actor (Asrani) told us the same thing in a different tone. Watch here, from 9:20 onwards.  

So, can you think of any more? 

"Main tumse aur sirf tumse pyaar karta hoon. Meri har saans, meri har dhadkan, mere har pal mein tum ho aur sirf tum ho. Mujhe yakeen hai ki main sirf is liye janma hoon ke tum se pyaar kar sakoo aur tum sirf is liye ke meri ban jao. Tum meri ho, Shalini, aur agar tum apni dil se poochhogi toh jaan logi ke main sach keh raha hoon."
In Dil Chahta Hai, Aamir Khan delivered exactly the same lines to the same person - Preity Zinta about two hours apart. But the tone, the emotion, the style was so radically different that it could have been from two different films altogether. (Watch here. From 23:00 and 2:44:00.)

And of course, the Greatest Film Ever Made had two counter-pointing, criss-crossing lines about the power of hands.
Inspector Baldev Singh arrested dreaded dacoit Gabbar Singh and ominously declared, "Yeh haath nahin, phaansi ka phanda hai..." Tragically, the tables were turned very soon enough and the Inspector stood helpless in Gabbar's den. Gabbar Singh taunted by repeating those lines, "...Yaad hain, Thakur, kya kahe tha tum? Yeh haath nahin, phaansi ka phanda hai. Dekh, phanda khul gaya.." 
And in a macabre act of vengeance, he said, "Yeh haath humko de de, Thakur..." In the climax, Thakur orchestrated such that he was face to face with Gabbar and soon, the dreaded dacoit was lying helpless at his feet. And this time, it was his turn to repeat Gabbar's lines before extracting revenge, "Bahut jaan hain in haathon mein... yeh haath mujhe de de, Gabbar...."
Goosebumps. Nearly forty years after the film, still.

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Do check out my publishers on Facebook and Twitter (both WestlandBooks). They are uploading some trivia and stuff from KAT* over the next couple of weeks. 
And psst... there seems to be some prizes and stuff for doing Bollywoody things.  

* Gentle Reminder: KAT = Kitnay Aadmi Thay = Kharido. Achha bolo. Tohfe mein do.