My Yahoo! Movies column, first published here.
Have been tardy with the earlier columns. Will publish everything punctually from now on. God promise.
As Dhanush flamboyantly woos Sonam Kapoor on the galis and ghats of Banaras, it might be a good idea to see why Uttar Pradesh has become a favourite locale for Bollywood.
(Director of Raanjhanaa, Aanand L Rai, seems to be in love with the state. His earlier film, Tanu Weds Manu, was set in Kanpur.)
Much before Raanjhanaa, Banaras came into limelight with a song.
Amitabh Bachchan is a Ganga kinare wala chhora in real life and he celebrated it with gay abandon in Don, making Paan Banaras wala deliriously famous. The song, originally written for Dev Anand’s Banarasi Babu, has been the anthem of UPites ever since.
In Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, Rani Mukherjee’s impoverished family was based in Banaras before she became a ‘high-society call-girl’ in Mumbai. The ancient ghats and dilapidated havelis made an interesting backdrop to the story as an entire song was affectionately devoted to the quirks and idiosyncrasies of being a Banarasi (Hum toh aise hain, bhaiyya).
Apart from the paan of Banaras, the jhumka of Bareilly gained nationwide (if not worldwide) fame because of another classic song performed – on and off screen – by legendary stars.
In Mera Saaya, Sadhana popped up as a street performer in a crowded marketplace and complained she had dropped her ear ornament in a Bareilly market. Asha Bhosle’s spirited rendition of Jhumka gira re went on immortalize the Western UP town.
A girl brought to Lucknow. She was trained in the fine arts of music and seduction. And she became Umrao Jaan. The legendary courtesan has been portrayed by two of Bollywood’s biggest stars. Rekha’s legendary enigma was superbly exploited by Muzaffar Ali and it was buoyed by Khayyam’s music.
JP Dutta’s version with Aishwarya Rai fell flat, though.
Bollywood’s paid homage to Kanpur through Tashan – in ballistic, bombastic style. Akshay Kumar was a Kanpur toughie who made his name playing as Raavan in a Ramlila play. His style found an admirer in city slicker Saif Ali Khan who paid the ultimate tribute to Kanpur by saying he had to become one to stay alive: Ab zinda rehne ke liye mujhe kuch aur banna hoga, khatarnaak banna hoga, chaalaak banna hoga, Kanpuriya banna hoga…
Two absconding criminals – Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi – went all across UP before finding sanctuary in Gorakhpur. The don, whom they had come for, was already dead and his widow (Vidya Balan) became their unlikely partner. Ishqiya was a tale of love and lust garnished with the colourful language of eastern UP and the cottage industry of Gorakhpur – kidnapping.
Whenever the students of the elite Rajput and the pajama chhaap Model locked horns on a race track and beyond, we got so caught up in their rivalry that we forgot where they were located. Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar opened with a commentary about pahadiyon ke beech mein ek khubsoorat jannat – Dehradun, a ‘heaven-on-earth’ which also had some of the best schools and colleges in the country.
Dehradun’s academic creds haven’t dimmed in the last twenty years as St Teresa of Student Of The Year was also located there.
While Bunty Aur Babli carried out their capers all over UP, they were not from any real town. And yet from every town. As residents of Phursatganj and Pankhinagar, they inhabited the world of railway colonies, river ghats, crowded bazaars, seedy hotels, upright parents and the lure of success that is part of the fabric of every town in UP.