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Round And About

Watching a film at Fame Thakur Movies the other day when the slide asking one to guess Sanjeev Kumar’s real name was displayed on screen. Overheard two youngsters behind me in response,

Youngster 1: Yeh, Sanjeev Kumar kaun hai? (Who is this Sanjeev Kumar)
Youngster 2: Yaar, shayad us film mein Thakur tha…(Maybe he played the Thakur in that film…)
Youngster 1: Haan, mujhe lagta hai maybe wohi hai…Kya naam tha us film ka? (Yeah, I think that was him. What was the name of that film?)

It made me realize that Sholay (1975) is now over 34 years old!

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Was given an explanation of the psyche of the Telugu commercial film the other day from a fellow FTIIan from Andhra Pradesh after I told him I quite enjoyed Magadheera (2009). Simple, straightforward and to the point.

Take a local hero, preferably keep him with his moustache.
First choice, get a gori-chitti heroine from North. She should be treated as a sex object, who is ultimately tamed by the hero, falls in love with him and toes the line according to his wishes.
The villain has to be North Indian who gets beaten up by local hero.

I thought about it. Who are amongst the top heroines there in Tollywood? Bhumika Chawla, Genelia D’Souza, Ileana D’Cruz, Kajal Aggarwal…

And villains? Sayaji Shinde, Pradeep Rawat, Ashish Vidyarthy, Mukesh Rishi, Rahul Dev…

Quite a take on the North-South divide, this.

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Does super success make an actor insecure to experiment anymore and instead stick to tried and tested waters? SRK, for one, is very comfortable today within his Yashraj Films, Dharma Productions, Farah Khan clique… Long gone are the days where he’d do a Kabhi Haa Kabhi Naa with a Kundan Shah or an Idiot with a Mani Kaul.

And as I’ve discovered Tamil cinema of the last 8-9 years and been very impressed by the work in Chennai (Hindi cinema could well take a much needed lesson from here), have also discovered what a fine actor-star Tamil filmdom has in Suriya. As the strong, silent cop in Kaakha Kaakha (2003), the polio affected, buck-toothed hunchback in Perazhagan (2004) or the father (from his college days in the 1960s till he is 64) and son (from 17 to his 30s) in Vaaranam Aayiram (2008), he is simply outstanding. What’s more, these films, though made within the mainstream format, had a certain logic and sensibility behind them.

With the super success of Ayan (2009), he is undoubtedly No 1 in Tamil cinema today (Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth are a different entity altogether). And today when he is in a state where he can pick and choose and do what he wants to, he chooses safe directors – ‘Minimum Guarantee’ KS Ravikumar (Aadhavan (2009)) and Hari (Singam (2010)) of the blockbuster variety as now the stakes are clearly too high and every film must be that big blockbuster. Death of the actor at the cost of the star?

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Last but not the least, another sign of our times. A fellow filmmaker was trying to explain to one of his young assistant directors who Raj Kapoor was. He was getting nowhere explaining to her about the golden age of Indian cinema, the 1950s or asking her if she had seen Raj Kapoor’s masterpieces such as Awaara (1951) or Shree 420 (1955), which of course she hadn’t. He finally got through to her when he explained to her that Raj Kapoor was Kareena Kapoor’s grandfather. Her eyes lit up in recognition!

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15 Comments

  • None of these young people had oldie film buffs at home?? Dhanno is always being subjected to black and white cinema on Sai Cinema, my favourite channel. 🙂

  • Very perceptive…
    I think super success nourishes ‘super’ egos and the consequent super insecurity in our super stars. So they feel comfortable only in their cocooned I-scratch-your back/ You-scratch-my-back world… What SRKs are doing today Amitabh Bacchan did the same earlier … He too made himself available to an ‘exclusive’ set of directors/producers and played the angry young man to the point of ridicule (and bankruptcy!!!) till his rebirth/re-invention in KBC… On the other hand we have Johnny Depp trying to curb his exuberance and flamboyance post Pirates of the Caribbean in Public Enemies (I think it didn’t work out to well!)… Clint Eastwood re-inventing his on-screen persona (and also perhaps the Western as a genre) in Unforgiven…

    My 19 year old niece thought Charulata was a ‘Rituparno-type’ film in B&W!!!

  • Interesting Observations Bali…especially the ones on Sanjeev Kumar and Raj Kapoor.. This means…only one thing…nobody stays ‘immortal’ forever whatever you do…new generation will come and will find their own ‘Greats’…rest will just gradually fade away…. 🙂

  • In 1997, on the 50th anniversary of India’s independence, a leading magazine ( India Today me thinks) conducted interviews with Indians of different hues. I distinctly remember..one young tribal man in the very interiors of Orrisa or MP said…he had no idea what India was….his grand father and father had told him….first there was very fair Raja and now there is a lesser fair raja called ‘NEHARU’.

  • charu – history, I guess, is meant to be forgotten, so that it can be rewritten all over again – with the kind of flavor one wants! There could then be ample scope fist fights. Maybe that is what history is!

  • @Sanjivan : I remember a line in an old Ruskin Bond story – everything must succumb to the inexorable deceit of time…

    @Batul: Dhanno is one lucky lady to have you there. But then I’ve repeatedly told you what a cool aunty you are! 😀

    @Monish: Hmmm, makes us suddenly look at Charulata in new light doesn’t it? 😀

    @Ramchandra: Indeed Ram, if it can happen with the father of the nation, it could happen to anybody.

  • A conversation that I had overheard in the 1990s…
    Qus: ‘Who is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi?’
    Ans: ‘Indra Gandhi’s husband.’
    If it can happen with Mr Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi it can happen with anyone…

  • It has been my lot over the last few years to be talking to this 20+/- generation about cinema. History was thought to be synonymous with knowledge and if you lacked knowledge of it, it was something to feel a little guilty about. Today the paradigm has changed completely. History is a bad word. It is to many like an outdated software. Sense of continuity is broken completely. After seeing Chalti ka Naam Gadi , one student asked me who is the leading lady?
    Mughal e Azam was thought to be slow and so boring that one fellow actually compared it to Saas Bahu serial! But, my observation is that this problem is peculiar to our industry… For, whenever I have presented ‘old films’ to the non-film students, their reactions have been quite positive, although they have never been exposed to the before. I think, it has to do with the deep rooted belief in India that to make it into films, you need natural talent[ and all believe they have it], ‘confidence’ and smartness. Training is a word you don’t hear at all.

  • I teach film related subjects to Media students and to my surprise i have found out during one of the classes that they had not heard of the Kargil war , the 65 war, 71 war, birth of Bangladesh. Erase and record buttons seemed to be constantly on.

  • The younger generation is sometimes surprisingly ignorant… I often wonder if I was like that. I don’t think I was so bad but am glad my daughter knows Dev Anand… and RK too for that matter, but the two of us don’t think that highly of him!

  • @Which main? What Cross: Exceptions to rules are always there. My friend was telling me about the general trend.

    @Irene: No I don’t think we were so ignorant and not just about films but about life in general.

    @slowfade: Well put

    @Shekhar: Thanks!

    @Anil Zankar: I don’t think todays’s young filmmakers realize the importance of knowing the evolution of our country’s film history from its birth to what it has become to understand our grammar of filmmaking better and why it has moved in the direction it has. Nor do they have the patience to do so. And even if you want to break rules, they don’t understand that you can do so properly only if you know the rules in the first place. I was shocked when I read of a certain filmmaker today proudly boasting that he never wastes his times on the black and white stuff of Bimal Roy or Guru Dutt as he doesn’t find them worth it. That his own films made on huge budgets with top stars are goddamn awful and show a total lack of cinematic craft is something he doesn’t address of course.

    @Fateh Jung: Not having heard of Kargil just a decade back is a bit much, though one cannot condone not having heard of the others either! Yes, it’s a different world out there.

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