[dropcap]I[/dropcap]ndian news television has never quite been able to tell an actor’s story. Just like a maker of Hindi commercial cinema, unable to handle romance or grief, breaks into a song-and-dance sequence, these news channels play clips of songs where the actors merely lip-synced with the lyrics rather than situations where they delivered prosaic lines, paused or let their eyes do the talking.
Today’s “Flashback” on NewsX was no exception. It disappointed as much as Times Now does with its “Total Recall” every Saturday. While chronicling the stars and superstars of Hindi cinema, what was supposed to be a programme on Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan came across more as a tribute to Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore Kumar!
If I were to direct this programme, the following would be the scenes highlighted or underscored, along with a “Suhana Safar with Annu Kapoor”-style narrative to share with the audience what went into the making of the scenes.
Daag: Before he pinned for Paro in Devdas, he did the lovelorn act in this film.
Musafir: The tragedy king does not try hard to make it a double sob story where sadness of lost love is coupled with the grief of an imminent death.
Mashaal: The hitherto composed character breaks down as his wife cannot bear with her stomach pain in the middle of nowhere of a city deep into the night. He tries stopping cars on the thoroughfare so that one of them could carry his wife to a doctor. Nobody stops as he screams, “Ey bhaai,” and the echoes of the desperate cry are lost in the wilderness.
Downfall: The 1980s onwards, producer-directors got so carried away by Yusuf Khan’s Urdu that Dilip Kumar got burdened with rhetorical dialogues that killed his poignant pauses and inimitable soft speech.
Teesri Kasam: When he picks a fight with spectators of a nautanki for referring to the nautch girl (Waheeda Rahman) as a ra*di, when he narrates a love story during the trip on his bullock cart or when he takes the third vow.
Mera Naam Joker: Any or all of the last three of the four occasions when the protagonist loses the girl to another man (the first was played by a young Rishi Kapoor).
Downside: He never quite emerged from Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp.
Not an actor of the league of the other two sensations of his generation, Anand could still pull off a shot or two in some of his films.
Hum Dono: when he has got to tell Nanda he is a mere lookalike of her husband. If you prefer melodrama, go for Asli Naqli.
Jewel Thief: Suspense reigns as he is reluctant to open his socks in a party to show Ashok Kumar he is not the thug whose right foot suffered from polydactyly.
Guide: Recall the scene where he loses Waheeda and is also condemned as a fraud. A part that comes close in terms of emotions is the struggle of a doctor to save his wife (Mumtaz) in Tere Mare Sapne.
Yuck! All the films he made in the last 20 years of his life with absent storylines, clumsy actors and forgettable titles, even as a hypocritical industry cheered and celebrated him as “evergreen”.
Another average actor, Kaka arguably could make the audience shed tears at a higher frequency than what a much better Dilip Kumar could manage.
Anand: Remember the lighter sequence of the hero’s search for an imaginary Murari in any passer-by picked at random. That was fun!
Namak Haram: Khanna underplays it when differences crop up between his rich friend played by Amitabh Bachchan and him.
Aavishkar: The scenes depicting a man-wife relationship hitting a plateau are better than those where marital discord has set in between the partners in a couple played by a deglamourised Sharmila Tagore and him. The quarrel in the family did not do justice to the art genre; Khanna was just repeating what he had done with Mumtaz in Aap ki Kasam, albeit for a different reason.
Nosediving: The Punjabi whose face had a hint of Mongoloid features first got his hair long and hairstyle wrong, resembling that of a sarangi player in a mujra and then displeased even the director who was backing him to the hilt when reverses struck him, Shakti Samanta, by putting on some weight. The latter-day writers of his films were unsure what to do with him towards the conclusion of any story, if not kill him to garner public sympathy as in Anand or Safar!
There are too many scenes to recall in the case of the actor whose competence is no less than his star value.
Silsila: He tells Jaya that his past with his girlfriend (Rekha) cannot be brushed under the carpet for his present with his wife (Jaya). Gaze towards the ground, no eye contact with the person he was addressing his words to, either with fingers clasped or hands in the trouser pockets, this was Big B at his brooding best.
Muqaddar ka Sikandar: He stubs a burning cigarette on his hand to make sure he is not dreaming as his crush Rakhi arrives at his doorstep for the first time.
Amar Akbar Anthony: The legendary inebriated act before the mirror was impromptu, both Manmohan Desai and Bachchan said in course of separate interviews.
Yaarana: Learning Urdu diction, the character he plays turns “zindagi saaz baney, soz na banney paaye” (let life be a musical instrument, not a bundle of emotions) into “jandagi saaj baney, soj na banney paave“. At the peak of the superstar’s career, it was said a film featuring him did not require a separate comedian.
Sharaabi: The way he mourned when Munshiji (Om Prakash) died is how an actor on stage is taught to cry.
Main Azaad Hoon: You may tell me it’s an adaptation of Meet John Doe; that takes nothing away from my eyewitness account of a communist Calcutta lapping up this story of a nobody-turned-rebel during my college days. My favourite scene from the film is where ‘Azaad’ is overwhelmed by the arrival of makeshift workers, is unable to address them with a speech and so he raises a fist in the air as a mark of solidarity with the labour force.
The fall: We never got him back fully since the disastrous venture called Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited except as a wonderful host of the quiz show on television, Kaun Banega Karodpati. His persona is now proving as much a curse as it is a blessing, as he always look more Amitabh Bachchan than the part he is supposed to play. Further, Inquilab Srivastav’s impeccable Hindi is as much a handicap as Yusuf Khan’s chaste Urdu. He says to the restauratrice Lillete Dubey in Baghban, for example, “Aap hamen lajjit kar rahi hain.” Isn’t a retired manager of ICICI Bank more likely to say “sharmindah” for embarrassment?