THE DREAM MAKER
We wrote this piece last month to celebrate Yash Chopra's 80th birthday on September 27 describing him as 'Bollywood's only contemporary auteur'. Sadly, it now serves as his obituary
1959. It was the year Anil Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt were born. Jawaharlal Nehru was India's Prime Minister. Television finally arrived in the country with the setting up of the state-run Doordarshan. Bajaj Auto got a manufacturing license for producing two and three wheelers. Guru Dutt released his ambitious Kaagaz Ke Phool. And B.R. Chopra launched his younger brother Yash as director with Dhool Ka Phool.
CONTINUED FROM PART 1
Govind Nihalani set up another elaborate party sequence a few years later, but this time his focus was on a failing marriage, in what was to be, his most ‘literary’ film. Obviously inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes From A Marriage, Drishti (1990) was written by novelist Shashi Deshpande and explores different phases in the lives of an upper class Mumbai couple that starts off by celebrating their eighth wedding anniversary with the said party.
Like in Party, this isn’t the joyous occasion it first appears to be. Already, through the ugly squabble between Sandhya’s (Dimple Kapadia in her career’s best performance) friend Prabha (Mita Vashisht) and her ill mannered husband Ramesh (Vijay Kashyap), the breakdown of the protagonists’ marriage is foretold. Before long, Sandhya is in a casual relationship with a young classical singer (Irrfan Khan in one of his earliest film roles), Nikhil (Shekhar Kapur) confesses to his relationship with a younger woman and eventually walks out of the marriage. But that’s just the first act.
Dimple Kapadia's performance in Drishti is rated as one of her finest
THE TRUTH TELLER
Possibly the most ‘mainstream’ filmmaker of the Parallel Cinema movement of the ‘70s and ‘80s, Govind Nihalani was certainly the easiest to connect with and is a personal favourite. His narratives, often built around contemporary socio-political issues and sometimes presaging trends, were seeped in realism but rarely marred by abstraction or stiltedness. Displaying an innate honesty of purpose, these films spoke of human frailty and the inability of individuals to withstand forces of corruption and coercion, manifest in the garb of the establishment. His protagonists, though raging idealists, could never win the day unlike their counterparts in commercial cinema and rarely found catharsis.
Nihalani's films displayed an innate honesty of purpose. PIC COURTESY USMAN GHAFOOR
ART FOR HEART'S SAKE
Deepti Naval unexpectedly stormed into my life earlier this year through a film called Memories In March. It’s not as if one wasn’t already an admirer of her work in Ankahee, Main Zinda Hoon, Panchvati and Mirch Masala—and her more popular films Chashme Baddoor, Katha and Saath Saath. But this performance was unsettling because of its poise and calmness in a situation that warranted a far more overt display of emotion. The restrain was disturbing and moving at once.
A middle-aged woman grieving the death of an only son in a drunken accident, Aarti travels to Kolkata to collect his remains and stumbles upon a secret that shatters her—that he was gay and in a relationship with an older colleague (Rituparno Ghosh). As she tries to make sense of this revelation and cope with her grief, she conducts herself with remarkable grace and maturity; even when she has an angry outburst, she’s impassioned without being hysterical.
THE POET PHILOSOPHER
Doesn’t each of us have that one definitive influence—a figure that speaks after one’s heart, as though intuitively peeping inside and gently scooping out the truth? For many like myself, Gulzar has played that part with his lyrics, screenplays and films. His work has a philosophical dimension while being rooted in everyday life and filtered through an empathetic worldview. His characters are intimate friends rather than creatures of fiction, his songs reserves of wisdom and compassion.
When Rajesh Khanna in & as Anand (1971) talks of the transience of existence, he employs Gulzar’s words,“Zindagi aur maut uparwale ke haath hain jahanpanah. Use naa toh aap badal sakte hain, na main. Hum sab toh rangmanch ki katputhliyan hain, jinki dor uparwale ke haath mein bandhi hain. Kab kaun kaise uthega, yeh koi nahin bata sakta hai.”
THE CONSUMMATE ACTOR
As a journalist, you aren’t afforded the freedom to get over-awed by the people you write about. Being human, every once in a while, you slip and make a fool of yourself. Like the time I had to interview Naseeruddin Shah about a new play he was acting in. This was in the late-1990s and anticipating the possibility of a fiasco, I’d taken a friend along to boost my courage. As expected, I stood speechless before the man, while my friend poked me to get going with the interview. I recall asking a few routine questions self-consciously, both in awe and for fear of invoking his infamous temper, and ultimately doing a very ordinary piece about the play (which was, of course, thoroughly enjoyable).
REAL CAN BE BEAUTIFUL
One of the hallmarks of Abbas Tyrewala’s directorial debut Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na was the believability of its characters and situations. The Arabian Sea shot across from the Bandra reclamation was just like it is in real life, a dark moody colour. The skies weren’t a saturated blue. Poetry was made out of cement mixers (which were likened to snoring ogres). There WAS a pretty cast, but not a designer one, like in recent films like Aisha. “Of course, at the beginning some of the actors did have a problem with them not looking glamorous because they want that,” says Manoj Lobo, director of photography of the film, and of Mr Tyrewala’s next, Jhootha Hi Sahi, currently in theatres. The brief he had received from his director was to keep things real. This sat pretty with his own sensibilities, “The only thing I told Abbas at that time was that real could be beautiful without being cosmetic.”
THE GAMINE ONE
While most people in the industry take advantage of their lineage, Tanuja’s problem was that her own identity was lost in the lustre of her very talented family. She was always known Shobhana Samarth’s daughter, Nutan’s sister, Shomu Mukherjee’s wife and later, Kajol’s mother. When, by herself, the gamine, husky voiced beauty and natural actress could have amounted to much more than she eventually did.
OF INNOCENCE AND FORTITUDE
Had the stoical Kalyani from Bimal Roy’s Bandini (1963) become the prototype for the Hindi film heroine instead of the ever-suffering Radha of Mother India (1957), the depiction of women in our cinema perhaps wouldn’t have been as drab as it is. Kalyani, as portrayed by Nutan, is the embodiment of Indian womanhood. She has the resilience to adapt to every situation, but not with the bearing of a sacrificial lamb. Instead, she takes responsibility for her actions––which include murdering her lover’s wife in a fit of passionate rage––repents her crime and is gracefully reconciled to a life in prison.