From Anand to Bemisaal — variations on a Mukherjee theme

this one’s for Rajen.. the greatest fan of both films on this blog.. hopefully the following meets his standards..

Roughly midpoint through Anand Bachchan’s character, Dr Bhaskar, expresses surprise that the terminally ill Anand does not have any family to lay claim to. He is told by his friend, Prakash, that Anand is a child left orphan by Partition in Delhi. This is a remarkable moment in the film though as with so much else in Mukherjee’s work it is presented in the most unobtrusive fashion. Anand, as the expiring offspring of a tragic Partition is a suggestive metaphor.

The film also pays homage to presumably the director’s romance with the city of Bombay. There is not very much of the ‘outdoors’ in the film but it begins with one of the best credit sequences in Hindi cinema (with a superb score as well). Mukherjee offers a dedication to the city and his master, Raj Kapoor (it should not be forgotten that another illustrious protege of the legend, Manmohan Desai, started his career with a Partition film in Chalia and the resonances of which stayed with him throughout his career) with a marvelous montage of iconic Bombay sites (eventually the frame is reduced so it is almost as if one is watching all of this in a screening room with the editor.. one moment must be spotlit.. the one with the double deckers swishing across the screen, wipes of a kind, a memory that maybe stayed with Rohan Sippy when he did something similar in Bluffmaster). This city is most often privileged in the director’s work.

But something kept fascinating Mukherjee with the theme of the terminally ill lead protagonist. He of course re-interrogated this space in Mili, another film with the lead character giving the film its title, another film which begins ‘at the end’ and ‘rewinds’ the time of the film. Because Anand has a definite ending we learn at the very beginning that the lead character in in fact dead. Mili however remains open ended and is to this author the greater film even if Anand has the greater iconic claim.

Each film offers the literal physical decay of the patient as a response to a larger socio-political set. If Anand is the child of Partition he is also a victim of the post-Independence experiment where the cynicism of commerce has quickly replaced the idealism of the Independence era (this connects Mukherjee to Raj Kapoor’s oeuvre, one especially thinks of Shree 420). The ‘dialog’ between Dr Bhaskar and his colleague cum friend, Prakash, is central to the film and erupts at more than a few points. If Rajesh Khanna’s character is the film’s philosopher advising us on how to live life the conflict itself is staged between the two friends who are in different ways not completely reconciled with their profession. Bhaskar is especially a tortured soul. It is this humanism that Anand, that Raj Kapoor also represented by way of his Chaplinesque self in Shree 420, that has been forsaken in post-Independence India.

Anand is the great foundational film of Mukherjee’s career and he returns to some of its central concerns from time to time. It could be argued that in some ways his vision also grew darker in later works though the director never quite lost his affection for the bourgeois world he otherwise satirized or critiqued in both his ‘serious’ films and his comedies. Mili is a darker film than Anand because it operates in a universe of greater social specificity and hence the sickness of its eponymous protagonist winds a more immediate correlative. One thinks of the obvious scandal at the heart of the film that crystallizes the larger social malaise of that social system. The even later Jurmana also operates with such a ‘given’. By the time we get to the really late Bemisaal, in many respects the most ambiguous and certainly most unsettling of the director’s works, the circle that began with Anand is in a sense complete. Here too the clinical and disease are twinned with the failure of a socio-political project. Interestingly here it is a disastrous abortion that leads to the film’s climactic crisis. One cannot stop here. There is the all important ‘double’ of the film, rather muddled as a narrative element but one that is thematically quite important. But one must backtrack a bit here and reflect on the space Amitabh Bachchan occupies in Mukherjee’s oeuvre.

Bachchan is always the ‘out of joint’ personality in Mukherjee, always the character who unhinges the film a little bit. We see this in Anand where his character is always angst-ridden and where Anand’s otherwise simplistic worldview finds a much more sophisticated expression in his character. In fact Bhaskar is led to his own ‘project’ because of his acquaintance with Anand. One knows that he will lead a fuller life for having known Anand even if the latter himself (though a great star outing for Rajesh Khanna and also one of his most endearing ones) often seems no more than an index of the gestural without ever convincing completely as a diagnostician. Anand’s project at any rate depends on Bhaskar. As an aside I should add that the re-coding of Anand in recent times as a Bachchan film seems either completely ridiculous or at least a sad reflection on how passe Rajesh Khanna is at the present time but in the light of the reading I’ve just offered it at least becomes more comprehensible.

Moving a bit quickly now in Namak Haram once again Rajesh Khanna has the title role and seems to bring about the crisis but the greater ‘political’ gesture is handed over to Bachchan. Rajesh Khanna’s ‘betrayal’ is in a way pre-ordained in as much as he remains truer to his social class by going down this path. It is Bachchan however who atones for it and who offers his ‘corporatist’ father the ultimate price. He represents the apotheosis of his friend’s dream and subsequent ‘sacrifice’. This move was of course repeated years later in Bemisaal, a film which even as it completes the circle begun with Anand also reunites all the threads that first emerge in the latter and find varied expression throughout the 70s work of Mukherjee. Here too Bachchan pays the price for a very different betrayal that his friend-brother engages in. It is only in Bemisaal where the ‘doctor’ who treats and the one who kills are symmetrically offered in the same narrative. The medical practitioner ‘arrives’ at Bemisaal’s site as the possessor of a ‘pharmakon’ in the Plato-Derrida sense of the term which is to say as the bearer of a drug which is equally medicine and poison. The same social model engenders and it paralyzes, it opens up possibilities but it also murders in each instant. This is always Mukherjee’s lesson (which is why for example Anand’s death is almost necessary much as Dharmendra’s is in Satyakam… the social compact demands this sort of blood sacrifice from those who would seek to reorder it by taking its ‘morals’ a bit too seriously.. if there is a bourgeois principle to Mukherjee’s films it is this — mores must always trump morals.. a truth that leads both to comedy as well as tragedy and Mukherjee was a master in both modes). Sometimes madness might also be a result. Again let me get to this a bit later.

Abhimaan offers an ‘unhinging’ of Bachchan and later on he is once again the only one in the tale who can set things right. Jurmana’s crisis is yet again ‘manufactured’ by Bachchan who is the surest cynic starting out and in essence a great casualty of his social framework. At least before her reforms. Alaap finally has the complete abdication of social ‘responsibility’ for the higher pleasures of art. And finally Bemisaal, the film where Bachchan must be split into two. One the one hand Sudhir, possibly Mukherjee’s most enigmatic character, one who with everything else that might be said about him also operates at the boundaries of bourgeois sexuality. The director is extraordinarily bold here for Bachchan’s relationship with Raakhee always functions in a twilight zone where lover and sibling frequently change roles. There is a definite ‘coupling’ here. Bachchan starts out being attracted to the woman, perhaps. Then he sacrifices her for his best friend/brother, perhaps. Finally he begins a very strange, even unsettling tango with his sister(-in-law)-lover. There are moments in the movie where Bachchan seems to be ‘acting’ and yet something real always transpires between the two in these instances and Raakhee’s character is not unaware of the strange charge of this relationship.

But Mukherjee also puts forth in his darkest move the mad brother (a victim of feminine sexuality perhaps in keeping with what has just been discussed.. towards the end of the film there is a point at which the principal character also appears a bit unhinged as he stages a kind of sexual overture with his sister-lover) who functions as the double of the ‘rational’ one. The ultimate price is paid by these brothers. One repeats the earlier Namak Haram sacrifice. The other ends up in an asylum. A rational medical professional and his literally unhinged patient brother/other. The role the woman plays in each instance is not unproblematic.

What begins with physical disease ends with madness. This entire journey is also peppered with Mukherjee’s great comedies where again the bourgeois order is always lampooned affectionately. Khubsoorat in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency and subsequent return to power might contain the most overt political statement. Amol Palekar meanwhile in many of the films retains an element of subversion that reminds me in other contexts of Mohanlal’s ‘double’ (Srinivasan… this actor even exhibits a troll-like menace at points which is beyond Palekar..) in many of the comedies he did.

To reiterate Anand remains Mukherjee’s authentic beginning. One only has to consider an earlier successful film like Anupama to reflect on the gulf between the two. Mukherjee really invented himself with Anand but also found an appropriate site to take some of Raj Kapoor’s themes in a new direction. He was ever the social commentator in inimitable style though one can render him bland by only insisting on this and ignoring his more profound designs. My aim here was to rather chaotically rush through some of this history. Not a formal exercise by any means but hopefully one that opens up some areas for reflection. If I have attempted something like a thesis here it points in the direction of magnifying the equation Mukherjee sets up between physical ailment and social malaise (itself a rather novelistic idea) and for which his rightly classic Anand offers a canonical beginning.

82 Responses to “From Anand to Bemisaal — variations on a Mukherjee theme”

  1. Excellent post here..Bemishall is one of my fav movie although a bit underrated….


  2. Rajeev,
    Satyam’s posts r always excellent but there is srk then———?


  3. typo i mean when there is srk


  4. Taran,

    satyam seems to save his best for SRK 🙂


  5. masterpraz Says:

    Whoa….what a brilliant piece!




  7. still there is nobody who can beat the biggest superstar ever


    Rajesh Khanna comes second though……..

    Amitabh & Rajesh joint venture were just “ELECTRIC”…


  8. Thanks Satyam, as always your writing is excellent. I have forgotten most of the contents of these movies. Reading your post makes me wonder if I should revisit some of these, rather than wasting my time on the crappy movies that come out of Bollywood these days.


  9. Excellent post. I am a big fan of Hrishda and until now we dont have a substitute. In current scenario I miss him more. He got swept under the angry young man wave during his peak time.


  10. Since we brought in SRK in this thread , I would urge Satyam bhai to come up with a separate thread on srk and his future from hereon.

    Satyam you have been absolutely right in predicting srk’s legacy and how he may end up going rajesh khanna way.

    There is more to it in that announcement of Tees Maar Khan with akki.

    Give us a bit of your insights in all this esp srk has nothing after mnik too.

    Thanks in advance.


    • To be honest I have seen the Rajesh Khanna model as being pertinent for SRK in some ways but I wouldn’t go too far with it. First off SRK will not become a Rajesh Khanna and we already see this. One project a year driven by crazy hype keeps you somewhat more relevant. Yes, SRK has lost a great deal of ground otherwise but he might preserve his box office at his current volume. The Rajesh Khanna analogy isn’t exact in any case because SRK was never a superstar like him (even if every other star is one going by media definitions). But what’s instructive here is the fact that despite having a good box office run a star in decline can become irrelevant to the overall narrative. So Rajesh Khanna had in many way a better ’74 than Bachchan and certainly a great year after a relatively lean run leading upto this. But it was too late. History had overtaken him. Rajesh Khanna seems dead after ’74 or ’75 when he was still working regularly and also getting some success for a few more years. It wasn’t that he was behind Bachchan. He seemed behind some other stars too. I have indeed been talking about SRK’s relative decline for some years now but in many ways his hatrick of hits in CDI, OSO, RNBDJ exposed his vulnerabilities far more than the weaker performers or semi-hits ever did. RNBDJ was in a sense the last straw. A genuine success, a very significant grosser and even the media didn’t give it much attention! With MNIK we will see an OSO kind of hype machine in action. But let’s see what the final gross here is. Beyond this again the point is that even a success won’t change the narrative. He’s not at the cutting edge in any sense anymore. Forget my list, make up any top 10 lists of edgy directors and see how many of those are working with SRK or have worked with him in the last half decade. And then you add low volume and you fall below the radar. what SRK needs is reinvention and he hasn’t been able to do it yet. His current course of action is actually smart because he’s at least ensuring his box office viability at a superior level. But when it’s not your time anymore your box office doesn’t mean as much.


  11. What I meant was is he retiring or something. …or is he going through the aamir phase of self realisation / reinvention ?


    • Aamir though reinvented himself or at least began that process when he was really at the peak of his career in terms of age. He sacrifice on easy returns at that point. What happens is that once the image gets too cemented it’s hard to move away from it. It becomes a trap where (and again to take the SRK example) when you do regular stuff you’re sort of too old for it (I mean a few years down the line even OSO will be impossible for him.. it’s ironic isn’t it? Every star at their peak thinks he or she is immune to the ravages of time.. I remember SRK and his base having a sort of attitude about older masala heroes romancing younger women and so on.. well SRK’s been doing this routinely in relatively ‘youthful’ films!) and when you change course your fans find the ‘star signature’ weakened and are disappointed. This was a big issue with KANK where Johar drained all of SRK’s energy and looks like he’s planning to do the same in MNIK (though this sounds like a more dramatic film and hopefully JOhar’s learnt from his mistakes).


  12. yes very well said satyam and I do agree aamir took this sabatical at a younger stage and took a greater sacrifice.
    During that phase I used to think since Aamir is going through a difficult phase in personal life and also due to eccentrities of his family does not want to be in the media glare. He has realised in India, he will be under media scrutiny for his personal life.

    But last few years he has shown and given new dimension to the way people think about indian movies.

    Have you read the latest kjo interview on aamir. I believe he has summed it well about how audiences perceive him.

    On SRK god knows what happened to him and his so called command on the audience pulse. Now wrt kjo after kurbaan , everyone is raising their doubts on mnik and its sensibilities.

    on farah I think srk may / or may not have…….
    i will come back on this in a while.

    thanks anyway satyam.


  13. I will have to revisit later and keep this dialogue with you.


  14. Excellent post as said above by many.
    HM remains one of absolute loved Bollywood film makers and rate him above Raj Kapoor for sure. For me he is up there with Guru Dutt, Desai and Prakash Mehra.
    Apart from the works mentioned above, Satyakam remains very dear to my heart. There is something about Dharmendra’s portrayal as a protagonist foran absolutist entrapment of truth ( not my words) which tugs at my heart strings like few others. The movie released when I was too young to understand it but saw it much later. My favorite performance by Dharmendra by a margin.
    It was sad to see Jhoot Bole Kaua Kate by HM which was his last film and had absolutely nothing.
    I heard him on TV several times and was unimpressive. Much like Gulzar.


  15. for the first time,have to say..a great reflective piece…but the comments are and can be challenged and defeated by a tenth grader also!!


  16. Excellent Profile on HM’s films Satyam, Very well written. Don’t think anyone in today’s generation of directors comes even close to his vision. But Do have to say that Raju Hirani atleast tries. I wonder when all these new age directors claim that they learnt a lot from Hrishida’s /Raj Kapoor’s /Guru Dutts films. How come it is not reflecting in their films, Biggest one of them is Kunal Kohli always talking about these great makers, But I dont think he has even one scene in his entire career of filmmaking coming close to even the worst shot of Hrishida or any of these makes. JI would really like these filmmakers to stop taking these great makers name and insulting their intelligence in filmmaking. Aaargh very frustrating


    • thanks much Kash.. you’re absolutely on the money though.. a number of great names are thrown around by very many filmmakers but very few reveal any authentic influence in this sense.


  17. alex adams Says:

    Liked your cumment Kash..
    And the likes of Kunal Kohli are apt…
    The problem is that there is a there is not only a question of “sacrifice” of aesthetic taste to commercial interests. These folks are just not “capable” of that “sacrifice” since they dont possess the ability at all.
    ps—recently watched few scenes of “kala paththar”–bachchan in (more than) sublime touch.One of his under rated performances—the “brewing simmering” type


    • Agreed Alex, The yesteryear makers (most of them if not all) did not compromise on the content of their films, Which is what one thing I have really learned from them, NEVER compromise with your vision. Not saying that they were ALL great films, but you can see that there was hard work and dedication in some of the writings. And as you rightly said these guys are not even capable of that sacrifice cause they DO NOT have that vision to compromise anything.


    • Honestly Alex, Have not watched ANY movies for over a month now, let alone a Bachchan flick. Now that I am back on my daily routine, will catch some and educate the Mrs. on some great Bachchan films and performances (and she is game for it and it was her recommendation that we catch one bachchan movie a weekend, wondering what we shall start with this weekend.)


  18. omrocky786 Says:

    Superb piece satyam..totally agree with the enigmatic relationship Sudhir has with Rakhi in the movie…. The role of Sudhir on viewing looks simple but it has so many shades and then to portray with the effortless ease with which bachchan did can only be done by him and him alone…. The songs were so approriate for the situations, I would everything was perfect other than Bachchan’s elder brother whio was too much like Dilip Kumar… IMO they should have casted someone else rather than having Bachchan play the double role….
    Aside – I tend to call some of my lady friends as Sakhi and they tend to like it ….LOL!!


    • yes that double is rather strange.. this is incidentally a Bengali remake though in Mukherjee’s hands the film becomes far more ambiguous in some respects (Chupke Chupke and Satyakam are the only other direct Mukherjee remakes.. don’t think I’m forgetting anything here.. Bawarchi is supposed to be a loose one too though haven’t seen the original).


  19. Good to see someone else sharing the same regard for Bemisaal.
    IMHO, it is the most interesting portrayal of a man-wmoan relationship in Bollywood history. The only jarring note here was the casting of Sheetal.
    The most admirable thing was HM never gave in to the temptation of making the enigmatic relationship more obvious or clear.
    Cannot imagine anyone else being able to portray what AB did here. A gem of a movie and a gem of a performance.


    • rajen, i am elated to know that u love bemisaal. i am quite a fan of the film myself.agree with u on the bad casting choice regarding sheetal(it’s surprising bcos hrishida hardly ever got his casting ever). anyway bachchan showed another brilliant shade of his angry young man avatar.the one thing which was slightly jarring was the sub-plot regarding the adheer roy character,was not fleshed out enough.i have always believed HR gave a new meaning to that ‘angry persona’-namak haraam is the other example


  20. omrocky786 Says:

    Bemisal is my all time fav. film and all time fav. performance by Mr. Bachchan, I would take Bemisal any day over Jurmana….Bachchan’s said so much more through his body language and his eyes , he portrayed coolness, sauveness( don’t think it is a word), seriousness, wickedness and authority all at the same bloody time with no hamming and no overdoing it…..
    just watch the song – kisi baat pey and subsequent scene with Rakhi wher she tells Sheetal’s Hunter sey marney wali baat…the range and change of emotion on his face his priceless…..


    • Interesting Rocky.. never knew this! That is truly a unique position. Mean it completely sincerely.


      • omrocky786 Says:

        aap meri tareef kar rahen hain ya Chabuk maar rahen hain ??? LOL


        • No I’m serious. There cannot be another person in the world who shares your preference. Again don’t mean it sarcastically at all. Bemisaal is the kind of film for which such an opinion is hardly absurd. And you are calling it your favorite film and bachchan performance. You’re not saying it’s better made than many other films. Incidentally I have seen this film very many times. Do think (and to take away anything from Mukherjee) that Bachchan makes the film better than it is. In other words it’s very interesting at many levels but it also has some narrative elements that don’t completely make sense. On the other hand Bachchan is obviously fantastic in Jurmana too. Here too he had the same sort of fluid performance that takes you through the film but the difference being (to my mind) that the narrative anchors the performance very well. In Bemisaal the central Bachchan-Raakhee relationship is very well-handled (though one wishes Rakhee had been younger for the part or else a different actress who could have suggested the ‘erotic’ a bit more) but I am not sure how well the rest of the film’s ‘reframing’ of the Namak Haram elements gel with it. Finally the ‘mad’ elder brother and that whole subplot. Though I have talked about all of this in the piece these things remain problematic but not very apparent because Bachchan really papers over the rough edges (hardly for the first time).


          • omrocky786 Says:

            agree on your subplot being week and Bachchan rising above the script. I have quite a few Doctors in my family and this movie showed th human side of Doctors ( fun loving normal people) as opposed to boring/old people as usually represented in Hindi cinema …will come back to this later, Got to go for after Tax season party now…….


  21. omrocky786 Says:


  22. omrocky786 Says:


  23. satyam, have read this write-up twice(when i read it first almost an year back i was completely blown by ur take on the film). and on second reading, liked it even more. i luved the way u, in the 2nd para, talk abt the difference the pre-independence ideals ant the bleak economic and social structure present during days after indepence. also liked the way u have discussed how bachchan’s characters ‘unhinges’ the respective narratives. i believe bachchan also acts as a ‘fulcrum’ of sorts in these films


  24. satyam,also feel that ‘chupke chupke’ also made a commentary abt the ‘bourgeouise’ by its take on the obsession for english language which the so called elite class in india had(represented mainly thru om prakash’s ‘jeejaji’).btw if u get a chance do watch an old bachchan film ‘raaste ka patthar'(a rather well made romantic drama) and ‘bandhe haath'(which has him in his 1st ever double-role-a nice thriller, i found it better than benaam which,i believe,is ur fav bachchan thriller. though i like benaam too)


  25. Alex adams Says:

    Like both Anand and bemisaal
    A ‘significant’ song in this space but from a different film

    Khanna is not only ‘self assured’ in the face of a fast rising bachchan but his surprising ‘ease’ puts him instantly above other pretenders/ challengers like shatru
    A ‘siginificant’ moment


    • but Rajesh Khanna as the reigning star precisely wasn’t a pretender! He could never have occupied that space! In fact isn’t your framing the opposite of what it should be? We should ask whether Bachchan is relaxed enough here!


      • alex adams Says:

        good point
        but one doesnt have to be just the ‘reigning star’ to be ‘relaxed’ with someone like bachchan.
        HAd a criteria called ‘standing upto bachchan’!!
        Though bachchan was a nobody in anand but here he had more than a full-fledged role and anyone with more than average understanding can see his ‘potential’ even here. and im sure khanna has/had that ‘understanding’
        If one needs to see what ‘lack of ease’ or ‘lack of aself assuredness’ is, check out thte tile song of old dostana (though agree that bachchan there was not a newcomer)
        ps–many people ‘lamnet’ why aamir and bachchan havent done a film together inspite of being poised to do it a few times.
        While i dont see the problem is from bachchans side, aamir seems to be bothered by (more than) just the script!
        With a screen presence like that, aamirs @acting talent’ has so much to cintend with bachchan in one frame (than just height issues)


        • But this is where you err Alex.. it’s very different working with even a very talent actor who doesn’t have a history and then doing so with the same when he has the full weight of history on his side. So everything you’re saying about Bachchan is a retrospective view. Actually any other view is not even possible. This is a point I constantly try to argue for. Once the event intervenes there’s a reset. Everything is then understood in its light. We cannot even begin to imagine a pre-Zanjeer Bachchan, a pre-Deewar Bachchan, a pre-AAA Bachchan… and so on. We cannot access him from our vantage point without this ‘series’. We simply cannot place ourselves in 1970 or ’71 or what have you. When we watch those pre-Zanjeer films we see a star or actor who is ‘on his way’ to Zanjeer and beyond. But this evolutionary view is quite false. Instead the truth here really is that the Zanjeer event creates the illusion of that evolution! Whereas for the initial audiences of Anand the film was totally about Rajesh Khanna with perhaps at the most an interesting, talented actor in a supporting role. That’s all there was to it which is why even after Anand Bachchan didn’t really have any very important projects. He remained stagnant. Again the whole mythology of his flops never highlights the fact that these films would have flopped with anyone else also. But he nonetheless wasn’t ‘impressing’ anyone more important! Eventually Mukherjee came back to him but of course Zanjeer released in the meantime (again Mehra wasn’t at the time what he later became) and the rest is history. Leaving this aside even until the late 90s or so no one really thought of Anand as anything but a Khanna film. Today the opposite is true. In a Lincoln Center retrospective some years ago for Bachchan they screened (appallingly as far as I’m concerned) Anand! Now this made a certain sense inasmuch as they were also trying to highlight different phases of his career but they could have made a different selection. So again it’s impossible as an emotional matter to go back before the event but one must do so as an intellectual exercise.

          On a related note when Rajesh Khanna was at his peak no one would ever have dreamed that he would be so dead so soon. Not just in terms of his decline but moreso for losing all relevance (even though the films are still considered classics.. actually they’re better than that). And this is why I constantly harp on the history bit. One can never quite know who will truly survive. Rajendra Kumar was another guy who was very significant for very long but then became completely dead. He was in some very iconic films in the 60s but once his age evaporated he too became extinct. Which is why one should always avoid making hyperbolic claims about the present. Unless an astonishing talent or whatever comes around (which is not often). To be more aware of the history doesn’t inoculate one. Prophecy is a risky enterprise either way but at least with the awareness one has more frames of reference than just the present.

          In more contemporary times Aamir kHan is a classic example of someone who whatever he did before Lagaan (and I’d argue he was making similar choice within the limitations he faced even then) was completely transformed after this film. He of course made wise decisions after this and he certainly has an uncanny sense of scripts but what changes everything is still Lagaan. After this film everything else is seen as leading upto this. It is so for many stars. SRK was successful with his debut film and then had the Baazigar/Darr double a year or more later but DDLJ in 1995 changed everything for him. Salman saw a complete reset with Dabanng. So it doesn’t have to be about authentic events like the angry young man. Even at a lesser level these important moments reset the clock. Which is why even when we comment on stars we should be aware of these things.


          • Alex adams Says:

            Yes there is always a “reset” with major successes-a recent example being dabang with Salman
            Also things appear different with a “retrospectoscope”
            But some actors can ‘influence’ the co actors even without a per existing ‘reputation’
            Acting is also about ‘reacting’ to the co actors
            That is due to exceptional ‘screen presence’ -which the likes of bachchan always possessed
            Even as a virtual nobody in anand and in namak haram here.


          • yes but the problem is that the very physical qualities that became his iconic trademark later were the very thing that was much derided before he became famous. He was considered far too tall, far too thin, far too ungainly! Once again this is the ‘vertigo’ history often induces. One cannot assume anything. Every point that you’re making is completely fair and yet it is a retrospective one in each case. From our vantage point it all makes perfect sense but when Anand released no one would have understood or related to anything you’re saying here today.


          • Alex adams Says:

            But “screen presence” doesn’t only/ necessarily mean good/desirable looks only
            Sometimes a ‘weird ‘ element can add to it
            Also with bachchan, lot of these ‘usual rules’ u rightly mention, didn’t really apply fully
            Which is why the marked dizzy rise
            To give the Devil it’s due, saw SRK in a telly serial called fauji for a few seconds( before films)
            He more than stood out
            Remarkable ( unpredented) successes like bachchan and even SRK did not become so without a reason
            There was something ‘ unprecedented’ about them from the start-undoubtedly that ‘something else’ becomes more obvious retrospectively, but nonetheless subtle signs are always there esp to co-actors (& careful viewers lol)


          • My own view is that the ‘unprecedented’ always seems so after the event.. even if one did see something promising that is not the same as predicting the special nature of the event.

            Of course it’s a different matter that barring the ‘overseas’ chapter, and here too specifically the US and the UK, I do not consider SRK’s success to be unprecedented in any sense.


          • Alex adams Says:

            Though have made my antipathy on many facets of SRK (including acting) v clear but
            Taking all measurable and intangible indices into account and
            All thing considered, srk is not only an ‘unpredented success’ but a ‘phenomenon’ second only to bachchan in the last few decades in Indian cinema
            Btw on a lighter note, a few German girls I know possess more SRK ‘software’ than most karankumars may ever have 🙂
            Though one needs to keep a unit of Bundespolizei always on standby just Incase some of these nubiles commit suicide on srks name 🙂
            (Needless to add that the last statement is not a serious statement )


          • “All thing considered, srk is not only an ‘unpredented success’ but a ‘phenomenon’ second only to bachchan in the last few decades in Indian cinema”

            Hate to put it this bluntly Alex but there are no facts, none whatsoever that can be brought up to support this claim! There is not even a box office argument to say SRK is ahead of just his peers over that period in India (overseas is a different matter) forget the historical sweepstakes. Then of course there are the cultural comparisons. There is other stuff. So on and so forth.

            Presentism is a serious disease! But even in the present I don’t see how the numbers add up decisively for SRK as they should given such hyperbolic claims. He has been culturally very significant for sure and the most iconic star of his age all things considered but one can only go so far on that pony!

            Also the ‘after Bachchan’ claim even were it true (and I don’t believe it is) doesn’t mean much. It’s like saying Yuvraj is the best batsman after Sachin. You would argue that’s not what you’re saying with SRK but to my historically alert eyes (if you’ll excuse this bit of smugness) it sounds exactly like that. The whole point here is that SRK is not even Dravid to Bachchan’s Sachin! In any sense whatsoever.

            What you’re saying though is perfectly understandable given your cultural coordinates. All I’m saying is that the world didn’t begin yesterday! For Bachchan the question that must be asked is this: what must he have been like at his peak (in every sense) to be able to put everyone in the shade in every sense even at his age?! So for example in K3G notice how astonishingly overmatched SRK is in all the scenes they share (the same is true for hrithik by the way vis-a-vis Bachchan). And you essentially have Bachchan in an outing where though he looks physically impressive the role is one he could do in his sleep!


          • i sumwhat agree with satyam on this ‘retrospective analysis’ of an actor’s fimography/growth curve. it’s like we say ‘let’s connect the dots’.but the fact is that we only think of ‘connecting’ the dots once the dots become one gets a brainwave of inventing those dots and then connecting them.i do agree with alex that certain qualities of bachchan did stand out even then.but the fact is once an actor becomes successful,we often start justifying his success by our so called predictions abt him


          • there are exceptions of course.. if you’re Gavaskar calling Sachin a very special talent and more even when the latter is 12 or 14 years old that’s a different matter.. but such judgment is rare in sports and rarer still in cinema.


          • Alex adams Says:

            Well, these are ‘perception takes’
            If I try to explain the rationale of this, I risk the ‘honor’ of being mistaken for an SRK fan lol

            Anyhow–this is NOT to prove this point but a related point on srks fans

            New Delhi:  Meet Shahrukhis, the German speaking fans of King Khan. They talk about Shahrukh, collect his memorabilia, watch his films together, dance to his film songs and plan their next visit to meet Shahrukh. Many of them have even visited India for his birthday.
            disclaiamer- this is not to ‘prove’ srks unprecendented success

            Here’s the full transcript of the NDTV documentary on the Shahrukhis of Vienna:

            26 year old Marlene is the first Shahrukhi we meet in Vienna, Austria.

            Shah Rukhi is a term coined by German speaking fans of Shah Rukh Khan to describe themselves.
            Marlene works as an office assistant and she is taking us home to her one bedroom apartment uptown.

            Marlene’s private world  is minimalistic, except for one ornamentation – Shah Rukh Khan.

            She has a collection of coffee mugs, posters, Indian movie magazines, DVDs, biscuit packets, almost any item emblazoned with Shah Rukh Khan’s face.

            Facing Marlene’s bed is a giant cutout of  ‘Om Shanti Om’.

            Marlene Zachs a resident of Vienna says about the giant cutout: I bought it from an E Bay auction. I first saw it at the Berlinalle function in 2008. Shah Rukh signed it for all the people in Berlin. It was for a good deed.

            NDTV: How much did you pay for it?

            Marlene: In Euros, I would say about 300 Euros.

            NDTV: And you thought it was money well spent?

            Marlene: Of course, of course. For Shah Rukh I can give everything.

            NDTV: What can you do for Shah Rukh?

            Marlene: Shah Rukh means a lot to me, I want to do everything for him. He is such a good human being. I like him so much.

            When I saw him, I was sort of crazy. He is so fantastic. I wanted to meet this man. I wanted to see him. When I first saw him at the Berlin airport, I didn’t know he would be there at that time.  I just touched him one time to see if this man could be real.

            NDTV: Do you like other stars of the Hindi film industry?

            Marlene: Yes I like Abhishek Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Vivek Oberoi. There are so many I like.

            NDTV: Then what makes Shah Rukh so different? What do you think is the best thing about Shah Rukh?

            Marlene: He is a great human being. He is not only a brilliant actor, he is always there for his family, his wife and kids. He takes out so much time for his fans and his friends. He is always so nice…that’s why he is called King Khan.

            Marlene: This is a picture of Shah Rukh and me. It was at the C Carnival 2009. I met him a few times. He was there for three days and I met him every day and got many autographs from him. It was really really nice.

            The C Carnival was happening in London.

            Marlene: I have spoken to him many times at the C Carnival. It was on the stage that the fans got a chance to meet him personally for a few moments and I was also on the stage. I talked a little with him and he signed a few pictures for me.

            NDTV: Did he ask about you?

            Marlene: Yes, yes, he is very interested in people. Maybe that’s the reason I like him so much. He is so friendly and interested in other people.

            Marlene has not only been to Berlin and London to meet her screen idol, she has also flown to India.

            Marlene: I’ve been to India only once. I remember it was in November 2009. I was there for his birthday. It was 2nd November and I was there to greet him outside Mannat. It was beautiful.

            Marlene was accompanied by other Shahrukhis from Vienna.

            Marlene: I have ten friends who also love Shah Rukh like me. We were all together in India.

            NDTV: Are these people together with you since school?

            Marlene: No, no…I found them because of Shah Rukh. It was at a forum that we got to know each other. We started meeting each other and now we are good friends because of Shah Rukh.

            Marlene: We meet sometimes at the shop, sometimes at home, either they come to me or I go to them. Sometimes, we just meet in a café.

            NDTV: What are the things you like to do together?

            Marlene: Talking about Shah Rukh! We always talk about Shah Rukh, watch movies together, plan our next trips to see Shah Rukh.

            Bollywood Gandhi Video Store has played a pivotal role in bringing Sharukhis together in Vienna.

            The store is owned by 40 year old Satish Gandhi, an immigrant from Haryana who has worked his way up – from being a newspaper vendor to a businessman.

            When we visit the store we meet 51 year old Maria. She is Hungarian and works in a bank.

            Maria Grofne: It is very difficult to put it into words why he is so special and unique. I think that on the one side, if you meet him personally, he is a normal guy, honest like you and me. But his presence is a magic. If you watch his films, it is not only his great performances, but also you get to love him as a person. I can actually say that the whole family is a Shah Rukh fan. Shah Rukh is kind of a family member.

            Maria says she watches a Shah Rukh movie every day.

            Maria: I watch about half an hour, not the whole film as I do not have the time. I watch them in Hindi. It’s also very important that I hear his voice.

            Maria: We went to Mumbai last year for his birthday. We wanted to be there once, once in a lifetime at least. And it was a great experience.

            Orsolya Kosa: I think he is a very good actor. He has played many, many different roles and he had to express so many different emotions. I think he is a good happy person. He touches people’s hearts. He is also very simple and modest.

            Shah Rukh’s Austrian fans discovered him in November 2004 when ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’ was telecast by a private German channel. It was the first Indian film to be shown and it was dubbed in German.

            Fascinated by the Indian actor, viewers searched the internet, to learn about his movies, about him and his family.

            The store became popular as Shah Rukh Khan DVDs were readily available here.

            Satish Gandhi, owner, Bollywood Gandhi Store: Ninety per cent of our customers are Austrians, Yugoslavs, Turkish, Arabs, Iranis, and Afghanis. Indians are just 10 per cent.

            The fans belong to different age groups and to different sections of society.

            Christina Wininger: My husband is from Syria and from childhood he is a Bollywood fan. He loves Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor and all of them. I am from Austria.

            Christina: I think he gives all his heart when he is acting – his energy – he is so alive. Also when you see a film which is not so good, but with Shah Rukh it becomes amazing. He gives life to the film. His personality becomes like the character he plays in the film. When I see a film of Amitabh Bachchan – he is Amitabh Bachchan, but Shah Rukh is Raj, Rahul, Surinder…he is that person.

            Christina: My favourite film is ‘Main Hoon Na’. It was the first film I saw. And this movie is so great because it has everything – comedy, tragedy, love story, action, also politics – it is also about how you should like one another and that there should not be hate between the countries.

            Michaela Wininger, Christina’s sister in law: I like his acting very much, because the people who see him in the film feel emotional. He plays his roles whole-heartedly. He gets into the roles he plays.

            Sarah Sannoufeh, Christina’s daughter in law: He looks good, he is a very good actor. I like him, I love him.

            The Shah Rukh cult is bringing in a multicultural influence into a society that is viewed by some as becoming increasingly xenophobic. Two years ago, nearly 30 per cent of Austrians voted for two far right parties that encouraged so called genuine Austrians to believe they were victims of foreigners or immigrants who take away their money and undermine their culture.

            Christina Wininger: I like it that people have started to love Bollywood. It’s difficult to explain because the Europeans like only other Europeans or Americans. Now they are great fans of someone who is not from Europe or America. Its wonderful. Its difficult to explain if you are not living here, if you are not a foreigner here.

            The popularity of Indian actors like Shah Rukh Khan has brought in winds of change and creativity to the continent.

            A feeling that immigrants do not just take up jobs, they also add to the culture, to the fermentation of ideas, is now growing.

            Orsolya says she feels ‘Indian’ in her blood and Shah Rukh has made her love everything Indian, including Indian dancing and food.

            She dances to Indian songs dressed in full Indian costume.

            Satish Gandhi: I have a hobby room where the fans meet. I play Shah Rukh movies and arrange drinks for them. It’s free of cost. I am overwhelmed by the fact that Austrians are watching Indian movies, that they are accepting our culture, wearing our clothes. I feel happy and my heart fills with joy.

            In February this year, the Shahrukhis decided to go to Berlin for the premier of ‘My Name is Khan’.

            Satish Gandhi: We were standing outside the hotel for eight hours – from 3 pm to 11pm. It was minus 8 degrees and our hands and feet were swollen. I had accompanied the Austrian fans. I thought they were mad but actually they are really good. Don’t ask me how we spent eight and a half hours! We didn’t leave because we knew Shah Rukh could come out any time. When he came out at 11.30 pm, the first thing he did was to apologise. We appreciated that. He said he was busy doing interviews inside the hotel. He spoke to each one of us, shook our hands and allowed us to take photographs with him. I realised that day that it is not so easy to become a fan. Similarly it is not that simple to become a star. His interest in us was genuine.

            Shah Rukh Khan:  Wherever I go in Europe, sometimes I feel people won’t know me and then I go for a function or a conference and suddenly at the airport you  have Germans and Austrian and Polish people who come to meet me, and it’s very very touching. I am deeply touched by this and very thankful. I hope they keep liking me like this.

            At Vienna University, we meet Prof Elke Mader, Vice Dean of the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology. The 56 year old academic has been studying the extensive fan networks in German speaking areas.

            Prof Elke Mader: They build a lot of relationships between the movies and the stars and their everyday lives, and they also connect with others.

            There is a huge online community which connects people and fans in different places. In German speaking areas the biggest one is called the Bollywood forum. One of the forums is Swiss based and has about six thousand topics and 800 thousand postings on Bollywood. But the majority, the largest section of it is on Shah Rukh. We have lots of different threads where people discuss certain topics, which are of course all his movies, there are also general chats on him and about him as a person. Everything that is news or documentary is collected. All his ‘tweets’ are translated into German. Lots of Bollywood fans who do not speak English rely on others who translate every word, every article on Shah Rukh into German.

            From September 30 to October 2, sociologists, cultural historians, film experts and other scholars are meeting for an international conference on Shah Rukh Khan and Global Bollywood at the Vienna University. Prof Mader, who is the principal organiser, says that Shah Rukh Khan is the first ambassador of Bollywood for the new European audiences.

            Prof Elke Mader: The conference will focus on Shah Rukh in particular as a global player, as somebody who more than others today is extremely significant for a globalised Bollywood. We will be focussing on several topics within this. We will be focussing on Shah Rukh and his importance for the South Asian diaspora. There are scholars coming from the US, Canada and from European countries. Most of them are from a South Asian diaspora background.

            On the one hand we are examining the global aspects of the people present, the scholars who come, on the topics they talk about. There is a workshop on fan cultures and how people relate in different cultural contexts to Shah Rukh and his movies. And there will be a presentation on Russia,  new media and fan following, there will be something on Trinidad, a paper on Peru, there will be papers on the German speaking areas, also on Italy.

            Another participant is Professor Claus Tieber, who teaches a course in Hindi cinema at Vienna University, and writer of a book, ‘Passages to Bollywood’.

            Prof Claus Tieber, Department of Theater, Film and Media Studies, Vienna University: About Shah Rukh’s special appeal – it is not just for Austria, it’s for everyone. He combines opposites and he has something for everyone. He is very male in his body but he acts very female in a number of scenes, he is a Muslim playing Hindu, he is clothed in very Western clothes and still comes from India. So he combines all these opposites. That is part of the magic and success of this big star. There is more than just one small image.

            Prof Mader found that although there are a few male and queer fans, an overwhelming majority of Shah Rukh’s fans are women. She says he fulfils the European women’s eternal quest for an emotional man who is not shy of saying ‘I love you’ to the woman he loves.

            A fan: I like the romantic and emotional side that Shah Rukh Khan displays. The fact that a man can weep and be emotional.

            In a continent that prides itelf on being rational and logical, Shah Rukh’s films balances their real life with their imagined life.

            Columnist Mehru Jaffer, whose film on Shahrukhis will be shown at the conference, says that she wanted to document the trend before it faded away. She calls it an emotional phenomena.

            Mehru Jaffer: There is a lot of gentleness. They love Gauri and they adore his kids as much as they love Shah Rukh. On the shelf they will have a huge poster of Shah Rukh  but there will also be beautiful pictures of Gauri and Shah Rukh.  It is not just Shah Rukh as an actor who is liked but he is liked as a husband, as a friend and as a fan. The very common joke among fans in Vienna is that when you meet Shah Rukh and give him your hand to shake, he disregards the hand and gives you a hug instead. They love all this in a culture that is time oriented and people oriented for profit and business.

            Some of them live by themselves in a way, with the memory of films and music of Shah Rukh. If it gives them so much emotional solace.

            I think it is a good reason to Love someone this way


          • Alex adams Says:

            And Satyam :suggest u do read/see this ndtv link on SRK
            Earlier even I thought this was an exaggerated myth
            But believe me: I know a few marlenes, not joking
            This may not be representative of the ‘normal’ sane populace but there is a certain space created by SRK ESP helped by key tie ups by kjo/yrf with some small time local dubbing companies-his DVDs are easily available dubbed into local euro languages

            Also for the sake of SRK fans, suggest u put this ndtv SRK link as a thread.
            Poor SRK fans like Oldgold who have either gone into hiding or have gone into ‘disuse’ may get something to go orgasmic 🙂


          • will check it out Alex though I have lived through his peak period in the US and so I do have a sense of what he has meant to a diaspora audience. And of course a new Indian ‘economy’ one too. I have never questioned his iconic stature in this sense but also has to account for others stars in their own eras. So for example what did Dev Anand mean in the 50s and 60s? and so on. It cannot just be a default argument where if it’s not Bachchan all other hurdles are cleared. I’ve in fact said the very same when some have made completely exaggerated claims for Aamir. Even at the ‘overseas’ level there is no reason why the world should be equated with the UK and the US. Bachchan for example has been bigger than most Arab stars in the Middle East. He’s been massive in parts of Africa and of course the Caribbean. Once upon a time before the video age his films were big in the UK of the 70s. So all these things have to be accounted. Remember, all said and done the increased global presence of ‘Bollywood’ is really due to the increase in the diaspora. All claims about the participation of local populations in this enterprise are greatly and supremely exaggerated. It’s true that in absolute terms more Americans are familiar with Bollywood than was true before. They at least understand the reference. This is much more true in Eng where there are towns or pockets of greater population density. But there is always a correlation with a diaspora element. For example in Germany there was a massive influx of Sikhs in the 80s. Essentially people feeling the Punjab troubles in that decade. Most of these guys ended up in Berlin. In very many instances they would cross the Wall from the east. And so at some point Bollywood gets a higher profile, a segment of the local population also get interested. But the idea that Germans are generally into Bollywood and SRK is just ridiculous (though I suppose more plausible than the Warsaw claim). And the Indian media plays along with all of this. It’s part of their self-image. In the US I have certainly seen a greater Bollywood presence over the years but nothing correlates with the representation of the same in the media. It’s not even like England. For example at one point Lagaan could be fairly commonly spotted in video stores. And this was obviously significant but not as much so as one might think. When you go to a foreign movie section in a video store you don’t normally consider all the countries that are being represented! The Indian title jumps out at the Indian, not everyone else! Of course because it’s there there’s a certain probability that people will be aware of it. For all the Oscar hype the participation of non-diaspora audiences in Lagaan’s US gross was pretty much negligible. But one can hype this stuff and feel that a revolution is underway.

            Once again my whole point about SRK has revolved around the fact that irrespective of his accomplishments, which are hardly inconsiderable, a great deal of this has been about his ‘selling’. He definitely has deep roots within a strong cross-section of the audience (Hrithik for example though as big or even bigger on his day doesn’t have the same kind of base.. Aamir doesn’t either.. not all stars have it..), he has symbolized something important to these people. But there’s a big gulf between going from such claims to a Bachchan comparison. There are very many ‘stages’ in between. Much as being greater than Ganguly doesn’t make one Tendulkar, there’s Dravid in between. And so on. Again this isn’t about unprovable claims. SRK’s box office which I’ve examined in detail over here multiple times simply does not justify the superstar title even with respect to his peers. Whether it’s the 90s or the following decade.


  26. Alex adams Says:

    A cunning detour of the ‘angry young man’ persona


  27. satyam, when u mentioned abt the ‘terminally ill’ protagonists in hrishida’s world, a related thought abt manmohan desai entered my mind- the fact that in 3 of bachchan’s top films with desai on of the major characters loses his/her eyesight-in AAA nirupa roy becomes blind, in parvarish bachchan pretends that he is blind and in parvarish shashi ends up losing his vision. satyam,do u believe this is just a coincidence or did desai try to say sumthing here(we need to keep in mind that desai was HM’s assistant


  28. satyam- then i guess i may be wrong regarding desai being mukherjee’s assistant. but even after keeping this point aside, what do u think abt the ‘loss of eyesight’ depicted in those desai films? was it just a mere coincidence or was there sumthing in the subtext there? would like to know ur views.


    • Don’t think there’s much more here than a recycling of the usual tropes. Which is not say it’s without meaning. I’ve often felt that Desai had Ben-Hur on his mind more often than not when making his extravaganzas.


      • a great point made here satyam regarding ben-hur. now when u have mentioned this,i think the manner in which nirupa roy regains her eyesight in AAA seems inspired from the scene where Miriam and Tirjah r cured from leprosy by Jesus in Ben-hur.btw the other day this puru raajkumar film ‘baal brahmachaari’ was coming on telly and i was shocked to know that this crap was directed by none other than ‘prakash mehra'(what a poor swansong for him)


  29. Alex adams Says:

    Haha dont feel there any ‘deeper’ meaning here
    Having said that, on retrospectoscope, if these makers or their kin are quizzed about it, some interesting versions may come up lol


    • Alex adams Says:

      For a so-called bachchan fan, my interest in Prakash mehra and manmohan desi films have been somewhat as minimal as can be in films that have been successes of this scale!!!


  30. well than alex, i have to say that u have missed sumthing. i will even go ahead and make this bold statement- if an indian,in his lifetime, hasn’t seen ‘anthony appear from the easter egg’ in that epic song, he/she needs to be quickly reborn again. this scene alongwith the climactic action sequence in ‘teja’s house’ in zanjeer r 2 of my fav masala moments ever.


  31. Alex adams Says:

    Don’t get me wrong
    I’ve seen and enjoyed all of these (to a point) and am more than aware of their unique place and significance
    But somehow lately seem to have ‘ outgrown’ em relatively speakin and a bit sooner than expected lol


  32. u have outgrown ‘zanjeer'(the ‘purest masala’-an oxymoron- i have seen)!!!and MKS!!! and AAA!!!!!!anyway alex, which r the bachchan films which u haven’t outgrown(not being sarcastic here)?


  33. Alex adams Says:

    Haha the list was in the other bachchan films Masala thread
    A quick round up in no particular order anyhow-what I can remember now
    Namak haram
    Armaan (cameo)


  34. Alex adams Says:

    Also to add
    Kala patthar
    Main azad hoon
    Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (cameo)
    Bunty n bubli

    And check out this bachchan song -like it


  35. Alex adams Says:

    A relatively under rated and under rated song
    That I adore
    Suspect thanks has been directed by Rakesh mehra -like his BPL adverts:
    Music was by Bally sagoo

    Enjoy and let me know what u feel about it
    Gud nite


  36. ok my fav bachchan roles(list is only till his 80’s films and leaving the obvious suspects and his truly iconic roles, no specific order)-ajooba, bandhe haath,raaste ka patthar,parwana,majboor,pukaar,bemisaal,saudagar,nastik,parvarish,namak haraam,khoon paseena,kabhie kabhie, do anjaane,hera pheri,desh premi, kasme vaade


  37. Alex adams Says:

    Also there are some other bachchan quirks as well
    Find bachchan sublime here
    And check out SEL Changing there style for bachchan here
    And javed akhtars lyrics

    And no singer has come closer to kishore Kumars voice timber for bachchan than Shankar mahadevan here
    Not sure if many will share my liking for this song though lol


  38. A beautiful piece here Satyam. And I mean it when I say this that u are doing a huge favour to all of us by sort of archiving these films- u are probably the very few who are doing this noble job. Wish u had written a bit more than Alaap- a film I like a lot and prefer this to Abhimaan (my favs here are Milli, Jurmana, Alaap and Bemisaal).

    I think Mukherjee very intelligently preserved Bachchan’s iconic star-signature even when he made him do these smaller films- this made his performances in these films more accessible to the audiences than say something like a Main Azaad Hoon. And this star signature (considering Mukherjee’s films) reached its height in Bemisaal- Bachchan, though not much of a dancer, is sublime in the Khafa Hoon song. Actually I somewhere believe that had India’s history taken a different path the ‘angry young man’ of say a Namak Haraam would have replaced the one of Deewar- ( in Mukherjee’s films Bachchan’s character hardly ever finds an outlet for his anger (unlike say Salim-Javed films). Btw the long delayed Bachchan-SHatru film Yaar Meri Zindagi supposedly has Bachchan playing a character similar to the one played by Khanna in Namak Haraam and Shatru playing Bachchan’s role

    The other interesting thing in Mukherjee’s films is the play between real and fake ‘identities’- this is ofcourse present very much in Golmaal but also in something like Rang Birangi where at one point a character says something like “Nayapan zindagi ko rang-birangi banaata hai”. You get a real sense of how people submerge themselves into their new identities, enjoying the facade so much that they often stretch it beyond its original function. (In an early scene in Chupke Chupke, when Dharmendra is pretending to be the caretaker, he starts telling Sharmila Tagore a bizarre story about his two wives, which there is absolutely no need for him to invent)

    The other theme I love in Mukherjee’s films is the conflict between father/father-figures and sons and how the overbearing father (usually played by Utpal Dutt/Om Parakash) is ‘figuratively killed’ by the son- whether it’s Alaap or even something darker like Namak Haraam (which to mind has Om Shivpuri’s best performance alongwith his Vardhan/Mallick- lot many people forget how Barot plays with doubles here and creates not one but actually 2 imposters…Bachchan actually does a triple role of sorts here)

    And apart Bahchan’s superb cameo in Golmaal, I can recall a very interesting guest appearane in Gulzaar’s Koshish- Hari (Sanjeev Kumar) and Arti (Jaya Bhaduri) are getting to know each other, going for walks together and so on. After watching a man talk into a public phone, they enter the booth and make prank calls – dialling numbers randomly, pretending to speak and listen. A succession of befuddled people answer the line at the other end, and finally comes the charming cameo: Dilip Kumar (presumably playing himself) walking down a stairway in a large house, looking around with mild annoyance at having to pick up the phone himself. He listens to Sanjeev making incoherent sounds for a while, then mumbles “Yeh toh mujh se bhi maddham bolte hain” (“This guy speaks even more softly than I do”) and puts the phone down. I couldn’t help imagining this was Hindi-movie meta-commentary of a sort, with the famously “understated” thespian of an earlier generation (Dilip Kumar) marvelling at the (even more) “understated” actor of the present day (Sanjeev Kumar)


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