Friday, January 11, 2008

Old favorites for new viewers

True, great Indian cinema may synonymous with greats like Satyajit Ray, Bimal Roy, Mehboob Khan, K. Asif, Aravindan, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and others, but two film-makers stand out from the crowd: Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee made movies with a next-door feel, plots that could just as easily involve you and your family, and scored a 10 on the entertainment and value-for-money scales! Yes, there were a few others at the time who made equally wonderful films: Sai Paranjpe made Chashme Buddoor, for instance, and Gulzar scripted poetry on the silver screen But the two Bengali babus were in a league of their own.

Each of them has directed dozens of movies but their best creative efforts came during the 1970s. Chatterjee's list of wholesome entertainment (at least the ones I've enjoyed) include Hamari Bahu Alka, Khatta Meetha, Chhoti Si Baat, Baaton Baaton Mein, Chitchor and more touching/'arty' fare like Rajnigandha, Apne Paraye, Piya ka Ghar and Ek Ruka Hua Faisla.

Hrishi-da (as he is fondly known) cooked up equally delicious fare, entertaining us with the likes of Chupke Chupke, Gol Maal, Kisi Se Na Kehna, Rang Birangi, and Naram Garam. He is also the man behind stellar cinema that includes Anand, Anupama, Namak Haram, Mili, Guddi, Sadma, and Bawarchi.

I used to wonder if my son would ever enjoy these movies as much as I did. He is six and belongs to the Dhoom-2 generation. There was no dhoom in these movies, and yet, they appealed to everybody. They were made on shoestring budgets, but starred big names who willingly took a paycut for the privilege of working with Hrishi-da. To me, nobody else brought out the actors in the stars. The likes of Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra were transported away from their silver screen stereotypes to portray very un-filmy characters. They became people who might be living next door to you, facing crises that you might have faced, and bore up to these challenges just like you might have done. There was a certain comfort in the familiarity, be it the inspired Anand or the laugh riot, Chupke Chupke.

Movies today are slick, thrilling, entertaining, but you're unlikely to carry away a part of them with you when you walk out of the multiplex. I wonder if it's the fact that there are many more avenues of entertainment available to us today, diluting the allure of the silver screen. I can't remember the last time I was able to identify with a lead character - not in the past 15 years, anyway. Compare that with Jaya Bhaduri as Mili, living in an apartment building and ganging up the children. Or Utpal Dutt as Bhavani Shankar - the rather strict father of the heroine in Gol Maal. For me, Rekha at her exuberant best as Manju in Khoobsurat beats the sensuous and picture-perfect Chandni of Silsila any day. (Mind you, I have a soft spot for Yash Chopra's films too, but they've rarely, if ever, had people-next-door characters.)

To cut a long story short, my son sat through Khoobsurat even though I kept asking him if he was getting bored. He loved Gol Maal, though, and I'm hoping he'll like a few of my other favorites, too! Here's to hope...

Gol Maal VCD cover image © Shemaroo
Anand Poster
© flixter

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