Sunday, 2 March 2014

She Sleeps In Beauty

Her Majesty has not been keeping well. A host of minor ailments have joined forces against Her.

Cartoons fail to cheer Her up. Song-&-dance routines, which She normally responds to rather enthusiastically, don't work. Nursery rhyme videos don't impress. Dinner is a disaster.

She deigns to be carried by Her humble and faithful minion. Ten minutes and three lullabies later, She is spent and fast asleep.

And the world, all of God's creation, has shrunken into that one infinite moment: a tiny fist clutching my finger, a plump little hand around my neck, and a small head crowned by damp, curly hair resting on my shoulder.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Beauty. Romance. Enigma.

When I was born, my Parents used to live in a rented apartment. The landlady had no grandchildren of her own and had taken to me, then a toddler, like fish take to water. My Parents called her 'Mashima' [aunt], which became 'Maasha' on my toddler's tongue. She was the one who introduced me to the magic of the Most Romantic Celluloid Couple Ever, 'Guru' [Uttam Kumar] and 'Gurumaa'. Today, Maasha is enjoying not only her Guru and Gurumaa's films in heaven, but their company too.

As for me, yet another link to my childhood has died, with the passing of 'Gurumaa', also known to the world as Suchitra Sen. There is an indescribable sadness that lingers, even three days after her death.

Because Suchitra Sen was not a mere film actress. She was a veritable goddess for whom my Father and I were rivals in love. That's who Mrs. Sen was.

Dear Rama-di, please say hello to Uttam Kumar from us, while we strive to refresh the golden memories with Harano Sur.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

For My Daughter

She sleeps next to me, an arm across my chest, face buried in my shoulder, peaceful and safe in the knowledge that She will always have me next to Her.

I lie awake and unmoving, careful not to wake Her, secure in the knowledge that She will always trust me.

A nook of Heaven in a corner of the bed.

A drop of my blood. A piece of my soul.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Welcome, 2014. Hopefully You Will Be Good To Me

"The faith he had had had had no effect on the outcome of his life."

Sounds funny, doesn't it? And yet it is, grammatically speaking, fully correct. And that's what makes Language so colourful and interesting.

Have a funny, colourful, interesting and (not-just-grammatically) correct 2014. God bless all.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Sure Manna Dey Is No More?

I woke this morning to a deafening 'crack'. At first I thought it was some kid bursting crackers, but then I realized it was Pran, Rajesh Khanna, Kishore Kumar, and RD Burman together kicking down the door of Heaven, welcoming Manna Dey with shouts of rejoice.

God, what a gala party they must be having up there. The air has been thrumming with strains of "Tere naina talaash karein", "Phool gendwa na maaro", "Bhor aayi gaya andhiyaara", "Lagaa chunari mein daag", and "Bhay bhanjana vandana suun hamari" since last night.

And you thought Manna Dey is dead and gone?? All you could think of are "Tum bin jeevan kaisa jeevan" and "Kasme vaade pyaar waffa"?? Really??

Friday, 11 October 2013

V For Vendetta: Bollywood’s Best Revenge Dramas

Revenge is a dish best served cold.
—  Old Sicilian Proverb

Not true. Revenge Dramas should be served piping hot, spiced up with generous spoonfuls of all kinds of Bollywood masala.
—  Bollywood Response

To lijiye, pesh-e-khidmat hai a list of Bollywood’s Best Revenge Dramas, some of which stake serious—and occasionally successful—claim for inclusion in the list of All-Time Greatest Hindi Films [please note that the ranking is chronological and not as per any kind of qualitative analysis].

1.   Madhumati [1958]: One of Hindi Cinema’s earliest Revenge Dramas was also one of its first reincarnation thrillers [people often tend to forget that Madhumati was a gothic noir-style tale of vendetta and the supernatural spanning across two births] that would later spawn several remakes—Karz [1980], Janam Janam [1988], Banjaran [1991], [a fair chunk of] Mehbooba [1976], and [most of] Om Shanti Om [2007].
But there is more to Madhumati than just being a supernatural vendetta tale. First, it is the only collaboration between Bimal Roy and Ritwik Ghatak [and if you need to ask who either of them is, you don’t know shit about Indian Cinema, so go educate yourself on that first]. Second, it is the first Hindi film that featured a triple role—yes, in 1958, and that too by the leading lady, not the hero, of the film! Ladies and gentlemen, please doff your hats to Vyjayanthimala.
And last but not least, Madhumati boasts of a gem-encrusted piece of exquisite finery that is its soundtrack, one of the finest in the annals of Hindi Cinema, thanks to Salil Chowdhury.

2.   Jeevan Mrityu [1970]: The remake of the 1967 Uttam Kumar-starrer Bengali film of the same name was about an honest bank employee, who is framed by a group of corrupt colleagues and sent to prison for fraud and embezzlement. After his release, the wronged hero assumes the identity of a Sikh Sardar and hunts down the real culprits.
Stepping into Uttam Kumar’s shoes is a Herculean task for any actor, no matter how great his caliber and talent. However, Dharmendra—whose acting chops never really got the credit he deserved, despite starring in some of Hindi Cinema’s pureblood classics—did a fine job as an innocent victim of corruption out to avenge himself. Five years later, he would reprise another Uttam Kumar character in another classic film, a comedy this time.

3.   ZANJEER [1973]: The Revenge Drama to End All Revenge Dramas [barring The Greatest Film Ever Made]. After earning moderate success with Hasina Maan Jaayegi [1968], Mela [1971], and Samadhi [1972], Prakash Mehra received a script from two young and fast-rising story/script/dialogue-writers, Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar, about an honest police officer traumatized by recurring nightmares related to the twin murders of his parents he had witnessed as a child. The young cop, Vijay Khanna, locks horns with the high-profile and highly-respectable business tycoon Dharam Dayal Teja who is also a dreaded crime kingpin. After many twists and turns, it is revealed that it is Teja who had killed Vijay’s parents, and Vijay extracts revenge.
Adapted from the Spaghetti Western Death Rides A Horse [1967], ZANJEER did two things. First, it gave us the Greatest Star-Actor Ever in the History of Indian Cinema. Second, along with Yaadon Ki Baaraat—which came in the same year and which features on this list—it created the first-ever proper template for action/revenge films, one that holds good 40 years hence. Two years later, SHOLAY would give us another template, which too has lasted the test of time.
And it is now common knowledge how ZANJEER made an almost-overnight superstar of a beleaguered-by-a-series-of-failures AB, who had grabbed the project as a last-ditch effort to make it big in films, when Mehra cast him—on Salim-Javed and Jaya Bachchan’s [then Bhaduri] strong recommendations—after the violent and totally-off-the-beaten-track tale of a brooding and silent cop had been rejected by reigning stars Dev Anand, Raaj Kumar, and Dharmendra [Jaya herself had been cast only after Mumtaz and Hema Malini had backed out of it].
ZANJEER has also been copied/remade multiple times, with minor variations, including an official remake in 2013 directed by Apoorva Lakhia. We shall not talk about that execrable piece of foul-smelling excreta here.

4.   Yaadon Ki Baaraat [1973]: What Salim-Javed, fresh from the success of Rajesh Khanna’s Haathi Mere Saathi, did in 1971 was: they wrote a story and made two copies of it, one being a solo-hero project and the other being a three-hero venture. They then sold the former to Prakash Mehra and the latter to Nasir Hussain. Hussain was looking to make a mass entertainer that would be built around the tunes composed by his favorite composer R.D. Burman, who had scored the music of his last four films [Teesri Manzil, Pyar Ka Mausam, Baharon Ke Sapne, and Caravan], and found his prayers answered when he received the script of YKB. It was only after both ZANJEER and YKB had released did Mehra and Hussain realize what Salim-Javed had done. However, neither filmmaker had any reason to complain, as both films were among the three biggest hits of 1973 [the third being Raj Kapoor’s teenybopper love story Bobby].
It wouldn’t be a mistake to label YKB as Hindi Cinema’s first true-blue masala entertainer. Multiple heroes and heroines [including Neetu Singh in a cameo appearance], a bloodthirsty and standout villain—Ajit had a fantastic year in 1973 playing Teja in ZANJEER and Shakal in YKB—who has a distinguishing feature that would finally return as his nemesis and nail him for all his past misdeeds [much like ZANJEER], a lost-and-found formula, brilliant music including a super-snazzy background score—YKB is easily one of RDB’s finest albums—and loads of action were brewed together to create a perfect concoction of mainstream entertainment that was lapped up by gleeful audiences.
While on YKB and ZANJEER and Ajit, it is interesting to note that despite starring in two cult classics in the same year written by Salim-Javed, the veteran actor did not feature in any of their next films. Also, Husain and Mehra too never worked with the writer duo after their respective one-off collaborations.

5.   SHOLAY [1975]: Reams of newsprint and terabytes of cyberspace have already been dedicated to The Greatest Film Ever Made. It has been the subject of numerous books and myriad Ph.D. papers. Strangely, however, few have commented or focused exclusively on the vendetta angle. Because at its core, SHOLAY is: [a] the perfect celluloid representation of the eternal battle between the forces of good and evil, and [b] a fabulous personal vendetta story.
A daredevil cop arrests a dreaded criminal. The criminal escapes from jail and brutally butchers the cop’s family, including his grandson, a mere kid. The bloodthirsty bandit also captures the cop and chops off his hands. Swearing revenge as bloody as can be, the cop recruits two petty conmen as his instruments of justice with which to visit vengeance on the criminal. And somewhere down the line, the two conmen, who were initially into it for money, undergo a change of heart and make the battle a personal one.
There is a saying in Bengali: “Jaha nai Mahabharat-e, taha nai Bharat-e.” This means that if something has not been mentioned in The Mahabharata, the epic of all epics, then you will not find it anywhere on Earth. SHOLAY is not a film. SHOLAY is an experience. It is The Mahabharata of [Indian] Cinema.
As a footnote, it may be mentioned here that while Salim-Javed collaborated with director Ramesh Sippy on his next two ventures, SHAAN and SHAKTI [1982], Amjad “Gabbar Singh” Khan, the Bad Man of SHOLAY, never worked with them, or with Sippy, ever again.

6.   TRISHUL [1978]: An illegitimate son sets out on a mission to bring down his father, the man who did not give the woman he claimed to love her due. The AB-Yash Chopra-Salim-Javed team that had already collaborated on DEEWAAR with unprecedented success was back, and the box-office cash registers just wouldn’t stop ringing. AB was on a roll, passing through the best phase of his career with one mega-hit after another, and the audiences couldn’t have enough of him. The writers later commented that the character played by Sanjeev Kumar had shades of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. But it was AB as the unforgiving son avenging his wronged mother Waheeda Rehman that held the audiences in thrall. Not your typical Revenge Drama, but definitely one of the very best. And who can forget the scenes in which Vijay [AB] would turn up with an ambulance in tow, so that those whom he bashed up could be taken to the hospital once he was done?

7.   SHAAN [1980]: Not too many people realize that SHAAN is actually a rehashed version of SHOLAY, cleverly disguised as a James Bond-type thriller. But then, if nothing else, Salim-Javed were really smart writers. Look closely: beneath the urbane veneer of SHAAN, the similarities are stark [two decades later, director Anil Sharma would employ the same trick: The Hero: Love Story Of A Spy is a cleverly remixed and upgraded version of Gadar: Ek Prem Katha].
Shakal, an Ernst Stavro Blofeld-type crime kingpin who operates from his futuristic island headquarters surrounded by shark-infested waters, kills an honest cop who had dared to stand up to him. The cop’s two younger brothers form an unlikely alliance with a disgruntled shooter in a circus—who has his own motive in getting involved in the mission—and take on the terror lord.
SHAAN is arguably the most entertaining film in all of Hindi Cinema. The overall weightage of the main cast was at par with the Sippys’ earlier offering SHOLAY, and the supporting cast was heavier. As in SHOLAY, the actor playing the main villain was relatively unknown. The film has everything: fantastic action sequences, car chases, gunfights, well-choreographed set pieces, set designing that was at par with Hollywood, a soundtrack that easily ranks among RDB’s best and enjoys peak popularity even today, and a great star cast. But amidst all the numerous sub-tracks, the fact that it was a Revenge Drama somehow got overlooked, although that in no way lessens its high entertainment value.

8.   Karz [1980]: Subhash Ghai did not exactly copy The Reincarnation Of Peter Proud when he made Karz; rather, he Indianized it by adding dollops of Bollywood masala. In this, he was clearly influenced by Madhumati.
Karz is the first of Rishi Kapoor’s three reincarnation films [the other two being Janam Janam and Banjaran]. One of Karz’s major pros is that it scores very highly as a musical. Laxmikant-Pyarelal, former assistants to the Burman Father and Son, follow RDB’s style to a T and come up with one of their best and most popular soundtracks. Kishore Kumar won the Filmfare Best Male Playback Singer Award for the ‘Om Shanti Om’ number. A key drawback is the film’s typical Subhash Ghai-style treatment: trying to balance the revenge track [Rishi-Simi Garewal] and the romance track [Rishi-Tina Munim] while trying to fit Pran and his buffoonish sidekicks somewhere in between, a completely OTT and out-of-sync ‘Kamaal hai kamaal hai’ number that does nothing to take the story forward but only adds to the running time, and one of the most cartoonish villains of Hindi Cinema in the form of Sir Judah [Prem Nath]. It has often been said of Ghai that he does not know how to end his stories; Karz is no exception though it is one of his better and more entertaining efforts.

9.   ANDHAA KAANOON [1983]: AB did quite a few southern productions in the ’80s, and in at least two of them, he only had extended cameos/guest appearances. It is a comment on his immense star power that in later years, both films have come to be known as “Amitabh Bachchan-starrers” and not films where he appeared in a ‘special appearance’. One of them is GERAFTAAR [1985]; ANDHAA KAANOON is the other. Coincidentally, Madhavi was his heroine in both films [as well as in another film that comes later in this list].
A remake of the Tamil film Sattam Oru Iruttarai [1981], ANDHAA KAANOON is known for unleashing the mighty Rajinikanth on unsuspecting viewers. Jokes apart, Rajni [in his first Hindi film] and AB share a great rapport on screen. In a departure from norm, the film has two separate vendetta tracks, the main track involving Rajni and the secondary track involving AB [which is narrated in a flashback as the character’s back story]. The cat-and-mouse game between Rajni and his policewoman elder sister, played by Hema Malini, is quite enjoyable. AB’s track and character in the film were later copied for Mithun in Loha [1997].

10. Teri Meherbaniyan [1985]: The Most Unusual Revenge Drama Ever. When the villainous trio of an evil landlord and his two cohorts murders an upright young man who was proving to be troublesome for them, his pet dog witnesses the gruesome murder and extracts revenge on the perpetrators one by one.
One of the biggest hits of 1985, the film achieved cult status, a la Haathi Mere Saathi, and became immensely popular for its emotional depiction of a master-pet relationship that, despite its celluloid OTT-ness, tugs at the heartstrings.

11. Meri Jung [1985]: Contrary to his usual bombastic style, the 2nd Subhash Ghai-directed entry on this list is not your average biff-bang-boom action fare.
Thakral [Amrish Puri], an ambitious and amoral criminal lawyer sends an innocent man to the gallows to boost his career. The hapless victim’s wife loses her sanity and their only son Arun [Anil Kapoor] is forced to take care of his imbalanced mother and himself and grows up to be a conscientious, tough-as-nails lawyer who quickly gains a reputation for fighting hard but fair, though without missing a trick, and always on the side of Truth. And before long, his Destiny brings him face-to-face with the man who had destroyed his family.
Anil Kapoor’s career choices in the ’80s indicate that for the most part he tried to carve his own niche and not stick to playing the typical Angry Young Man in the AB/Dharmendra mould via films like Saaheb, Chameli Ki Shaadi, Woh 7 Din, and Mashaal. Meri Jung belongs to this category and he delivers a powerhouse performance. But one of the more interesting USPs of the film lies in the character of the 2nd villain: Thakral’s son Vicky [Jaaved Jaaferi in his debut role], a flamboyant, twinkle-toed charmer with none-too-saintly motives who sweeps Anil’s impressionable young sister off her feet. A singing-dancing villain, introduced almost in the manner of a 2nd lead, was certainly a novelty—though Shakti Kapoor had already done that in Rocky [1981].

12. AAKHREE RAASTA [1986]: AB did quite a few below-par projects from 1983 to 1989. The films that stand out during this period are INQUILAAB and SHARAABI [both 1984], SHAHENSHAH [1988] and AAKHREE RAASTA.
A remake of the Kamal Haasan-Revathi-starrer Oru Kaidhiyin Diary [1985], AAKHREE RAASTA also drew thematic inspiration from AB’s own ADALAT [1976], but scores over that earlier film particularly in its high-voltage confrontation scenes between AB and AB [father and son] and the taut vendetta track that begins when the father walks out of jail and into a church confession box, where he confesses to his future agenda of committing three murders, and ends when, despite having taken two bullets from his own policeman son, he kills the three villains and fulfills his promise to his deceased wife.
In ZANJEER, the hero learns of his personal connection with the villain, with whom he was already at a war of morals, right at the end. In SHOLAY, the vendetta wasn’t even his. In SHAAN [1980] it was, but at the same time it was his brother’s [Shashi Kapoor] and his ally’s [Shatrughan Sinha] as well. This one was really AB’s first proper typical [though not entirely conventional] Revenge Drama. And he scores in style. Needless to say, over Kamal too.

13. Jaal [1986]: A young and upright landlord falls for his childhood sweetheart, now a kothewaali. Much to his elder brother’s chagrin, he decides to go against khandaan ki izzat aur maryada and marry her. Moreover, he also takes up cudgels against the elder brother for the sake of gaaonwaalon ka haque. As a direct—and obvious—consequence, he meets his Maker pretty quickly, the meeting being facilitated by the aforementioned elder landlord, of course, who also frames the younger brother’s best friend and sends him to prison. But the evil Thakur had not accounted for the wrath of his kothewaali sister-in-law.
One of the most underrated thrillers of the ’80s, Jaal boasts of a stellar cast headed by Rekha as the Avenging Angel and Mithun as her weapon of retribution. Rekha is in supreme form, and although the music by Anu Malik is pretty pedestrian, the background score is bang-on, and the plot twists keep you riveted and entertained. And oh, there are Moon Moon Sen and Mandakini as well.

14. Khoon Bhari Maang [1988]: While she wasn’t doing too badly in the mid-’80s, Rekha’s career certainly needed a fillip, as did actor-turned-producer-director Rakesh Roshan’s. So the two old friends decided to collaborate on a big-screen version of the Australian mini-series Return To Eden [1983].
A Plain Jane widow with two kids, an ailing father, and lots of money is wooed by a conniving but poor playboy and his evil uncle. The playboy marries Plain Jane, hatches a plan with his lover—who happens to be Plain Jane’s bosom pal—and his uncle [who has already killed Plain Jane’s father and passed it off as natural death], and promptly pushes his new wife into a crocodile-infested lake, hoping to lay his fingers upon her wealth on returning home. However, he cannot do so owing to a legal technicality. More importantly, Plain Jane survives, though her face and body are horribly disfigured, thanks to the crocs. She is rescued, undergoes a lengthy plastic surgery, and is converted into a rocking beauty who returns to take revenge.
Rekha burnt up the screen with her Angel Of Death act, sinking her teeth deeply into this once-in-a-lifetime role that debunked the long-standing myth that films needed a male protagonist, with the women playing decorative wallpaper, to succeed. It fetched her the Filmfare Best Actress Award and made Roshan, who had a brief cameo in the film, a very rich and happy man. The downside was that for an entire decade after this, she was typecast as the Avenger of Justice [in black leather, mostly] in movie after trashy movie—Bhrashtachar [1989], Phool Bane Angaray [1991], Insaaf Ki Devi [1992], Ab Insaf Hoga and Nishana [both 1995], and Udaan [1997], to name a few—that did nothing for her career.

15. New Delhi [1988]: Barring Parichay [1972], Khushboo [1975], and Kinara [1977], all directed by Gulzar, Jeetendra did not do too many [if any at all] quality films that stand out in a crowd. New Delhi does, and deserves to be singled out for its highly unusual vendetta plot. Unfortunately, the film got buried in an avalanche of bad films that the mid- and late-1980s are notorious for, quite a few of which had Jeetu in the leading role.
A remake of the highly successful 1987 Malayalam film of the same name, the film stars Jeetu as a Delhi-based journalist who exposes two corrupt politicians. As a result, he is framed, and lands up first in a mental asylum and then behind bars, where he befriends four young convicts. Once released, he begins his highly unusual method of delivering justice. How exactly? To know, watch the movie.

16. AGNEEPATH [1990]: Many people have called it AB’s finest performance ever, even ahead of DEEWAAR. And you know what? They might very well be right. Because in this explosive crackerjack of a film that is a thematic cousin of DEEWAAR and Kamal Haasan’s Mani Ratnam-directed Nayakan [1987], AB delivers a stunning and fiery performance that is regarded as being among the best in the annals of Hindi/Indian Cinema.
A young boy witnesses his brave and innocent father being beaten to death, thanks to the devilish machinations of the village landlord and his criminal boss, and swears revenge. Years later, he defies death and returns to reclaim the land whose soil was once reddened with his father’s blood.
‘Unmissable’ cannot begin to describe AGNEEPATH.
Due to quality control issues, we refrain from referring to its official 2012 remake.

17. Ghayal [1990]: Apart from the fact that it fetched Sunny Deol his first Filmfare Best Actor Award, Ghayal made another significant contribution to [’90s] mainstream Hindi Cinema. It gave us [arguably] the best director of the decade: Rajkumar Santoshi.
Ghayal was an Everyman’s version of the SHOLAY template. An aspiring boxer is sent to prison for raising his voice against a much-respected pillar of society who is in reality a feared crime boss. While in jail, he manages to assemble an army of convicts—note the similarity to New Delhi and Lashkar—and breaks out of prison to wreak havoc on his enemies.
Technically polished, having a taut script, boasting of well-choreographed action sequences, and featuring a searing performance from Sunny, who had started off as a romantic hero—Betaab [1983], Sunny, Manzil Manzil, and Sohni Mahiwal [all 1984], and Saveray Wali Gaadi [1986]—but quickly changed direction and veered off into the action zone, Ghayal stands out among action films. The Sunny-Santoshi pair came up with two more hard-hitting films later in the decade: Damini [1993] and Ghatak [1996]. Sadly, most of Santoshi’s films post-China Gate [1998]—the best remake of SHOLAY—were quite underwhelming.

18. INDRAJEET [1991]: Such was AB’s star power that he could lift otherwise-ordinary projects—MARD [1985] is a prime example—to a different level by his sheer presence. On the other hand, quite a few of his good films in the ’80s and the ’90s went somewhat unnoticed. INDRAJEET belongs to this category.
When his adopted daughter and son-in-law are killed on their honeymoon—after the girl has been barbarically raped—a retired cop is forced to take up arms against a corrupt politician and his crooked allies in the police department.
Playing a vigilante deliverer of justice, AB was at his violent best, shooting, punching, kicking, slicing, chopping, knifing, and bombing through human bodies, furniture, and brick walls. INDRAJEET is one of his more violent films; few others have him notching up such a high body count.
INDRAJEET was the last film of veteran filmmaker Ramesh Behl, who passed away while the film was under production. He had a long-standing professional and personal relationship with the Bachchans and RDB (RDB, Behl, Randhir, and Rishi Kapoor were a clique). INDRAJEET was also the last AB film—after eight long years—for which RDB composed the music.

19. Jigar [1992]: Veteran action director Veeru Devgan’s elder son Vishal took the screen name Ajay and burst onto the silver screen with the blockbuster action/romance drama Phool Aur Kaante [one of the biggest hits of 1991]. His 2nd release, Jigar, was also a big hit about a young man who takes the help of a martial arts guru to punish his sister’s rapist-killer Duryodhan.
The USP of the film lay in the fact that it was reported to be a copy of the Van Damme-starrer cult classic Bloodsport [1988], although, to be fair, only the climactic action sequence bore any resemblance to the Hollywood hit. The rest of the film was pure Bollywood gold, including Firoz Khan, the Arjun of TV series Mahabharat, donning the chief baddie Duryodhan’s role!

20. Phool Aur Angaar [1993]: With Doodh Ka Karz [1990], Producer Salim Akhtar kickstarted a particular type of Revenge Dramas in Bollywood. The hero’s parents and siblings are killed [usually it’s the younger sister, who is raped before being bumped off]; the hero himself is tortured, wrongly framed, and put behind bars, before he escapes and bumps off the bad guys one by one in style. With this one-line plot, he made nearly a dozen films [for a full list, refer to www.imdb.com], beginning with Doodh Ka Karz, which is famous for Aruna Irani breastfeeding a snake—yes, you read that right, a snake!—and ending with the almost-unnoticed Mitti [2001]. Phool Aur Angaar was no different, barring the extremely radical angle of a brother [Mithun] being framed for his own sister’s rape and murder. Featuring one of Anu Malik’s best scores, Phool Aur Angaar has attained cult status among Mithun fans and action movie buffs, and inspired several copies/remakes, including Chandaal [1998] and Agniputra [2000].
Later in the same year, Mithun and Salim Akhtar collaborated on Aadmi, a slightly more refined and better-scripted version of Phool Aur Angaar, but this time without any radical elements. Aadmi turned out to be a bigger hit [two key scenes in the film were copied as-is from ZANJEER and AAKHREE RAASTA]. On a longer list, it would have found its own separate position instead of being clubbed with Phool Aur Angaar.

21. Baazigar [1993]: The first Revenge Drama-with-a-difference of the ’90s. Inspired by A Kiss Before Dying [1956/1991, based on the 1953 novel by Ira Levin], the story was suitably altered to suit the sensitivities of Hindi Film audiences. But nothing, absolutely nothing prepared them for the shock of their lives when the hero threw the heroine from the terrace of a multi-storied building to her death several floors below and convinced everyone that it was a suicide.
The anti-hero that AB had given birth to in PARWANA [1971], one of his most underrated films, and established with DEEWAAR, TRISHUL, and SHAKTI, found a new voice in Shah Rukh Khan. SRK brought to the screen a manic frenzy, a crazily gleeful fervor that had not been seen before. As the vengeful son out to avenge his father and younger sister’s death [passing shadow of Meri Jung here], SRK was absolutely brilliant, earning himself a Filmfare Best Actor Award. The film’s music earned Anu Malik the Filmfare Best Music Director Award.
The much-delayed Govinda-starrer Shikari [2000] was copied from Baazigar. Featuring the dancing star in the chilling avatar of a deranged killer, Shikari boasts of his finest—and most unconventional—performance ever. Regrettably, the film did not find too many takers and sank without a trace.

22. Karan Arjun [1995]: In 1993, after the release of King Uncle, Rakesh Roshan had started work on an Ajay Devgan-SRK-starrer titled Kainaath: Brothers Are Born To Hate, when his close friend, producer Boney Kapoor, told him that he was working on a reincarnation love story [Prem, 1995]. And Roshan, that brilliant adopter-mixer-packager of other people’s ideas and concepts, incorporated the rebirth angle into his script with Sachin Bhowmik’s help, replaced Devgan with Salman Khan [reportedly at SRK’s urging, thereby prompting the long-standing feud between SRK and AD], liberally borrowed elements from Karz and Ram Lakhan [1989], and came up with Karan Arjun, the 2nd biggest hit of 1995.
Karan [Salman] and Arjun [SRK] are brothers who stand to inherit a lot of money and ancestral property. However, their evil uncle Durjan Singh [Amrish Puri in all his eye-popping, vein-bursting, baritone-booming malevolent glory] kills their grandfather, the current holder of the property, and then the brothers themselves with a lot of help from his two brothers-in-law. A grief-stricken mother’s entreaties to the Mother Goddess bring the brothers back as Ajay and Vijay. As the film’s tagline said, ‘…and they returned to take revenge’.
Like Yaadon Ki Baaraat, Karan Arjun is the perfect masala entertainer: lavishly-mounted sets, fabulous action set pieces, dashing heroes, glamorous and sexy heroines [special jury mention: Mamta Kulkarni’s “Kya main ladki…?” scene before the mirror in a closed room], a fearsome villain, et al. It was one of two films that borrowed heavily from Ram Lakhan [the other being Sham Ghansham, 1998]. Interestingly, in all three movies, the central conflict was between Raakhee and Amrish Puri. Karan Arjun is widely regarded as one of the best action movies ever made. The trio of SRK-Amrish Puri-Kajol would return later in the same year in another movie that was the biggest hit of 1995 [and one of the biggest hits of all time, inflation adjusted or not], which urged the audiences to ‘Come…Fall in Love’. But that’s another story.
Kartavya, another vendetta tale from 1995 featuring Amrish Puri as the villain, had the same storyline, but without the reincarnation angle. As for Prem, which was stuck in production limbo for seven long years and finally hit the theaters four months after Karan Arjun, flopped despite being a very well-made film, thanks not to Sanjay Kapoor, as popular perceptions go, but due to the most ludicrous climax scenario Javed Akhtar has ever written.

23. Ghajini [2008]: Bollywood’s Last Great Revenge Drama. And a truly different one, starring the one Khan who dares to think outside the box.
A petty ruffian is found brutally murdered in his home. Police investigations indicate the involvement of a strange man who has a deep scar running along the length of the left side of his head and takes the help of pictures, clicked with a Polaroid camera, to identify places, people, things, and daily tasks. An over-curious medical student gets involved and unearths a chilling story of flesh trade, cold-blooded murder, and the involvement of a much-respected public figure.
Christopher Nolan’s neo-noir psychological thriller Memento [2000] inspired—no unauthorized copy or authorized remake, but pure and simple inspiration, in the truest sense of the term; nothing more—director A.R. Murugadoss’s Tamil thriller Ghajini [2005], which Murugadoss himself remade in Hindi—though after making a few significant changes in the script—with Aamir Khan in 2008.
The film about a character suffering from anterograde amnesia and trying to locate his girlfriend’s killer within the foggy caverns of his unreliable memories with just a name to help him created a huge stir among critics and audiences alike. Aamir built up an eight-pack body that remains in demand five years hence.
Of course, since 3rd June 2013, the film has also come to be known as “the last film of Jiah Khan”.

24. Special Jury Mention: Apoorva Sagodharargal (Tamil, 1989): I admit, I’m cheating a wee bit here. Being Tamil, this film shouldn’t really qualify to be on this list of Hindi films. But one of Kamal “the master chameleon” Haasan’s greatest films ever was dubbed in Hindi and released as Appu Raja—and this gives this absolutely marvelous film a backdoor entry.
Inspector Sethupathy [Haasan] is slaughtered by four society bigwigs, who also poison his heavily pregnant wife. The wife gives birth to twins—who are soon separated from each other—who grow up to be the normal and healthy motor mechanic Raja and the dwarf circus artiste Appu, respectively. A hilarious-yet-tension-filled comedy of errors ensues when Appu starts killing the villains one-by-one and Raja keeps getting arrested.
Haasan is in absolutely rampaging form here, as the bumbling mechanic/lover Raja and Appu, the gleeful purveyor of bloodlust. His eyes gleam with a spine-chilling twinkle of death as he executes the evil-doers one after another. And Ilaiyaraaja’s score is simply divine.

Monday, 7 October 2013

On A Long Overdue Retirement

So 'He Who Would Never Retire' finally goes, but not before renouncing his greatness at the altar of statistics. From "The Greatest Cricketer Ever" to "The Highest Run-Accumulator Ever" is not really a great leap forward, in my books.

And none else but he himself is responsible for it. He should have acknowledged his Performance Menopause right after WC 2011.

Therein lies his life's greatest tragedy and biggest irony: that he failed to stop when he should have and thereby overstayed his welcome. Happy retirement, S10.