Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sholay Specials:Asrani's Undying Spirit:ETC Interview with Komal Nahta

The hero is such a magnified presence in commercial Hindi cinema that seldom are other supporting acting talents recognised. One such dreaded label is the 'character actor', often a footnote when cinema history is evoked. If Ben Kingsley or Morgan Freeman had been working in Hindi films, they wouldn't have been as admired as they are. 

In Rohit Shetty's Bol Bachchan (2012) Asrani gets a long overdue tribute, as Prithvi (Ajay Devgan) mentions how Shastri (Asrani) has been doing special appearances for decades. Post the film's release, ETC's Komal Nahta did a nice freewheeling interview with the veteran actor. 

As this youtube clip shows, Asrani has a rumble-tumble way of talking and a spirit to see the humour in everything, be it his first disastrous film, the struggle to get his breakthrough role in Guddi (1971) and finally, inevitably talking about the character he enjoyed playing the most - Angrezo ke zamane ke jailor in Sholay (1975). Asrani also talks at length about the crucial intonations that nailed it and the origins of the role.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Before Sholay: Notable Amitabh Bachchan films (1969 - 1975): Zanjeer

Zanjeer (1973)

A game changer as far as Hindi film formula is concerned, it is no surprise that the angst-ridden lead role was rejected by several leading men of that time. 

Most films of the 60's were blown up fairy tales that never resembled any of the lives that the audience was leading. Until then, the commercial Hindi film hero wooed the girl, danced in gardens, on hill-tops and in discos, drove jeeps, lip-synced melodious songs in a sugar-candy world oblivious to the world of employment, livelihood, corruption and other bare truths. He did become grim in the end reels, just to bash up the villain or turn the tables on him, verbally or in a courtroom. Salim-Javed's script was more than an eye-opener in this stale scenario.

Amitabh's first big solo hero success, it was also to make several film makers churn out similar anti-establishment films (mostly bad and average) for years to come, many of them starring Amitabh, even as the Hindi film industry moved from a resurgent, creative 70's to formulaic, brazen 80's.

Iconic moment
When inspector Vijay Khanna strides into Sher Khan's area post their face-off at the police station, it is the film's revelatory moment, that Amitabh Bachchan had unexpectedly, made it big on celluloid.  

Before Sholay: Notable Amitabh Bachchan films (1969 - 1975): Anand

 Anand (1971) 

As a friend and doctor battling to save his patient and cheerful friend's life, Amitabh is raw, sincere and intense. Rajesh Khanna is at the top of his form as Anand, Amitabh holds his own.  

Among Hrishikesh Mukherjee's finest films, story is king here sans star trappings or hero worship. This was Amitabh's first brush with success. As the actor has mentioned in an interview, people started recognising him on the street after the film's release.     


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sholay Dialogue Baazi: Khota sikka toh...

In contrast to Sergio Leone's westerns, Sholay was all about power-packed dialogues with some little silent moments stitched in.    
There is enough warning of a particular coin in the opening scenes of Sholay. Post the opening credits, the jailor and Ramlal arrive at Thakur's abode, there is no grand background music here, effective as blank white paper for the dialogues to stamp their authority. A deceptive quietness persists, an apt precursor to the train robbery scene.

The jailer has arrived in Ramgadh in response to Thakur's (now obsolete mode of communication) telegram. He is shown photographs of two crooks (The audience never sees the photographs, nice touch) and on Thakur's query tells him that they are scoundrels and never up to any good. Yet, Thakur needs him to find the men. The jailer wonders why? The following dialogues sum it up.



Our lesson, bhakt jano!: A person is not like a bad coin. Hate the sin, not the sinner! Amen!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sholay Dialogue Baazi: Gabbar ke taap se...

Gabbar Singh and gang arrive to disrupt Ramgarh's holi celebrations, right at the end of the song, right on cue - Holi ke din dil khil jaate hai. Jai is cornered, Veeru is coaxed out of hiding and Gabbar is understandably exulted. Seizing the moment he reinforces the psychological hold of fear he has over the hapless denizens of Ramgadh. Gabbar pretty much stamps his authority on the situation, creating the illusion of dependency and inevitability. He proclaims in dreaded tongue, even as most villagers cower behind closed doors and windows:

(There is only one man who can save you from Gabbar's heat, only one man...Gabbar himself!)  

As for fans, here is our lesson: 
Unwittingly, Gabbar meant that nobody can help us, but ourselves...A lesson in self-reliance. Thank you Gabbar, you missed the Teacher's Day function by the way...