Thursday, April 30, 2020

Rishi Kapoor - 1952-2020 In Requiem

The Eternal Lover Boy

One of the most illustrious actors of Hindi Films breathed his last today. It feels like a personal loss because I grew up watching his movies.

 His first role as a leading man was Bobby. I was barely 13 when this movie came out and I remember lining up to buy a ticket. This was us! This was a movie about a young couple that looked, dressed and behaved like a young couple. The viewers approved, the viewers thronged to the movie and it was declared a super-hit. At the time the movie came out, I was really a fan of Dimple. I adored Bobby, her clothes, her way of speaking -
बीसवीं सदी तो बूढी हो गयी , मैं इक्कीसवी सदी की लड़की हूँ। 
 Rishi Kapoor, with his smooth looks, did not go unnoticed by us girls. I remember a friend of mine passing a hand over a magazine with his picture on it, saying क्या धाकड़ लगता है। It was the slang of that time meaning that he looks great.

I have often poked fun at older actors playing young college graduates well into their thirties and forties. Here we had an actor in his twenties playing a young man. It was bonus for us. The filmmakers tripped over each other to make young-love movies with Rishi. Dimple had bowed out of the picture post her marriage to Rajesh Khanna. Neetu Singh stepped into this void like a diva she was.  They were paired together for 12 films, starting with  Zehreela Insaan, which came after Bobby. It wasn't a success. Despite his aristocratic bollywood lineage, Rishi had to struggle for success post Bobby. 

Rishi in drag in Rafoo Chakkar

Rafoo Chakkar sealed his career with the approval of masses, as did Khel Khel Main. I was in school then and my friends went wild about these two movies. Rishi was here to stay.  Amar Akbar Anthony started a chain of multi-starrer movies. Rishi fell conveniently into the niche of a younger brother who provided light moments of romance with the heroine while his angst ridden older brothers did the standard revenge things like fighting with the villains. 

In Doosra Aadmi, Rishi Kapoor got to show his serious acting chops playing a man besotted by an older woman, despite being married. It is one of my all time favorite movies. Raakhi has lost the love of her life, Shashi Kapoor and feels attracted to Rishi because he resembles her love. It was a clever meta move as Rishi and Shashi were related. Ek Chadar Maili Si was about the tradition of marrying a widow to her brother-in-law to provide security to her and her children. Hema Malini and Rishi Kapoor put in a lovely performance as a couple forced into such a marriage.

Ek Chadar Maili Si

By 1980, Neetu Singh married Rishi and retired from films. Other young actresses like Tina Munim and Poonam Dhillon stepped in. He worked with more than 40 actresses in career. This resourceful blogger pegs the number to 45. In my opinion, only Dev Anand worked with more heroines in his career. 

His pairing with Neetu Singh was the longest, and the cutest. They were both fresh and young. Yet in my mind there was something special about Dimple and Rishi. He began his career with Dimple. Bobby was an iconic film. When Dimple returned to acting, her most touted comeback film was Saagar, where she got another innings alongside Rishi. The movie was a huge hit. Strangely, they were not cast together again, until Pyar Mein Twist. It was a senior romance between two single parents with grown children. It had it's charm though it wasn't a very great movie. My favorite Rishi-Dimple pairing was Luck By Chance. In the movie, Dimple has had a successful run as an actress and is now pushing her daughter's launch as a lead actress. Rishi is a film producer who hates Dimple. This reversal of their usual roles as a lovey dovey couple was fresh and worked very well.

Throughout the Eighties, Rishi Kapoor was in his prime. He had the unbeatable image as a romantic hero. Other actors like Amitabh Bachhan and Vinod Khanna were busy beating up the baddies. Dharmendra lurked behind them, carrying on with his good looks intact and action movies sustaining him.

The famous Kapoor tendency to put on weight thanks to good food and drinks played havoc with Rishi too. He looks pudgy in Mera Naam Joker and had to diet rigorously for his debut movie. His metabolism helped him during his youth, but middle age brought the dreaded spread. He hid his growing paunch by wearing baggy sweaters. He must have known his time as a lead actor was at an end.

In my opinion, when he handed over Divya Bharti to Shahrukh Khan in Deewana, he was passing on the baton of Romantic Star to him as well.  He lasted a few more years as a lead before seguing into character actor roles. 

He was a good actor and chose good films and had a very respectable career as a senior actor. He left us with his boots on. He was working in films till the last. Ever since I heard he was not well and seeking treatment in USA, I have been dreading this day. A part of my youth died today. The actor who I watched in his prime as well as advancing age, very close to mine, is now gone.

हम न रहेंगे , तुम न रहोगे
फिर भी रहेंगी निशानियां

Rishi has left behind him a solid body of work. It is sometime great, sometimes good and sometimes not. Yet it is a sizeable legacy and we can console ourselves by watching his movies again. We are lucky to be living in times where it is easy to access movies we want to watch. Let us make most of it and raise a toast to a life well lived.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Dil Hi to Hai (1963)

Perhaps the most enduring feature of 1960's Hindi Cinema is the music.  It is the one biggest single factor that makes us look up old movies again and again. I watched the movie mainly for the music, but more on that later.

1960's were when the big three- Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand were getting a bit long in the tooth. It never deterred Dev Anand. He stayed trim at the waist and was blessed with longevity where looks were concerned.  Dilip Kumar managed not to spread too alarmingly, but his face showed his age. Raj Kapoor lost his charming visage and slimness fast. The Kapoors were fond of their dinners and men were not metrosexual in those days. No facials or mud packs for them. Luckily the producers were not picky. For them, a few wrinkles here and there were no reason why these seasoned leading men couldn't continue to be so. Similarly, Hindi Film audiences turned a blind eye to a balding middle aged leading man pretending to be fresh out of college.

When the movie starts, we are quickly brought up to speed by Begam (Mumtaz Begum) as she converses with her husband Nawab Jallaludin (Hari Shivdasani). These two have lost many children. Fearing a similar fate for their only surviving son Yusuf, they sent him away to be reared by his uncle and aunt. He is expected back as a grown child the next day. That is when they are also expecting a nursemaid for the child. 
Farida (Manorama) with her own child Shekhoo
The scene switches to a railway station which reveals the other part of the story.  The Nanny (Leela Chitnis) and the caretakers (Manorama and Shivraj) are sharing a bench. The nanny can make out that these people care more for their own child and not a whit for the one they are supposed to be caring for. The mean couple abandon Yusuf sleeping beside the nanny and plan to dupe Nawab saheb into taking in their own child, Shekoo. When the nanny turns up with a child in tow, the Begam sacks her politely.  They didn't want a nanny with a child of her own.

The switch works well for Farida (Manorama).  Her son Shekhoo, now known as Yusuf, grows up as the heir of Nawab Saheb. He is also slated to marry the rich and beautiful Jamila (Nutan). The real Yusuf grows up as Chand, a poor Nanny's son. Like a true blue Nawab, he loves singing and sher-o-shairi. We are treated to Chand singing a Shri 420 kind of song, Dil jo bhi kahega...

Getting kicked away by a rich man and riding a donkey
Jamila is very fond of the new singer Chand who performs often on radio. She is looking forward to a chance to meet him at a friend's birthday party. 
Nutun, only 27 and pretty as a picture

On her way to the party, she encounters Chand and takes him for a ruffian and a stalker. As a result of which she makes some cutting remarks to him. Smitten by her beauty, he replies to these remarks by singing a lovely song, completely winning her over. 

Jamila is completely bowled over. As was ordained by her parents she has found the one she was meant to be with. As audience, we are privy to the fact and cheer the couple on. The Nakli Nawab, Yusuf, is not happy. He means to make himself richer by gobbling up Jamila's inheritance also, by and by, by marrying her. One day Chand is forced to disguise himself as an old man and sing a classical song at a function.
Laga, chunri me daag chhupaon kaise

He is made to take up the job of tutoring Jamila in singing by Yusuf to keep her away from Chand.
He has in fact, delivered her right into the arms of his rival. The couple meet and sing songs and are generally having fun duping Yusuf. Alas, All good things must come to an end. They are eventually caught and separated, but only after they have sung a good number of songs. 

The audience knows the couple is on a sure footing.  Yusuf has been seeing a dancing girl and has promised her marriage and made her pregnant. But still, the requisite drama has to be gone through. So we have the usual separation, tears, sad song, blackmail by father (marry Yusuf  or I will die). We also have a famous payoff scene by the girl's father (Let go of my girl, how much do you want - 5000, 10000, 15000?).

The movie is fairly well made. There is no clutter here, only a little comic side plot. The characters are kept to the minimum. Maximum time is contributed to singing gorgeous songs which keeps the audience soothed.  Pran is an unusual villain in this movie. He is not the mean-faced baddie. Rather he is a bit of a buffoon, being taken for a ride by the lead pair. It was quite refreshing to see him like this. Though he does get to do the standard baddie things like trying to kill his girlfriend and also the hero.

As mentioned earlier, Raj Kapoor quickly lost his youthful looks. He was only 39 at the time of this film's release. Yet he looks decidedly middle aged. His middle was spreading and face was lined. At 40 most young actors are only coming into their prime these days. But now, men take care of themselves. They work-out, diet and groom themselves. Yet, while dancing to a song, you can see that he has the rhythm in him. I have always maintained that Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar were good dancers You can see in the clip here that Raj Kapoor had moves. I love the way he dips to the floor and rises so gracefully. If you are older, you will know this is a hard thing to do. 

Nutan is beautiful, peppy and graceful in the film. Her emoting to the qawwali, Nigahen milane ko jee chahta hai, is faultless. She is like a breath of fresh air in this movie helmed by older actors.

The dialogues of the film were often good, at times rather high flown as if suffering from a hangover of Mughal-e-Azam.

Yet the best part of the film, which I have saved for the end, is the music. The music director of this film was Roshan. The lyricist was Sahir Ludhyanvi. Together they came up with a playlist of ten songs. These days we are lucky if the movie has one decent number. In those days there were at least seven or eight numbers and they had to be good. Here we have 9/10 number that you can listen to on loop. The movie came out in 1963, 57 years have passed, the music has been around for 57 years and is as alive and fresh as ever.

A special mention for the two gorgeous songs in this playlist. One is of course the Asha Bhonsle qawwali - Nigahen milane ko jee chahta hai. The lyrics are especially good. They bring out the joyousness of first love and longing the girl feels to keep looking at her beloved. Tum agar mujhko na chaho is another song which is in a league of it's own. It is a lighthearted dig at the girl who has just publicly rejected him. "Don't love me, if you can't. But please don't torture me by loving another." 

1. Dil jo bhi kahega, maanenge duniya me hamara dil hi to hai
2. Tum agar mujhko na chaho to koi baat nahi
3. Laaga chunri me daag chhupaon kaise
4. Gusse me jo nakhra hai
5. Nigahen milane ko jee chahta hai
6. Tumhari mast nazar gar idhar nahi hoti
7. Chura le na tumko ye mausam suhana
8. Bhoole se mohabbat kar baitha
9. Youn hi dil ne chaha tha rona rulana
10. Parda uthe salaam ho jaye

The link for the playlist is here.