Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The King And I

The King And I: "

[Long Post]

I had gone to see teenage-wet-dream Divya Bharati and hiding-fat-by-wearing-sweater Rishi Kapoor movie “Deewana” the very day it was released, little knowing my life was going to be changed. It was then, just like how Moses saw God behind a burning bush when he least expected Him, that I saw a similarly magnificent vision, sliding on a block of ice, singing “Koi na koi chahiye pyar karne waala”. I had seen him before in “In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones” but there I did not know it was him, his performance being overshadowed by an attractive lady, playing the architecture student in a hat, a lady who would since go on to be a God of Big Size Things in a different domain. After an intense hand-throwing performance with a curious propensity to curl his lip and make his eyes red, something I had never seen before and which at that time made me go “Wow aisi deewangi dekhi naheen kaheen”, this man slowly started vanishing into the woodwork of Bollywood, like Avinash Wadhavan and Ayub Khan, sometimes being seen driving Nagma on bicycle (King Uncle), dancing behind Divya Bharati as she worked it in a delectable black top (Dil Aashna Hai), being whispered about in the men’s room for “that” scene in Maya Memsaheb or playing second fiddle to Nana Patekar as the loveria-afflicted hero in “Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman”, a movie conjectured to have inspired the growth of Satyam under Ramalinga Raju and also the “taali bajao” theme song of those who walk the middle path— “Aaee Raju Chal Aaja Re Baaju” [Video]

And then he rose from the dying. Having gone to see a low-buzz movie called “Baazigar” only to enjoy Anu Malik’s signature “Main milee tu mila duniya jaale to jaale” vocal riff (which I still worship), I was blown away. From that iconic “Madaannnn Chopprraaaaaa” supremely bloody male-male penetration (even today that scene lingers with me, for instance when I saw “Dil Bole Hadippa” the other day I had this urge to shake my lip, yell “Adityaaaa Chopprraaaa” and run into a high-tension wire) to the historic Knight Riders-throws -down-Rajasthan Royals from the top of the building (a scene that totally caught me by surprise, in a way the ending of “Usual Suspects” did) to the naughty “zip up” move on the heroine’s behind to the scene of Shahrukh Khan in a towel playing tennis and jumping into a pool (a scene that electrified, I have been told, more people than Kajol’s towel dance in DDLJ). “Baazigar” was simply history. The launch of something epic.

Desiring more of this man, I went first-day first-show to Priya cinema hall to see “Darr”. That day for some strange reason the Kolkata chapter of the Sunny Deol fan club had booked tickets en masse (all dressed in bandanas like Sunny Deol in the movie) and as luck would have it, my seat fell right in front of them. And throughout the length of the movie, these maniacs kept screaming “Sunny tor baap” “Juhi tor maa” (Sunny is your dad, Juhi is your mom) whenever the love-obsessed anti-hero would slant his head, slit his red eyes and quiver his lips. Thanks to these inconsiderate fans, I could not fully appreciate “Jadoo Teri Nazaar” which would go onto become the anthem of frustrated stalkers as every Romeo from Khardah to Kankurganchi went K-k-kiran at bus-stops nor could I wrap my mind around the superhuman feat wherein Sunny Deol starts chasing the anti-hero from the mountains of presumably Switzerland right to the beach.

With my Higher Secondary exams over and reeling under a disastrous Joint Entrance Exam, I went to see “Anjaam”. I came out shaken (one of my friends said “The Higher Secondary exams were better than this movie”) unable to decide which was more terrifying—–Madhuri Dixit’s stuffing money down throats, eating human beings or Dipak Tijori as the hero. What however I am sure about is there was more blood spilt in “Anjaam” than all the blood spilt in the seven Saw movies. No two ways about it.

Karan Arjun came and went—primarily a two hero flick with the star turn being provided by Rakhee with her maniacal “Mere bete Karan Arjun aayenge. Dharti cheed ke ayenge. Aasman todke aayenge”. So did “Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na”, making not much of an effect at the box office, despite an endearing (some would say his best along with Swades) performance as a golden-hearted loser and one awesome awesome musical score including my personal favorite “Kab se kare hai tera intezaar”.

And then it happened. Possibly his greatest triumph. “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge” —a movie that rewrote Indian movie history. Fresh in college and suffused with the lovey-doveys, I swooned. As did an entire generation. Na Jaane Mere Dil Ko Kya Ho Gya. Abhi To Yaheen Tha Abhi Kho Gya. Soon everyone was standing at bus stops, swinging their head sideways, imagining an SRK dimple on their cheeks as they sang to their imaginary muses (mere khawabon main jo aaye) hoping that one day, while on the Canning Local squeezed in like sardines between the vegetable vendors and industrious pickpockets, they could stretch out their hand and a Simran would grab it. Come fall in love.

However DDLJ also killed the man for me. From that time, he became eternally typecast, trapped in the alternate reality of the Chopra-Johars, unwilling to take a risk with his image essentially strait-jacketed playing the “lover boy” . With even the same name. Rahul. Mar gya Rahul. Rahul naam to yaad rahega. A character so infuriatingly real that recently an American terrorist was planning to travel to India to take out a prominent Indian actor identified as “Rahul” [Link].

Which is why I did not like “Yes Boss”. And could barely sit through “Dil To Pagal Hain”, a movie I am sure was commissioned by the military-industrial complex to sell red heart-shaped balloons (remember the song “Chand ne kuch kahaa”). Ditto “Prades” helmed by Subhash Ghai who brought novelty to the genre by telling people to “rise in love” (in Taal) rather than “fall in love”. The final nail was driven into my devotion for the man when in 1998, the Karan that Rakhee had prophesied in “Karan Arjun” arrived, forging a Big Ears-Noddy duo, the greatest commercial alliance to be seen in Hindu moviedom. “Kuch Kuch Hota Hain” came into being, bringing into existence the most irritating over-precocious kid ever captured on screen and strengthening the formula that would be the bane of Bollywood till today.

Not that he was still was not making some delectable movies. Like “Ramjaane” which created a cult of white coats and red ribbons around the head in Kolkata and the reciting of poetic lines like “Raat badi choti hai lekin baat bari long ala ala ala long ala long”. Or “English Babu Desi Mem” where…oh who am I kidding….that movie I loved because of Sonali Bendre and “Bharatpur loot gya ui mere amma” and “Abhi abhi solaah baras ki hui”. Like “Koyla” by far his most intense action movie with some of the most spectacular sequences ever shown in mainstream Bollywood.

My final falling out with the King happened when we went to see “Duplicate”. For one, porn MMS’s had more detailed plots than that one had. If that was not enough, I was sitting beside a guy friend, a friend who worshipped the King so much that he had a bare-chested picture set as his desktop (his retort was “What do you expect? Me to put a picture of Sonali Bendre? What will my parents think?”). As the hero took a bath, I whispered to him “So paisa wasool”? Immediately a slap hit my cheek. It was my friend, in great wrath, lashing out at having his private moment ruined.

That was it for me. Getting slapped in public for him. Yeh thappad ki goonj and all that. The last straw on the camel’s back. Honestly. My faith was finally broken.

Then doing graduate studies in the US, I went to see Asoka with a few friends. My verdict was simple: this movie was the revenge of the Kalinga rajya on Asoka’s legacy for two reasons: the genocide perpetrated on them and the dropping of Debashish Mohanty. Reducing one of the greatest stories of sin and redemption to a princey romance story with Samrata Asoka leaping out of lakes in superslow motion and making underwater love this was one King’s desecration of another. Then there was Mohabbatein, the five love-stories-in-a-movie, with the King playing Kapil Sibal trying to scrap exams so that his wards may make music and make love. Followed by Devdas which we went to see from Stonybrook in a group of about fifty, sitting in front of the Indian theater playing Antakshari (we had arrived two hours in advance) and then entering to find that the Indian proprietor had oversold tickets. Which meant many of us saw the movie sitting on the stairs, as we were blown away by the assault of colors and the “maar daala” overwrought acting. Followed by “Veer Zara” where his acting as an old man was distinguished from that of young man’s by a slight shake of the head and three strands of white hair, though the final scene where he recites “Main quadi no 766″ as the Pakistani judge starts clapping was deeply moving, a sentiment captured by an Youtube commenter

thanks are due to you dude, for uploading such kind of ultimate videos…. long after i saw the movie in theater, i recalled the moments when i was literally crying at this very moment.. great? movie, great scene, great moment, great words spoken, great acting by the kingly person, and great work by you to have uploaded it..

There have been many more—of failed marriages with Punjab Super Kings owner and of rebirth and of a government employee who is unrecognizable without a mustache— none of which have had a fraction of the impact his dozen “Aiiiiis” in “Army” or one nod of his head in “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge” had on me. Why— I have often wondered? Is the King no longer as magnificent as he used to be? Or has the King remained the same while I have moved on?

Of late as old age approaches and each day means that I am closer to the end, I contemplate more and more. Was I wrong all along? Is He not the King but God himself? Commentator Rajib thinks so and he has made a very compelling argument in the thread of this post. And he may have a point. When I went to see “Om Shanti Om” in Laurel in a packed theater, the moment He came onto the screen brandishing his six packs, an auntie sitting in front of me screamed “Hai mar jawaan” in what I can only explain as religious rapture. Not only she but also an uncle cried out “Ohhhhhh” in a way that was distinctly orgasmic.

Yes it make sense. After all in Veer Zara does he not sing “Main Yahaan Ho Yahaan Ho Yahaan” thus informing us of his presence in everything—-T20 franchises, calling card advertisements, wedding party dances, Bollywood nights, game shows, press conferences, in a cricket match stadium handing out CDS of his latest movies? Is this not the ultimate proof of his divinity?

Recently He turned forty-four. On the occasion he announced his ambitious plans for the world of mice and men, in a style that he has made his own. [Link]

Now I want to do something in return. I want to bring a smile to the faces of youngsters. I don’t want to start an NGO, but I do wish to do something for the cause of the girl child… The feeling of wanting to give is stronger now than it has been. I think of life as work. I want to introspect as to which direction I should take my life in. I want to do something to save the environment. Honestly, I haven’t done my bit yet but I will start now.

Bringing smiles to young people. Do something for the girl child. Introspect. Save the environment. Sell money transfer packages to India. And dance to “Love mera hit hit”. Which mortal can do all this?

Happy birthday King or God whoever you are. Where would be all without you?

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