|While we’re the first to admit that we love it that Bollywood has finally discovered the importance of storylines, scripts and realism (of a sort), a little bit of us still yearns for the good old day pre-nineties, when the words. “Hindi Movies” were synonymous with the words “high dramas’.
True, till the late Eighties, Hindi films tended to be nothing but a mass of clichés. But the fact is, those clichés existed because we loved them. Those days, it didn’t matter if the first day first show flick we battled to get tickets for bore more than a striking resemblance to last week’s first day, first show flick. Even when the hero, heroine, villain, evil henchmen, Mother, mother-in-law and mandatory funny person of this week’s film said and did exactly the same things as the character of last week’s film, we felt for them. We settled into our seats and cheered them, booed them, wept with them, laughed with them and put our faith in God for them.
Which is why, roughly twenty years after the last wail of the heroine, a simple village belle, as she ran after the train that took her hero, the simple village boy, from his gaon to the big, bad she her, we at Brunch have just two words to say about Hindi movies of yore. ”Mat jao!”
Join us as we remember in the first part of this special write-up on 25 of Bollywood’s biggest clichés. (And also make a few suggestions for those filmmakers of today who are anxious to clamber on to the retro bandwagon).
1. ARE YOU THERE, GOD? IT’S ME, THE HERO
Back when psychologists, ‘life coaches’ and ‘3 am friends’ did not exist, who else could the characters in Hindi movies go to with their problems but God? And unlike psychologists, ‘life coaches’ and ‘3 am friends’, God not only listened, but worked miracles. The moment the idol emitted a ray of light, we knew all would be well. The blind person would get his/her eyesight back; the sick person would be right with the world.
2. VILLAIN OF THE PIECE
Almost always dressed in a peculiar outfit, the villain was the most technology-friendly person in a hindi movie. His den (he always had a den) was a miracle of gadgetry. Doors would slide open and shut of their own, and, should the villain need to eliminate anyone, he just had to press a button and the room would fill with poisonous gas. Often he had a pet crocodile or shark that could be fed with a couple of his victims.
Contemporary twist: Since villains today must be cool, he can be an IT person cum wildlife enthusiast. Sick of staying up all night writing software for constantly- complaining foreign clients, he dashers off into the jungles, kidnaps foreign people who make rude remarks about Indians in the BPO services, and feeds them to tigers. This way, he saves the cattle of innocent villagers from being eaten.
3. SONIC BOOM
Before Bollywood became sophisticated, you could watch a Hindi film even if you were blindfolded. The sound effects alone would tell you who was doing what to whom and how. For instance, you never needed to watch a fight sequence to know that someone was being beaten to a pulp. You heard “Dishum, dishuuuuum”. And if you heard “Kuttey! Main tera khoon pi jaoonga! ” you even knew Dharmendra was responsible for all the blood.
4. DIALOUGE BAAZI
Unlike the movies of today, characters in the Hindi films of old did not do anything as boring as talk. Instead, they had ‘dialogues’ composed of finely crafted statements. Which gave us a variety of one liners in every film, many of which we use today. Isn’t it lovely, for instance, to be able to fix the boss who’s threatening to fire you with a level gaze, and say: “Hum gareeb zaroor hain, lekin hamari bhi izzat hai”? Don’t you, the boss, wish you could show your true colours with a “Mogambo khush hua” when your junior finally delivers his report?
Contemporary twist: Old-time dialogues can still be used. For instance, now that most of us live away from home, we are always able to say “Maa” in the heartfelt tones that heroes usually reserved for their mothers. And while it is unlikely that our mothers will be threatened by villains and have therefore to spit “Yeh badle ki aag ab tere khoon se hi bhujegi, kamine. Aur yeh badla mera beta lega”, chances are that Maa – who is one tough chick – will accompany us to our offices, fix our bosses with an unyielding eye and snarl: “Agar ma ka doodh piya hai to saamne aa.” Which will give us all the more reason to announce: “Mere paas maa hai”.
5. BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?
We don’t know why heroes treated their parents with so much reverence in the old days. Because a lot of them were remarkably careless, often losing one child or the other at the hospital, a mela or during a storm/ earthquake/ railway accident. Sometimes even under a statue, as in Amar Akbar Anthony. So we had a variety of misplaced siblings: Twins separated at birth (Ram Aur Shyam, Seeta Aur Geeta), princes separated at birth (Dharam Veer), mislaid brothers (Yaadon ki Baraat, Waqt, Geraftar, Johnny Mera Naam) etc.
Fortunately, the parents always gave their mislaid children some means of identification for the future: a two-rupee note torn in two, each twin getting one half; or twin tattoos, one on each child, or half a locket each or even a song, as in Yaadon ki Baraat. This presumably, was because the parents knew that the instant the grown-up children met, they would have homicide on their minds thanks to years o suppressed sibling rivalry. Fratricide could be avoided on production and comparison of the torn note / broken locket / tattoo / line of song.
Contemporary twist: Since parents these days are not as careless as parents of old – or a least, are able to track their children by their mobile phones – the mislaid siblings plot makes no sense. However, filmmakers can make movies featuring mad scientists who clone people, not sheep, and thus give us Seeta Aur Geeta 2007.
6. INSAAF KA TARAZU
When Bollywood’s cops of the Seventies bellowed statements like “Apne aap ko kanoon ke haawale kar do”, could we get away without a court scene in the practically every film? No way. To begin with, no courtroom was ever free of random bystanders who had nothing better to do than watch trials of people they knew nothing about. Of course, there was no daytime TV then, so presumably these people found the courtrooms the best entertainment option. And let’s face it, these courtrooms were entertaining. What with lawyers leaping of their chairs as though someone had sets bombs off beneath them, yelling “Objection milord”; the many figures of Justice, scales in her hand, keeping a stern (if blindfolded) eye on the proceedings; and, if the judge pronounced a death sentence, the breaking of the nib of his pen. The death sentence of course was very important. “Taze rate Hind, dafaa 302 ke tahit, mulzim ko sazaye maut milti hai, to be hanged until death!”
7. THE IN-LAW TURNED OUTLAW
The female version of the villain as never the vamp. Oh no. It was the truly evil mother-in-law, best played by Lalita Pawar. One look for her and even the toughest bahu collapsed in a heap. Constantly scheming against the bahu – though no one had a clue why the wicked mother-in-law was always humbled at the end, and begged for forgiveness: “Mujhe maaf kar do beti”. Even more baffling than the mother-in-laws nastiness (which seemed to steam from nothing more than the fact that she was a mother-in-law) was the bahu’s ability to actually forgive her. Truly astounding.
Contemporary twist: As television serials mostly beginning with the letter k have appropriated the evil saas character, today’s filmmakers should ideally create an evil modern mother – one who as she runs a business empire, plots the takeover of the world, not her daughter’s jewellery. The judge would announce. And if the hero, who had been wrongly accused, was freed (“baaizzat bari kiya jaata hai”), there would be a big family reunion in the court itself after the pronouncement.
Contemporary twist: Given the excitement that court cases these days, the courtroom scene can be shifted outside with thousands of people sending SMSes in favour of or against the accused.
8. LAND HO!
While technology (and crocodile) loving villains inhabited the bigger cities, in the villages the villain was the thakur or zamindar who, together with his lathi-wielding henchmen, roamed the countryside in open jeeps, extorted money from poor farmers, and raped every woman he laid his eye
on. Contemporary twist: unnecessary. Scenes like this in today’s movies would be lauded as realistic.
Typically dressed in dhotis and kurtas with bullet belts strapped to their chests, long tilaks on their foreheads and with horses for transport, daakus mainly inhabited ravines and passed their time looting villages and kidnapping woman. What they did with the valuables they stole no one knows. Let’s face it, a ravine is not a good place to go shopping. However, as Sunil Dutt said in Mujhe Jeene Do, “Tu bhi daaku, main bhi daaku. Mujhe kanoon nahin chhodega, main tujhe nahin chhodoonga.”
10. ROBE OF HONOUR
What was the best way to show powerful and authoritative a wealthy man could be? Put him in a dressing gown of course – a rich affair of brocade – plant him on the sweeping staircase of his manor (sometimes accessorised with a large cigar), and have him ban his daughter from marrying the poor (but proud) young man she’d managed to find under some stone. If the daughter tossed her head and threw Daddy’s words back in his face, Daddy then summoned the poor (but proud) young man and said: “Yeh lo pachchaas hazaar rupai aur meri beti ko bhool jao.” To which the poor (but as was now proved, proud) young man replied: “Aap mujhe khareedna chahte hain? Mera pyaar bikau nahin hai!”