Baaton Baaton Mein

3 films on love-hate relationship with Bombay and Bollywood

Chala Murari Hero Banne, Kaagaz Ke Phool and Rangeela portray the dynamics of the film industry.

 |  Baaton Baaton Mein  |  7-minute read |   25-09-2016
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We often criticise Bombay for being cut-throat and inconsiderate. Every one who comes to Bombay, eyes laden with ripe and exploding dreams, indulges in a love-hate relationship with the city.

On one hand Bombay is a one-stop platform for aspiring actors, singers, technicians and filmmakers, on the other, it tries to discourage their aspirations at every bend of the road.

The word struggle with its many connotations is used more abundantly in this city since not only does a person strive to earn money, but also comes here to discover the beauty of his dreams.

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Chala Murari Hero Banne (1977)

Written and directed by Asrani, it is interesting to note that this is one of the select films where he plays the lead, while in multiple films his screen time is devoted to comic relief and as a supporting actor.

Chala Murari Hero Banne incidentally happens to feature around Murari, a simpleton from Delhi who becomes a star in Bombay sans the hallmark look and features of a Hindi film hero.

Consumed by his dreams of becoming a hero someday, Murari prides on being called “Hero Bhaiyya” by the little boy serving chai, whereas his father AK Hangal, a tailor representative of the hardworking common man, calls him a “bhand” and his passion “nautanki”.

Children find it easier to believe in fantasies and dreams bypassing the tribulations which elders largely focus on. A child lives inside Murari as well, who never lets him sacrifice his vision.

Murari explains to his distressed father: “Babuji, main sui dhaaga kainchi aur machine ki is duniya se door, ek aisi jagmagati duniya mein jaana chahta soon jahan mere sapne sach honge.”

His prospect of making it in Bollywood is ruled foul by Keshto Mukherjee aka Abdul, who scorns Murari’s exorbitant dreams. Dharmendra’s body, Amitabh Bachchan’s voice, Rajesh Khanna’s smile and Manoj Kumar’s height - he analyses - are the criterion of becoming a hero. Murari has neither but his excitement doesn’t suffer one bit.

When Murari lands in Bombay, the landlord’s daughter who later happens to fall in love with him says: “Humko bhaada mangta hain, bhaade ka tattoo nahi.” Almost everyone skims him off his surging desire.

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Dharmendra who is sensitive to his struggle also says: “Is muamle me koi kisi ki madad nahi kar sakta.”

He chances across Paintal as Peter in the guest house, who is a taxi driver at night and Hema Malini’s employee by day. Even today a similar scenario is commonplace in Mumbai.

Chala Murari Hero Banne with its unending list of special appearances connects our oblivious hero to the bigwigs of the film industry. Murari becomes a hero and his personal life takes a hit like any successful actor.

The film makes the Bollywood struggle for an actor look a little easier than we would presume. However, that is not particularly unreasonable since we are after all ever ready to believe in the magic of “Maya-Darpan”.

Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)

Guru Dutt’s Kaagaz Ke Phool has an intensity that can punch you in the gut and you will have to contain it while making your way through the film. Just like cinema is a powerful manifestation of art, more than any art form it is most vulnerable to corruption by money, power and image.

In a non-restrictive way, the audience is exposed to the quagmire of the Hindi film industry where Rafi sahab sings: “Dekhi zamaane ki yaari, bicchre sabhi baari baari.”

Kagaaz Ke Phool bears so much representation of an artist’s struggle in the film industry that it is soul-stirring, almost depressing. With lights, cameras, equipment and the frenzy of a running set, it portrays with exactness the enormous struggle to survive the industry.

The once popular director is quickly dismissed and sidelined and the once unsuitable actress is now sought after. Within the gamut of art and ego, the “human” topples over in search of living an unpretentious life behind the shadow of “larger than life”.

Since so much turbulence wasn’t enough, Dutt (who plays director Suresh Sinha) is separated from his wife and forbidden to meet his daughter. His in-laws from “unchi society” (high society) look down upon his association with the industry and so does his wife who doesn’t want to bring up their daughter in an environment directly influenced by Hindi films.

On the one hand, the producers write Suresh off because of a monetary setback he has caused them and his wife doesn’t want to come to Bombay to tend to his injury, Shanti, an orphan, comprehends his loneliness and trusts his judgement more than herself.

kaagaz-embed_092516052143.jpg Guru Dutt plays a director grappling with bouts of loneliness in Kaagaz Ke Phool. 

Sinha finds himself grappling from bouts of loneliness as his daughter, lover, and even identity as a filmmaker are taken away from him.

“Sinha sahib” tells a starlet at the beginning of the film: “Character ke hisaab se aapko badalna hoga. Aapke hisaab se character nahi.”

His puritan approach shines throughout the film. Whether it is apt for an industry which supports thousands of employees is another question. Johny Walker is commendable with his wit and almost characterises the spirit of Bollywood.

He is free yet compromising and doesn’t indulge in the intensity that is significant in an artist’s downfall.

Characteristic of the Hindi film industry, Dutt tumbles downward from riches to rags in no time as a dialogue resonates: “Filmy duniya mein insaan ek baar gira to girta hee jaata hain.”

Being a director whose craft behind the camera is showcased, people cease to recognise him or acknowledge his presence. Suresh Sinha is a dilapidated man refusing help from Shanti, his lover who is saddened by his melancholy.

Rafi sahab’s passionate voice hums: “Pal bhar ki khushiyan hain saari, badhne lagi beqaraari,” as our hero, unable to survive the callous industry, falls dead in the director’s chair.

Rangeela (1995)

Urmila Matondkar aka Mili aspires to become a successful actress in Bollywood. Munna, her childhood friend portrayed by Aamir Khan, also her accomplice everywhere, believes in her dreams. However, just like any common man he does look at Bollywood with floating contempt.

While watching Jackie Shroff’s film in a theatre, Mili complements his shirt. Munna is quick to snap: “Arey wo to bhaade ki hoyegi, apni toh khoon paseene ki kamai ki hai.”

In a spectacular scene where Mili rehearses her dialogues with Munna the night before she has to perform in front of the director, she breaks down, the anxiety and excitement of a potential actor apparent.

Just like a spell one day, Shroff aka Raj Kamal notices her on the beach and recommends her to audition opposite him in his upcoming film. Mili in turn overwhelms the director with her performance and lands the role of the heroine of the film.

However unbelievable it might sound, such success stories have been a part of the magic called Bollywood and till date young boys and girls come to Bombay coveting a stroke of luck for themselves.

rangeela-embed_092516052322.jpg Aamir Khan and Urmila Matondkar in a still from Rangeela. 

Mili’s childhood dream comes to fruition but Munna is upset. In the new scheme of things, he doesn’t know how to figure in Mili’s life. The newly made heroine is all praise for “Kamal Jee” without whom she is certain her dreams would have been remained in her imagination only.

It is fairly common that the cast and crew of a film bond in way that is unfathomable to those not from the industry. Munna goes through the same struggle to exist in Mili’s life which amplifies into the shimmering world of Bollywood.

Towards the climax of the film, Mili gets to know how Munna saved every penny he could to meet her on her shoot in Goa and spent night after night expounding his emotions for her. The distance between the reel and real can get complicated.

While living an actor’s life, one willingly or unknowingly sacrifices all other priorities, with eyes fixated on the goal. Munna misunderstands Mili’s relationship with Raj and leaves Mili and Raj alone for a life together.

Shroff in his rhetoric explains the dynamics of the complicated film industry which is far-fetched sometimes for those in the industry themselves. “Hum actor hain yaar. Chand ghante guzaar liya sath mein iska matlab ye toh nahi ki zindagi bhar guzaarenge hum sath mean,” he says.

The hero and the heroine unite and another unorthodox couple make their destiny within the constraints of Bollywood.

(Baaton Baaton Mein is Naireeta Dasgupta's maiden project with Gaurav Dwivedi, an FTII Alumni. It is a series on yesteryear's Bollywood, trivia and music.)

Also read: Zulfiqar: Yet another stereotype of the Muslim ‘other’ in Kolkata

Writer

Naireeta Dasgupta Naireeta Dasgupta @chhotisiibaat

The author is a script supervisor in Bollywood films. 'Baaton Baaton Mein' is her maiden project with Gaurav Dwivedi an FTII Alumni. It is a series on yesteryear's Bollywood, trivia and music.

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