One of the mandatories of any list of Hindi film trivia is the story how Amitabh Bachchan was rejected in an audition for All India Radio. And also that one of his earlier mentors (Sunil Dutt) did not find the legendary voice attractive enough to give him a speaking part in Reshma Aur Shera.
So, in honour of an Orkut community, here is my list of 10 scenes in which the baritone was missing. And said much more than what lesser mortals did with flared nostrils, flaring biceps and bare chests.
Vijay Verma rises to the top of the Bombay underworld. And his mentor - Daavar-saab - hands over his chair to the inheritor. As an envious colleague watches in awe, Vijay Verma slowly circles the coveted chair, sits down with an air of finality and then plonks his feet on the table. The lambi race ka ghoda had finally come good.
2. Main Azaad Hoon
Azaad tries to bring about a union of sugar-mill workers and sugar-cane farmers. Admittedly, a difficult task, it comes about after a long meeting. And when the farmers ask him to address a gathering, he is too overcome with emotion to speak. He fights back tears, chokes a little, smiles a little and raises his right fist in a well-known gesture of inquilaab! The crowd roars back in approval.
As Anand Sehgal sings the magical Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye, his host - Dr Bhaskar Banerjee - silently walks up the stairs, comes behind him and waits for the song to end. Despite the restraint and the measured body language, enough charisma seeped through for a nation to take note of the arrival of the next superstar. Not a very easy task considering that it all happened when Rajesh Khanna was singing a massive hit!
What do you notice when Helen is in a thigh-high slit skirt, dancing away? A lot if the person she is trying to seduce is a smuggler wanted in 11 countries. The gangster does nothing - except getting dressed in a green shirt and green-and-white check blazer. The subdued lust, the arrogance, the imperious behaviour all shine through as he saunters around. SRK did the same scene 28 years later. Did he succeed? Well, as they said, "Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin..."
5. Kaala Patthar
Probably the angriest role of the Angry Young Man, this film had quite a few silent passages which spoke more than the entire filmography of Nana Patekar. One was a scene in which he is confronted with a knife - and he walks up to the goon and grips the knife at the blade. As the blood trickles through, the pain and the anger on his face is something only he can do.
The second one is a sequence of one-upmanship instigated by the garrulous Mr Sinha - who snatches away the light from his bidi. He calmly goes up to him, picks the bidi out of Shatrughan's mouth, lights his own, stubs it out and walks away. The embers in the eyes ma badi aag hain, bidi jalaile...
Emily Post comes to Gangaa-kinare. Kisanwa is being groomed into superstar Kishan by Ram Sethi (a regular of Prakash Mehra films). As Kishan fails spectacularly with the fork and knife in a comic mime sequence, he dares his teacher to do a physical equivalent of a tongue-twister.
Slap your knees with both the hands. Get your right hand to touch your left ear and left hand to touch the nose. Slap again. Get your left hand to touch your right ear and right hand to touch the nose. Repeat (till your nose turns red with ill-timed slaps). He did it so effortlessly... just as effortlessly, we rolled in helpless laughter!
7. Satte Pe Satta
A dreaded criminal comes out of jail and slowly shuffles towards a waiting car. He has salt-and-pepper hair, eerily light eyes, a gaunt face and the stoop of a burdened man. Also, he is supposed to be identical to a lively, happy man - seen in just the previous scene. Actors of today would probably starve themselves to achieve that lean and hungry look - while the man did it in alternate shifts of shooting with a little help from under-eye makeup, contact lenses and a whole lot of acting talent. And the menace that he exudes when he crouches out of the jail door is not something that comes out of rehearsals. It comes out of pure magic.
The widow of the Thakur household goes around the balcony at sunset - lighting the lamps. A mercenary sits outside his cottage across the courtyard and plays a haunting tune on his mouth-organ. On-screen love has never been so understated, yet so eloquent. The legends abound... it was RD who played the mouth-organ. The lighting of dusk was so delicate that it took a fortnight to shoot the scene. And the players on screen were as much in love in real life. They still are.
9. Ek Ajnabee
A retired army-man tries to exorcise the demons of his past. He drinks as he tries to shut out the brutal scenes. The eternal Hindi film cliche of a troubled man drowning his sorrows was given a soundless dimension as the man drinks, cries, contemplates suicide, crumples up in agony and exhausts himself at the end of it all. One of the longest silent scenes in recent times, any lesser actor would have ended up making it a yawn. He keeps you on a gut-wrenching edge.
This film is an ensemble of his moods - angry, amused, frustrated, relaxed, tired, energetic, devastated, victorious, benevolent - almost like the nine rasas and of which Ramgopal Verma seems to have prepared a slideshow. Not one scene stands out. Not one scene is forgettable either. And it all adds up to become a text-book of acting.
At the end of it, we are all left speechless.