Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shakti: Dialogues of Bollywood Actresses

A good blog post deserves another. JAP has extended his erudition to Bollywood and written very entertainingly on the wonderful lines that our stars have maaro-ed in landmark films. He has ended his post with a thought on the lack (or paucity) of great lines uttered by women on-screen - which obviously merits a long post (and that's the one you are about to read).
Indeed, it is worth a sweat to see if there are lines beyond "Beta, yeh to khushi ke aansoo hain" and "Nahhhhiiiinnnn"!

Indian heroines - mothers, sisters, heroines - have simpered in the background for most part and even when they have come to the foreground with a solid author-backed role, they have remained the stoic, silent and resilient types - leaving the chest-thumping part to Sunny Deol and the like.
Jaya Bhaduri, Nutan, Meena Kumari did tons of roles like that and won megatons of awards but I cannot think of a single dialogue from Kora Kagaz, Bandini or Pakeezah. Bobby said "Mujhse dosti karoge?" and that was it. Rekha did a landmark tawaif role in Muqaddar Ka Sikandar and all I remember is the song, Salaam-e-Ishq.
So much so, when I sit down to compile the list of my favourite dialogues by actresses, I am often stumped because I clearly remember the context and the content but the exact words often escape me.
This was definitely not a problem for me when I compiled my list of favourite dialogues (which, by an unhappy coincidence, were all by actors) and I got the words down exactly. But trying to recall my favourite dialogues by actresses, I had trouble recalling the exact words.
But even then, I believe that there can still be a substantial list consisting of the best words spewed by a woman - usually in the context of a complicated quote involving hell, fury and scorn!

Hema Malini is arguably the most successful Hindi film heroine of all times. She ruled tinsel town from mid-60s to end-70s (early 80s?) and looks breathtakingly beautiful in her Baghban-type roles even now.
She spoke so much in Sholay that you were hard-pressed to remember the memorable lines from the encyclopaedia. Of course, there is the landmark Chal Dhanno, aaj tere Basanti ka izzat ka sawaal hain, which immortalised Dhanno in filmi folklore!
But my favourite is the one in which she shatters all notions about simple village folk by saying, Basanti tum jaiso ko tange mein bithake gaon ke char chakkar lagake taisun tak chhod sakti hain... Haan!
But her all-time bestest line has to be the one from Seeta Aur Geeta, in which she hit back at her aunt's (Manorama) pseudo-affectionate Neeche aa jaa, beti with a super-cocky Upar aa ja, Moti! Of course, you remember that she was sitting on a ceiling fan in a police station when she said that.

Deewaar turned the fortune of two people. The obvious one is Amitabh Bachchan. It also cemented Nirupa Roy's position as the Ultimate Mother Icon of Bollywood.
To Amitabh's angry lines in which he exhorted his hapless brother to jao, pehle uska sign leke aao, she aggressively punched back saying - "Jisne tere baap se sign liya tha, woh tera kaun tha? Jisne tere ma ko naukri se nikala tha, woh tera kaun tha? Jisne tere haath likh diya tha ki tera baap chor hain, woh tera kaun tha? Koi nahin. Lekin main to tera maa hoon. Tune mere maathe pe kaise likh diya ki tera beta chor hain?" Warped logic - but very potent.
But then, this is nothing compared to her pre-climax adrenaline pump.
First, she handed the official revolver to her younger son and said, "Goli chalate waqt tere haath na knaap jaaye." And then, she left for the mandir. "Ek aurat apni farz nibha chuki hain. Ab ek maa apne bete ka intezar karne jaa rahi hain..."

The Mother Icon, of course, has been a staple on the Indian screen for a very long time though it was never as memorable (and hyped?) as in Mother India. Nargis wallowed in mud, lost her husband, brought up two wimpy sons (who became fine when they grew up!), rejected the advances of the most despicable looking villain in history (no Indecent Proposal here!), remained pathetically poor and accused Satyajit Ray of glorifyingly poverty in his films!
When she threatened her Bad Son with a gun, he taunted her by saying, "Tu mujhe maar nahin sakti. Tu mera maa hain." She shot back (literally) with "Main pehle ek aurat hoon, Birju, aur gaon ki izzat mera izzat hain."

Mughal-e-Azam is typically seen as the battle between two Alpha Males but it also has some lovely lines by the women of the film. The most famous line of the film is sung and remains unblemished even after five decades - Jab pyaar kiya to darna kya?
In a romantic scene with her lover, she accepts rose thorns with grace and says, "Zeh naseeb, kaanton ko murjhane ka darr nahin hota."
There are other gems to be had as well. In a memorable scene, Jodhabhai (Durga Khote) says, "Hindustan tumhara dil nahin hain ki ek laundi uspar hukumat kare." And Salim replies, "Mera dil bhi Hindustan nahin hain ki aap uspar hukumar kare."

Sridevi - who reigned in the middle 80s - achieved that one hallmark of superstardom that many of her successors have not yet achieved. A superhit with her in a double role. Only the biggest stars of the Bolly firmament have achieved this rare feat.
Chaalbaaz, an unabashed copy of the Seeta Aur Geeta plot, can be considered to be totally original simply because of Sridevi's zany freshness. As Anju and Manju, she was like a schizophrenic on steroids! Romancing Sunny Deol and Rajnikanth, she ate both of them up with her comic timing and OTT dialogue delivery. To Rajni the Taxi Driver, she said, "Main madira nahin peeti ji" and brought the house down.

Another lady who ruled in the 1980s was Shabana Azmi, with a string of powerhouse performances. One of her meatiest roles came in Mahesh Bhatt's Arth, where she is deserted by her husband for a top actress. The film moves rather unwieldily between infidelity, flesh trade, domestic violence and unrequited love before settling towards a very subtle climax. Shabana's husband returns to her (because the star becomes mentally ill) and asks her to take him back. She quietly asks, "Mujhse agar yahin galti hota, toh kya tum mujhe apna lete?" The husband says no and she shuts the door on him.

In recent times, there has been another performer in the same league as Shabana - Konkona Sen Sharma. She has built up an impressive body of work and at least two of her lines have stayed with me.
To a gay friend who she had caught in bed with her boyfriend, she took a wicked dig in Page 3 by saying, "Next time, lock the door" when she saw him chatting up another guy. Very plain in isolation but when taken in context, it does come alive.
And in Omkara, she gets under the skin of a UP village girl effortlessly and gets the nuances and the lilts of the dialect just right. To a depressed friend, she says "Hansi badi mehngi ho gayi hain re" and suffuses the scene with a melancholy air.

One key reason why women have had fewer lines of consequence in screenplays is the image of the demure pativrata. After all, her duty has always been to helpfully hand over a tumbler of warm milk to the husband on the suhaag raat bed.
In Aradhana, when she is actually asked to wish for something, the heroine (Sharmila Tagore) dreamily said, "Main kya mangoo? Mujhe toh sab bin mange hi mil gaya." (one of my favourites, because of the way Sharmila said it).
She is never expected to ask anything. Least of all, sex.
Vyjayanthimala did dress up as a Parisian chorus girl in Sangam and rued her luck because Kya karoon Ram? Mujhe buddha mil gaya! but the wanton displays of desire were typically left to Helen and Bindu in smoky night clubs.
Which is why my jaw dropped when Priyanka Chopra pinned Akshay Kumar to the wall in Aitraaz and said, "Main tumhe apni biwi ko chhodne ke liye nahin keh raha hoon. I am only asking you to sleep with me." Probably for the first time in mainstream Hindi cinema, a heroine asked for sex so brazenly.

And, finally all I have left is a line (which I now realise) that should have been in my list of the favourite dialogues of all times. More so, because the luminous lady who said it was my first (and last?) Bollywood crush. In Prakash Jha's Mrityudand, when Ayub Khan tried to impose himself on his wife, Madhuri Dixit turned around and said through clenched teeth, "Aap mere pati hain. Parameshwar banne ke koshish mat kijiye."
Hallelujah - Shakti speaks!

So, have I managed to make you believe that women have strewn loads of pearls in Bollywood or not? To quote Geet in Jab We Met, aap issi mein convince ho gaye ho ki main aur boloon?

UPDATED TO ADD: Given that 'Bangaliyon ka gender nahin hota', the 'mera's and 'meri's in the above post are all wonky (as several perceptive commenters have pointed out). Thousand apologies for that!
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