Friday, December 17, 2010

In Conversation

Imagine if we had a real talk show. 
Not one on which people are goaded to confess to affairs or throw barbs about accents but one where creative people could talk about their motivations and the constraints in which they delivered their best performances. A show that chooses its participants not on the basis of creative affairs and not amorous ones.

So here - ladies and gentlemen - are ten conversations I wish to hear. 
They are all in the context of an iconic film though their partnerships have gone way beyond just one. They are not the 'youth icons' of today. They don't have false accents (or even real ones). They don't wear torn jeans. As I said, they are part of my wish-list. In no particular order.

Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore - Aradhana
Rajesh Khanna acted in many more hits with Mumtaz. But no one film encapsulates his romantic stardom better than this one. And no heroine complements him better than Sharmila - going from the giggly belle to the wrinkled maa, who did so in Aradhana as well as Amar Prem. 
Questions to ask: How did the chemistry come alive? Did they work on mannerisms? How were the films shot - in one burst or with gaps? What were the other films they were shooting simultaneously? Did she feel intimidated by the superstar? Did he feel intimidated by her intellectual roots? How was the audience reaction? And of course, what book was Sharmila reading?

Rishi Kapoor and Tina Munim - Karz
It will be such a hoot to get the wife's of one of India's richest men to recount how she felt when she was 'solah baras ki' and the chubby gentleman sitting across the sofa from her was 'satrah baras ka'
Questions to ask: How did Karz happen? Yet another past life saga - did they think it would work? How old was he when sang 'mere umar ke naujawanon'? How did Rishi the star feel working with Tina the newcomer? Did Subhash Ghai want her name to be changed - to start with M? Did Anil Ambani like Karz? And how do her kids react when they see her in films like Karz?

Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna - Muqaddar ka Sikandar
It was widely believed that Amitabh Bachchan wouldn't have been such an undisputed superstar if Vinod Khanna hadn't left for the Osho ashram. And the pair had acted in a slew of monster hits - though few as big as the Prakash Mehra blockbuster. 
Questions to ask: How did Vinod Khanna feel that he was the second fiddle, given that it was AB who had the title role, the best songs and all the sympathy? How did they play their scenes - rehearsed or spontaneous? How did their partnership across so many other films - Amar Akbar Anthony, for example - work out? And why, oh why did AB (the bigger star) get beaten up by VK in AAA?

Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah - Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron
Two of Indian cinema's greatest actors have seldom been seen together off-screen. Except for a delightfully quirky photo (in Om's biography) in which Naseer is seen wearing a kimono! Naseer's impatience with media and Om's genial charm would be an interesting balance to watch. 
Questions to ask: Do they feel threatened by each other? How did they manage roles in mainstream and parallel cinema - simultaneously? Which director brought out the best in them? And what would be that one script role that would bring them together again?

Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla - Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak 
This is the fun part. A ponderous statesman for Indian cinema and a giggly aunty selling snacks  going back to where it all started. 
Questions to ask: Did Aamir read the script of QSQT (or for that matter, Love Love Love) before he signed on? Was Juhi embarrassed about her real debut - Sultanat - which tanked? What was the motivation - pocket money, super-stardom or stepping stone to production? How was the shoot? Were they bossed around? When did they first realise they had become stars?

Anil Kapoor and Sridevi - Mr India
They were Numbers One. Everybody in a 100-km radius of Bombay during the late 1980s knew Sridevi and Anil Kapoor were the stars. And nobody thought of getting them together for an interview? Why? Did Roop ki Rani Choron ka Raja scare them away? 
Questions to ask: How did Anil Kapoor reconcile to only being heard and seldom seen in his home production? How difficult was it for Sridevi to emote with an invisible hero? Did they anticipate how big the villain - of all the people - will become? What did Sridevi think of the producer? And how do they feel now when they see the Kaate nahin kaTte song?

Ramgopal Verma and Anurag Kashyap - Satya
Very few filmmakers have gone from the sublime to the stupid as rapidly as RGV. Very few directors have gone from arthouse to grindhouse as fast as Anurag Kashyap. And to think, they were a team for Satya. 
Questions to ask: Was it a bound script? Or a theme brought together by scenes? Was it a director's vision? Or a script that demanded to be made? Did Anurag find RGV bossy? Did RGV find Anurag too independent? Who thought of the name Bhikhu Mhatre? And Kallu mama? How did they do the research? Did they go to dons or encounter specialists? Or did they make it up? 
And please please please tell us who thought of those jokes Chander told us?

Gulzar and Vishal Bharadwaj
In the absence of RD Burman, this is the only combination that can talk about music. To the best of my knowledge, they haven't never conversed in detail on the magic that they create - almost unfailingly in each of their collaborations. 
Questions to ask: Who found whom? How does the director in each react to the other? How do the directors leave the composer and lyricist alone? Do the lyrics come first? Or the tunes? Or is it the script that comes first? Where do they have their 'sittings'? And does Gulzar still miss Pancham?

Rajinikanth and Kamalahaasan - Geraftaar
Two of Tamil - and Indian - cinema's super-icons (for whom icon sounds pretty pedestrian) seem to have an undercurrent of rivalry between them. I don't know if they are seen together off-screen or if they have acted in movies. So Geraftaar is the best that I've got!   
Questions to ask: How strong were their ambitions to become pan-Indian heroes? How did they reconcile becoming merely star from SUPERSTARS the moment their films crossed the Vindhyas? Did they take Hindi lessons? Having acted in many movies with Amitabh Bachchan, what did they think of him? Did Rajini plan his cool cigarette moves?

Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar
This one needs no explanation. The most successful pair of Hindi cinema is yet to appear together after they separated. 
But they have to, no?

Aur kya? Find an anchor. Find a sponsor. And let me know when the show starts.
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