Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sachin Bhaumik: A Tribute

One of the biggest cliches - and lies - of Bollywood is when an actor says, "I decide on the basis of the script". It is never the script. If it was, Habib Faisal, Jaideep Sahni and Anurag Kashyap should have been on more magazine covers.
And  that's why Sachin Bhaumik passes on almost unnoticed. There was much more outpouring of grief on Twitter and Facebook for Bob Christo (fully deserved, that) than for him. In fact, there's almost no mention of Sachin Bhaumik anywhere. Sad, considering that his first record-smashing blockbuster happened in 1964 (Ayee Milan Ki Bela) and the last happened in 2006 (Krrish).

Master filmmakers like Rakesh Roshan, Subhash Ghai, Naseer Hussain, Shakti Samanta and Hrishikesh Mukherjee have worked with him again and again - delivering hit after hit. He has written off-beat stories, masala formulae, star vehicles and even Hollywood rip-offs (Daraar based on Sleeping with the Enemy and Karobaar based on Indecent Proposal come to mind).
When you see the range of films he has written, it just takes your breath away.
So here, ladies and gentlemen, is a random selection of my favourite Sachin Bhaumik screenplays.
For some, he has written the stories as well but his forte - in my humble opinion - has been his screenplays, with a very expert build-up of events going into a satisfying climax.

An Evening in Paris
The standard issue story of twins growing up on two sides of the law was given a radical twist by making the twins female. Very sexy females. Sharmila Tagore played the docile daughter of an Indian daughter as well as a cabaret  dancer in a Paris night club with aplomb switching between sarees and skiing, bindis and bikinis in almost every alternate scene.
The story - almost like a Sheldon plot - moves from Paris to Switzerland to Beirut to India (flashback) and finally to Niagra Falls for a breathtaking climax. The story had space for about seven hit songs, romance, emotion, comic relief, sensuality-just-bordering-on-but-not-spilling-on-to-sexuality and even the Grand Indian Sacrifice.Whew!

Aradhana
This was the film that transformed Rajesh Khanna from a superstar to fan-mail-in-blood superstar. An Air Force pilot woos, sings songs with, impregnates and dies on The Iconic Indian Woman who goes from simpering girlfriend in pigtails to sensuous seductress in orange towel to suffering mother in white saree (and chalked wig). Don't laugh at the cliches because these plot points hadn't become hackneyed when Sachin Bhaumik wrote them. In fact, he orchestrated them to build an emotional crescendo which starts with the death of Rajesh Khanna I, gets a boost with the re-emergence of Rajesh Khanna II in yet another dashing Air Force uniform and finally climaxes in a public awards function where both mother and son get awarded for bravery (figuratively and literally).
Many people predicted the end of Sharmila Tagore's stardom when she agreed to play a grey-haired widow for half the film. They obviously hadn't bargained for a screenplay like this one.

Andaz
Another temple wedding? Another unwed mother? But the twist was different here.
Rajesh Khanna dies. Hema Malini moves on with their son. And meets widower Shammi Kapoor. Before the super-success of Seeta Aur Geeta, Ramesh Sippy directed Hema Malini in this serious romantic drama and conjured a hit out of nowhere. When veteran producer GP Sippy's maverick son started work on his first feature film with such an offbeat subject, the industry predicted doomsday but then as he went on to show a couple of films later, that was his forte. As was Sachin Bhaumik's.
But now that you think about it, this off-beat story had great music, high-octane melodrama, multiple sub-plots. And all of it building into a satisfying climax. What else do you want from a filmi story?  

Khel Khel Mein
Naseer  Hussain's brand of frothy college romances had some trademarks and some twists. In this one, Humne tumko dekha was the trademark and the murdered jeweler was the twist.
The problem expectation from college romance was almost always romantic rivalry and/or parental opposition. In this case, Sachin Bhaumik dispensed with both and brought in a murder and got the happy, chirpy Rishi-Neetu-Rakesh Roshan running for their lives, away from a murder they didn't commit. Try telling the laconic Iftekhar that because they had their prints over every clue in a hurry!
Don't worry, Mr Bhaumik - with a little help from fellow Bong, Mr Dev Burman - got them out after a roller-coaster!

Golmaal 
What can I say except you guys need to close your mouths and start clapping. Who would have thought that the screenplay of this classic had to be written? Taking a story by one Sailesh Dey, the lives of the double set of non-existent twins were set in maniacal (to put it mildly) screenplay by Bhaumik.
When you see the sequence of scenes that start with the job interview (Aap Black Pearl ke baare mein kya jante hain?), go on to establish Ramprasad's professional credentials (Badebabu, usko is mahine sau rupyah conveyance bhi dijiyega) and finally lead to the birth of Laxmanprasad, you realise it is a triumph of great screen-writing. Both the screenplay and the dialogue (by Rahi Masoom Reza, yet another unsung Bollywood talent) were marvelous.
As was the rest of the film.

Karz
The rebirth drama had a rebirth. 
When we talk about Karz, we inevitably end up discussing Simi Garewal's icy villainy, RD's soul-stirring music and Subhash Ghai's showmanship. But a word of commendation has to be reserved for the screenwriter who took the hoariest of Bollywood cliches and turned it into a gripping film.
In true Bollywood tradition, there were a host of exciting scenes - my favourite being the one in which Rishi Kapoor plays the guitar with electrodes stuck on to this head. As the famous Karz tune comes on, a (presumably) brain-scan machine (that looks suspiciously like an ECG machine) blips into action. Scenes of the previous life start popping up in negatives and... And the game is afoot!
Three decades later, people are still paying tribute. Some brilliant. Some terrible. But tributes nevertheless.

Saudagar
Again, a triumph of Bollywood screenwriting with the screenplay by Bhaumik and dialogue by Kamlesh Pandey. Had written a sort-of tribute here, which is really all about the scenes and the lines. And there are very few Bollywood films that stand out for that.

These are my favourites. And yours too. Only, you probably didn't know it till now.
That's the tragedy of Bollywood. We don't respect our writers. And a charismatic star like Ranbir Kapoor ends up delivering badly written gags in TV ads.
In the words of a Sachin Bhaumik character - "Yahin toh maar kha gaya Hindustan..."
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