Monday, November 21, 2011

5 Tall Tales that Happened even before the Titles

I have received curt feedback that my previous two posts may well warm the cockles of the Bengali intellectual's heart but this blog may lose its 'mass appeal' (*snigger, snigger*) if I don't churn out a Bollywood post - pronto! 
So, I thought I will kill two birds with one stone. 
1. I will thulp a Godzilla-sized Bollywood post (2500-words). 
2. I will also give a quick update on the book. Book? What book? 
Oh you heartless people - you have forgotten that The Book of Bollywood Lists is in the making and you are expected to purchase large quantities of the book shortly.


Ladies and gentlemen, here is a zeroeth draft of the first chapter of the book (from the time when it still existed in my mind) before stern well-wishers asked me to cut down the length instead of Amazonian rain-forests. That I have... right now, not a single chapter is more than three A4 sized pages. 
Once my editor is done with her gig, it is rumoured that the book might even be readable. 

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The concept of this post owes its origin to Rajorshi Chakrabarti, who propounded it in his essay ‘Perchance to Dream’ in the anthology ‘ThePopcorn Essayists’ (edited by Jai Arjun Singh). Great essay, great collection – BUY it! 

The censor certificate flickers off. 
A ‘Dedicated to the Loving Memory of’ card is followed by garlanded pictures of the producer’s father and/or mother and/or elder brother and/or mentor and/or Mohammed Rafi.
Then we have the Acknowledgments – including (but not restricted to) any or all of the following – financiers’ fiancée, staff of the hotels where the crew stayed, Police Commissioner of the outdoor location, some assorted goons and the caterers who hadn’t been paid yet!
And the first scene comes on.

Oh? Who’s in the film? Who directed it? Who sang the songs? WHAT’S THE NAME OF THE FILM?
Well, this was a device of great popularity till the 1980s – the pre-credit back-story compression – by which directors took economy of expression to a completely new level and said more in these 22 minutes than in the next 222!
In a burst of adrenaline and creativity, they managed to knock off the socio-historical context of film, motivation of the hero and the emergence of the key characters so that the ‘real’ story can begin!

Here is a look at five famous such back-stories – of which three are from the acknowledged master of the device – that could well have been subject of cinematic epics in less creative countries.

Amar Akbar Anthony
The most familiar façade of Bollywood – Central Jail – comes on. We see Kishanlal (in a white driver’s uniform) come out and count the few pennies he has in his pocket.
Kishanlal has bought some gifts and laden with them, he enters a slum only to be informed by the neighbourhood crone that his family is in shambles – sons hungry and wife suffering from TB. When he enters his house, he finds proof of these two assertions by way of a wife coughing, elder sons fighting and youngest son bawling.
A quick flashback reveals that he had gone to jail taking a rap for a hit-and-run accident his boss Robert (pronounced Raabet) had committed. He was promised a ‘jail pension’ by Robert but obviously, that had been forgotten.
Kishanlal leaves home to get his dues from Robert. On his way out, he sees his eldest son burying a toy pistol to hide it from his brother.
He arrives at Robert’s mansion (while the big man is celebrating his daughter’s birthday) and asks for redressal. Robert – obviously in a jolly frame of mind – gets him to polish his shoes before he pays up. When given an anna for his efforts – immediate and past – Kishanlal snatches a gun and shoots at Robert, who remains unharmed because he’s wearing a bullet-proof jacket.
Kishanlal runs to the garage and escapes in a car which has gold biscuits. Robert’s goons chase him. He manages to elude them and get home to pick up his family.
He finds his three sons and a ‘suicide’ note from his wife – who has left to commit suicide because of her debilitating disease. Completely distressed, he leaves with his sons.
To completely escape from Robert’s gang, he deposits his three sons at a park (under Mahatma Gandhi’s statue) and zips off. The eldest son runs after him, gets hit by a speeding car and falls by the roadside. He is picked up by a Hindu police officer. The second one too runs off and takes refuge in a church. A Christian priest takes him in. A Muslim gentleman sees the youngest son in the park and picks him up.
On her way to committing suicide, the mother has a tree fall on her and she loses her eyesight. The same Muslim gentleman rescues her and drops her home (with her own son in the same car – oh, the pathos!) She is devastated to find it empty.
Kishanlal, meanwhile, hoodwinks his pursuers – who think he’s dead – and returns to the park with his booty of gold biscuits but there is no one there.
Years pass as we come to an accident site where a blind flower-lady is hit and urgently needs blood.
A Christian do-gooder takes her to the hospital. At the hospital, there is a Hindu police inspector to lodge the case. A Muslim qawwali singer is also at the hospital flirting with a lady doctor. All of them are found to be the same blood group as the blind lady and they are co-opted to donate some blood.
As the transfusion starts, a doctor asks them their names.
And as the titles come on, they tell us their names… Amar… Akbar… Anthony…

Naseeb
We open in a bus-stop where Namdeo is seeing off his wife and son, John. They are being accompanied on trip by Salma, Mrs Gomes and her daughter, Julie.
At the bus-stop, they are met by John’s best friend, Vicky and his father, Damodar. It is Vicky’s birthday and he insists on being fed a ‘mawa’ cake on this one and every birthday from now on.
After the seeing off, Namdeo and Damodar quickly make way to the restaurant where the former is a waiter. They meet their two other friends – Jaggi and Raghu – who are being badgered for not paying the restaurant’s dues. Namdeo – as a good friend – offers to pawn his three rings to pay of the dues. These three rings have the symbols of Allah, Om and Christ on them and are the gifts from his three wives.
In the meantime, a drunkard is discovered who does not have money to pay his Rs 4 bill. However, he does have a lottery ticket worth Rs 5 and he offers that to the four friends at a 20% discount. Each of them pay one rupee each and draw cards to decide who keeps custody of the ticket. Jaggi wins and gets to keep the ticket.
We cut to the place where Namdeo’s wife, son, Salma, Mrs Gomes and Julie are staying and there’s an earthquake in the night. All of them get trapped in the falling debris.
The next morning, Jaggi wakes up to see his wife and two daughters off. He picks up the newspaper and is delighted to find their ticket no. 112061 has won a huge prize (of indeterminate size). Delirious with joy, he calls up Namdeo, tells him of their good fortune and asks him to land up.
Raghu and Damodar are waiting just outside his door and Raghu walk in immediately after the call. As he stabs Jaggi in the back (literally), the title appears.
We could go on for five minutes after the title and see how Damodar takes pictures of Raghu stabbing Damodar, how Namdeo walks in to get framed for the murder and he gets dumped into the river by his two friends. But that would be cheating. This is supposed to be ‘pre-credits’!

Mard
A British government honcho (slyly called Curzon) packs up priceless Indian treasures. When an Indian mob protests, they are gunned down by his henchman (even more slyly called Dyer). One bleeding heart (literally) manages to crawl to the palace of their Raja, Azad Singh – who has just been blessed with a baby boy.
On hearing, the burly Raja gallops off to an airstrip from where Curzon is making an escape, lassoes the tail of the plane and pulls it to a stop. For those reading these lines open-mouthed, let me clarify that the Raja was played by Dara Singh who made this feat look absolutely normal.
The scene changes to a quasi-courtroom presided on by Lady Helena who promises to help Azad Singh’s cause but not before he nearly squashes some of the Britishers and not after the Britishers pump a bullet into him but he escapes.
A half-Indian doctor is bribed to help arrest Azad Singh – who promptly visits the Raja’s secret den to treat his bullet wound. The doctor gives him a sedative and promptly the police throw a perimeter that’s tighter than a gnat’s ass.
Azad Singh now realizes two things – one, his wife and newborn son need to make a break for it. Two, it is supposed to be his son’s naamkaran ceremony. He solves the first issue by getting them on to his trusted steed. He solves the second one by making John Rambo look like a wimp playing with Barbie dolls. He takes out a knife and carves ‘mard’ on his son’s chest as the little tyke giggles! Woo-hoo!!
Azad Singh gets arrested by the British while the horse carries away his wife and son. The wife keeps the son in an orphanage while escaping from pursuing British soldiers and the horse picks the baby up and deposits him with a childless couple. When the mother realizes his son is missing, she promptly loses her voice in shock. *aarrgghh*
Meanwhile, in the British palace grounds, Azad Singh is about to be tortured when he delivers a rousing speech against the British, promising revenge which his infant son hears from the crowd. Lady Helena (see above) arrives to save Azad Singh from death (which was not getting executed by the sissy Britishers anyway) and he is incarcerated for life.
We cut to a decade or two later when the Doctor’s (see above) spoilt daughter zooms off in her car with her bodyguard. She manages to tangle Azad’s wife’s saree in her bumper who can’t complain (see voice loss story above) and drag her off.
Enter a tanga-wallah, who stops the car, beats the bodyguard to a pulp and extracts an apology from the brash girl. When asked for his identity, he tears open his shirt and proudly displays the name etched on his chest – MARD.
And, the title comes on. Amitabh Bachchan As…

Karz
The film opens in a courtroom that’s so packed that it looks like a Mumbai local!
The contesting parties are one Mr Ravi Verma and one Sir Juda. The judge solemnly rules that Sir Juda – who was Ravi’s father’s business partner – has not done well by trying to usurp the Vermas’ Ooty property and Ravi is the rightful owner of the same.
Ravi celebrates this verdict by immediately getting into a clinch with his girlfriend, Kamini, right outside the courtroom while Sir Juda’s ominous looks hint that we may not have heard the last of him.
The scene changes to Sir Juda’s den where his lawyer (“Bharat ke sabse mash-hoor vakil, PP Roy”) is summarily executed for losing the case (and suggesting a Supreme Court appeal). We are now made privy to two earth-shattering revelations:
1.      Kamini – the girl in the aforementioned clinch – is a Sir Juda mole (moll?), who is told to become Ravi Verma’s wife by 8th January and his widow by 11th. For the trivially inclined, the date of the scene is 5th January.
2.      Sir Juda is mute (but not dumb, as his admiring henchman Macmohan points out) and communicates by smiling, flexing his voluminous cheek muscles and beating out a tune on glass tumblers with his fingers.
As soon as the advance to Kamini is paid, she gets hitched to Ravi Verma in a mandir as her brother puts on a hyper-happy façade marrying off the two.
As they leave the mandir, we cut to Ravi’s palatial mansion where his mother is presiding over a major round of spring-cleaning to celebrate her only son’s only marriage. We are also introduced to Ravi’s sister, who does the usual simpering sibling routine templated by Farida Jalal.
The newly married couple drives down to their Ooty estate in a jeep (with a ‘Just Married’ heart on the front), his favourite tune plays on the stereo and all is well with the world. Till the car radiator runs dry and Ravi gets off to fill a can of water. 
And – to the accompaniment of clanging music – Kamini runs him over (again and again) in front an idol of Kali.
There is much chest-beating and head-banging at Ravi Verma’s mansion as the mother threatens goddess Kali that she cannot take away a mother’s son at such an inopportune moment and wants her son back. As her shrieks reach a crescendo, the titles start.
As the titles go on, a solemn voiceover reminds us that a mother’s sincere wishes are never unheard and as years pass, we have one Monty who’s the ‘inheritor’ of Ravi Verma’s curse (or Karz).
As Monty bursts on to a stage (helpfully marked 1980) and starts singing the first hit song of the film – Paisa yeh paisa – the titles keep on coming…

Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak
The film opens in the estate of landowner Jaswant Singh, who has just received an invitation to attend the wedding of Ratan Singh, the younger son of Thakur Raghuveer Singh. We are introduced to his ‘city-educated’ younger brother, Dhanraj Singh.
In a family scene, Jaswant’s brother-in-law – Bhagwan Das – tells him of the possibility of moving to Delhi and expanding his textile business. In this conversation, the wedding of Ratan Singh comes up causing some discomfort to their younger sister, Madhumati.
The scene moves to the haveli of Raghuveer Singh where great festivity is on. Benarasi sarees and elaborate jewelry are being purchased, with Ratan Singh being an active part of it. In between the bonhomie, Ratan comes out for an errand and sees Madhu striding purposefully towards his haveli. Despite the fact that he has impregnated her, he tries to wriggle out of his past promises. His offer to go into town and abort the baby is met with the familiar indignation sisters of Hindi films are hard-coded with. 
Madhu leaves in tears but Ratan’s mother overhears this conversation.
On hearing their sister’s plight, Jaswant and Dhanraj go to Raghuveer Singh and plead for the marriage to happen but they are insulted before being turned away. The confrontation is not helped by Ratan's own flat denial of the affair. Ratan’s mother tries to intervene citing the overheard conversation but she is ignored.
After returning home, the two brothers decide to escape their impending ignominy in the village by selling off their properties and move to Delhi. After Jaswant leaves to meet a prospective buyer, Madhumati is discovered with slit wrists.
And this becomes too much for the hot-headed Dhanraj.
Ratan Singh is about to leave with his wedding procession when Dhanraj Singh enters with Madhumati’s dead body. He reminds Ratan of the broken promise ("tumhare vaade ke mutabik isse aaj tumhara dulhan banna chahiye tha...") and announces that there’s going to be more than one corpse. With that, he shoots Ratan and all hell breaks loose. 
And as Dhanraj Singh takes aim once again, doomsday hits the two families and the titles come on.
Quite ominously, the title seems to suggest there will be one more doomsday in the future.

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So, what do you think? 
If I tell you the edited chapter is, say, 23 million times (*cough cough*) better than this draft, will you buy this book? 
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