Friday, November 22, 2013

Filmi Fridays: O Ramji

My Yahoo! Movies column, first published here.

As Ranveer Singh proceeds to earn eternal hatred of Indian men by wrapping himself around Deepika Padukone in hundreds of cinemas this week, we look at some of his illustrious predecessors. Who are the most famous Rams of Bollywood?

Dilip Kumar was Ram. Dilip Kumar was also Shyam. Actually, Dilip Kumar was Ram Aur Shyam – the favourite Bollywood formula of twins growing up to be as differently as chalk and cheese. As Ram, Yusuf-saab was the docile brother whipped to a pulp by Pran while Shyam Rao was the flamboyant avatar where he was about to give back a few of the lashes.

After the comic brilliance of Chupke Chupke and the action extravaganza that was Sholay, Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan came together as Ram Balram (respectively). This was Deewaar with a twist as Ram became a smuggler’s henchman and Balram became a police officer – with none of the original intensity. Ram sang hit songs with Balram (Ek rasta do rahee) in traditions of Jai-Veeru. He fought with Balram in traditions of Vijay-Ravi. And then reunited with their mother in traditions of Amar Akbar Anthony.

Rajesh Khanna was not only Ram but his incarnation in Aaj Ka MLA Ram Avtar. A satire on the Indian political system, Ram Avtar was a politician’s barber who was made to stand in an election and who became the MLA despite all odds. Rajesh Khanna was the bemused barber who was everyone’s favourite till he won the election. Then, he became a corrupt bastard. Now, where have I heard this story before?

Amitabh Bachchan was Dr Ramprasad Ghayal in Mrityudaata – the surgeon who could only operate when he was stone drunk! In his comeback film produced by his own company, Amitabh acted in one of his worst written roles of his career. And just in case, we didn’t get the Ramayan connection, his wife (Dimple Kapadia) was called Janaki and his brother (Arbaaz Khan) was called Bharat.  

Following the footsteps of Dilip Kumar, Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan, SRK also became Ram. Ram Jaane, to be exact.
As a foundling orphan child, he asked a saintly soul what his name was. When he philosophically said, “Ram jaane” (God knows), he took that on as his name. As he went on to become a small-time criminal, he started wearing suits without shirts (ugh!), romancing Juhi Chawla and singing a ‘title song’ around his name (Kehte hain log mujhe Ram Jaane…).

While Anil Kapoor was the bigger draw in the Subhash Ghai blockbuster, Jackie Shroff was the opening name of Ram Lakhan – Inspector Ram Pratap Singh. While Anil Kapoor pranced around singing the hit My name is Lakhan, Jackie also had a (lesser known) song – O Ramji, bada dukh dina tere Lakhan ne – sung for him. And like to the original hero, he was the brave, virtuous one.

Aamir Khan was a Ram – Ram Shankar Nikumbh – in his directorial debut, Taare Zameen Par. As the Art teacher who had a special knack for understanding children and their weaknesses – not to mention their strengths – he was an unusual character with an unusual name. His first name did not feature too much in the film as his colleagues and students called him by his surname.

Arguably, the funniest Ram in Hindi cinema is Ram Prasad Sharma of Gol Maal. His father was also Dasrath Prasad Sharma, as he never failed to remind us. He also had a brother called Laxman Prasad Sharma, who fell in love with a girl whose name was (mythologically appropriate) Urmila.
One second, he had a brother? Well yes, a happy-go-lucky chap who went by his nickname Lucky.
Are you sure about the brother? Well, it is a long story then…

Ram Prasad Sharma and Laxman Prasad Sharma reappeared recently as Major Ram and Lucky (pronounced Luck-hey!) in Farah Khan’s Main Hoon Na. Paying a tribute to the Hrishikesh Mukherjee original, the director borrowed the classic names and gave them a modern twist.

Not all Rams of the titles are present in the film.
Ram Teri Ganga Maili borrowed its title from the plaintive cry of a saint who cried out to Ramakrishna Paramhans about the Ganga that flowed by his ashram. The Ram in the title was not physically there in the film but by naming the hero Naren (Rajeev Kapoor), the director ensured a spiritual presence. Ramakrishna’s most famous disciple was Swami Vivekanand, who birth name was Naren.

And the final name in the list is not a Ram.
In Andaz Apna Apna, Amar (Aamir Khan) consoled Prem (Salman Khan) with a quart of rum and said it was the best companion for a broken heart. “Gham ka saathi rum”, he said. Devout people would say, “Gham ka saathi Ram” is also true!

1 comment:

Debasish Choudhury said...

Jackie Shroff was Ram in Khalnayak as well... another Subhash Ghai blockbuster. In this movie also, he played a police officer, and was eclipsed by the other hero.