Remembering Vinod Khanna (6th October 1946 – 27th April 2017)

Blessed with a physique of a Greek god and a charming smile that would make girls fall head over heels in love with him, a dashing young man debuted in 70’s movie – Man Ka Meet as the leading antagonist along with Sunil Dutt’s younger brother Som Dutt and actress Leena Chandavarkar. The antagonist got noticed and went on to become the successful star of 70’s and 80’s. He was Vinod Khanna. He started his career with portraying villainous roles in movies like ‘Mera Gaon Mera Desh’ and ‘Aan Milo Sajna’. Probably he was the only handsome villain who could outlive the hero. Vinod Khanna went on to become a lead hero in countless successful movies like Mere Apne, Qurbani, Parvarish, Amar Akbar Anthony, Achanak, Garam Khoon, Lahoo ke do rang, Chandni, Dayavan etc.

Vinod Khanna’s portrayal as the rebellious youth in Gulzar’s Mere Apne was a cult in its own where he was pitted against Shatrughan Sinha the other young angry young man of 70’s. Their fierce performance not only made the movie successful but also established both these actors as tough contenders against Amitabh Bachchan. Vinod Khanna later acted along with Amitabh in Khoon Paseena, Parvarish, Muqaddar ka Sikandar and Amar Akbar Anthony. I got acquainted with his power house performance during my childhood days when I first watched ‘Mera Gaon Mera Desh’ where he played the role of a dacoit and had literally knocked down Dharmendra. That was the movie that introduced me to Vinod Khanna.

His memorable portrayal was the role of Shakti Velu in Feroz Khan’s movie – Dayavan. A remake of Mani Ratnam’s movie – Nayakan, Dayavan is story of a generous godfather who reaches out to help every needy. Dayavan was a successful movie of early 90’s. Amitabh considered Vinod Khanna as his toughest contender and competitor in 70’s. Both were mighty in their respective movies. I remember one scene where Vinod Khanna literally beats the life out of Amitabh in movie ‘Amar Akbar Anthony. Vinod Khanna played the role of Amar, the elder brother of Amitabh and Rishi Kapoor in Manmohan Desai’s ambitious movie. 70’s cinema was all about lost and found formula, pick pockets, smuggling and this plot was recycled several times. Whether it is Parvarish or Haath Ki Safai, Vinod Khanna conquered the moment with his dynamic presence. In mid-eighties, Vinod Khanna quit Bollywood to seek meditation in Osho’s Ashram. If he hadn’t quit Bollywood, the story would have been different. He made his comeback several years later with Insaaf, Satyamev Jayate and Dayavan. Though his second innings was successful, Bollywood had already changed with entry of actors like Sunny Deol, Sanjay Dutt, Anil Kapoor, Govinda and the Khans. (Aamir, Salman, Shahrukh).

With times, he shifted to playing character roles in Wanted, Dabanng, Risk and Dilwale. His last appearance was the role of an ageing don in Dilwale along with Shahrukh Khan. Vinod Khanna shared a good rapport with his friend and actor Feroz Khan in Qurbani and Dayavan. Yash Chopra’s Chandni was another memorable movie of Vinod where he played the role of a heartbroken businessman. Though his character arrives in post interval, he literally steals the show in Chandni which was one of his memorable roles. Whether it was playing the convict in Gulzar’s Achanak or the dacoit in Mera Gaon Mera Desh, he nailed every role to perfection.

‘Koi hota jisko apna hum apna keh lete yaaro, paas nahi to door bhi hota, lekin koi mera apna’ – lines from movie Mere Apne

Though he couldn’t survive the battle of cancer, he has already become immortal in world of Indian cinema. In these 5 years, Indian cinema has lost two great actors – Rajesh Khanna and Vinod Khanna. One was a romantic star while other was a dashing hunk. Today not a single actor can compete the charm of Vinod Khanna. It was disheartening to know that very less people arrived to pay respects on his funeral. Nevertheless, an artist never dies. He lives on through his works.

Through this article, I have tried to pay respects to a great artist of Indian cinema. Legends like actor Vinod Khanna are born only once.

Advertisements

Khullam Khula: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored – Biography review

For people, the cinema actors are larger than life. They are demigods who adorn the wall of every cinema lover. The craze of fans for stars is hysterical. Legendary actor Raj Kapoor was one star who took nation by storm with movies like Awaara, Boot Polish, Mera Naam Joker, Aag etc. The legacy started by Prithviraj Kapoor was continued by his next generation kids – Raj, Shammi and Shashi. Among the crowd of these star studded family, a small kid made his work noticed in Mera Naam Joker. Though Mera Naam Joker flopped, the kid aspired to make it big on silver screen one day.

In the 70’s a chocolate boy debuted on the silver screen with his romantic venture – Bobby. Rest was history. He was Rishi Kapoor, son of the legendary Raj Kapoor. Bobby’s success made him an overnight romantic hero and heartthrob of generation. His debut in movie was a fairy tale story, but his struggle-some journey to maintain his success in Bollywood was not a bed of roses.

Every Friday, a new movie releases and a new star is born. Rishi Kapoor’s debut movie – Bobby made him a talk of town. But his second movie ‘Zehreela Insaan’ was a disaster. Here his real journey began to sustain his image in the unpredictable Bollywood. In his official biography ‘Khullam Khula’ Rishi Kapoor recounts his early years, his rise to stardom, break up, cold vibes with Amitabh & Rajesh Khanna and his second innings as character actor in Agneepath, Kapoor and Sons, Student of the year etc.

What intrigued me to read was the prologue written by his son Ranbir Kapoor, the current heartthrob of today’s generation. In the prologue, Ranbir reveals his strained relationship with his father but still respects him as one of the great actors of the Indian cinema.

The prologue conveys a lot about Rishi Kapoor as a human, caring husband and a doting father. What makes this biography worth reading is its friendly tone that breaks the ice between the star and the reader. Here Rishi Kapoor is more of a human and less of a star who recounts his childhood days, his first movie as a toddler in Shree 420 and second movie as a teenager in Mera Naam Joker. Through this biography, we learn a lot about the legendary Raj Kapoor and his passion for cinema through the eyes of Rishi Kapoor. It is a treat to know about Raj Kapoor’s fondness for movie making and his struggle to make RK studios a leading banner in movie making. Post the success of Bobby and his fairy tale wedding with actress Neetu Singh, Rishi’s career witnessed a dark phase when his ambitious movie – Karz didn’t fare up to his expectations. He literally went into depression and was unable to face camera. It took him a plenty of time to come out of his dark phase and re-emerge as an actor. This biography is not just about Rishi Kapoor, it is also the story of his family, his co-stars, music directors, choreographers and the big movie banners that supported him through his journey. Apart from talking about his successful journey in Bollywood, he also spills the untold stories about his breakup with his girlfriend Yasmin Mehta, his cold arguments with his close buddies – Jeetendra and Rakesh Roshan. He even admits about the rejecting the negative role in Darr which eventually went to Shahrukh Khan.

A rare pic of Rishi Kapoor with his family. (The little Ranbir Kapoor looks super cute)

What left me tear eyed was the story of R.D.Burman whose music was getting unnoticed due to the entry of new generation music directors in 90’s. He once requested Rishi Kapoor to get him some work. Though R.D.Burman was financially stable, it was the idleness that was bothering him. Sadly R.D.Burman couldn’t make a second innings and died a quiet death in 90’s. What a sad phase for this legendary R.D.Burman. Rishi Kapoor was miserably written off every time a generation of actors arrived in movies. Despite the stiff competition, Rishi Kapoor survived in the race. The epilogue is written by his wife Neetu Kapoor about her journey with her husband. It is very heart touching to read that epilogue. To the world, he is a star, but for the family, he is a difficult man to handle who lives by his own terms. We knew Rishi Kapoor as a star, but now we know him personally as a human who is eccentric, outspoken and a reserved gentleman.

His second coming in Do Dooni Chaar, Agneepath, Student of the year, D-Day, Kapoor and Sons fetched him lots of praises. Among all the movies, Karz and Yeh Vaada Raha are my favorites which were based on English Novels. Karz was based on Reincarnation of Peter Proud while Yeh Vaada Raha was based on Danielle Steels’ novel – The Promise.

The biography ‘Khullam Khula’ is an honest effort by Rishi Kapoor to write down about his journey as an actor. It is really worth the read to know about the 70’s star whose legacy is been continued by his son Ranbir Kapoor.

The legend of Jhalkari Bai, the look alike of Rani Laxmibai (22 November 1830- 1858)

‘Khoob ladi Mardaani woh toh Jhansi wali rani thi’

These lines uttered in praise of Rani Laxmibai still send courageous goosebumps among masses even today. Rani Laxmibai’s firm stand against British in 1857 war of independence not only awakened the masses from slumber, but also changed the course of history. Though Rani Laxmibai breathed her last while fighting with British, the 1857 war of independence was continued by Tatya Tope.

There are some speculations by historians who claim that it was not the real Laxmibai who fought with British. It was her doppelganger, a body double or a look alike. No one knows how much truth is in the statements made by the historians. According to historical sources, there was a female Indian soldier ‘Jhalkari Bai’ recruited in Rani Laxmibai’s army. It is been said that Jhalkari Bai was quite similar to Rani Laxmibai in terms of appearance. In simple words, Jhalkari Bai was the mirror image of Rani Laxmibai. Equally courageous as the queen, Jhalkari was born on 22nd November 1830 in Bhojla village near Jhansi. Jhalkari Bai was deprived of motherly affection in childhood due to the untimely death of her mother. It was her father Sadoba Singh who brought her up with love and care, encouraging her to train in horse riding and sword fights. Legends say that Jhalkari had killed a leopard with just a stick.

As she grew young, she got married to Puran Singh, a soldier from Rani Laxmibai’s army. This gave an opportunity to Jhalkari to enroll in Rani Laxmibai’s army. It was Puran Singh who formally introduced Rani to Jhalkari. Both were quite similar in terms of appearance. Her resemblance to Rani Laxmibai gave her an advantage to get recruited in women’s wing of army. At several instances, Jhalkari disguised herself as Rani Laxmibai and confused the British army. It was hard for British army to identify whether it was the real Rani Laxmibai or it was her body double. It was Jhalkari who helped Queen Laxmibai to escape from fort safely.

During the 1857 rebellion, Jhansi was attacked by large army of British under the command of General Hugh Rose. Despite giving a tough resistance to the large British army, Rani Laxmibai didn’t receive any military support from Peshwa Nana Sahib. The capture of Tatya Tope was another setback for Rani Laxmibai. In midst of this tense situation, Jhalkari Bai and the women army helped Rani Laxmibai escape through Bhanderi gate. To trick the enemy’s army, Jhalkari Bai disguised herself as Queen Rani Laxmibai and arrived in British camp. This action not only helped the real Rani Laxmibai escape safely but also left the British army puzzled till they finally realized it was Jhalkari Bai, the female soldier in Laxmibai’s army.

It is been said that Jhalkari Bai was hanged to death by British in 1858. Though the 1857 war of independence was a discouraging defeat for Indians, but Rani Laxmibai’s courage had given a tough fight to the alien rule. Rani Laxmibai died fighting with the British army on the battlefield while her comrade Jhalkari Bai was brutally given the death sentence. Sadly, Jhalkari Bai’s legend is unaware to the young masses. Her story is yet to find the light of the day. For historians, Jhalkari Bai was just a soldier in Rani Laxmibai’s army. The history may be label her as a body double or a look alike of Rani Laxmibai, but Jhalkari Bai has made her presence felt with her courageous feat. She was no less than Joan of Arc.

The story of Jhalkari Bai was narrated to me by my friend during a discussion on historical events. It was this story of Jhalkari Bai that triggered an interest to research on the unsung warrior of 1857. I hope that this article will be a justifying tribute to Jhalkari Bai the unsung hero of 1857.

The rise of feminine power in movies

Neerja Bhanot’s biopic in 2016 showcased the underestimated feminine power of an ordinary flight attendant who not only saved the lives of passengers on board, but also sacrificed her life defending the terrorists. Not only the audience loved the movie, but also applauded the story and the performance. The recent movies like ‘Pink’, ‘Naam Shabana’ , ‘Phillauri’ were all about the various shades of feminine spirit. Some were courageous, lovable, unsung and some even waiting for love after life. Bollywood has definitely started recognizing the role of feminine power in movies.

Priyanka Chopra as Mary Kom in the sports biopic

An actress is no longer an oppressed victim or an eye candy. She is a fearless hero in herself who can overshadow even a celebrated star. It is not that Bollywood hasn’t made women-centric movies. There are countless movies dedicated to feminine spirit. Classic movies like ‘Pakeezah’, Sujata’, ‘Mera Saaya’, ‘Sharmilee’, ‘Seeta aur Geeta’ were testimony to the several faces of womanhood. The 90’s movie – Damini directed by Rajkumar Santoshi was a cult movie which highlighted the struggle of a woman to seek justice for her maid who was brutally raped. Since 90’s movies were all stuffed with item songs, action and comedy, there was no place for woman oriented cinema.

Neerja showcased the extraordinary courage of an ordinary girl

Yashraj Films gave a new lease of life to feminine power with the sports movie – Chak de featuring Shahrukh Khan as coach for women hockey team. Inspired by a true story, Chak de India recognized the unsung power of femininity. Not just movies, but even television has shown some of the inspiring serials. In late 80’s, actress Kavita Chaudhary came up with an inspiring TV show – Udaan which was based on life of Kiran Bedi, the courageous female cop. Even Rajni, a popular TV show on Doordarshan was based on an ordinary house wife who solves the issues happening in society. The 2011 movie – Dirty Picture exposed the dirty side of cinema and the story of an actress who will go to any lengths to find her mark in the movie world. This movie was based on Silk, a forgotten actress of South movies. Though Dirty Picture was a successful at box-office, the bold theme was not meant for family audience.

Phillauri was an entertaining movie focused around a ghost bride

In today’s society, a stud is admired for his flamboyant skills, but the same admiration doesn’t apply for a tomboy natured girl who has too many male colleagues in her social circle. She is labeled as a slut. What a low-leveled mindset of today’s society !! The movie Pink highlighted the dark truth of today’s 21st century women and how they are subjected to molestation, verbal harassment if they don’t agree to the lusty demands of spoilt aristocratic boys. Pink was a hard hitting movie highlighting the plight of girls staying in Delhi. The upcoming movie – Maatr will see actress Raveena Tandon as an avenger seeking vengeance on the people responsible for raping and killing her daughter. The 1998 movie – Dushman starring Kajol was based on Hollywood movie – Eye for an Eye. A brilliant projection of feminine spirit, it showed Kajol avenging the death of her twin sister who is killed by a psychopath. Other woman oriented movies like Chandni Bar, Astitva, Satta were topical and highlighted the struggle of woman for her identity. It is not that woman oriented movies have to be just serious. It can be a rom-com too. Movies like Aisha, Jab we Met, Hasee toh Phasee showed the jovial side of femininity. The Sonam Kapoor starrer – Aisha was based on Jane Austen’s best-selling novel – Emma, a match maker who ends up messing the lives of her friends by choosing a wrong partner for them and confusion erupts.

Naam Shabana is story of a undercover field agent

Now the dynamics of movie making has changed recently. Movies like ‘No one killed Jessica’, ‘Piku’, ‘Jab We Met’, ‘Highway’, ‘Neerja’, ‘Fashion’, ‘Mary Kom’ , ‘Mardaani’, ‘Akira’, ‘NH10’ have strong content focusing on female power. The recently released movie – Naam Shabana is loosely inspired on life of a real field agent. Even the romantic comedy ‘Phillauri’ featuring Anushka Sharma as the ghost bride is winning the hearts of audiences’ worldwide. The upcoming movies – Maatr, Noor, Mom, Begum Jaan are all topical showcasing the different strength of women coming from various walks of life.

Sonakshi Sinha will be portraying role of an aspiring journalist in upcoming movie – Noor

Bollywood is all geared to come up with more topical movies which will not only be entertaining, but also focus on the feminine power that was trampled by egoistic masculine star power. There will be a time when audience won’t need any Dabanng hero anymore. A powerful story will be enough to attract the audience to theatres.

Scary movies!! Not scary anymore

Fear is not what scary we see; fear is what we can’t see. It’s all in the mind.

Scary movie is a spoof on all the horror movies in a hilarious way

Gone are the days when horror movies scared the hell out of us. Haunted Havelis, Old temples, ruined post offices and forts were the residences of ghosts – Especially white gown was the favorite outfit of female ghosts  May be even ghosts wanted to stay in trend. Were these white gowns designed by Manish Malhotra? The ghosts were categorized in various forms – the cursed ghost, the avenger ghost and the waiting ghost. The waiting ghosts are mostly romantic, waiting impatiently for their soul mate who has taken birth somewhere in rich mansions. The most popular of this category of movies was ‘Bees saal baad.’ It featured the gorgeous Dimple Kapadia as ghost waiting for her lover Mithun Chakraborty. She looked more as a model, less as a ghost. The scariest of them all was ‘Woh kaun thi’. Though it was a suspense movie, the settings and storyline looked spookier. Nowadays, even such female ghosts will be noticed, our young kids will ask for Wi-Fi password from her. According to the current trends, even ghosts have to stay net-savvy. May be, they too click selfies with their ghost friends in haunted bungalows and share it on FB. Earlier, the hairy ghosts in movies like ‘Jaani Dushman’ looked more like beasts. Maybe the appearance of these hairy beasts evolved into a mutant named ‘Wolverine’.

The arrival of new horror genre with Ramsay Brothers changed the face of scary movies. It had sensuality, steamy songs, haunted bungalows, spooky faced servant named ‘Ramu Kaka’ and comedy scenes to add more entertainment value. Most importantly, the ghost had to be disfigured, grotesque and fearsome. The ghost preys on his victim mostly at nights. The night has to be ‘Amavasya’. Rest of the nights, the ghosts are working in haunted call centers  Ramsay Brothers gave several hit movies like ‘Darwaza’, ‘Purana Mandir’, ‘Saamri’, ‘Veerana’, ‘Tehkhana’ etc. These movies ran to packed houses in 80’s and 90’s. With the passing times, people got fed up of seeing the same disfigured ghosts in Ramsay Movies. More the ghosts tried to scare audience, more it started getting hilarious. Sad part is that Ramsay Brothers didn’t change their movie making according to current trends. Their movies looked more humorous. The most tragic part is that even kids are not scared of watching their movies.

Directors like Ramgopal Verma and Vikram Bhatt created their own horror movie franchise with movies like Bhoot, Darna Mana Hai, Phoonk, Raaz series, 1920 etc etc. The ghosts in these movies were caricatures of ‘Exorcist’, ‘Unborn’, ‘Conjuring’ and ‘Insidious’. The movie ‘Raaz’ was based on Hollywood movie- ‘What lies beneath’.

Majority of the Indian horror movies are copy of Korean horror movies. The heroines in Indian scary movies don’t do anything except screaming and running helter skelter. The funnier part is that the ghost can be killed only through some divine trishul, knife, or fire. To save his heroine from the spirit, our hero will go to any length to kill the ghost with the divine weapon.

Movies like ‘Conjuring’, ‘Insidious’ and ‘Ring’ have changed the concept of fear. May be there will be a time when these Hollywood movies will turn hilarious. No one will want to play the video cassette and wait for the wet ghost to arrive from TV. Our kids are brave enough to kick her back in TV. The recent movie that I watched was 1920: London. What a fun-filled spooky movie!! May be the makers will come up with more series like 1920 Bengal, 1920 Bihar, 1920 Africa etc. The recent movie to hit the theatres this month is ‘Raaz Reboot’. How funny!! Was the director running short of ideas for the movie title?

It is time for Indian makers to re-invent their style of horror movies and give some scope for our desi ghosts. Like the tigers, even our ghosts are getting extinct. Please save our Indian ghosts 