Vantage point

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Story of a Honhaar Naujavaan

I get a deja vu writing this post, so maybe I have expounded on this topic earlier, but it is so rich that I can keep going. The topic of course is, Hindi films during the 1980s.

In my opinion, Hindi films touched their nadir in the 1980s. It was hands down the worst decade in the history of Bollywood. Storylines, performances, clothes, and other associated sins like dances, fights etc, all plunged to unimaginable depths in the 1980s.

To get an idea of how bad things were, remember, 1980s was the decade that Mithunda was considered a part of mainstream!

This is how your average 1980s movie would go. Less than 1% would deviate from whatever is described below.

The male lead (henceforth to be referred to as 'Hero') would invariably be a "gareeb honhaar naujavaan", i.e poor earnest youngster. He would live in a basti. What was shown as basti was actually a Mumbai chawl, but the directors probably thought chawl was too Bambaiyya a word. So our Hero would be looking for a "naukri", i.e job. He would go for a lot of interviews after having a nice warm chat with his Mom. The Hero would always be wearing the sort of clothes than you now get outside railways stations on Mumbai's Central Line....that too on the east side. The colours brown, green, purple, grey would abound.

The interview would be great and it will always seem as if the dude is getting the job, but will not get it at the last monment. Why? Because our Hero does not have a "sifaarish", i.e he lost the job to nepotism. He would dream a bit about getting the job, buying a hideous sari for his mom, a weird frock for his sister, and also getting the sister married soon.

So far so good. Then the heroine would enter the picture. She would always be from a rich family, and live either at Juhu or Pali Hill. The clothes actresses wore in the eighties were always so frilly. Frills here, frills there, frill everywhere. No wonder the term "No Frills Airline" originated in the eighties. Only in eighties would the concept of doing away with frill have the maximum impact.

So this frilly filly and our hero would have an altercation. During the altercation, the heroine needs to say "Ay Mister" and the hero must say "Dekhiye Memsaahab" at least once. It would always show the heroine in a "magroor" (arrogant) light. She will have guroor (arrogance) either of daulat (wealth) or husn (beauty).

At the end of the altercation, the hero always wins. If the actress is accomodating enough, then the Director will also engineer a kiss-in-which-only-backs-of-their-heads-show. One song later, they will be in love.

Now this song has to be in a municipal park. One of the cardinal rules of the eighties was to shoot songs in municipal parks so that the municipality can earn some revenue. The same plants, the same shrubs, the same flowers, would appear in all the movies.

The preference for municipal parks is not the only indication that film-makers of the eighties were not without a sense of social responsibility. This decade also saw the establishment of the 'Saroj Khan Employment Guarantee Scheme'. Under this scheme, one person from every household in Mumbai was assured of at least 100 days of work every year, dancing as an extra behind the hero and heroine in every song. The sole criterion for qualification for this scheme was ugliness.

By this time, the villain would be introduced. Now in terms of the villain's trade, the film word reflected the confusion of the reality.

You see, in the 70s, led by the great Indira Gandhi, believed profit was evil. Most trade was banned. In the 70s, importing stuff like watches, tape recorders, and of course, gold, was considered evil. So any film villain worth his salt, had to deal in smuggled gold.

In the 1980s, we were confused. These weren't the 70s, when trading, business, indeed anything productive, was termed evil. These weren't the nineties either, when possessing money stopped being a sin, and heroes started gargling with cola drinks. These were the eighties. Confused, stuck in between. Eighties were also the period when terrorism as a concept was introduced to the world. So the villains also occupied a wide spectrum of professions.

A villain, who at least half the time, used to be the heroine's father, would either smuggle drugs, or be a terrorist. He could also be a corrupt cop, or Minister, but very rarely. The age of the Minister-villain was ushered in by Mehul Kumar much later in the 90ss

The heroine's father, wearing what he wanted us to believe were Armani suits, would come to know of his daughter being in love with a "do takey ka aadmi" (a man worth two units of the currency of Bangaldesh). He would either lock his daughter in a room, or pretend to be cool with it. Then came the scene without which the censor board wouldn't clear movies in the 1980s.

The father would offer the hero money to leave his daughter alone. The hero would then say "Hum gareeb zaroor hain, lekin humaarey bhi usool hai" or something like that. The father, having failed to use "daam", would then use dand and bhed. Some charge of thievery would be pinned on the hero, to which he would respond "Hum gareeb zaroor hain, lekin chor nahin".

There would be a few more songs thrown in between. One would be a dream sequence with a lot of weird lights. Another would be a community song in the basti.

The story would ramble for a while. Then it would plod along to the climax The climax usually had a fight sequence, which would always take place in a godown with a lot of cardboard boxes. There would be a lot of dhishum-ing around. At the end of it, the hero would emerge vistorious, then the police would make a late entry.

The heroine's father would either be escorted away by the police, or have a genuine change of heart and give his "aashirwaad". And the movie would end....or would it? Because the graphic would say 'The Beginning'.