Sarkar 3 isn’t just dimly-lit, but also dimwit


The format is set. A shady guy walks inside the artifact-ridden and electricity-deprived mansion of Sarkar. The henchmen are about to hit him while he speaks, but Sarkar’s eyes prevent them from doing so. Sarkar hears him out while sipping and slurping chaai in a saucer. The offer of the shady guy is refused with a prompt ‘Kisi aur ko bhi karne nahin doonga’. The shady guy walks out, resolving of making Sarkar’s life hell, instead of getting his work done elsewhere, despite Sarkar’s caveat. Add to this, some domestic issues, ego clashes and double (multiple) crossing, lo and behold, you have your Sarkar script ready.

Film after film, Ram Gopal Varma is churning out assembly-line of films under the pretext of The Godfather (It’s a blasphemy to compare the two). Well, the first film did leave us awestruck with its novelty factor of Amitabh Bachchan, the second one ambled along on the Anna Hazare-Kejriwal terrains, and the third one dumbs itself down with ‘naatak kar raha tha mein’. It’s as if the director telling his audience, ‘Ullu bana raha tha mein’. Yup, the joke is on us, who could have easily watched Bahubali 2 yet another time rather than sitting through this done-and-dusted Sarkar yawnathon.

The background score blares out the Govinda chant, making the audience secretly wish Raja Babu makes a brief appearance with ‘dil behelta hai mera aapke aa jaane se’ and brightens things up in this dimly lit and dimwit film. Amol Rathod’s camerawork is far from the brilliance demonstrated by Amit Roy in the previous Sarkar films. This time, the Sarkar mansion is so dimly-lit that many characters are barely visible in poignant scenes, especially where Sarkar reprimands his grandson, Shivaji alias Chiku, who stands in the dark. One can’t help remarking, ‘Sir, daantne se pehle lights on karke check to kar lo ke Chiku hi hai ya dhobi?’ Perhaps there was a load-shedding issue in the vicinity and the only electrical appliance you could see was television playing perfectly-timed breaking news (Why aren’t those channels playing irritating commercials like Vicco Turmeric ad in between those breaking news?). Guess those television sets must be battery-operated. Okay I give up here.

Among the actors, Amitabh Bachchan does try to recreate the magic of the first Sarkar, but it’s the lazy writing that lets him down. For instance, if you watch the first two films, Sarkar was never a verbose character. And here you see him addressing a plethora of extras with yellow flags (Not saffron, lest they’d resemble a certain family in Mumbai), uttering inane lines like ‘Ek haath mein maala hai to doosre mein bhaala’. When was Sarkar’s character about Maala and Bhaala, Mr. Varma? Wasn’t he someone who was a ‘soch’ and not ‘bol bachchan’, who let his actions speak louder than words?

This deviation right from the opening shot sets the tone of the film which entirely relies on its camerawork, be it using and abusing the shallow depth of field (Okay focus-defocus feature in your mobile), along with artifacts strategically placed inside every room, be it Ganesh idol, pug, laughing Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi or a large picture of Abhishek Bachchan (Who seems to be insisting upon the fact that he is the hero of the film, like he does whenever a Dhoom series is about to release). No character enters the Sarkar mansion without being depth-of-fielded along with an artifact. The director’s brief seems very clear in every frame, not to mention the camera peering through every possible aperture (no pun intended) in the dark Sarkar mansion.

Actors like Ronit Roy, Manoj Bajpayee, and Jackie Shroff are completely wasted with roles of glorified extras. Amit Sadh comes across as a miscast here, who seems to be wondering why he took up this role of playing Sarkar-Sarkar. Not a single emotion of Amit Sadh makes you root for his character or relate to his anguish, something Kay Kay Menon pulled off with a veteran’s ease. Just like Sarkar’s henchmen, you just cannot accept him as the Sarkar scion, no matter how hard the actor and director try.

As for Yami Gautam’s character, the lesser said the better. Here’s a girl, who seek vengeance against the man who killed her father (The allegation is conveniently written off as a misunderstanding over a single meeting with Sarkar that the director doesn’t even bother to film, and is mentioned in a dialogue as justification), but barely chalks up any strategic plan. There’s no trace of chemistry between her and Amit Sadh. Yami wears a constipated expression all throughout the film (Rubbing her fingers under the table, just in case you don’t get that she is a threat to the Sarkar family).

Manoj Bajpayee, who seemed to be the only saving grace of the film, is done away with midway, killing all your hopes against the hopes for this colossal mess of a film. There’s a Mahatma Gandhi scene where he clearly outshines Bachchan, such is the power of this gem of an actor, who must seek a compensation from Ram Gopal Varma, for being exploited in this film.

Jackie Shroff clearly wears the expression of ‘Mere ko kyu cast kiya Bhidu, khaali-fokat bikini babe aur dolphins ke saath time-pass karney ko?’ Even his face-off scene with Sarkar towards the film’s end is the weakest ‘filmy takkar’ we have seen of late. Heck, even the Mithun-Mukesh Rishi scene in Gunda (1998) was far effective, at least you felt the tension between the duo. In Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar 3, everything, except Sarkar’s chaai, is all thanda.


























Begum Jaan: Popcornversation: Partition of story and logic


A fictional conversation between Begum Jaan’s director, Srijit Mukherji and writer Kausar Munir, who has been credited for writing the dialogues of the film. The conversation is an attempt to understand what thought or logic went behind making such excuse of a film:

Director: I am doing a remake of my Bengali film, Rajkahini, which is a remake of Mandi.

Writer: But sir we don’t have the rights to remake Mandi.

Director: Who cares? I will set the same story against the backdrop of partition. I don’t want you to watch the original Bengali film. So, come up with your own draft, especially the dialogues. I will adapt the screenplay later and credit you for the dialogues.

Writer: That will require a lot of research and even the budgets will shoot up.

Director: Who cares? I will make two groups of villagers pass through a patch of land along with bullock carts. That’s partition for you.

Writer: And what about the riots?

Director: Simple. Make woman lay unclad before a mob. Place the camera above her head. Take a perspective shot, punctuated or rather accentuated by a loud background score. That way we’d be killing two birds with one shot, hinting at the Nirbhaya episode.

Writer: Sir, how about showing an old woman disrobing in front of the rioters and rapists, hence shaming them?

Director: That’s brilliant! I will use this same technique by showing a teenage girl doing the same towards the film’s end. The idea is to keep repeating things until the audience gets it.

Writer: And let’s have two fine actors like Rajit Kapoor and Ashish Vidhyarthi representing India and Pakistan.

Director: And let’s cut their faces into two halves, symbolizing the two nations.

Writer: Won’t it look odd? And will people understand?

Director: They will. I will employ the same technique 3-4 times until they get it. And add a Satyajit Ray’s Jalsaghar angle to the story…we can cast someone like Naseeruddin Shah to play an aging king losing it all to the British regime.

Writer: And what about British actors? Most of them look like Bob Christo in our films.

Director: Let’s do away with them.

Writer: How are we going to depict colonialism without British actors?

Director: Who cares? Our film will have enough distractions to keep the audience away from story and logic. We will have an opening narration by Amitabh Bachchan. His deep baritone will ward off all the evils of intelligence.

Writer: And what about the lead role? How about Kiron Kher reprising her role in Sardari Begum?

Director: Sardari Begum…sounds an interesting name. We will cast Vidya Balan playing Kiron Kher and call our film Begum Jaan.

Writer: But why Vidya Balan? Why not someone like Seema Biswas or Nandita Das?

Director: By casting Vidya Balan, we won’t have to worry about paying her extra to put on weight, like Nitesh Tiwari had to do for Aamir in Dangal.  Secondly, we can thrust the feminist angle down the audiences’ throats, by casting someone who has already done female-oriented films like Kahaani and The Dirty Picture, which means wider ‘aunty audience’.

Writer: And what about the other roles? Mandi had an interesting ensemble of actors like Smita Patil, Neena Gupta and Soni Razdan…We, too, should have an impressive cast of women working in a brothel.

Director: Who cares? Vidya Balan will rule the three-legged roost in the film and boss around the girls. We can have someone like Gauhar Khan and other obscure girls speaking in different accents. And why are you referring them as ‘women working in a brothel’? Just call them whores. Even our posters will read: Lived like whores, fought like queens. Subtlety is for the art film directors. I am establishing my brand as a ‘commercial art’ film director.

Writer: What will be Vidya Balan’s accent? Since the film is set near Agra so should it be Urdu?

Director: Does the audience really care about such things? Let her talk in different accents, be it Punjabi or chaste Urdu or Hindi. We will add other characters speaking with fake accents of Punjabi, Gujarati and Bihari for those ‘cinema connoisseurs’. Don’t get into silly details like these.

Writer: You also asked for a Holi scene despite the film’s story set during the partition i.e. August…

Director: Did you say something…?

Writer: Okay, I get it…Shall do.

Director: Here’s the DVD of Mandi, go and watch the film again and develop the screenplay. Make sure you underline every scene with additional dialogues, some sex and menstrual references, a clown character, lesbians, etc. and I will take care of the rest to underline it further with loud background score and artistic cinematography.

Writer: We need some goon and traitor who shall evacuate the kotha or kothi whatever…I need to visualize someone while writing these characters…

Director: Chunky Pandey is a star in Bangladesh and wants to do a comeback in Bollywood. We can ask him to shave his head off, blacken his teeth and wear a vest-lungi costume.

Writer: Chunky Pandey? Okay…maybe that will draw the curious audience…And what about the traitor?

Director: Cast an innocent looking guy…Can be Vivek Mushran. The key to the success of any film is unusual casting.

Writer: But what if Chunky Pandey overtakes Vidya Balan with his performance?

Director: Who cares? We aren’t making the film for Vidya Balan. Well, to be on a safer side, we will ask Vidya Balan not to do her eyebrows for few months.

Writer: But since she is into prostitution, shouldn’t she be conscious of her looks?

Director: Let the other aspects remain the way they are…Just the eyebrows will have a ‘realistic touch’.

Writer: But how can she remain oblivious of what’s happening around in the country? She can shift her kotha elsewhere and still thrive…

Director: The kotha is her home, remember!

Writer: But countless Indians and Pakistanis abandoned their ‘homes’ during the partition. So, what’s the all fuss about?

Director: Did you say something…?

Writer: Okay, I get it…So, how are we going to end the film?

Director: Padmavati is news these days. Do a Google search on her and see what you can do. Add some grandma kind of character like Ila Arun to narrate the tale and manipulate with the emotions of the audience in the climax. Make sure your screenplay has truckloads of melodrama. It always works, be it Chopra, Johar or Bhansali film.

Writer: But sir, will this film work?

Director: Who cares? My debut in Bollywood should establish my brand as a stylish auteur who uses unconventional camera angles and you as a female feminist writer. We have a star like Vidya Balan to carry the entire film and producers like Mahesh Bhatt and Mukesh Bhatt. What else do we want?

Writer: Er…We do need a story and logic…

Director: Did you say something…?







Until we meet again… 

There’s this thing called ‘intermission’, a tradition of our storytelling, wherein a dichotomy slices the narration of a film into two halves at a peculiar point of the plot development. Well, to cut the long story short, the column, ‘Revisiting the classics’ has reached its interval point and we’re taking a break till we strike back with yet another series of classics peppered with trivia and an incurable movie buff’s musings. So, here’s a throwback to the few classics we revisited during this journey:
Hum Dono Rangeen at Rs. 30/-

“Let’s go to watch Hum Dono Rangeen!” I suggested my parents, when Hum Dono Rangeen, the coloured version of ‘Hum Dono’ was released in 2011. The theatre played old songs, which set the right ambience to watch Hum Dono Rangeen. I looked around and felt a bit guilty of completely abandoning single screen theatres after multiplexes mushroomed around the city. The blackened ceiling and walls wailed silently, while the fans whirred with a lamenting song of being neglected, until its bearings found the grease of solace and hushed it. 

Sholay: The greatest story ever told

Watching Sholay on TV or DVD with parents is like revisiting childhood all over again. While watching Sholay on TV, DVD or online, today’s youngsters might wonder how a village can have an overhead tank when they have no electricity. ‘How did they transport water up there?” “Hey how did the villager ‘Dholia’s character suddenly become ‘Shankar’ in the second half of the film?” Well, such questions of logic die an illogical death the moment Gabbar Singh roars: Soowar ke bachho! 

Pyaasa is an eternal masterpiece 

There are films and there are text books of filmmaking. Having written a play script, ‘Kashmakash – the two worlds of Guru Dutt’, I have revisited Pyaasa and read its dialogue book umpteen times, yet this classic continues to leave me awestruck.  Right from the ethereal Waheeda Rehman who brilliantly underplays the most dramatic scenes, the wit of Johny Walker, the quiet disdain of Rehman, the layered character of Meena aptly essayed by Mala Sinha, to the restrained intensity of Guru Dutt, Pyaasa will always remain a classic worth revisiting. 

Guide is cinematic nirvana 

“Kehte hain gyaani, duniya hai faani. Paani mein likhi likhaayi. Hai sab ki dekhi, hai sab ki jaani, haath kisi ke na aayi” is a nugget at the beginning of Guide, in the song, ‘Wahan kaun hai tera’ brilliantly penned by Shailendra. The song makes one to introspect on life passed by and the years that lie ahead. 

Dev Anand had cold feet while doing his death scene, as he felt his fans might not accept it, much to the chagrin of Vijay Anand. Fali Mistry, the cinematographer, intervened and explained the importance of the scene to Dev Anand and convinced him to do it the scene which became a legend. 

Abhimaan: Love triangle of the third kind

The songs of Abhimaan have a permanent place in my playlist. Interestingly, the songs, when placed in chronology, sum up the film’s story, be it ‘Meet na mila’, ‘Nadiya kinaare’, ‘Teri bindiya re’, ‘Loote koi mann ka nagar’, ‘Ab to hai tumse’, ‘Piya bina’, to the finale, ‘Tere mere milan ki yeh raina’. A film that continues to inspire filmmakers and ‘the Abhimaanesque angle’ has become part of common parlance among film critics, Abhimaan is in fact a love triangle between Subir, Uma and Music, which plays a key character. 

Anand is immortal 

Right from its beginning, when the character of Dr. Bhaskar Banerjee, essayed by Amitabh Bachchan, rues on the rising poverty and his helplessness as a doctor, to the deteriorating medical condition of Anand, hope is smashed mercilessly across the screenplay. Anand’s climax is easily the textbook for screenplay writing, where Hrishi Da employs something as ordinary as a tape recorder and juxtaposes laughter with tears, when Anand dies. Correction: Anand maraa nahi, Anand marte nahin. Well, the same holds true for the film. 

Chupke Chupke perfected the grammar of filmmaking

When it comes to Hrishikesh Mukherjee films, Amitabh Bachchan no longer remains an angry young man, Dharmendra ceases to come across as the nostril-flaring garam-dharam, Sharmila Tagore comes across as a girl-next-door, minus the Kashmir Ki Kali hairstyle. We are yet to find a Hrishikesh Mukherjee in our times. One hopes we cure ourselves from this ‘zukaam’ of today’s slapstick and double entendre laced dialogues.  Speaking of dialogues, without which you can never converse on Chupke Chupke, have been written by Gulzar. 

Masoom simplifies the complexities of human relationships

They say the first twenty minutes of any film decide whether it is a good film or bad one. Masoom, with all its sheer brilliance, engages you right in its opening scene, where a family picture topples over by a pup – A visual metaphor that sets the tone for the scenes to transpire. On being asked about its remake, Naseeruddin Shah had stated in an interview: “In this modern world of emails and mobile phones, how is it possible that a child grew up to the age of 10, and his father has no clue of his existence? Masoom cannot be made better. I don’t think anybody should try remaking it.” 

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro: Thoda haso, thoda socho!

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, at best, is a time-travelling machine, which transports one to the good ol’ days of Doordarshan. Whether you read between the lines or leave your brains behind, watching ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ will nevertheless make you laugh and think in the same breath. Perhaps D’Mello would have put it as: Thoda haso, thoda socho…

Andaz Apna Apna is a Prem that will always remain Amar

Any nineties kid worth his VCR salt will swear by this cult of a film which had to be booked in advance at the video cassette library for renting. Andaz Apna Apna is replete with inside industry references like “Sholay iske baap ne likhi thi” hinted at Salim Khan being one of the writers of Sholay along with Javed Akhtar, “Wah wah productions”, “Mogambo ka bhatijaa Gogo” referring to the iconic villain Mogambo from ‘Mr. India’, to the Ajit dialogues done to perfection by his son Shehzad Khan playing the role of the confident and relaxed Bhalla. 

Satya: A true game-changer of gangster noirs

For me, Ram Gopal Varma’s ‘Satya’ is about the scene where JD Chakravarthy and Manoj Bajpayee are standing facing seaward and we can only see their silhouettes. It reminds of the opening of Ayn Rand’s book, ‘The Fountainhead’, where the character of Howard Roark is introduced. Anurag Kashyap, who was one of the writers of ‘Satya’, stated in one of his interviews: “Ramu was making Daud…there was a new actor he was working with. It was Manoj Bajpayee. Ramu fell in love with the shot, he fell in love with the actor and his intensity. He wanted to put Howard Roark in the underworld.”

See you folks soon and thanks to friends like Chandrakant Golani for his relentless debate on Gulzar’s films, Ruturaj Mistry’s messages of ‘Where is my weekly dose?’, my wife Shalini Somanath Gowda for religiously proofreading the articles and suggesting films every week, the Asst. Editor, Darshana Shukul for patiently bearing with my ‘revised versions’ after sending the articles, and most importantly, readers like you, who have been patient with my frequent WhatsApp messages, sharing the scanned images of this column with the excitement of a kid. Signing off for now. This is just an interval. Picture abhi baaki hai…

Classics Revisited: Pather Panchali: A visual poetry punctuated by raw emotions 

Two young siblings, holding their hands, watch a train pass through the fields. The grey clouds begin to swell and melt. The raindrops create ripples in the pond, leaving the kids mesmerized. The strains of sitar by Pandit Ravi Shankar punctuates the imagery strewn with bounties of mother nature. Our films, equipped with all the technical finesse and aesthetic sense, have never been able to recreate the magic that Satyajit Ray conjured up way back in 1955 with Pather Panchali, a Bengali film that speaks a universal language of human emotions. 
Satyajit Ray had no experience of directing, shooting or writing a film. He used to work with an advertising agency as an illustrator and wrote for an in-house magazine for kids. The entire crew of Pather Panchali had a day-job and the shooting was hence done over the weekends. Roger Ebert, the renowned film critic wrote about the veteran filmmaker and his film, Pather Panchali:

“Ray (1921-1992) was a commercial artist in Calcutta with little money and no connections when he determined to adapt a famous serial novel about the birth and young manhood of Apu–born in a rural village, formed in the holy city of Benares, educated in Calcutta, then a wanderer. The legend of the first film is inspiring; how on the first day Ray had never directed a scene, his cameraman had never photographed one, his child actors had not even been tested for their roles–and how that early footage was so impressive it won the meager financing for the rest of the film. Even the music was by a novice, Ravi Shankar, later to be famous.”

Pather Panchali is based on a novel by the same name, written by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay in 1929. In 1949, Jean Renoir had come to Calcutta to shoot his film ‘The River’ (1951). Ray, a founding member of the Calcutta Film Society, helped him scout for locations within the vicinity of Calcutta. When Ray told him about his longstanding wish to film Pather Panchali, Renoir encouraged him to follow his dream. 

In 1950, the employer of Satyajit Ray at the advertising agency, DJ Keymer, sent him to London to work at their headquarters. During his six months in London, Ray watched multiple films from across the world and after watching Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist film ‘Bicycle Thieves’ (1948), he resolved to become a filmmaker. The film made him believe that it was possible to make realistic cinema that was shot on location with an amateur cast.

In his book, ‘Satyajit Ray – The Inner Eye’, a biography of the master film-maker, author Andrew Robinson shares: “Pather Panchali never had a proper script. Unlike every other Ray film, there was no red shooting notebook for it. Most of the dialogues, three-quarters of which came from the writer, Banerjee, he kept in his head. By showing producers these sketches, which were of course unheard of in Bengali films, and telling them the story, he hoped to raise interest in a film with him as its director.”

Ray could complete his movie Pather Panchali because the Chief Minister of Bengal financed him. It seems like all other politicians he, too, lacked an eye for art. After watching the movie CM suggested Satyajit Ray that he should change the sad ending of the movie and show that the family participates in a government housing scheme and gets a house. Thank heavens, Ray didn’t relent to the suggestion and went ahead to make the film that he’d set out to make. 

On being asked about the biggest obstacle that Ray faced while making Pather Panchali, given the kind of bureaucracy he had to endure while making the film, he stated, “The finances took a long time to get approved. My only fear while making Pather Panchali was that the kids shouldn’t grow up and the old woman shouldn’t die.”  

Pather Panchali gave way to other two films, Apur Sansar and Aparajito, which, along with Pather Panchali are reckoned as ‘The Apu Trilogy’. All these three films have the train in common. The arrival or passing of train always paved way for a new twist in the stories of all the films from the Apu Trilogy. 

The film went on to win national as well as international accolades and till date, Satyajit Ray remains the only director from India who has won the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ conferred by the Academy Awards. Do revisit this classic, with the language bar notwithstanding. 

Khullam Khulla is an unapologetically honest biography

 First things first. This isn’t a fanboy’s musing. Any writer worth his/her salt can never ‘dare’ to write on ‘Khullam Khulla – Rishi Kapoor Uncensored’ without including this excerpt from the book, where Neetu Singh writes: 

“First, a checklist:

Is Rishi Kapoor a grouch? Guilty as charged.

Is he loud, gregarious, and prone to wound with words? Check all three please.

Is he suspicious of people, stiflingly possessive, difficult to live with? You seem to know my husband well. 

Is he generous with gifts? Not really.

Does he sulk? Do we fight? Have I ever thought of leaving him? Yes, yes, yes. I ‘ve entertained the thought of walking away every single day of our life together. 

So why am I still Mrs. Rishi Kapoor, thirty-seven years after saying ‘I do’?

Because thirty-seven years is a long time. And I cannot, would not, live with any other. Because once you get to know my husband, he’s the most straightforward man there is. Though, admittedly, it’s not easy to ‘get to know him’.”

The closest I could manage to get to Rishi Kapoor was during the recent Vadodara Literature Festival organised by, an online platform for authors and poets, where Rishi Kapoor launched the festival and spoke eloquently about his book. Excited to meet up the ‘Luck By Chance’ actor, I took along my copy of his biography (That I had ordered online right on the day of its launch), along with two books penned by me, which I wanted to gift him as mementos. 

He took my books and kept them aside, speaking in an irritated tone, “I don’t want this…I don’t read books!” Dejected, I meekly took them back, along with his book, thinking, ‘Why should I read a book of someone who doesn’t read?’ He smiled and asked my name, and insisted on signing his book. This stark contrast between his tones of ‘I don’t read’ and ‘What’s your name?’ within a single minute, defined Rishi Kapoor for me, who is unapologetically honest and sincerely affectionate. 

Like Neetu Kapoor would like to put it, ‘Once you know Rishi Kapoor, he’s the most straightforward man there is.’ And the only way you could get to know a celebrity is through interviews and biographies. Khullam Khulla is a free-flowing conversation between Rishi Kapoor and the reader, which could well have been christened as ‘Ek mein aur ek tu’. 

To be honest, I have never been an avowed ‘Rishi Kapoor Fan’. He is one such actor from our film industry who is loved and adored by one and all, but seldom revered or put on a high pedestal. The actor was never a superstar and makes no bones in admitting this fact that he has always been around, battling many a superstar storm. I am yet to come across anyone who dislikes Rishi Kapoor. Well, how can you not like an actor with the most innocent smile? 

A simple YouTube search of songs like ‘Mein shaayar to nahin’ and ‘Hum tum ek kamre’ from Bobby, ‘Tere dar par’ from Laila-Majnu, ‘Ek mein aur ek tu’ and ‘Khullam khulla pyaar’ from Khel Khel Mein, ‘Dard-E-Dil’ and ‘Om Shanti Om’ from Karz, ‘Chug chug Bombay se Baroda tak’ from Rafoo Chakkar, ‘Hoga tumse pyara kaun’ from Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai, ‘Mil gaya humko saathi’ from Hum Kisise Kam Nahin, ‘Parda hai parda’ from Amar Akbar Anthony, ‘Sochenge tumhein pyaar’ from Deewana or ‘Gawah hain chaand taare gawaah hain’ from Daamini, encapsulates his illustrious filmography. 

As for his ‘Privileged second inning’, his roles in films like Agneepath (The shocker), Luck By Chance (Strangely, he doesn’t speak about this film in the book), Do Dooni Chaar (A role of a lifetime) and the recent Kapoor & Sons (Warm and memorable role), which introduced us to a whole new terrain of his craft that remained unexplored all through his ‘Jersey days’.

Meena Iyer approaches the autobiography of Rishi Kapoor with a style that complements with the actor’s temperament. Rishi Kapoor has always been a spontaneous actor (A fact he has vouches for in his book) and his book is replete with honesty and spontaneity, especially in chapters like ‘Dream run, defeat and depression’, ‘Buddies, bad men, peers and contemporaries’, or ‘Fights, flare-ups and fans’. 

The actor minces no words in coming clean about the awards he bought, the Bachchan tirade, the Javed Akhtar grudge or the incident that distanced him from his buddy, Jeetendra (They do share a cordial relationship, but not like the good ol’ days), or the love and affection he has for his wife, Neetu Kapoor. In fact, the chapter, ‘Neetu, my leading lady’ comes across as a heartwarming love letter that every husband or lover would cherish and relate to. 

It would indeed be a crime to include any excerpt written by him because that would spoil the fun of reading Khullam Khulla. After reading this book, you’d end up knowing Rishi Kapoor so well that you wouldn’t mind if he doesn’t reciprocate to your ‘autograph/selfie requests’ or reject your gifts. You’d understand that he is a man who is incurably honest. Well, to sum it up, ‘Khullam Khulla – Rishi Kapoor Uncensored’, written by Meena Iyer is a book that engages, enthralls and entertains with an effortless ease. To quote the marketing cliché, ‘Rush, grab your copy today!’

Rishi Kapoor’s response on this book review:

Trapped is predictably convenient

A guy trapped inside an empty building with no means of communication, no electricity, food or water. This one-line description is enough to make every cinephile worth his ticket flock to the multiplex and get glued to this no-interval-no-song film promoted as India’s first ‘survival thriller’. Since the word ‘survival’ is quite a giveaway, you expect the protagonist to survive. So, we zero in on the ‘how’ part of the film, which becomes the reason to stay invested in ‘Trapped’, a film produced by Phantom films and directed by Vikramaditya Motwane.

Well, the ‘how’ part is precisely where the film disappoints. Within the first thirty minutes, one could hear the audience whispering the obvious solution for the protagonist. “Oh, come on, it’s a Vikramaditya Motwane film! How can it be so obvious…There must be some layer to it,” I said to myself, averting the distraction.

“Why doesn’t this guy check with the broker about the basic amenities of the apartment before closing the deal? Is he sure whether the girl (Geetanjali Thapa in a brief but memorable role) he is buying the apartment for is going to dump her current alliance and marry him the next day? Why doesn’t he call her up in the night or hint her about the surprise (or shock) that awaits her? There’s a huge dearth of homes in Mumbai and empty buildings (with ready furniture and balcony grilles) are fiercely guarded by watchmen, lest the trespassers might start residing in them.

So why is this watchman so laidback and claims that he has never seen anybody residing in it for the last two years? Why is water and electricity supply still present in an apartment which has never been inhabited for two years? How is it possible that the protagonist’s girlfriend, office colleagues or family (If he had one) never bother to trace him or even ask him about his whereabouts towards the film’s end.

Questions of such kind keep cropping up all the time while watching Trapped and the only way you can appreciate this film is by lauding the details and most importantly, the background score by Alokananda Dasgupta, the innovative ideas of survival by writers Amit Joshi and Hardik Mehta, sound design by Anish John, and like they say, ‘above all’: the nuanced performance by Rajkummar Rao.

The actor transforms himself into his character, Shaurya and is perfect to a fault. It is the writing that lets his character down because by the first hour of the film, the audience writes him off as dimwitted (Which harms a film that attempts to portray him as an innovative and resilient survivor) and there hence is a complete disconnect with his character. After a certain point, you stop caring about him and begin wondering why the filmmaker didn’t choose to make a short film instead?

In an interview, director Vikramaditya Motwane stated that with Trapped, he has set the stories of ‘Buried’, ‘127 hours’, and ‘Cast Away’ in an urban backdrop. But alas, the point he seems to miss is the transformation that the survivor goes through during the whole process. Trapped, with all its ‘survivor thriller’ trappings, fails to rise above its predecessors. Sigh.


Silsila: A complex love triangle with a touch of simplicity 

After colours and bhaang, Holi celebrations are incomplete without ‘Rang barse’, the Holi anthem from Yash Chopra’s Silsila. Picturized on Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha (While Jaya Bhaduri and Sanjeev Kumar passively look on), sung by Amitabh Bachchan (with complete abandon), shot by Kay Gee and edited by Keshav Naidu, ‘Rang barse’ captures the essence of Holi in its true splendor, so much so that no ‘Balam pichkaari’ or ‘Do me a favour let’s play Holi’ could dilute its magic even after over three decades of its release in 1981. 

“Launga ilaachi ka beeda lagaaya…”

For the trivia buffs, the song, ‘Rang Barse’ was penned by Dr. Harivanshrai Bachchan. It was based on a Rajasthani folk bhajan revolving around Meera. The original lyrics were: ‘Rang barse O Meeran, bhawan mein rang barse…’ The lyrics were tweaked to suit the flavour of the film’s story. ‘Rang Barse’ is pivotal to Silsila purely because it appears at precisely the moment when Amit Malhotra (Amitabh Bachchan, who else can play ‘Amit’?) and Chandni (Rekha at her sensuous best) are caught red-handed, quite literally. 

“Neeche paan ki dukaan, upar gori ka makaan…”

The camaraderie between the characters of Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor (As the affable Shekhar) is something yet to be replicated in our times. The scene where Shekhar and Amit recall their past crushes in drunken stupor and the silly ditty, ‘Neeche paan ki dukaan’ sung by the duo is infectious enough to make you hum it subconsciously all through the film’s first half. Despite not playing the lead, Shashi Kapoor makes his presence in a brief role and must be commended for adding humour to an otherwise ‘serious film’. 

Dekha ek khwaab to yeh silsiley hue…

Silsila marked the debut of Javed Akhtar as lyricist. In one of his interviews, Javed saab stated, “I should thank Yash Chopra and keep thanking him forever because I was very reluctant and I did not want to become a lyricist. Perhaps he was so sure that I would be able to do it to his satisfaction that he really forced me into it and I must thank him for that.” True indeed, as Silsila, without ‘Dekha ek khwaab’, ‘Yeh kahaan aa gaye hum’, or ‘Neela aasmaan so gaya’ would have been a bland love triangle with no poetry as its soul. 

“Phool khamosh rehkar bhi apne rang aur khusboo se bahut kuch keh jaate hai…”

There’s a scene in Silsila where the characters of Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha decide to meet up at a flower exhibition. The choice of this venue speaks volumes on the aesthetic sense of Yash Chopra. We seem to have become so conscious about the ‘running around the trees’ and visual euphemism of a kiss being depicted as ‘flowers kissing each other scene’ that we have abandoned the flowers. These days, we don’t get to see enough of flora and fauna in our films. 

“Kab tak yunhi khamosh rahein hum?”

No matter how much one would admire those ‘flower exhibitions’, ‘Holi celebrations’, ‘Shashi-Amitabh camaraderie’, ‘Javed Akhtar’s lyricis’, but Silsila will always remain about the hushed relationship that Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha once shared or perhaps didn’t.  

In an interview, Yash Chopra said that Rekha and Amitabh were very much in a relationship before Silsila. He had decided to cast Smita Patil and Padmini Kolhapure along with Amitabh Bachchan but later changed his mind. When Yash Chopra approached Amitabh Bachchan, he remained tight-lipped about the casting of Rekha and his wife, and suggested Yash Chopra to approach the both ladies on his own.  The veteran director admitted to constantly being on tenterhooks while filming the three. The atmosphere was evidently tense for all. Once Silsila was completed, Amitabh is said to have completely ignored Rekha till this date.

Rekha, however, had this to say about his denial in one of her interviews: “Why should he have not done it? He did it to protect his image, his family, his children. I think it is beautiful. I don’t care what the public thinks of it. Why should the public know of my love for him or his love for me?” 

Silsila didn’t do well at the box office and the ‘traditional approach’ of the director seemed to have disappointed the audience, who were keen to know the ‘truth’ behind the Amitabh-Rekha affair. Amitabh Bachchan once tweeted: ‘Silsila was written off by the critics as ‘Silly-Sila’, and is now called a classic’. 

Silsila, with its real-life chemistry of the lead actors, maturely handled subject of extra-marital affair, its confrontation and its consequences, indeed leaves us with a question: Does art imitate life or life imitate art? Go figure.