Some seventeen years ago, I discovered simple cinema

It was a humid Saturday afternoon in the end of 1993; Babri Masjid carnage’s anniversary was being marked, and a new fever called LPG was catching up in India. But what difference could these events make to an eight-year-old? Those were days, when weekends were packed with long games of hide and seek in the afternoon and the evenings were reserved for two films – Hindi on Saturday and Tamil on Sunday, on Doordarshan.

It was in one of those leisurely afternoons that I slipped into my friend’s hall, frantically looking for a place to hide. Suddenly my attention was diverted to the TV that was showing Golmaal. Sitting under a table adjoining the TV, I spent an hour watching the film. Following the dialogues was not difficult and I loved the film, especially the scene where Utpal Dutt encounters Dina Pathak at a party and the hilarious swing sequence that follows.

Even now, come weekend, I am busy checking my Tata Sky programme schedule for the day. And, if I happened to spot a Khubsoorat, Golmaal, Chupke Chupke or Bawarchi in the list, my evening is done.  I can’t recollect the number of times I have watched these flicks and I know the dialogues verbatim. Much to the chagrin of my family and friends, I watch these films, each time they are aired. “You are out of your mind, what is there in these old flicks? Watch some new film, they show so many interesting films on Pix and Star Movies. You still haven’t watched The Hangover,” says my brother.

While I am a great admirer of films made in the western world and the passion they have for cinema, I can count the number of English, Italian or French films I have watched time after time. For me, watching films is more than just a hobby and I feel the need to connect with films to love them. And, it is for the same reason I think Hrishikesh Mukherjee was a genius and a master story-teller.

He heralded the era of pure comedy that celebrated relationships and the saga of life, reminiscent of RK Narayanan’s Malgudi Days.

He made films that had common people play protagonists, and discussed the changing urban milieu – be it the vivacious Manju (Rekha) in Khubsoorat or the pure-Hindi speaking Pyaare Mohan Illahabadi (Dharmendra) of Chupke Chupke.

They were films that outlined the path between mainstream cinema and art films. His forte was certainly tight scripts that were often penned by none other than his good friend and associate, Gulzar.

Mukherjee mostly stuck to humour genre, seldom deviating to make serious films like Anupama, Anand and Alaap. In Guddi, he coupled comedy and sensitivity when he narrated the story of a teenager (Jaya Bhaduri) who is smitten by film actor Dharmendra. Bawarchi narrated the story of the squabbling Sharmas who learn the lesson of togetherness and sharing from their cook, played by Rajesh Khanna.

In the eighties, Mukherjee came up with a few more laugh riots like Kisi Se Na Kehna and Rang Birangi. But as they say, all good things don’t last long, and Mukherjee’s film graph nosedived. A few years before his death, he made a blink and miss appearance in the film circuit with Jhooth Bole Kauwa Kaante that bombed at the box-office.

Comedy films don’t get the status they deserve, at least in India, though many agree it is not an easy task to make the audience laugh. Maybe that is why Mukherjee’s films are not counted among the best movies. However, his films’ repeat value cannot be questioned. Perhaps, Golmaal, which gave both Amol Palekar and Utpal Dutt a role of their lifetime, is still the best comedy film ever made in Hindi-cinema.

By the way, I watched Khubsoorat yesterday for the 233rd time. Or was it 234th?

Some Mukherjee films you must watch:

  1. Golmaal
  2. Chupke Chupke
  3. Bawarchi
  4. Abhimaan
  5. Alaap
  6. Khubsoorat
  7. Anupama
  8. Anand
  9. Mili
  10. Rang Birangi

8 Responses to “Some seventeen years ago, I discovered simple cinema”

  1. I agree, Janani. Mukherjee’s movies belong to a unique genre – one that is evergreen. Great read 🙂
    In fact, I’ll be happy to see such columns in the weekend editions of good newspapers. That’s where it belongs.

  2. Priyanka Says:

    It has been such a long time since I have read something written by you….and after reading this… I can undoubtedly say that you were probably the best ‘ENT’ NIE ever got!!!! HA HA HA!!! Good Work….Miss u lots!

  3. I got disappointed when I finished reading this one… Why did this post end? 😀
    Actly, I really like this way it begins… Cheers mottie… even today I get glued to the TV, when such evergreen movies are screened! Golmaal esply is my all time fave!

  4. I got disappointed when I finished reading this one… Why did this post end?
    Actly, I really like the way it begins… Cheers mottie… even today I get glued to the TV, when such evergreen movies are screened! Golmaal esply is my all time fave!

  5. Nice description. Makes me want to watch these movies again. Though I doubt if my number will go into triple digits.

  6. Madhusudhan Says:

    Don Know if the number of times I have watched these movies will range in the 200s but it’s up there somewhere… Hrishi da was a master – Anand is one of the finest ever.. the tune of ‘Koi Hota’ playing the in the background.. seriously amazing.. and he could direct top-class comedy too.. laugh riot Golmaal and Chupke Chupke are..

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