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12 June 2017

My Favourites: Memorable Scenes From Hindi Films

Did I say I love the rain? I hate the rain. Especially when it has been days since I've seen the sun. Especially when it's June in the US and I'm shivering in the cold. The temperature today is 61oF (160C). It’s June, for heavens’ sake! As I sit here and watch the rain come interminably down, I feel like Scamper does – utterly miserable.* (Never mind that that is his perpetual expression – blast those pesky facts!)

Last monsoon season (in India, I mean), I wrote a post on my favourite rain scenes in Hindi films. The year before that, I posted ‘Rain Songs’. This year, on the cusp of the monsoons in India, since I’m devoutly wishing it would Just. Stop. Raining. here in the US, I decided to make another kind of list. This, more so, because I spent some time looking through my lists of songs and was not inspired to write up any of them, or even complete the ones I’ve left incomplete. So, here are some of my favourite scenes, depicting many moods, scenes that, if you tell me the name of the film, are the ones I will immediately recollect.

1. Regret: Anupama (1966) 'I do love you, just not when I’m sober.'
It is the climax of the film, the story of a dysfunctional relationship between a father drowning the grief of his wife’s death in alcohol, and a daughter, whose only fault is that in being born, she was the unwitting cause of her mother’s death. While drunk, her father (Tarun Bose, in his finest role) is maudlin and affectionate. ‘Tera qasoor kya hai?’ he asks her, penitently. ‘Main tumse itna nafrat kyun karta hoon?’ ('What is your fault? Why do I hate you so much?' In the cold light of the day, he refuses even to glance at her.

The emotionally repressed girl, Uma (Sharmila Tagore), internalizes the blame for her mother’s death and her father’s grief until she meets Arun (Dharmendra), a man whose quiet friendship allows her to blossom.  This is the crux of the film. When Uma finally musters up her courage to forge her own path through life, she chooses to leave with Arun instead of marrying Anil. It is her decision, and her father does not stop her. As is his wont, he silently blesses her, but does not say anything to stop her.
However, at the railway station, there is a lonely man who hides his tears, and his feelings, as he bids goodbye to his spurned daughter from afar. The daughter whom he could never quite accept. Now it’s too late. His pride will not allow him to take her into his arms and bless her. That one shot, of Sharma half-hidden by the pillar, his eyes brimming with love and tears… classic!

2. Grief: Anand (1971) Babu Moshai!
Aware that he has only moments left, Anand (Rajesh Khanna) signals to the doctor to play a tape on the recorder. Soon, Bhaskar’s (Amitabh Bachchan) voice fills the room, reciting a poem about death. By the time the recitation ends, Anand is dead – but the spool continues to unwind silently…

Earlier, just after Anand had moved in with Bhaskar, he had playfully suggested they record themselves. Bhaskar had recited the poem, and when it ended, Anand had paused and, signalling to Bhaskar to remain silent, combed his hair, applied makeup, and then returned to record his own dialogue. The tape had continued recording the silence.

When Bhaskar walks in to find Anand dead, his grief bursts out in anger. Anand had irritated him for six months by babbling on and on and on; how dare he remain silent now? 
He exhorts Anand to ‘Speak up, damnit!’ when, from beyond the grave comes Anand’s voice, ‘Babumoshai!’ It takes Bhaskar a couple of moments to realise the voice is coming from the tape…

‘Zindagi aur maut uparwaale ke haath mein hai, jahaanpanaah, ise na tum badal sakte ho na main. Hum sab is rangmanch ke kathputliyaan hai…’ (Life and death are in the Almighty’s hands, Your Majesty; you and I cannot alter it. We are but puppets on a stage…’)

The lines that Anand quotes from a drama bookend a life that was filled with drama – a ploy to cheerfully mask his own pain and fears as the man who was destined to live only a short while, taught others how to live, love and laugh.

3. Terror: Sholay (1975) Russian roulette
Two hired guns have come to town. A cowed down town has found its spine. When the dacoit’s men come to exhort their ‘tax’, they are sent back with their tail between their legs. Now comes the reckoning – they have to explain their failure to their boss, the dreaded dacoit Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan).
We only see his legs, and the business end of a leather belt, the buckle scraping the rocks with each step. Almost nonchalantly, he tosses off a question. ‘Kitne aadmi the?’ (How many were they?) ‘Sardar, do’. (‘Two.’) The sardar’s voice is deathly quiet; ‘Do aadmi.’ ('Two men'), and the camera pans onto his face as he snarls, ‘Suvar ke bacchon!’ ('You bastards!')

Then, characteristically, he quietens down. ‘Woh do the. Aur tum teen. Phir bhi waapas aa gaye. Khali haath. Kya samajhkar aaye the? Sardar bahut khus hoga? Saabhasi dega. Kyun?’ ('There were two of them. And you? Three. Yet, you returned empty handed. What did you think? That I would be happy? That I would congratulate you?’)

His voice rises again as he lambasts them for their cowardice. In pronouncing their sentence, he gives them a fighting chance – he expends three bullets from his gun, and in a chilling game of Russian roulette, he proceeds to shoot each of them in turn. All survive and the man falls into a paroxysm of maniacal laughter.

The men, shaken but relieved, join in disbelievingly, until the scene ends – fatally.

4. Disbelief – amongst other things. Pyaasa (1957) Jesus Christ Superstar
This scene segues into a song and then back again to a scene. In these 4-5 minutes, you become cognizant of betrayal, shock, heartbreak, disbelief, happiness… and possibly a few other emotions that I’ve missed.

Vijay (Guru Dutt), missing, presumed dead, has returned to discover his poems have been published, and his brothers have claimed the profits for themselves. Suddenly, Vijay is famous. Posthumously. As he stands in the doorway, the light behind him throwing him into silhouette, Vijay launches into a [poetic] diatribe against a very materialistic, opportunistic society.
As they hear his voice, his brothers are dismayed – they see their hopes of a brighter future slipping away. The publisher Ghosh (Rehman) has published these poems, the profits of which have surpassed his wildest dreams. Now, he stares in disbelief at a very unwelcome ghost, and that gives way to anger, even as you see him scrambling to find a way to turn this triumph-turned-defeat back into a coup of sorts. 

Vijay’s erstwhile lover, Meena (Mala Sinha), now Ghosh’s wife, is – in turn – disbelieving, happy, and distressed. She still loves him, and is heart-breakingly aware that he will never return to her.

Finally, there’s Gulabo (Waheeda Rehman). Of all the people present there, she’s the only person – whore though she is – who loves him for himself. She asks for nothing; instead, she’s spent her meagre savings getting Vijay’s poems published by Ghosh. She, too, is disbelieving, closing her eyes in one anguished moment of uncertainty.Now, as she listens to Vijay’s cynical outpouring, she is quietly content.

This is a scene-song where everything comes together – the shot, the lighting, the acting, the direction… The iconic silhouette suggestive of Christ on a cross, the black and white imagery as the camera moves from the door of the auditorium to the well-lit stage... A man so still he could be a statue, and the men and woman frozen on stage, yet one can sense movement, the mental calisthenics as each of them tries to come to terms with what they are seeing… brilliant.

5. Romance: Barsaat (1949) A man, a woman, a moonlit night and a violin
Pran (Raj Kapoor) and his friend, Gopal (Premnath), visit the hills during the monsoons each year. While there, Gopal, a hedonist, flirts with a young hill woman, Neela (Nimmi), whom he conveniently forgets each year when he returns to the city. Neela is fated to wait faithfully for him until the next rains.

One year, Pran falls in love with Reshma (Nargis), whom he rescues from drowning. One night, as he plays his violin, she comes running, almost as if the music calls to her. Eager to meet Pran, she hurries up the rope ladder, and falls into his arms in a half-swoon. For a moment, Reshma stays thus – half swooning, looking up at her beloved, her heart in her eyes as he holds her in one hand, and his violin in the other… 
It’s a beautifully framed shot – the darkness of the night, the sliver of moonlight, a man, a woman, and a love that cannot be hidden. The scene still touches me. The shot would become the logo of the newly formed RK Studios.

6. Rebellion: Mughal-e-Azam (1960) When a Hindi film hero didn’t listen to his mother – and came to a bad end
Prince Salim (Dilip Kumar) has just returned from the front after 14 years – and almost immediately, had fallen in love with Nadira (Madhubala), whom his father had rechristened 'Anarkali'. The emperor is incensed and egged on by Bahaar (Nigar Sultana), casts Anarkali into the dungeons. 

Now, the prince is determined to free her, and his mother is aghast – has her son lost his senses that he’s going to confront his father for a lowly nautch girl? The prince interrupts – she’s talking of the future empress of Hindustan. 
Outraged, the queen retorts, 'Hamaara hindostan tumhara koi dil nahin ki laundi jiska malka bane.' ('Our Hindustan is not your heart that a nautch girl can be crowned its empress.') To which, her unfilial son responds: ‘Toh mera dil bhi aapka Hindostan nahin jo aap us par hukumat karein.’ ('My heart is not your Hindustan over which you can exert your dominance.’)

7. Anger: Deewar (1975) A life for a life  
It's a film that's a goldmine of iconic dialogues: 
  • Mere paas maa hai! (I have mother.) 
  • Main aaj bhi phenke hue paisa nahin utatha. (Even today, I will not pick up money that's thrown at me.), 
  • 'Abhi itna ameer nahin hua beta, ki tum apne maa ko khareed sako.' ('You haven't yet become so rich, my son, that you can afford to buy your mother.') 
However, it is this scene that still touches my heart. 

A man who had forsaken God while still a child has returned to the fold. With no recourse he's on the run from the law, the police have cordoned off the hospital, his mother is dying and he cannot meet her Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) turns to God to save the one person he loves more than anyone else in the world. The scene is set for one of the most famous monologues in Hindi cinema. 
Vijay's hurt and anger are palpable as he chides Lord Shiva: 'Aaj khush toh bahut honge tum' (You must be very happy today!') and continues, 'Kya qasoor tha uska? Kaun sa paap kaun sa zulm kiya tha usne?' (What fault was hers? What crime did she commit?).
Eventually, he breaks down, 'Mere gunaahon ki saza meri maa ko mat do! ('Don't punish my mother for my crimes.'  In that moment of grief, he makes a bargain, a life for a life. 'Main apne aap ko tumhaare hawaale kar raha hoon; jo chaahe karlo, par meri maa mujhe waapa de do!' ('I surrender myself to you; do as you will but give my mother back to me.'

It's a scene that still makes me weep.

8. Desperation: Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962) ‘How can I please you?’
Married to the youngest scion of a wealthy household, Chhoti Bahu (Meena Kumari) is a neglected wife. When she begs her husband to tell her what she should do so he will remain at home, her husband scoffs; the courtesan he visits, can sing and dance and drink... can she do all that? 

Chhoti bahu is shocked but so desperate is she for her husband's attention that she begs Bhootnath (Guru Dutt) to procure liquor for her, staking her all in one last gamble. It seems it pays off for a while.
By the time her attempt at seduction fails, Chhoti bahu has spiralled into alcoholism. Her husband's contempt sears her, and she snaps, 'Hindu ghar ki bahu hokar kabhi sharaab pee hai kisi ne?' ('Has any Hindu daughter-in-law drunk liquor ever?') All the self-contempt she feels, the despair, the hurt, the agony of knowing her husband has no use for her it is all captured in the myriad expressions that flit across her face.

9. Poignancy: Kabuliwala (1961) A father's longing
Abdul Rahmat Khan (Balraj Sahni) had left his family, including his little daughter Ameena (Baby Fareeda), behind when he came to India to earn enough money to pay off his debts. Knowing she would kick up a fuss, Khan had left in the night. 

In Calcutta, he befriends a little girl, Mini (Sonu), who becomes a stand-in for Ameena. Mini and her 'Kabuliwala' spend many an afternoon together, much to her mother's (Usha Kiron) distress. 

Then, one day, Khan is arrested for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. When he is released, ten years have passed. Khan, for whom time has remained frozen, quickly makes his way back to his little friend's house; he has a present for her. However, Mini, now grown up and getting ready to be married, has no recollection of her childhood friend. Khan is brought to the sudden realisation that his daughter must also have grown into a young woman. 
He breaks down - Ameena wouldn't recognise him either! 'Tum humko nahin pahchaanega toh hum kaisa zinda rah sakte?' ('If you fail to recognise who I am, how will I live?') he cries as he gazes at the imprint of his daughter's little hands that he has so carefully preserved all these years.

The grief of a father who stays far away from his daughter, the human longing for affection, the juxtaposition of a man who misses his daughter with one who's going to miss his daughter it's a poignant scene.
Farce: Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro How Draupadi became a public limited company
A classic satire, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is one for the ages. When two small-time photographers (Ravi Baswani and Naseeruddin Shah, named Sudhir Mishra and Vinod Chopra only one of the many sly references in the movie) accidentally stumble upon a murder, and discover the corpse, they have all the ammunition they need for an expose. Only, the corpse disappears.

In a tale mixed with deceit, double-crossing, corruption, and charades, the duo eventually manage to get their hands on the corpse. On the run from the people who have murdered D'Mello (Ahuja and Tarneja played by Om Puri and Pankaj Kapoor), they stumble into a play on stage where the corpse of D'Mello (Satish Shah) is set to do double duty as Draupadi.

The artistes on stage gamely carry on; only now, Duryodhan is busy trying to protect Draupadi's honour... 'Mujhe har haal mein Draupadi ki laaj rakhna hai!' ('I have to protect Draupadi's honour at all cost.'
As the real actors try to make sense of the sudden change in script, D'Mello is 'trying' not to fall over, 'Duryodhan' is attempting to keep everyone else away from seeing 'Draupadi's' face, and the audience is in splits. 

Then, to turn everything completely on its head, 'Bhim' (Om Puri / Ahuja) defies his eldest brother, Yudhishtra, saying, 'Hey, Drapaudi tere akele ki nahin hai; hum sab shareholder hai!' ('Draupadi is not yours alone; we all have a stake in her.'
All this is interrupted by Dhritarashtra's 'Ye sab kya ho raha hai?' ('What's happening?) and the arrival of  Drupad, Draupadi's father, and Emperor Jalaluddin Akbar, at which point, Draupadi/D'Mello takes a turn as Anarkali. 

My description does do this scene justice; it has to be seen to be enjoyed. 

What are the scenes that you find memorable? 

*Since I wrote this, I've got my wish - in spades. The temperature is 88 degrees Fahrenheit, with a real feel of 96 degrees. Now I want the rain.

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