Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Melody Of Romance

My good friend Baradwaj Rangan, who is a nostalgia specialist like me, called this afternoon. "Are you at home? Just watch Star Utsav. Right now."

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Just watch it, right now," he said and hung up.

I switched on the TV and found the channel. Mithun Chakraborthy on the drums, and Salma Agha on the dance floor. She is writhing to Yeh raat mein jo nasha hai... Memories went back to school days. I had seen this movie, Kasam Paida Karne Waale Ki, on video. The 'video' was new those days. Some enterprising bunch of guys in the neighbourhood, called bhaiyyas, would hire the VHS tape of the latest movie and hold a screening, in a specially erected pandal. Anybody could watch it, paying Re 1.

I was seeing the movie again now, after 20 years. The songs gets over and Mithun and Salma Agha walk out of the nightclub. She takes off on her bicycle but gets waylaid by goons. Mithunda appears. He takes care of the baddies and then offers to drop her home in the bicycle. "What if we get challaned?" she asks coyly. "Big deal," he replies, "At the most they will deflate the tyres." Shyly, she sits on the bar and off they are. The cycle ride in the silent night, with a whistle playing the backgroud, is the beginning of their romance.

Today, the scene looked so hilarious. Rather ridiculous. But twenty years ago, no one would have laughed. On the contrary, thousands might have been inspired to drop their girls in a similar fashion. Perhaps we are no longer innocent. Those days, even the accidental touching of hands deserved a close-up shot, and even in real life, the touching of hands was considered a milestone in the long road to romance.

But then, there are movies made at the same time, and even before, such as Silsila, Kabhie Kabhie and Trishul (and of course all of Guru Dutt films), where the romance does not seem outdated or does not look like a joke as in this case. Why so?

The answer, in my opinion, lies in the craft of filmmaking. Silsila is A-grade, a classy movie where the nuances of romance are conveyed in a sophisticated manner. Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki, on the other hand, is a B-grade movie. There is no chemistry between Mithun and Salma Agha, they merely seemed to be donning 'romantic' expressions on their faces at the instance of the director. In any case there isn't any scope for chemistry in that scene. The close-ups merely show each one's 'romantic' face in isolation: Mithun or Salma could be standing on a balcony or on the beach instead of being on a bicycle. They are shown riding together only from a distance, and there you cannot tell whether they are the actors or extras.

But then, this is one of those movies where romance is by-the-way, where the director wants to make the audience wait for the final confrontation between the hero and the villain. Come to think of it, most of our movies are like that, aren't they? But the songs they have are all about romance. Maybe because music can be made only out of romance. Romance, after all, is another name for melody. And vice-versa.


Usha said...

hahaha. I was thinking of all those scenes you were recreating and can you believe we actually sat through it all - dumbos! And it is so true about the incidental romance creeping into these action movies through song sequences. After an appetising fight sequence where he singlehandedly seals the fate of 20 fat villain's sidekicks, the hero went home, had a shower and got into white trousers and a red tee shirt to run around a tree with his lady love - even Amitabh did that in some movies didnt he?

Arundhati said...

I agree with you on Silsila :-)! Its my all time ultra romantic favorite ;). Chemistry between Amitabh and Rekha is MINDBLOWING!

Kasam Paida Karne Waale ki? I did not have the guts to see that one. But I remember seeing a song where Mithun gyrates on "Kasammmm Paida Karrrane Waaaale Kiiii!' Gosh, is it already, "our generation" thing?

Great blog :-)!

Maya said...

Do you notice that we have become so preoccupied with romance - more the depiction of it than actually feeling it in our hearts, whether it is in cinema or books. Whatever happened to the day-to-day romance in our lives? Do you think that because the definition of the modern man and woman has shifted and everyone is trying to live up to this new difinition that we have lost the capacity to feel romance in the simple everyday things we do for and to each other? Or is it that we have no longer have the patience or honesty to do so? To what are we running towards?...

Being of a diasporic nature I more often than not shudder at what Tamil movies have come too...celebrating the ordinary. Granted I am not well acquainted with the oldies but more comtemporary in my taste and my comparisons may not be based on the entire gamut of the field of Tamil movies, I must say Tamil films are greatly lacking in almost every aspect and the reasons one goes to see a movie.
One of my all time favourites is Salangai Oli, for all the obvious reasons, AND the most important one for me being that it was an almost perfectly edited film. Not a single scene is redundant.
If only more films would cut out the muck and give us the real content. The longwindedness is so close to killing the art itself. Are we never going to 'evolve' in our tastes for Tamil movies?
Just my two cents worth :)

Sharmishta said...

Never been much into Indian movies, though playing the scenes in my head I completely agree with you. But the scene with the cycle brought back the images of the frolicsome cycle scene - Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) cycling with Etta Place (Kathrine Ross) sitting precariously on the crossbar to the tune of Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head, in one of my all-time fav hits of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Bishwanath Ghosh said...

Usha: I can't recall Amitabh doing it but Mithun and Jeetendra were rather consistent.

Arundhati: Yes, it is already the "our generation" thing. Someone, stop the clock!

Maya: Your views are at least two ringgits worth, not just two cents :)

Sharmishta: Did you ever sit on the crossbar? The thought crossed my mind because it's been raining here.

Anand: I think if one makes love before breakfast there won't be any need to revive it ever after :)

Thanks, all of you.

Sheks said...

ur articles in The New Indian Express are,i shud say,hilarious.specially the one in which u wrote abt putting up with the CAS.

Sharmishta said...

In and rain and in sun, yes BG, I have sat on the crossbar of a cycle...and not just once, quite a few times though my behind would protest :)

About Medicine Blog said...

The 'video' was new those days.

About Medicine Blog said...

The 'video' was new those days.