Readers Write In #512: On the ‘my moments’ with THE Bachchan…(part 3)

Posted on October 16, 2022

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By ​An Jo

Continuing from the closing moments of the ‘70s, extending onto the late‘80s, time for the 48 year old AB to compete with the ‘young Khan’ blood: the innocent-looking Aamir, the go-getter/ham-expert SRK, the non-actor but damn good-looker/vada-pav seeker Salim Khan’s son. Time to move on; so much so that I, as a high-schooler, wanting to be in the ‘coolth’ group, decided for the longest period of 3 months, to abuse AB and endorse the Khans. ‘Bhuddha, not ‘Buddha’ ho gaya saala.’ 3 months sounding like 3 decades, just after Aamir raised his sunglasses to bring Juhi from her Delhi home onto his bike, a jolt ran through me. Have I seen this before? Yes, bloody hell I have! AB in Hrishda’s master-piece ‘Chupke Chupke’, with AB’s character having an inter-caste marriage between vegetables and the English language and falling head-over-heels, with glasses being consistently raised in a Wodehousian movie but intact somehow and falling below the nose bridge, and endearingly calling Jaya’s Vasudha, ‘Vasu!’. Thank you Maggie noodles/Khans, back to the bountiful buffet.

10> AKAYLA: AB’s last outing with Sippy, a ‘Dirty Harry’-ish take on the loner cop, an alcoholic to the boot, one who comes home to his apartment in his yellow Volkswagen-Beetle ‘Rampiyaari’, and who has half-a-pint of whiskey at 8 AM while ‘trying’ to catch on to the news: Then, his alcoholic brain awakens to a Tony Braganza–sorry SRK fans, not your Braganza–

who apparently carries a dubious distinction of being present in two places at one time, influencing (??) Nolan’s ‘The Prestige’, as well as Aamir’s ‘Doom 3.’ There’s a terrific scene when AB is having a drink with Amrita Singh, walks out onto the balcony, and just, blinks his eyes and rotates his eyeballs, and tells Amrita, ‘I know I am getting old, I am old, but do you think there’s anything wrong with my eyesight?’ [How can Keith Stevenson’s ‘Braganza’ be in Dubai watching an India-Pakistan match while an act of crime is committed in India? The sheer reigned-in act of that scene, in a seemingly innocuous film, raised the audience’s interest to such a high that there were deafening wolf-whistles. NOBODY, not even Sippy or AB, would have guessed that this scene, out of all the crowd-pleasing ones, would be loved by the audience. Amrita says all is fine with his eye-sight; yes we sighed, who-else but Amrita to recognize the true MARD? Right Saifu? [MARD was in 1985 by the way, the year of the breasts and AB’s horse; no pun intended, but if one wishes to, enjoy the pun.]

11> AGNEEPATH: I watched AKAYLA first, and then AGNEEPATH, though calendar-wise, AKAYLA was released in ‘91 and AGNEEPATH in ‘90. ‘AKAYLA’ during its first week, was flooded with people wanting to catch a glimpse of AB, and that included wayward males, and ‘decent’ families. Tickets were impossible to get; and I had managed to get tickets for AKAYLA after hell a lot of ‘chaaploosi’ with my Rotary club member-kaka. I didn’t know that I had to repeat the same trick for ‘AGNEEPATH.’ Had to be done, did it. And finally got balcony-tickets for the 2nd week. Go figure. An ambitious take, a mixture of honesty and dishonesty on the part of film-maker Mukul Anand, an uproarious marriage between ‘Deewar’ and ‘Scarface’; the ultimate hyphenation linking De Palma’s ‘banana boat’ diplomacy and Bachchan’s ‘Neeche angaar laga hai kya tumhara,’ this was AB at his vocally volatile best, with superior use of his physicality, completely in contrast to DEEWAR. Too bad, some, or most, of his fans missed his voice. They missed the forest for the trees. And man, those blood-shot eyes, the single-minded determination, carrying forth the same fire from TRISHUL, is truly unmissable. A highly vocalized, stylized tribute from AB to AB and by AB, for his fans, with Mukul, intelligent and daring enough, to cross the line between commercial factors-of-safety and outrageous defiance of the demands of a ‘young’ age heralding in: A defining and a defiant performance, 15 years after DEEWAR, one that’s acquired a cult status, and hailed by critics, nationally and internationally, in 2022, and counting…

12> Hibernation: Happily retired; living in NYC preparing omelets on his own, thankfully, not mixing it up with Yoga aka Coolie, comes back with a horrendous selection of a director and a film, when he had the likes of Ratnam, and even a film with Aamir and Madhuri in tow to choose from; but the man chose to go with the Patekar guy, Mr. Mehul Kumar…and the result is stamped all-over India; with the only, slightly memorable, truly negligible mention being this

13> Then KBC happened; the details and discussions present everywhere, and its success being gauged by the fact that it was a success even in Madras with anti-Hindi wave always being a subconscious pride; that which the Indian Government couldn’t do, AB did with KBC; he united the people of India with a linguistic-insignificant thread, and a threat more important, of not acknowledging that a life based on knowledge, yearning, learning, from whatever state one came from, are more important from whatever background or state one came from.

14> AKS: THE REFLECTION: In July of 2001, what with the nation warming up to AB’s white-goateed KBC, and AB taking on selling whatever legal was available in India, and instilling discipline in a school infiltrated by a sweater-wearing, wayward, but gifted musician SRK in ‘MOHABBATEIN’ in 2000, AB was on the path of saving his father’s name and legacy: And nothing would stop him. Ironically, AB chose the most experimental path when common sense dictates you take the most well-trodden path when you are in an earthly-existential crisis. ‘AKS’ represents the pinnacle of that ridiculous experimentation for AB, rather, it should be for any actor. [We are now seeing SRK still maintaining the ‘Pathaan’ status, but pulling in the ‘Paramanu’ John Abraham Sir for balance ain’t we?; a terrific calculation on the part of either the director or Khan’s way of maintaining the ‘My Name is Khan’ momentum in a commercial set-up but still pleasing the establishment.] Nevertheless, after being reduced in ‘size’ on a TV set, AB was liberated by a guy named Rakyesh OmPrakash Mehra, the man responsible for BPL ads, and for Eir Bir Phatte. And then, we saw the man turn a director with ‘AKS’, and the trailers on the MTVs and V channels or whatever they were called in those times, jump-started the palpitations for AB fans; one look at AB and Manoj jumping down the Wai falls and then, Manoj running semi-naked being chased or chasing the wolves, piqued the curiosity in what appeared to be, a technically dark and gritty thriller. [Rumors of this being an inspiration of Denzel’s ‘FALLEN’ weren’t lost.]

So the first day, evening 6 pm show in a theater I now forget the name of, right close to Jayanagar 4th cross/4th main in Bangalore, tickets booked, and stood in front of the theater with a friend: This time all proud, with 54/2 inch chest; you see, this wasn’t going to be an AKAYLA or AGNEEPATH affair. Alas, much to my chagrin and also joy, I saw huge, huge cut-outs and hoardings of AB with garlands all over him, and folks just trying to barge into the theaters even when the previous show wasn’t over. I was like, “Are we even in the right place?” This craze for AB in South India at 58 years of age? [Ignoramus as I was, I didn’t realize the impact AB had all over India.] Went in, and the experience was unforgettable.

This was the 3rd, real-time effect of AB, and boy/man, truly electrifying. None of us, whether the Gandhi class folks or the ones sitting in the balcony, had ever thought that we would see anything like this performed by AB on screen. There was the darling of the media, Manoj post- Satya on screen, there was the ‘art’-movies fav Nandita, and then, there was a loan-repaying “old-man”, Amitabh. With Manoj and Nandita, experimentation was expected; they never had stardom attached to them; but to Amit, there was still an albatross  hanging over. He managed that and how! It was truly liberating to watch the man enact in the most physical of manners, in the most repelling-to-the-gallery of manners, the act of an upright police officer possessed by the so-called devil. In short, AB took experimentation to the hilt, with him no longer being the lead financially, but still the lead, and bowled everyone over.

AB married Shakespearean theatrical acts to his own persona of the ‘Zanjeer’ law-preserver with a style – a fully clothed-one– that was never seen executed before by a Hindi film actor. And then, he goes on to do everything, from raping his wife, to being the judge, jury, executionor, and enjoying the pleasures of being with the other woman and getting her impregnated, without even realizing what he’s doing, or, rather, what’s happening to him.[Observe how he drops Raveena like a prop within a fraction of a second.] 

There’s a scene, where Nandita takes him to a ‘cleanser’ of ghosts so-to-speak, and AB is maniacal, truly maniacal, in spirit, and in the physical turns he takes. ‘Ooh, just last night, you were uttering that because of me, you felt sweet 17 all over again, and now you, you lovely little bi***, changing your tunes eh? Come to Daddy,” and he gets a resounding slap from his wife. It took 5 seconds for the theater to gather what happened with the ‘Bindass’ song, with the rape, with the devil possesion, and finally, the slap, and the entire theater went wild rising in standing ovation, uttering: ‘YEH MEIN NAHIN KEHTA, YEH TOH GITA MEIN LIKAH HAI.”:

A glorious film, a heavily flawed one post the 2:15 mark, with one of the GREATEST, and I mean, absolutely the GREATEST performances ever by an actor-star at age 58. What stunned me, however, was the absolute refusal in giving credit by the educated critics to this film, released way, way before Nolan’s and Ledger’s ‘Batman’ and Gayatri-Pushkar’s ‘Vikram Vedha.’ Black cloth, white cloth? Cutting over? Crossing over? Watch AB’s clothes, including the blinkered glasses he wears in the sweltering heat of Bombay. Nallavana, Kettavana, right? And then watch the remake of this remake, ‘Vikram Vedha’, starring the nawab and HR: carefully listen to the lyrics of this film, and compare it with Gulzar’s outstanding lyrics of the nether-world with ‘BHALA BHURA.’  “PAAP NE JANA NAHI HAI TOH, PAAPIYON NE PAALA HOGA, THOOK SE NIGAL GAYA THA, DHOOP SE NIKALA HOGA!!” Ugly,, but as real as it gets, and Gulzar and Malik want AB to sing it. Wonderful.

Apart from the fact that AKS ventures onto the paranormal stuff, the Tamil ‘Vikram Vedha’ is a literal copy of ‘AKS’, a far superior, stylish film. Too bad, none mentioned it. I mentioned it, the moment I saw Tamil VV, over here. And yes, I have taken on the great Nolan and Ledger as well, with due respect to their ‘social experiment.’