The Tribune - Spectrum

, March 3, 2002

Year that produced cult classics
M.L. Dhawan

Amitabh Bachchan and Dilip Kumar in Shakti
Amitabh Bachchan and Dilip Kumar in Shakti

RAMESH Sippy’s Shakti is essentially a clash of personalities, of egos fuelled by the generation gap, which blinds the protagonists to see the irrationality of it. Dilip Kumar steals the rhetorical thunder as a fastidious and irksomely righteous police officer who stops at nothing to nab the law breakers. His son, Amitabh Bachchan, is perpetually caught on the wrong side of law. If Bachchan personifies rage and bitterness, Dilip counters it with expressive actions that speak of impotent frustrations. The father-son confrontations are an aesthetic delight and as engaging and engrossing as between Salim and Akbar in Mughal-e-Azam. Dilip Kumar and Bachchan use their body as much as voice and inflections to portray their roles.

* In Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Bemisal, Amitabh Bachchan plays the taciturn adopted son who allows his benefactor’s kin (Vinod Mehra) to walk away with the woman (Rakhee) he loves and expends all his energy to keep his foster brother’s doddering conscience and marriage alive. Barely speaking a word of recrimination against the raw deal apportioned to him by life and silently avenging suicide of his elder brother (Bachchan in double role), Amitabh is at his brilliant best in an underplayed role.


* Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth is an earth-shattering and sensitive film breaking through taboo topics — infidelity and domestic violence. Kulbhushan Kharbanda — a film maker falls in love with a clingy, neurotic actress Smita Patil and in retaliation his wife Shabana Azmi walks out on him. Guilt-ridden, Patil succumbs to schiozophrenia and leaves Kharbanda to rue the complications that are of his own making. The tears and expressions on Shabana’s face when Raj Kiran croons ‘Aankhon mein nammi hansee labon per kya haal hai kya dikha rahey ho’ — create cinematic history. The screen lights up with her virtuoso performance when sodden Shabana drops her ‘sari pallu’ on confronting the cowering mistress Smita at a cocktail party and abuses her.

* Shekhar Kapoor’s Masoom is a marital melodrama addressing the question of infidelity and illegetimacy in a humane way. Shabana Azmi’s domestic bliss is thrown asunder by arrival of Jugal Hans — her husband’s son who is the result of a brief fling Naseeruddin Shah with terminally ill Supriya Pathak. Unknown to Shah, Pathak raises the child. Now she is dead, Shah has been contacted by a boarding house to collect his son. Shabana exudes anguish, agony, anger and fire when the boy comes to haunt her home. When Shah tells Shabana about his extra-marital affair, her face is away from camera range, but still the audience can ‘see’ her hurt, betrayal and stony resolve to keep her family together. She has no dialogues, but her smouldering eyes do all the talking.

* B.R. Chopra’s Nikaah is a Muslim social drama highlighting divorce in the community. Salma Agha is an educated Muslim girl who loves Deepak Parasher. Raj Babbar also loves her secretly. Salma is married to Prashar. Prashar is carreer-driven and Salma feels neglected. When tempers fly, Prashar hurls ‘talaq, talaq, talaq’. With her world shattered, Salma meets Raj Babbar who gives her moral and psychological support. Prashar wants Salma back. Under Muslim law this is possible if she marries an other man and gets divorce from him. Babbar is willing to make this sacrifice but Salma puts her foot down. Nikaah is a blockbuster due to powerpacked performances by the trio of Raj Babbar, Deepak Prashar and Salma Agha and Ravi’s tour-de-force numbers — Dil ke armaan aansoun mein beh gaye, Fiza bhee hai jawaan, jawaan Betay huey lamhoon ki kasak saath to hogee, Ghulam Ali’s ghazal ‘chupke chupke raat din’ adds grandeur to the film. In Prakash Mehra’s Namak Halal, Amitabh Bachchan leaves his native village for a big city and joins a hotel owned by flamboyant Shashi Kapoor. Bachchan plays the servant to hotelier Kapoor. Beneath Bachchan’s overtones, there are two diehard principles — honour and duty — that form the core of his behavioural credo. The film is masala-mix with sub-plots ranging from the remotely probable to the utterely impossible. The film is a triumph of unreason. Charismatic and gifted, Bachchan lures the audience to suspend their disbelief and makes them happy with his tomfoolery.

* Sai Paranjpye’s Katha illustrates the parable of Hare and the Tortoise through the escapades of a cunning, crafty, crooked and charming youngman Farouque Shaikh who dazzles everyone with his go-getting charm and takes inherently gentle and saintly friend — Naseeruddin Shah for a ride. The unscrupulous Shaikh is finally unmasked but not before causing a lot of anguish, agony, and pain to his friend.

* B. Subhash’s Disco Dancer is the story of a singer Jimmy (Mithun Chakraborty) who symbolises the average youngster’s passion for achieving success in life in a spectacular way. He dances and plays guitar god and the masses cheer hysterically and go wild. Shirt open to midriff, trousers laminated to his legs and high heels are are his trade-marks. He unleashes the disco fever with his cartilage-defying dances to Bhappi Lahiri’s pulsating music. Not long back, the audience once looked down their noses at his personality, they now love Mithun’s feral sex appeal. The dark, earthy Mithun’s appeal lays in the primal, beast-on-the-hunt quality that he exudes as a frenzied disco dancer.

* In Prem Rog, quite out of the blue, Raj Kapoor takes up the subject of widow rehabilitation, saying’ My film is a fight for their rights to happiness’ The chirpy, young Manorma (Padmini Kohlapure) gets married to a scion of a Thakur family. On the wedding night, her husband is killed in a road accident. Manorma faces the trauma of widowhood. To add to it, she is raped in her husband’s home. When Deodhar (Rishi Kapoor) her childhood friend of a different caste-wants to give her happiness and self-respect by agreeing to marry her, he faces the wrath of the Thakurs. The film is a plea of sanity in an oppressively traditional society. Padmini as young widow succeeds in reducing audiences to tears. Raj Kapoor gave his own flourishes and called the film as ‘Love amidst pride and prejudice’.

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