THE CHANGING FACE OF THE HINDI FILM HERO
By its very definition, the word hero refers to a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. Think about it, the Hindi film hero fits that description perfectly. He is often the principal male character in the story, he is usually noble and honest, hard-working and sincere. He's also Hindi cinema's most enduring icon. And on screen he's been embodied by some of the finest actors that ever lived.
Hello and welcome to "Splendid 60: The Changing Face of the Hindi Film Hero", I'm Rajeev Masand. For the six decades since Independence, cinema's leading men have made us laugh and cry, they've fought the bad-guys, they've romanced the heroines, they've given up their lives for the nation. Some have done it better than the others, some have brought something special to these roles, some have immortalized the characters that they've played. On this show today, I'll pick the heroes that I believe have stood for changing times and changing tastes.
Like many, I’ve always felt Raj Kapoor was a far better filmmaker than he was an actor. But that’s not to say he hasn’t entertained us with his performances. Of all the roles he played, it was that character of the Chaplinesque wanderer in "Awara" and "Shree 420" that is my favourite. Can you think of anyone else who could slip into those ridiculous ankle-length trousers and that patched overcoat and still come off so lovable?
Raju the simpleton of Shri 420 and Awaara, the character by which Raj Kapoor lives on. Just as Raju was caught alternately between the heroine Vidya and the vamp Maya in Shri 420, India too was torn between the Nehruvian socialism and Western captialism in the 50s. Once a clapper boy on the sets of Dilip Kumar’s debut film Jwar Bhatta, Raj Kapoor managed to grab attention especially for his chemistry with Nargis. Influenced by the Indian People's Theatre Association, Kapoor's films reflected a concern for social justice and humanism.
After making his mark as an actor in the 40s, Raj Kapoor went on to become one of the youngest directors of his era when he made his directorial debut at 23 with with Aag. Infact he established RK studios a year later and took on the responsibilities of producing, directing and acting in his projects.
Over the decades Raj Kapoor the actor and Raj Kapoor the filmmaker have merged in public memory. His most ambitious film 'Mera Naam Joker' which was under production for over 6 years released in 1970 to empty theatres, but the spirit of Bollywood's original showman remained undefeated. He continued to produce, direct and act in films till his health gave in... simply because -- as they put it... 'the show must go on'....
Unanimously hailed as one of Hindi cinema’s finest actors, Dilip Kumar earned the title of Tragedy King after immortalizing the character of the luckless lover in films like "Andaaz, Baabul, Deedar" and of course, my personal favourite, "Devdas" which is perhaps rightfully considered the best on-screen portrayal of Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s despondent hero. Few are aware that by the time Dilip Kumar arrived on set to play "Devdas", he was already seeking psychiatric counseling, the effects of repeatedly playing a tragedian having taken its toll on his mental and physical health. The actor was advised to dabble in comedy, to veer away from pain and pathos.
Films like Naya Daur, Madhumati, Ganga Jamuna and Ram Aur Shyam established him as one of the most talented and intense actors Hindi cinema had seen. But its the defiant Shehzada Salim in K Asif's epic Mughal-E-Azam that remains etched in collective memory as one of his most remarkable portrayals. In the 70s after Amitabh Bachchan happened... Dilip Kumar continued to entertain with films like Kranti and Shakti. In the early 40s Yusuf Khan decided to turn Dilip Kumar so that his father would not object to him carrying the family name into films, littlle did he know that he would leave a legacy for decades to come.
Having willingly modeled himself after then-girlfriend Suraiya’s favourite Hollywood idol Gregory Peck, Dev Anand brought flair and style to the image of the Hindi film hero. Nicknamed Debonair Dev, he epitomized the suave, polished, city-bred gentleman. He was among the first leading men who didn’t shy away from playing grey characters. Look at his roles in films like "Jaal, Rahee, Dushman" and "Bombay Ka Babu" - few others dared to go where he did. But like so many others, my favourite Dev Anand performance is "Guide", a character he played instinctively, a character he humanized and made endearing despite the fact that Raju Guide was hardly your clean-cut, good-as-gold hero.
Dev Anand :- I was eating with the guide, living with the guide, thinking of the guide, shooting with the guide all the time..thats what happens when you get involved with a characterit was a very bold film, a bold character, here was a man who got involved with a married woman, and he seduces her..it was atboo to the indian audiences, thats why we changed the hindi version to justify that angle which we did
It was with this film in 1966 that Dev Anand silenced his critics who accused him of being more style than substance in his earlier films like 'Ziddi' and 'Baazi'. Of the famous trio of the 50s - Raj-Dilip-Dev, it was Dev Anand who broke new ground and repeatedly played grey roles. He played a black marketeer in Kaala Bazar, a gang member in Dushman, and a murderer in Bombay Ka Babu, but his image of the charming, lover boy remained with films like 'Tere Ghar Ke Samne', it was in fact Dev Anand who gave the Indian audiences their own James Bond when he masterfully uncovered a thrilling heist and also shook a leg with a cabaret cutie.
Dev Anand "it was jamesbondish, it was suspense and people quote it as a bible of suspense in indian cinema..
Dev Anand’ s success story continued with Johny mera Naam in 1970..His films were a reflection of his modern sensibilities and his desire to be ahead of times…
The sixties marked the entry of the brattish loverboy in films like "Junglee" and "Kashmir Ki Kali", and that character was epitomized by our very own Elvis Prestley, Shammi Kapoor. Who can forget the sheer joy and abandonment with which he danced to "Yahoo, chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe" on those snow-capped hills of Simla? Ironically enough when I met Shammi Kapoor some years ago and urged him to recount the experience of shooting that famous song, he revealed that his knees hurt to this day from the bruises he suffered while rolling in the snow for that number.
Much before the dot com boom this Yahoo announced the transition of the suave gentlemanly hindi film hero to a boisterous, hip swivelling brat. Aptly called The Rebel Star, Shammi Kapoor emerged as the new star rebelling against the reigning trio - Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand.
Rishi Kapoor on Shammi Uncle:- "Shammi Kapoor the epitome of stylised hero, the real hero, good looking, colour had just come in. We grew up on those..atleast i grew up on those films.."
The Shammi Kapoor era marked beginning of a new milestone in Hindi film music; a step towards the Swinging 60s. His main appeal were the immensely catchy and upbeat numbers... which only he could do justice to... inmitably.
Through films like Kashmir Ki Kali, Raj Kumar, Jaanwar and An Evening In Paris, Shammi Kapoor became a safe bet at the box-office till the early 70s. Though critics dismissed Shammi as less of an actor and more of an entertainer of sorts, but Shammi managed to pack in surprise performances as a murder suspect in the whodunit Teesri Manzil and as a sensitive child-loving bachelor in Brahmachari.
His smoldering good looks is his biggest strength, Dharmendra oozed raw machismo in virtually every one of his early films. When he whipped off his shirt in "Phool Aur Patthar" in 1969, the women in the audience let out a collective gasp announcing the arrival of Hindi cinema’s first male sex symbol. Although he delivered hits galore, it wasn’t until "Satyakam" that his acting skills were acknowledged. Although in all fairness, watch him in one of my favourite films, "Bandini" playing second fiddle to Nutan, and you’ll agree he was more than just eye-candy. Eventually of course Dharmendra emerged an immensely successful action hero, and possibly the only hero could convincingly pull off such corny lines as "kutte, kamine main tera khoon pee jaoonga."
Vo: Muscular, macho and full of raw sex-appeal Dharmendra was the official celluloid hunk that Bollywood was missing. This man from Phagwara, Punjab was first noticed as the supporting romantic lead in a string of women oriented films like Anpadh, Surat aur Seerat and Bandini. The early 70s saw Dharmendra shift to the action genre with films like Phool aur Pathar, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Jugnu and Yaadon Ki Baraat. But it was in 1975 with Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Chupke Chupke and Ramesh Sippy's all time classic Sholay that the masses got to see the comedian in Dharmendra.
(amb up... suicide scene..)
Bite: Bite: Dharmendra "lagta tha hit hogi yeh film, lekin itni badi hit hogi, yeh nahi pata tha...kya tha..iska jo tana tha woh bahut mazboot that aur uske joh branches the usse bhi khoobsurat the... (amby up)
VO: Though the film was an action drama, Sholay is remembered as much for Veeru-Basanti's chemistry as it is for Jai-Veeru ki jodi...
Dharmendra :- " friendship ka apne anokha rang tha usme...isliye to jai veeru ki jodi hamesha yaad rahegi..(amb up)
Dharmendra's stint with action films continued till the late 80s even his infrequent stabs at comedy drew in the audience (NAUKHAR BIWI KA). But with love stories spelling success at the box-office from the 90s, the actor was relegated to B-grade potboilers. With over 200 films in a career spanning over 3 decades, Dharmendra remains the Marathon Man of Hindi film industry... catch him in the recent 'Metro' or 'Apne' and you'll see why...
In 1969, when Shakti Samanta’s "Aradhana" checked into cinemas, a star was born. He delivered eleven whopping hits in four years and became Hindi cinema’s first real superstar whose indisputable charm neither men nor women could resist. His electrifying screen presence made girls of all ages go weak in the knees, and boys of all ages imitated his eye-crinkling and head-shaking style. I’ve heard stories from my parents of how college girls threw themselves against his sportscar to catch a glimpse of the actor. The truth is, Rajesh Khanna’s unparalleled popularity lay not so much in the fact that he was a good actor, as it did in the fact that he was a charming actor.
No rise or fall of a star can be quite as dramatic as that of Rajesh Khanna, from 1969 to 1972 with 15 consecutive hits under his belt, Rajesh Khanna had cast his spell over Hindi showbusiness like no one else had. From Aradhana to Bawarchi, film after film swept the box office. There was nothing that could stop the Rajesh Khanna phenomena. But there was more to him than just his mannerisms as he built his romantic image..this was evident in his strong and sensitive performances in films like Safar, Khamoshi and Anand.
Anand was arguably Rajesh Khanna's best performance. As a man wanting to live life to the fullest before he dies, Anand was a character that brought the entire nation to tears. As his career peaked, even with a guest performance in 'Andaaz' Rajesh Khanna generated more hysetria than the film's main lead Shammi Kapoor. This 1971 film marked the end of Shammi's era... but five years later by 1977 Rajesh Khanna's career was also going downhill. In shor his romantic charm could not withstand the rise of the angry young man.
The loverboy-for-all seasons, Rishi Kapoor made his presence felt at a time when action films were the order of the day. Flashing that boyish smile, he made his way into the hearts of millions when he appeared as the affection-deprived teenager who falls for the fun-loving daughter of a fisherman in his father’s film "Bobby" in 1973. Twenty years old at the time of "Bobby’s" release, Rishi Kapoor considerably brought down the age of the Hindi film hero when that picture went on to become a runaway success. With one clean sweep, all clichés associated with the romantic hero were wiped out. Dilip Kumar’s pining hero, angst-ridden Guru Dutt were now images of the past. The carpet had been laid out for the baby-faced, rosy-lipped youngster whose only mission in a film was to win the girl. He didn’t need to have a job, he didn’t need to have ambition. All he had to do was sing and dance and woo the girl. And truth be told, nobody wooed the girl quite as well as Rishi Kapoor did. 23 new heroines were introduced opposite the actor in a career spanning 25 years. And of all the films that define this illustrious career I’ll pick "Karz" as my favourite in which he played a boy reincarnated to avenge his death in a previous life. Guitar in hand, disco shoes on, Rishi Kapoor belted out "Om Shanti Om" and a nation was spellbound.
Subhash Ghai :- .." i wrote a charcetr of Rishi Kapoor stronger than him, his image was bobby, he was a current star then, he was a good actor"
Ironically Rishi Kapoor had to struggle to convince his father Raj Kapoor to cast him as the hero in Bobby. Rishi's confidence paid-off, after his debut hit, he continued to court success with Raffoo Chakkar, Khel Khel Mein, Laila Majnu, Sargam - single handedly taking on the Angry Young Man in the 70s.
Rishi Kapoor:- and yes, my career took off when action films were the call of the day, i was the only odd one out, because i was working only in romantic films...romantice films were not the call of the day..
But one of the actor's favourite films remains Prem Rog - a film that broke away from his chocolate lover boy image, turning him into a crusader.
Rajeev Masand:- Rishi Kapoor..prem rog was one of my favourites, it was brilliantly written...its a lovestory about a young widow, and its a comment on the society, so these were a taboo to tackle in those days....After a brief lull, Rishi Kapoor bounced back in the late 80s and early 90s with performances in Chandini, Henna and Damini. Though his recent comeback with his first onscreen love Dimple Kapadia may not have worked at the box office (Pyaar mein twist footage)... it goes without saying that Rishi Kapoor remains one of Hindi cinema's most underrated actors.
Reflecting the disillusionment that had set in among the youth in the seventies, the country needed a new kind of hero. A hero who would take the law into his own hands, a hero would fight for what was right, a hero who would tear apart the system. Hindi cinema and India at large found that hero in Amitabh Bachchan who embodied the Angry Young Man in "Zanjeer, Deewar, Majboor, Trishul" and "Kaala Patthar".(Rajeev) For an actor whose booming baritone is considered his greatest strength, it’s indeed ironic that he was rejected for a job with All India Radio. When, on the request of his mother, actress Nargis pulled a few strings to get him a role in "Reshma Aur Shera", Bachchan landed the part of a mute, as the makers were unhappy with his voice. Talking of voice, watch my favourite Bachchan starrer "Agneepath" to see how he used his voice to give perspective and character to that role.
Nasreen Munni Kabir :- "he had a unique charisma, he had stirred the nation in way that no one else could..the previous generation we know had belonged to dilip kumar, dev anand, rajesh khanna, vinod khanna..but it was divided audience.....here was one man did everyhting..
The Angry Young Man image made Amitabh Bachchan a cult figure in the 70s and 80s... on the flip side he ran the risk of being straitjacketed into the 'vengeance driven Vijay' kind of roles. But Bachchan's versatility was unquestionable - films like Kabhi Kabhi, SilSila, Mili, Chupke Chupke & Abhimaan only proved the point and widened his appeal among the masses.
From Angry young man to Sexy Sam, Amitabh Bachchan seems to be aging like fine wine. With unconventional roles like the teacher who painfully distances himself from his love lorn blind student in Black or as the 60 something photographer in love with a teenager in Nishabd - the actor's charisma and range inspires filmmakers to take the road less travelled.
As the legend prepares to make his Hollywood debut with Johnny Depp in Shantaram, he reaffirms what his name stands for - Amitabh - the light that cannot be extinguished.
In the nineties, it was a return to romance. The Khan triumvirate announced their arrival in fairly conventional love stories, but eventually the films they starred in represented a shift in values, a change in audience’s tastes. Shah Rukh Khan’s "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" marked the birth of the reverse-rebel. Here was a hero who wouldn’t run off with his heroine without the blessings of her father, he’d stay, he’d win the old man’s heart and only then claim his trophy bride. In "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam", Salman Khan starred as the moping lover-boy whose girlfriend was escorted back to him by her husband. In the larger picture, Salman’s played it mostly safe, sticking to romantic films and madhatter comedies, Aamir’s gravitated towards socially responsible themes, and Shah Rukh emerged as India’s first successful anti-hero who tossed his girlfriend off the roof of a building… What the Khans had in common, was the fact that they managed to successfully tap an audience that was - until their arrival - ambivalent to most new-age Hindi films. This audience, the Non-Resident Indian audience returned to the cinemas en masse after "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" and now dictates not only how Hindi films are marketed, but also their content occasionally.
Towards the end of the eighties the romantic hero returned. He was now the rebellious loverboy. Aamir Khan as Raj, the chocolate-boy in the 1988 film "Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak" and Salman Khan as Prem, the boy next door in the 1989 film "Maine Pyaar Kiya" created an appetite for wholesome family entertainers.
Nasreen Munni Kabir.."It started with Aamir in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and then Maine Pyar Kiya with Salman and then you have SRK. So when these khans came in with SRK leading the way, it announced the gentification of the films and the audience. So you had the middle class coming back to the cinemas to see DDLJ.."
In 1995 came Raj. Not just the Indian, even the masses overseas were swept away by his charm. Shah Rukh Khan as the NRI unapologetic about the western influences and yet rooted in the values of the land gave NRIs a new respectability. Raj went on to become every Indian girl's dream man. But it was the manic, vengeful Ajay in Baazigar, stalker in Darr and spoilt, rich, demented lover in Anjaam that made the audience sit up and take notice of this Khan.
SRK:- .."my career would have been zilch, because somewhere not only did the films do well and make me commercially viable, what it gave me is a ceratin unpredictability as an actor...i still live off that unpredictabilty.."
If SRK's perfection lay in his unpredictabilty, it is Aamir Khan's ability to translate his character's believably onscreen that remains unmatched. Be it the nice guy of Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke or the mishcief maker in Andaaz Apna Apna; the treachorous ice candy man in 1947:Earth or the new-age rebel in Rang De Basanti Aamir's range of characterizations is unparalleled.
Today the Khans' clout over the box-office is unchallenged; together they've given the audience heroes who are incredible (SRK walking on a wall in Badshah) believable (Aamir crying in JoJeeta Wohi Sikandar) lovable (Salman in HAHK) loathsome (Aamir in Earth, betraying and smiling) All at once.
Seven years ago, in the year 2000 to be precise, every single one of us danced step-to-step with Hrithik Roshan in "Kaho Na Pyaar Hai" - some of us could only try. In many ways Hrithik Roshan and that film symbolized the spirit of the current generation in the way that "Bobby" and "Maine Pyar Kiya" did in previous years. Every single male in the country wanted to look like him and every single female wanted to marry him - he was as much the guy they wanted to spend a one-night stand with as he was the guy they wanted to take home to mummy. In 2006, Hrithik Roshan became India’s first superhero when he wrapped that cape around him and put on that mask in "Krrish". As far as I’m concerned he was as much the superhero in "Dhoom 2" which he pretty much saved single-handedly from its mediocre plot.
Though Hrithik had a dream debut in 2000, his chiseled looks and dyanamic screen presence couldn't save some of the mediocre projects he undertook post Kaho Na Pyaar Hai. (Wipe Left to Right of all the 6-7 posters of his flop films). But three years later just as his critics were writing him off as a one film wonder - Hrithik bounced back and how.
Hrithik Roshan..- Koi Mil gaya marks a very spl phase in my life. also as an actor, it felt i was acting for the first time
In 2004, Hrithik's coming of age act as -Karan Shregill in Lakshya was critically acclaimed. If the film didn't succeed at the box-office he needn't have worried... come 2006 and Roshan Junior played the lead in the 2 of the year's biggest blockbusters. And the message for this survivor is ringing loud and clear...