Tag Archives: Ashok Kumar

SRIDEVI – THE ART, THE CHARISMA (LAST PART)

(This blog is the second and last part of my eulogy on Sridevi who died in February. Before beginning to read the sequel, I suggest reading the first part here.)

In the previous blog, I gave tribute to Sridevi by highlighting some of her memorable roles/films. In this part, I am writing some segments about her prominence and recognition towards a successful career. I am focusing on some of the factors which made Sridevi one of the greatest stars ever produced in India. What makes us remember her for ages? I will do my best to give my observation a fair justice to her name and legacy.

ACTRESS ACCEPTED WITH HUMOUR

Generally, when it comes to comedy, you do not expect from women to take that stand as comedy has been widely a man’s profession from the black and white era till now. Notably, in the Indian cinema whose history now stretches to over a century, the comedian remains the comedian all his/her life and doesn’t take the centre stage to lead the film. The concept of hero/heroine in Indian cinema among the leading actors has been running for decades where the man is the lover, the fighter, and may add humour in some portion of his role but the Indian cinematic culture is so that it will be very odd to see the leading lady with the comic recipe.

Some actresses did pull a comic show in their careers but that was to a limit. The leading actresses would prefer to stay as the heroine of her hero in the entire film, dance with him, sing and romanticize the script. The humour part was for the supporting actors both male and female who may play a role in bringing the lovebirds closer. Anyhow, most of the scripts didn’t encourage the leading actress to be funny.

Sridevi is someone whose slapsticks went recognized and acceptable to the audience. The best examples are Chaalbaaz and Mr India. In the latter, Sridevi pulled a famous Charlie Chaplin sequence of almost eight minutes. I am mentally not going to accept if any leading actress could perform comedy that long in those times. She did set the standards among the leading actresses to perform comedy as the lead heroine of the film. The trend continued and was successfully followed by Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla and Karishma Kapoor.

NAGIN DANCE

This is one for the ages. Because there are a very few moments in the Indian cinema when the film topped the box office majorly because of one particular dance number.

Two years before Madhuri’s Ek Do Teen in Tezaab, Sridevi’s Main Teri Dushman in Nagina happened. Both were choreographed by Saroj Khan. Easily one of the most scintillating performances by the leading actress in any video song in any Indian film. Sridevi’s incredible and unparallel performance is the biggest reason why the main cobra theme of the song Main Teri Dushman became a blockbuster hit and is still remembered due to an obvious reason. From comedy to seriousness, Sridevi was a blessed talent. Forget what I wrote above about her comedic timing and performances because this number was completely opposite to the above mentioned.

Sridevi’s facial expressions and the rage on her round face with a display of large scary eyes graced the song. The striking of evil in her behind the closed doors seeks the attention. Her body language in the song cannot be explained, in simple words, there can be no challenge to the other leading actresses to do what she did. Her dancing confidence in the songs was always unmatched but here, she was sensational. Note the moment when she is called. She fixes her eyes on Amrish Puri and looks nowhere. She runs down the stairs in her dance without looking down. This is not so easy. Obviously, a plenty of rehearsals were done before the final shot but then I question to myself, how many takes did she perfect running down the stairs without looking down while dancing. 

FILM ICON IN AN UNFAMILIAR LANGUAGE

This point will recognize Sridevi’s legacy that it was constructed on her verbal intuition. This is an undeniable fact that Sridevi was from Tami Nadu and became the icon of the Indian film industry by working in Hindi-language films with a domination which is not the case with many of the leading actors in the Hindi cinema. And Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth cannot be included in this kind of achievement. They did enter Hindi cinema and worked in dozens of films but their legacy is limited to working in the films of non-Hindi language.

Her direct rival was Madhuri Dixit and she was a Maharashtrian. The only leading actress who shared the domination with her in the 80s was Jaya Prada. Sridevi maintained her remarkable stardom in Tamil and Telugu film industries for at least two decades during the period of entering in the Hindi language film industry.

Sridevi’s massive verbal acting struggle was so exhausting that she didn’t dub her voice in the early phase of her Hindi-films career. Yesteryear actress, Kumari Naaz, used to dub in many of her films for a decade. It is cruel that the Hindi voice used on Sridevi in her early career went so badly unrecognized. Rekha famously dubbed Sridevi’s voice in Akhree Raasta. Sridevi dubbed her own voice for the first time in Chandni. Imagine, many many Hindi hit films happened before Chandni. 

ACCEPTING CHALLENGING ROLES AT A YOUNG AGE

And when I say young age, I mean it. She was a child artist who began her career at the age of 4. But it was the Malayalam film, Poompatta, where she gave a promising display at the age of 8. That remarkable crying scene stretched to almost a couple of minutes was a proof that she was born to do wonders.

The same year, she gave another top performance in Tamil film, Babu, as the adopted daughter of Shivaji Ganesan. The scene where Shivaji recognizes the untidy girl, that facial and physical performance is almost impossible to expect from an 8-year-old artist.

At 13, Sridevi did the unthinkable. She played the role of the-then 25 yo Rajinikanth’s stepmother.

Sridevi in her early teen was accepting adult roles and sensitive scenes like a molesting sequence in Priya at 15. I really am not aware of how, for an extremely young girl, were such scenes allowed to be performed. In 16 Vayathinile, Sridevi played the central role of a 16-year-old schoolgirl who wishes to become a teacher but her life is stuck between the two lovers. Sridevi was 14 when she played this leading role between Kamal Hassan and Rajinikanth. At 18, Sridevi starred in Moondram Pirai and played the role of a girl who suffered retrograde amnesia after a car accident. Convincing to say that Sridevi had built a potential experience to enter the Hindi cinema.

A DEDICATED ACTRESS

Three of her career trivia confirms that she was an example of pure dedication and professional commitment.

Gumrah is the only collaboration of Mahesh Bhatt and Sridevi. And there is no surprise that Mahesh Bhatt did some work on her acting because Sridevi’s mental language and timing were spectacular in the film. But last month, Star Plus released Mahesh Bhatt’s emotional tribute to Sridevi when he was speaking to the contestants of the program, “India’s Next Superstars Ki Paathshaala“.

Mahesh Bhatt explained to the contestants how dedicated Sridevi was. Bhatt informed them that the shooting of Gumrah was in its final phase when they had to shoot a scene in the water which involved Sridevi. Producer Yash Johar confirmed to him that she had a 102 something fever. Bhatt suggested to cancel the shooting that day but Sridevi didn’t accept the suggestion and gave her confirmation that she will give the shot. After sharing this experience, Bhatt broke the news of her death to the contestants.

Lamhe was the second and last collaboration between Yash Chopra and Sridevi. But a tragedy occurred in Sridevi’s life when during the shooting of the film in London, she lost her father. She could have requested a deserving short break from the producer but she displayed nobility of her profession. She flew back to India to pay her final respects to her father and returned to work after only 16 days to shoot a comedy sequence. This was revealed in an interview with Yash Chopra.

Chaalbaaz is a very popular film of the 80s and the biggest reason for the popularity of this film is that one song which became a sensational hit, “Na Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hay“. The song was shot in a studio with artificial rain heavily pouring down. The video of this song itself is 7 minutes of the screen time which is pretty insane by coming to our knowledge that while shooting this song, Sridevi had a fever of 103 degrees. Now I am not aware if Sridevi still had a fever in the released video song but her dedication to the work is admirable that with that fever, she performed and danced in so many takes. It was the magic of ill Sridevi which helped the song gets its share of being an unforgettable track and awarded choreographer Saroj Khan a Filmfare for Best Choreography for this song.


Sridevi was one of the few actresses who collaborated and shared the screen with many notable leading male actors like Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Ashok Kumar, Rajinikanth, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Kamal Haasan, Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan, and a few more.

Famous Indian film director, Shekhar Kapur, confirmed that the sequel of Mr India was on the cards in his emotional tribute on his Instagram account.

Kamal Hassan confirmed in his tribute that he and Sridevi collaborated in a film 27 times together. Kamal-Sridevi pair was the centre of attraction in the Tamil cinema of the 70s.

Ram Gopal Verma, in his extensive tribute on his Facebook notes, made shocking revelations about her disturbed life. He detailed broadly about her sufferings including a tragic death of her father and how her husband helped her in her worst crises.

Sridevi broke in tears while sending a video message to her Pakistani co-stars Adnan Siddiqui and Sajal Ali while the film was premiered in India without them.

Annu Kapoor, in his tribute, spoke the incident in the making of Mr India that when Sridevi’s mother demanded 9 lac rupees for the film, Boney Kapoor responded with the offer of 11 lac rupees.

The latest Academy Award ceremony included Sridevi and Shashi Kapoor in the memorium montage. Sridevi won a posthumous National Award for the Best Actress for Mom.

Sridevi is an art, Sridevi is a charisma. Hindi cinema is incomplete without Sridevi. A leading actress in India will never get that recognition and acceptation like her. Nowadays, a leading actress on her domination in the industry cannot be expected to attempt slapsticks. The culture has changed, the dressing sense in Indian film industry has changed and today’s actress will not wear a saree for a shot. Sadma cannot be repeated, Mr India cannot be repeated. ‘Na Jane Kahan Se Ayi Hai’ cannot bring that magic and if anyone dared to, then the leading actress won’t dance with the fever of 103.

Sridevi is the name of devotion. She is the example of the coming generations of this line of the profession should learn from. Leaving her legacy behind and making millions of her fans miss forever, Sridevi will remain one of the most important wax sculpture of the cinematic museum of India. Thank you, Mr Boney Kapoor, for assisting and supporting her when she needed the most. Thank you, K. Raghavendra Rao, for believing in Sridevi and making her superstar. Your dream of collaborating with her for the 25th time couldn’t meet the destiny but Sridevi accepted the offer in advance by considering it as an honour during Mom’s press meeting in Hyderabad. Thank you late Yash Chopra for gifting us Bollywood’s Chandni.

My words won’t meet a perfect tribute no matter how much I try because your beauty, your essence, your panache, your phenomenon is indescribable.

 

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Book Review: The Substance and the Shadow (2014)

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 “I have consciously never oversold or overexposed myself to the audience. When I look back I feel it was quite risky to be starring in one film when other actors were busy with two or three films on the floors simultaneously. I determinedly decided to work in only one film at a time. It was simply my confidence in the subjects I chose and the hard work I was ready to put into them.”


I have always suspected and reckoned that the first half of the twentieth century has fetched more gripping and compulsive stories than the second half due to the time being disturbing and chaos in its nature. Many wars were fought and casualties were witnessed and suffered. The outcome was painful for ages. The pride of Hindustan collapsed with the partition and communal riots in the result with many tragic stories to bargain some piece of time in the future. One of the same stories met golden fortune of the Hindi film industry which was still in the development process from leapfrog. In this millennium, we are extremely fortunate and blessed that the story has finally been inked from his own hands and met a huge success after its publication.

Dilip Kumar sahab is the epitome and the real shamma-e-Bollywood. His presence is the magnitude and the real red carpet, whose footsteps to the industry brought a new attention in the golden era and produced many memorable films. In my reading experience, it is convincingly confessable that before browsing this book, I knew the legend merely by 20% through his films; but after reading his twenty-five chapters, I must declare that I know the man by 75% and with the reading section of ‘Reminiscence’ where forty-three individuals have paid respect and shared incidents attached to him, I have to avow that the percentage of knowledge I have gained has stretched to 80%. The rest stays with his personal life with his best half, Saira Banu.

Being the greatest actor of India for all ages and generations, it was highly in demand and everyone’s desire to know him in his own speech. Although it took an age to decide him to speak up, the blessed part is that the biggest promise in reading the book actually fruit our patience.

The book is easily parted into three sections. The first section is being the formality of book introduction and forward. Saira Banu, Dilip sahab‘s superlative blessing has done the honors of introduction by touching some memorable moments of her life with him and confessed that she should write a book about her life with him. Film journalist Udaya Tara Nayar has forwarded the book. She has the credit to compile and shape the book and narrate his autobiography. Ms. Nayar has explained in her pages how Dilip sahab finally made his mind write this book.

The second section is the reader’s borrowed time to enrich his understanding with the chronicles and memoirs of the legend consisting of 25 chapters. The third and last section is the tribute to Dilip sahab inked by many personalities which stretch to more than a hundred pages.

The first four chapters cover his childhood. His first years of life in the area of Qissa Khawani Bazaar, the Piccadilly of Central Asia located in Peshawar, the-then part of British India and current city of Pakistan. We must praise the author that such an individual has the sharpest memory at such an old age to describe us the toughest circumstances when he came out from the mother’s womb. Whatever the details his family explained is still stored with him and is now read to us.

The childhood chapters discuss his family specifically his dadi and his parents to whom he call amma and aghaji. By the fourth chapter, he mentions aghaji‘s Hindu friends in the same area; one of them was Basheswarnathji who used to bring his handsome son at their home stunning the ladies whose name was Prithviraj. Yes, Prithviraj! Father of Raj Kapoor and from here begins a childhood friendship between the upcoming iconic superstars of the golden era. Also in this chapter, Dilip sahab moves with his siblings and amma to reunite with father in Bombay where aghaji meets business opportunities in fruit-selling.

When we learn his teens, we go aggressive like him. We read his lovely bonding with his brothers, his affection and keenness with the English literature, his school and college life especially the latter life inking more pages on his restoring of friendship with Raj Kapoor as both studied in the same college. We experience his struggles and his attempt of settling alone in Poona (Pune) while running away from home after a mild disagreement with his father. His days in Poona are an interesting read with many troubling and funny incidents there.


“I had never ever seen a film studio in my life, not even in photographs. I had heard of Bombay Talkies from Raj Kapoor who spoke about it as the studio where films starring his father Prithvirajji were shot.”


The making of legacy begins in the eighth chapter when the first lady of the Indian cinema, Devika Rani, a Bombay Talkies panjandrum, proffers him to join Bombay Talkies in their first meeting and learn acting under the guidance of the company. As we have read enough of Dilip sahab till his twenties till this moment, we emotionally begin sensing a change in fate, a blow of breeze in the alfresco. Here comes the learning process in Dilip sahab‘s acting life as the amateur encounters many significant and notable film personalities.

Those filmgoers who have watched his earliest works of the 40s will observe that he was pretty a bungle ‘layman’ in acting profession in films like Jwar Bhata and Jugnu but his skills developed rapidly from Shaheed, Mela, and Andaz. The same exercise is developed in these initial pages of the career beginning chapters from a keen learner who realized his fate was written to become a film star and aid his ever-growing family financially and raise his siblings with proper life standard and reputed education after the parents’ demise.

No great celebrity in any part of the world can cross the phases of life without tragic moments. From the eleventh chapter, we read and grow commiserations for him as he begins meeting tragedies in life. Some forlorn moments, inefficacious love affairs and devastating episodes of quietus led by playing repeated sorrowful and gloomy characters produce upsets, sickness, and exhaustion in mental state enough to consult a psychiatrist in London who suggests bringing a change in the mood of character roles he plays in his career. During all this phase, there is a separate chapter on the beautiful but complicated Madhubala for obvious reasons. In this book, Dilip sahab responds the questions revolving around decades about the involvement of Madhubala in his personal/professional life.

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“I…became aware that an actor needed to strengthen his instincts because the duality between the real and unreal cannot be sorted out by the mind, which is more concerned with truth and logic in any normal situation. The mind will always tell you this is nonsense… It is only instinct that will help you to absorb what you have to absorb from the script and drive you to render a performance coated with realism and conviction despite the knowledge of it all being fiction and drama.”


 

Also, he has detailed in pages about his working relation and camaraderie with few prominent celebrities like Vyjayanthimala, Sashadhar Mukherjee, Ashok Kumar, Bimal Roy and many more. His acting pages will also annex to our knowledge the offered films he refused for some reasons but to my huge surprise, in fact, a shock, he didn’t shed light on David Lean‘s offer for the role in Lawrence of Arabia which went to Omar Sharif later. Remind me if I happen to miss but there is no precise detail of the famous offer-refusing moment. Hilariously, Dilip sahab has mentioned Lean’s Doctor Zhivago as the story inspiring his writing Kashmir Valley on his wife, a project he wanted to produce after Bairaag. Indeed it is the biggest omission in the book.

It is more than half of the book-reading when his best half, his dream girl Saira Banu shows up; a girl who madly fell in love with him when she was only twelve. From the seventeenth chapter, the reader’s most romantic portion comes to existence after all the troubles and struggles, and there is a sweet fascination of reading this golden love affair. The whole nineteenth chapter covers their high-profile wedding and the coming chapters tell you more about their marital life and the films they co-starred together.


“I do not know if it is in my genes or if it is something I have assimilated from the environment I was brought up in. It gives me great contentment and joy to espouse a good cause.”


In the last reading phase, I lose an edge when the timeline crosses like a rocket. Dilip sahab travels from birth till finishing Bairaag in 1976 after reading 238 pages and 22 chapters; but in final three chapters and 45 pages, Dilip sahab travel 38 years and reach 2014!! The biggest ‘?’ is why not fetch more details between 1976 and 2014. In the final three chapters, he did speak about his role as Sheriff of Bombay and lawsuit slapped by A.R.Kardar, he did speak about his comeback in the 80s and working in major films like Shakti, Vidhaata, Mashaal and later on Saudagar but my argument is that heavy detailing was badly missed just like he wrote few of the chronicles in first 22 chapters at length. In fact, he spoke more about Raaj Kumar than Saudagar.

Same case with his two tours of Pakistan (1988 & 1998); on both occasions, he didn’t go for lengthy details. Both tours were emotionally monumental, the first was his grand return to Peshawar after his childhood days; and the second time he visited, he was awarded Nishan-e-Imtiaz.

Due to short details in final three chapters, he didn’t speak about his friendship with filmmaker and mobster Haji Mastan. More than this, the major surprise was not mentioning about Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993. Although he has mentioned most of his films he has worked in but wrote not a single word of his final film Qila. Perhaps he realized it was a regret to retire after finishing Qila rather than Saudagar. But remarkably he did speak about his biggest regret of getting involved in the lady from Hyderabad, Asma Rehman.

The newest incident from the book was Lataji‘s visit to Dilip sahab few months before the book released in the mid of 2014 which indicates that he was active in completing the memoir in his nineties. The Substance and The Shadow easily is one of the most important books in Bollywood’s richest library and showcase. Someday in late future, I may read the book again with the same enthusiasm as I discovered a lot of treasure from his box. Many great legends and prominent celebrities of his time have left the world but he is still there and we hope he stays further long and may we witness him completing his century.

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Chapters:

Childhood (Ch#1 – Ch#4)

Younghood till Devika Rani’s Offer (Ch#5 – Ch#8)

Film Career till Marriage (Ch#9 – Ch#19)

Post Marriage Career till Present (Ch#20 – End)

 

About Personalities:

Ch#05 – Raj Kapoor

Ch#08 – Devika Rani

Ch#09 – Ashok Kumar, Sashadhar Mukherjee

Ch#10 – Ashok Kumar, Raj Kapoor

Ch#11 – Kamini Kaushal, Naushad, Mehboob Khan, Nitin Bose

Ch#12 – Madhubala, S. M. Sriramulu Naidu

Ch#13 – Madhubala

Ch#14 – Bimal Roy, Vyjayanthimala, S. S. Vasan, B.R.Chopra, Yash Chopra

Ch#17 – Saira Banu (till the end)

Ch#20 – Pran, Mukri, S.U. Sunny

Ch#24 – Subhash Ghai

Ch#25 – Lata Mangeshkar, Yash Chopra

(There are few personalities I have missed adding here who are mentioned in the book.)

 

About Films:

Ch#09 – Jwar Bhata

Ch#11 – Shaheed, Milan

Ch#12 – Azaad

Ch#14 – Devdas, Madhumati, Gunga Jumna, Paigham

Ch#16 – Gunga Jumna

Ch#22 – Gopi, Sagina

Ch#24 – Kranti, Shakti, Saudagar

Ch#25 – Mashaal

(There are few films I have missed adding here which are mentioned in the book.)

 

Important Deaths:

Ch#11 – Ayub (brother) & Amma (mother)

Ch#15 – Aghaji (father)

Ch#25 – Nasir (brother)

 

Best Reminiscences:

(I have picked 23 best tributes out of 43 chosen individuals.)

Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Moin Beg, Yash Chopra, Farida Dadi, Dharmendra, Sitara Devi, Subhash Ghai, Rishi Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Aamir Khan, Salim Khan, Manoj Kumar, Mumtaz, Lata Mangeshkar, Nanda, Nimmi, Waheeda Rehman, Harish Salve, Salim Sharifee, Ramesh Sippy, Sharmila Tagore, and Vyjayanthimala.

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