The term may irk Amitabh Bachchhan, but Bollywood is the name. “Indian Hindi Film Industry“ sounds alien, though it may be more appropriate. But the plan today is not to discuss the appellation which is a poor cousin of America’s Hollywood. What I intend to write about is something which remains evergreen in Bollywood, inspite of being time tested, re-enacted and metamorphosized.
1. ‘Ma’ – The pristine, sacrificing ‘Ma’ of Bollywood is the epitome of goodness, simplicity and truth. The omnipresent ‘Ma’ clad in spotless white saree (even if she works in a construction site) is a fixture in Hindi movies. I feel that Nirupa Roy, who assayed the role of ‘Ma’ hundreds of time over with perennially running eyes, is the most popular Bollywood ‘Ma’. She has her image postered as the mother of Amitabh Bachchhan (in Deewar, Amar Akbar Anthony, Mard, etc.) and I wonder if even Teji Bachchhan can change that. ‘Ma’ served all the food to her kids, and smiled with tears running down her cheeks when she realized that there is no food left for her. If Durga Khote represented the aged, senile mother who recognised her son even when he is reborn, then Lalita Pawar was the one of the most sought after yet dreaded over-possessive mother who could never accept her son falling in love with any other woman. Among the versatile ‘Ma’s, the names of Zohra Sehgal, Dina Pathak and Kiron Kherr are worth-mentioning. In the later years, Nirupa Roy was very successfully replaced by an equally teary-eyed Rakhee and an equally, if not more, mushy Reema Lagoo.
2. ‘Ramu Kaka’ – The ‘Ramu Kaka’ is not only a valet. He is our unshakeable link to the values like honesty, faithfulness and servitude. If the parents died in a road accident or are not around for other reasons, then he would feed the child like a mother, and would offer his back for the kid to ride upon like a father would. Where ‘Ramu Kaka’‘s native place is, who are the members of his family, are questions that remain unanswered to this day. ‘Ramu Kaka’ blended into the background, with a steel glass on his old hands and a red cleaning cloth on his shoulders. He is a member of the extended family, and if he is hurt, then everyone in the family is hurt. As the typical Bollywood family gravitated from huge, happy, noisy joint families to slick, nuclear ones, the ‘Ramu Kaka’s began to become scarce. But nevertheless, this self exile from happy coexistence to self-sufficient islands of solitude has not exactly served to erase the image of ‘Ramu Kaka’ from our minds.
3.‘Doctor Sahab’ – Think, what would the epic ‘Anand’ be without the serious-minded Dr. Bhaskar (played by a lean, mean Amitabh Bachchhan)? But Dr. Bhaskar was an aberrant rather than the stereotype. The ‘Doctor Sahab’ of our films was invariably bespectacled, with a stethoscope hung around his neck and a brown briefcase clutched to his hands. He touched the radial pulse and made the diagnosis. With his predictable monotonous voice, he could rattle out the degree of temperature in a febrile patient without having to use a thermometer, could give ‘injections’ in a nano-second, operate without gloves in a dimly lit operation theatre and whenever he came out of the OT, he invariably said either of the two things - ‘मरीज़ को दवा की नही दुआ की ज़रूरत है’ or ‘मुबारक हो! बेटा हुआ है’. ‘Doctor Sahab’ did not demand any visiting fee, usually drove a Premier Padmini of nondescript colour, always wore a brown blazer and was never in a hurry. Cut to the present and you see state-of-the-art hospitals in movies like the ‘3 Idiots’ (also a movie where engineers aid in the process of labour!). Our ‘Doctor Sahab’ was a simple, multitalented guy with the acumen to take care of anything from ‘brain tumour’ to ‘खट्टा खाने का मन कर रहा हैं’.
4. ‘Lalaji‘ – Well, Bollywood ‘Lalaji’ were lecherous, loud, dhoti-clad money lenders who did not have an iota of humanity in them. They lent money and mortgaged the land of the poor families, demanded exorbitant interest rates and at times made the poor women pawn their jewelleries (including the pious Mangalsutra). At times, if not often, they took ‘’’advantage’ of young widows (which is usually referred to as ‘हैवानियत की हद पार’). These category of money-lenders had the red juice of paan (betel leaves) drooling at the angles of their mouths, had stained black teeth, always wore a topi (Indian hat) and had an honest Munimji (clerk) at his payroll.
5. ‘Wafaadar Kutta’ – I know, I know. I must apologise to the dog-lovers for calling a dog a dog. For they are supposed to be better than humans. Coming to the point, there are quite a few Hindi flicks where the dog has made significant contribution to the storyline. What would ‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun’ be without Tuffy? Tuffy could umpire a cricket match (Dickie Bird, move over!) in addition to carrying out various other errands. In ‘Teri Meherbaniya’, Jackie Shroff’s dog Brownie avenges his master’s death. In recent times, ‘Chillar Party’, an award-winning film, had a storyline which was woven around the dog Bhidu. ‘Wafaadar Kutta’ is not a mute, brute, salivating canine; rather, he is a confidante, a true friend.
So, as I unwillingly come to the end (as many other characters from the background cry for attention), I find myself missing these stereotypes from the current crop of suave, sophisticated movies. I see the glam-moms now and long for the ‘Ma’ who died for the want of the ‘bottle’ of medicine with cost a mere ten rupees. I watch the efficient safari-suit clad assistant who makes the hero’s life easy and find myself pinning for ‘Ramu kaka’ who took care of the hero as a child (उंगली पकड़ के चलना सिखाया). Alas! There is no ‘Lalaji’ to lend money; the multinational banks with techno-savvy CEOs have taken over. ‘Doctor Sahab’ has vanished too. And as for the ‘Wafaadar kutta’, well, there is still some hope. Ask Akshay Kumar who has worked with dogs for his upcoming film ‘Entertainment’.
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