For a long period of time I was the impression that Bollywood (at that age cinema and Bollywood were synonymous to me) that heroes and villains were, respectively, good and bad people in real lives. It took me a lot to recover when I heard for the first time that Pran was one of the most generous donors as far as charitable and other missions are concerned, and even much later, when Sanjay Dutt got arrested for having illegal weapons at his place.
In short, I was under the impression that some men, good in real lives, always play roles of good characters. Others, not that respectable morally, always play evil ones.
Then, as I started watching old movies on Doordarshan the myth crushed considerably. Gabbar Singh was actually the second hero in Yaarana; Shaakaal was actually a hero or heroine's father, usually a retired colonel, almost always prone to heart attacks; and the Subedar from Mirch Masala (with a subsequently matched evil performance in Sarfarosh) was actually not a bad guy after all.
The biggest heartbreak came when Mogambo, THE Mogambo started playing hyperactive, yet honest, hard-working elderly men in films like Gardish, Pardes and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. What a shame, I thought, when he brought himself down to a comedian in Chachi 420... wasn't there a single person who remained loyal to the evil and kept on raping the hero's sister, take on a hero in a godown with brittle balcony railings and huge jars containing mysterious blue liquids and get bashed in the end, film after film? Why this sudden frenzy of playing the good?
There was one man, though, who kept strong through all the nonsense. Film after film he came, almost always played a drug-dealer or gold-smuggler of foreign origin (though I've seen him play a weird henchman who entered the scene after the goons of the lowest rank got flattened; uttered a lot of sounds before attacking but go down pretty easily). He was never allured by the sissy side of Bollywood - the Alok Naths and Reema Lagoos and their children who always seemed to stay together with their parents and in-laws and did puja every morning in a massive room with their father ringing the bell. He preferred to stick to massive gang conferences, usually headed by Amrish Puri in a spectacular room and featuring Tej Sapru, Dan Dhanoa, Sudhir and other stalwarts; or to being the star attraction of superhit songs like hawa hawaii; or to dark nights at ports anxiously awaiting sirens of police cars; or those mysterious godowns where heroines are tied to two pillars, one hand fixed with a white rope to each.
Bob Christo was the most loyal actor of the era. He was more evil than Alok Nath was good, and that is saying something. Supremely bald, muscles rippling all over a well-toned physique, Christo towered over other baddies of the industry in terms in terms of sheer number of movies he had played the evil. Even Tej Sapru played Jyothika's brother in Doli Sajaa ke Rakhna; even Sudhir stooped to being a police inspector in Raja Babu, Ikke pe Ikka and Raja and even the police commissioner in Ekka Raja Rani. But our man didn't budge. He wasn't even let down by the fact that Tom Alter's roles as a foreigner in Bollywood movies usually exceeded his - after all, Tom Alter often played the forgiving bishop or the helpful doctor, and there was nothing great about that.
But then I saw Gupt; he actually helped Bobby Deol to escape from jail, and got tracked and killed by Om Puri, the supercop. I was confused: did he play a good man, because he had helped the hero escape, or did he play the evil, given that he had helped a convict escape? I gave him the benefit of doubt - surely Bob Christo couldn't play the good? Surely it was way, way beneath him?
Then came Hum Tum pe Marte Hain, the only movie known to me that has dared to bring Govinda and Dimple Kapadia under the same credit roll. He actually played Urmila Matondkar's friend's uncle, an apparently honest, decent, very likeable man who had no role whatsoever in the movie other than travelling in a train. No guns, no daggers, no gold, no drugs, no nightclubs, no godowns, no ports, no molestations, no nothing - as ordinary as they've made them - why did they need Bob for this? Couldn't they have used someone with less panache, and kept his evil track record unblemished? But no, they won't - they did manage to lure him into doing something unthinkable.
Unknowingly, they also took away a part of my childhood that day.
BANNER CREDITS: RITUPARNA CHATTERJEE
A woman with the potential to make it big. It is not that she cannot: she simply will not.
PHOTO CREDITS: ANIESHA BRAHMA
The closest anyone has come to being an adopted daughter.