Saturday, December 14, 2013

Little demons: A tribute

Disclaimer: All images are nicked from the internet (some of them are stills captured from YouTube). Do let me know if there is a copyright issue, and I will remove them; just do not arrest me. The facts have also been obtained from various sources. Even then, a special thanks to Abhimanyu Mukherjee for his help in this.

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They have always been there. They have made you cringe, they have made you squirm, they have made you laugh out loud (often with their so-bad-that-it's-good performances), and have got bashed by the men who perhaps wouldn't stand a chance in a hand-to-hand tussle with them in real life.

And yet, they have never hogged the limelight the way the Prans, the Helens, the Bindus, the Amjad Khans, the Amrish Puris, the Prem Chopras, the Ajeets, the Aruna Iranis, or the Shakti Kapoors have done. They have been hurled out of fragile balconies in godowns; they have the hero and smashed a rod to smash huge glass containers full of blue liquid to pieces; they have performed cabarets; they have tortured pious heroines and seduced innocent heroes; and have manipulated minds of the members of perfectly functional families.

These are the people no one talk about. The forgotten names. The villains' sidekicks of Bollywood. Men who have tried to loot the izzats of respectable women and have got bashed up in the process; small-scale smugglers who have got killed at docks; sex sirens who have lured perfectly honest men to commit terrible crimes; and goons who attack the hero (one by one, never together), only to be shredded into ribbons.

The list also doesn't consist of the names of the ones on a slightly lesser platform than the illustrious ones mentioned above. That means there is no space for the likes of Jeevan, Shashikala, Lalita Pawar, Kiran Kumar, Mukesh Rishi, Mukesh Tiwari, Yashpal Sharma, or Mohnish Behl. No. This is a place for the ones the audience has missed out over the years.

With the concept of villains vanishing from Bollywood there is little scope that we would witness get to see more of these men. Gone are the days of dons wielding lighters that looked like guns and VAT-69 bottles. The industry has taken to the nonsensical realm of gray characters.

Note: Rami Reddy doesn't make the cut either, having already been inducted into my personal Hall of Fame.

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Let me get the dedication bit out of the way first. We have all seen Major Anand and Bihari in one of the most iconic scenes of Bollywood, but have seldom bothered to find out their names. While Major Anand has gone on to play the Police Commissioner in Dharmatma (the movie for which Danny Denzongpa had famously turned down the role of Gabbar Singh), Bihari has acted in Don, Dream Girl, and Andaaz.

Major Anand (left) and Bihari: I'm not sure, but the guy on the left looks more of a Major
The world generally remembers Ajit Vachani as Mohnish Bahl's greedy father from Maine Pyar Kiya, but few people remember him as Teja from Mr India or the evil lawyer from Tridev who framed Sunny Deol on the verdict of, all people, Rajesh Vivek. And, of course, who doesn't remember him from Kyo Kii... Main Jhuth Nahin Bolta?

The owner of probably the reddest face Bollywood has ever seen, Vachani had passed away a decade back without the nation realising, let alone mourning.

The reddest face Bollywood had
Remember Debu from Ram Lakhan? The man who represented that batch of young NRIs who were projected in Bollywood as morons who wanted to marry the heroine and invariably got a thrashing in the hands of the Indian hero?

It had taken me some time to find out that the man goes by the name of Anand Balraj. He later went on to play Monty in Sailaab and Neeraj in Jamai Raja, and - here comes the most awesome bit of information - has directed a movie called Daal Mein Kuch Kaala Hai starring Veena Malik.

NRI = moron
Anant Jog has the most forgettable of faces: there is a high probability that you may bounce into him ten times a day and still not recognise him. He will probably have a heart attack if you find his face familiar and called him by his name. If anonymity had been a category Jog might have won quite a few Filmfare Awards.

One of the more consistent corrupt ministers of the industry, Jog had played the role to perfection in Chaahat, Ghaav, Risk, and Singham - though the most potent of this obviously came in his helpless appearance in Rowdy Rathore. He has also adorned the khaki on multiple occasions - playing the full range from Commissioner to constable.

His magnum opus, of course, came in Sarkar, where he played the Police Commissioner who didn't care a thing about Amitabh Bachchan (no less).

The most forgettable face
If you want to make a Bollywood movie based in a village and are in desperate search for a moderate actor who would fit into any role you want - especially a villainous one - you should perhaps place your money on Anupam Shyam.

For many directors Shyam has been the face of rural India. The big guns have kept on changing, but Shyam has kept on blessing the screen with his ubiquitous presence. He might have been a bigger name had his career taken off in the 20th century, when gaaon ki goris and Thakurs were in vogue. He would probably have given the entire support cast of Sholay a run for their money.

Shyam's significant roles include Bawandar, LagaanShakthi, Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi, Halla Bol, Slumdog Millionaire, and Well Done Abba!. His peak probably came when he (and Rana Jung Bahadur) formed a seemingly invincible political gathbandhan with Amrish Puri in Nayak.

The face of rural India
Fans of 1970s Bollywood probably remember Asha Sachdev mostly for her performance in Agent Vinod, but many an honest person's ideology on screen went for a toss when she went on a seduction spree. Do not forget the vengeful Rita in Mehbooba or the sensuous Lily of Double Cross and many a woman of questionable repute in umpteen movies. On a side note, she was also pitted against Shakti Kapoor in Satte Pe Satta.

The Agent Vinod girl
It would be terribly unfair to leave out Karan Arjun's intimidating Suraj Singh from the list. Be it Nirmal Pandey's brother in Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya or the blink-and-you-miss eve-teaser from Zulm-o-Sitam, Aashif Sheikh had done it all with impossible ease - or, rather, as he himself would have snorted and said, "What a joke!"

Also, as Arnab has pointed out, Aashif Sheikh had one of the most popular songs of the 1990s picturised on him.

PS: Does anyone remember him as Sohail Khan's elder brother in I: Proud To Be An Indian?

What a joke!
Robert John 'Bob' Christo was a civil engineer from Sydney who turned out to be possibly the most typecast actor in the history of Bollywood. He played Mr Wolcott in Mr India (for whom Mogambo, no less, had organised a jashn where 'Hawa Hawaii' was performed); a foreign gold smuggler in Toofan; the cringe-worthy cop in Gumrah; and plenty of other movies where he played the (foreigner or Anglo-Indian) henchman for the main antagonist (and was almost invariably named Bob).

He almost pulled off a career full of evil roles till I saw him portray a perfectly innocent uncle of Urmila Matondkar's friend in Hum Tum Pe Marte Hain.

However, Christo's greatest claim to fame is probably the fact that it was he who had first mouthed the words "hum jahaan khade hote hain, line wahin se shuru hoti hai" in Kaalia in his killer accent.

The man whose line Amitabh Bachchan nicked
I had got to know Brij Mohan's name from Diptakirti. The contract killer of Qayamat se Qayamat tak, the goon of Suhaag and Pehchaan, and the person who eve-teased Tanuja (no, there is not typo here) in Aatish had saved his greatest performance for Shiva.

With Danny Denzongpa having six brothers in Ghatak Rajkumar Santoshi had decided to rope in Brij Mohan as one of them. Some of the other brothers also feature on this page.

The Satya man
Dan Dhanoa was one of those heavyweight beginners in Bollywood, playing the main villain on debut in Mard. It was a surreal performance where Dan, a British (why?), enslaved Indians, made them work to hell, and when they could not work any more, drew blood from their arteries till they were dead. In other words, Danny Dyer was as bad as it could have been. Mind you, he led the 'other side' despite Prem Chopra's presence.

Whatever followed after that had to be an anticlimax, though he played the legendary Tej Sapru's younger brother in Tridev and pulled off scary performances in VirodhiVishwatma, and Phool Aur Kaante.

The evil Danny Dyer
It is difficult to choose any one performance of Deepak Shirke from what seems to be a thousand. Anna Shetty from Agneepath? The father of the trinity in Hum? Pralaynath Gundaswamy (who Raaj Kumar affectionately referred to as Gendaswamy: courtesy Debasish Chowdhury) in Tirangaa? Tandiya in Loha? Maybe the innocent, anticlimactic Mama from Ferrari ki Sawaari? Or will it be the terrifying Mangesh Chhilkey from Ek Chalis ki Last Local?

In the end, I guess it should go to Bachchu Bhigona in Gunda - for the simple reason that nothing beats Gunda. Shirke seemed completely at ease despite the ensemble cast, and pulled off a terrific performance.


Deep Dhillon had leaped into prominence as Jayadrath in BR Chopra's Mahabharat. He played cameos in Mr India and Maine Pyar Kiya, but finally came into prominence in the action-packed decade of the 1990s.

One might be tempted to think that his role as Antya (yet another Danny brother from Ghatak) was his zenith, but Deepak Shivdasani surpassed all expectations by casting him as the main villain in Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke.

Jayadrath!
Few people have been bashed up in Bollywood as consistently as Gavin Packard (no, he did not help found HP). The master of blink-and-miss roles, Packard was seldom seen a in a movie for more than five minutes and almost never got away without being beaten to pulp. His most memorable role had probably come in Sadak.

The strangest incident happened in Aankhen where Govinda had managed to convince Shakti Kapoor that he had shot Govinda when he had actually shot Packard. Given the physique of Govinda and Packard this ranks among the best examples of duping a person in the history of Bollywood.

The person who had been the inspiration behind Sanjay Dutt building up his muscles and had also trained Sunil Shetty's physical trainer; unfortunately, he passed away in 2012.


Few people would have dared to accept a role in a movie called Tamboo Mein Bamboo, but you can expect such eccentricities from Gurbachan Singh. Like many others mentioned in this article Gurbachan has had a plethora of one-minute performances. In fact, despite his longevity in the industry, the entire on-screen appearance of his career put together might be less than the duration of movies like Lagaan.

Gurbachan, however, has managed to be a part of several Amitabh Bachchan starrers like Roti Kapada Aur Makaan, Mr Natwarlal, Do Aur Do Paanch, Desh Premee, Mahaan, Pukar, Sharaabi, Ajooba, and Yaar Meri Zindagi. Of course, nobody can forget Mr Zorro from Mr India.

The king of bits-and-misses
Hercules is Sobisco (or Zobisco, or Zybysko, or whatever); and Sobisco is Hercules. If you watch someone in a classic like Amar Akbar Anthony it is almost impossible to erase him from your memory. And yet, Manmohan Desai has managed to cast him in a memorable role yet again by using him in another blockbuster - Dharam Veer. The man must have been something, after all.

The mascot of Manmohan Desai
Ishrat Ali will be remembered forever in the history of cinema for his portrayal of Lambu Aata in Gunda (his selection was kind of obvious after his spectacular performance in Loha). He has also played the mysterious Rakabh Ali in Aa Gale Lag Jaa, a movie that released with the tagline "The Only Movie with 9 Songs and 11 Murders" (or was it the other way round?). And, of course, who can forget Tau from Judwaa?

Maut ka Chnata
Jack Gaud was, of course, Amrish Puri's son in Karan Arjun. An ex-Navy Officer, he played cameos in BetaSuhaag, and Khuddar before finally finding his groove in Rakesh Roshan's magnum opus, which made him an automatic choice for Koyla. Unfortunately, Gaud passed away in 2000 of a heart-attack.

Maut ka chnata!
Jeetu Verma had sprung into prominence with his role as Vinod Khanna's cool henchman in Deewaanapan. That single performance pulled him out of the obscurity of Sapoot (remember the guy responsible for the suicide of the sister of Akshay Kumar and Sunil Shetty?), Auzaar, and Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan. His career, however, seemed to meander towards a nothingness till the Thakur in Bol Bachchan happened. One can hope that there will be no looking back from here.

Remember the silent rogue from Deewaanapan?
If you have seen Kudrat you couldn't have helped humming "chhodo sanam". Kishore Kumar and Annette Pinto singing to Rahul Dev Burman's amazing tune tends to linger way after the movie gets over. And despite the presence of Vinod Khanna and Hema Malini, whenever you think of the song the first picture that comes in front of your eyes is that of the sizzling woman setting the stage on fire.

Had she started off a decade or so back Kalpana Iyer might have given a lot of women a run for their money. Even then, she fitted in perfectly in the era of disco, making one-off appearances in 'item songs', especially in peppy cabaret numbers, the most famous among which was 'Hari om Hari' from Pyara Dushman and 'koi yahaan, aaha nache nache' from Disco Dancer.

And then, there's that gruesome jailor in Anjaam that you would love, love, love to hate.

The queen of hit songs
If Iyer did it in Kudrat and Helen did it in Sholay, Laxmi Chhaya pulled it off easily in Mera Gaon Mera Desh. In an excellent movie that is considered by many as the 'original Sholay' Laxmi Chhaya in 'maar diya jaaye' is still worth a looped view on YouTube - as is 'jaan pehchan ho' that opens Gumnaam.

The highest point of her career came when she was cast against Amitabh Bachchan in Mukul Dutt's Raaste ka Patthar (an almost frame-by-frame copy of Billy Wilder's The Apartment). Other than that, just like Iyer, she specialised at playing either a dancer or the villain's moll.

Sizzling, ravishing, evil
One of my favourite Sholay quizzes is "What were the two lines Mac Mohan said in the movie?" Other than the iconic line the only other time he spoke was when he was playing cards with a dacoit called Janga, and uttered "chal be Janga, cheedi ki raani hai". Soon afterwards, Sachin was murdered.

Makijany 'Mac' Mohan had arrived in Bombay to become a cricketer. He turned up being an actor who refused to watch Sholay because of his limited role; today most people remember him as Sambha; even in Luck by Chance (where he played himself) he had to utter his most famous line.

For whatever reason he used to be credited as Brij Mohan in some of his earlier movies. The characters he played were rather imaginatively named (for example, Mac Mohan in Akhri Inteqam and Uljhan, Jagmohan in Shaan, and Mac in about twenty movies).

A common error is the idea that Mac Mohan's career had really taken off with Sholay. He had, in fact, played one of the earliest male strippers in the history of Bollywood in this song from Aao Pyaar Karein (do note Sanjeev Kumar in the background; things changed by the time Sholay had happened).

Oh, did I mention that Mac Mohan was (unfortunately, we have to use the past tense here) the maternal uncle of Raveena Tandon?

₹ 50,000
Few people have struck me as villainous on first sighting as Mahavir Shah. It was hatred at first sight. The moment I cast my eyes on him for the first time I knew he could not be a good person, and he has almost always lived up to that hypothesis.

He had played seriously evil characters in movies like 100 DaysYes BossPhir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, and umpteen other movies. In fact, he often looked so gruesome that when he played the honest inspector in Judwaa I kept on suspecting that there was a catch somewhere. Even after he was murdered.

Those eyes. Those eerie eyes.
I first noticed Mahesh Anand collecting hafta in Shahenshah. Then I spotted him in Toofan as Zaalim Singh (few names have been as self-explanatory). He was challenged on the streets by Amitabh Bachchan in Akayla, and was a goon who worked for Gulshan Grover in Sir. He was also the person whom the impostor Govinda impersonated in Coolie No. 1.

A taekwondo champion, Anand's greatest moment possibly came in the song 'reshmi zulfen' in Amitabh Bachchan's Indrajeet. Nothing, absolutely nothing can beat a dance that pits Mahesh Anand against a sensuous Guddi Maruti. Do have a look. It's worth a thousand views.

Input from Megha: Mahesh Anand had made his debut in Karishma. He even had this RD Burman gem picturised on him. The movie apparently has the phrase 'introducing Mahesh Anand' in its titles.

Impersonated by Govinda
Subhash Ghai was perhaps the first to spot Manik Irani and use him to the fullest in Kalicharan and Vishwanath on opposite sides of the law. He also played henchmen in TrishulShaan, Nastik, Hero, and Mard, but never lived up to the promise he had shown in the early Subhash Ghai movies.

He obtained the rather singular name of Marconi in Ram-Avatar, and also played the haiwaan in Ramsay Brothers' iconic Purani Haveli.

Subhash Ghai's man
Like Laxmi Chhaya, Manmohan also opened Gumnaam with 'jaan pehchan ho'. He started off as a petty pickpocket in Brahmachari and an opposition soldier in Prem Pujari, but he in the 1970s he was catapulted into stardom as one of the leading villains of the industry.

When Manmohan was at his peak directors like Shakti Samanta, Manoj Kumar, or Bhappi Sonie would simply not agree to make films without him (his most famous role possibly came in Aradhana). One of the most hated faces in the history of industry, it was sad that Manmohan's career faded out with the emergence of the likes of Prem Chopra and Amjad Khan, both of whom arrived with mega-hits.

The pre-1975 demon
Born Erin Isaac Daniels in Lahore, Manorama had arrived in India during partition. In a career that spanned eighty years on both sides of the border Manorama was perhaps most renowned for her portrayal as the loathsome Kaushalya in Seeta Aur Geeta and Maharani Kalawati in Rajkumar.

She stole the show with her cameo in Naya Din Nai Raat, but her forte was the truant aunt, mother-in-law, or stepmother. She was seen as late as in Deepa Mehta's Water.

Evil. Pure evil.
As a child I used to be terrified of the sight of MB Shetty on screen. The very sight of Shetty as Martin the butcher with an ominous-looking cleaver in hand in a cold storage amidst chunks of meat was terrifying. There was a reason that I usually freeze whenever I watch that scene from The Great Gambler.

And yet it was not his acting that made Shetty a legend. One of the most popular fight-directors in Bollywood, Shetty was the top choice for most movies that involved an iota of action or stunts, especially in the 1970s.

However, he had created a niche as an actor as well. Whether as Madho Singh in Trishul or Shaakaal in Don, he was the ultimate henchman. His greatest performance, of course, came as the super-sleuth in Buddha Mil Gaya. Always a man of few words, Shetty believed in power-packed punches (and he was rather good at them) delivered from his huge frame and steel biceps.

Unfortunately, he ended up getting bashed by heroes of minuscule frames who would not have stood a chance in front of him in real life. In fact, given his dual role, he instructed these lesser men on how to bash himself.

Doesn't the look send a chill down your spine?
Bollywood would have been a different place without the sizzling Padma Khanna. Even if we take away the ruthlessly selfish Phoolbanu in Saudagar that you would want to hate from the core of your heart (one must remember that she still had 'sajna hai mujhe, sajna ke liye' in the movie) you'd still be left with a lot more. And I'm not talking of Kaikeyi in Ramayana either.

It is difficult to choose one song from Padma Khanna's illustrious repertoire. Will it be 'sajna hai mujhe'? Or will it be the drunken 'husn ke laakhon rang' in Johnny Mera Naam that can make any man lose his senses? Mind you, she was picked out of relative obscurity to pull that off in Johnny Mera Naam; trust the Anands to do something like that.

Lal Patthar, Lakhon Mein Ek, Khoon Khoon, Loafer, she was always there - seducing men on either side to reveal their 'plans' or to win them over to get things done. Had her career not overlapped with Helen's she would probably have dominated the industry for a decade.

Why didn't they use her more?
Though Pinchoo Kapoor is mostly remembered as the real Interpol Officer from Don (a role that was played by Om Puri, no less, in the remake, albeit with a change in script) and was often heard shouting "order! order!" or "objection me Lord" inside courtrooms, he had carved out a career on the other side of the law as well.

The two-faced Ghanshyamdas from Hera Pheri or the part of the team who set out to ruin Pran in Sharaabi are mere examples. He also adopted Rishi Kapoor in Karz. But he was mostly one of those rich fathers who used to get a kick of not allowing their sons to marry a poor girl or their daughters to marry a poor boy.

Dusky, bald, and perpetually ageing, Pinchoo Kapoor belongs to that elite group of actors whom nobody seems to know by name but always evokes the reaction "oh, I know him - he played X's father in the movie Y!" Also, he had never looked any different in a career spanning two decades. Ever.

The man who always looked the same
It is quite expected that one has not heard Pramod Moutho's name. In fact, I had to look up Raja Hindustani on IMDB to find out the name of the person who had played Archana Puran Singh's manipulative brother. He was then shortlisted for Loha as the Home Minister but did not make the cut for Gunda.

Then that "where have I seen him?" feeling occurred and it took me some time to recall that he had also played the villain in Khal Nayak and Paresh Rawal's brother in Dilwale. All that, in itself, makes for an awesome CV. With big budget movies like 1942: A Love Story, Dushmani, Aks, and Indian under his belt he seemed to have set for a decent career.

Unfortunately, like many others, Moutho's career tapered out with the concept of the villain disappearing from Bollywood. He tried a comeback with Sadda Haq earlier this year, but it didn't work out. Moutho fans can still be optimistic: the man, after all, is only 58.

Jack of all trades
Even before he played Duryodhan in BR Chopra's Mahabharat Puneet Issar had created history for being responsible for the largest crowd ever assembled in the history of Bollywood by accidentally causing a near-fatal injury to Amitabh Bachchan during the shooting of Coolie.

IMDB reveals that Coolie was Puneet's debut; as if that was not good enough, his second movie (as per IMDB) turned out to be the cult classic Purana Mandir. And when they made a movie called Superman in 1987 where a baby really came from Krypton to save the Earth, who better could they find to play Superman?

He had played the usual muscular villain in Sanam Bewafa, Suryavanshi, Kshatriya, Ashanti, a trend that finally reached its peak when he pulled off the role of the gormless Inspector from Ram Jaane. But he made it to the other side of the law as well.

These performances include a strange Sikh man of religion from Refugee; the brave militant in Border; Rani Mukherji's father from Bunty Aur Babli; the Professor-in-charge of a college excursion team in Krrish (where he was named Komal); and once again, the Inspector in Son of Sardaar.

Life came a full cycle for Issar when he played Parashuram in Siddharth Tewary's Mahabharat, thus making him the only one (till date) who has acted in both versions.

Duryodhan, Parashuram, Superman, Amitabh-basher...
If you're not intrigued by Rajesh Vivek you do not have any business watching Bollywood movies. Especially after witnessing Jogi Thakur in full action in Joshilay. Seriously. Few people have arrived (yes, I know he has acted before) on the stage so big barring Amjad Khan in Sholay, Kulbhushan Kharbanda in Shaan, or Mukesh Tiwary in China Gate (I won't mention Ajay Agarwal here).

Anything after Jogi Thakur had to be an anticlimax, but he pulled off a sensational performance as Raghav (Amrish Puri's brother, would you believe it?) in Tridev. The court-scene where he saved Dalip Tahil and framed himself by playing a mute is, in the opinion of many, one of the best five-minute parts of Tridev (which is saying something, as no part of Tridev is worth a miss).

People also remember Rajesh Vivek as Vyas from Mahabharat; however, it was certainly not among his best performances, and neither was the dacoit from Vishwatma. A lot more likable was the Thakur of Loha, but he fell short of Kanti Shah's standards when The Master selected his cast for Gunda.

Then came Lagaan; Guran and his eccentricities changed everything, and Vivek's career took an upward turn; the postman from Swades only did good to his career; he impressed Ashutosh Gowariker to such an extent that Vivek was an obvious selection for Jodhaa Akbar and What's Your Raashee? as well.

2013 brought the break his career deserved for so long. He eventually made it to Hollywood with Joseph Mungra's The American Gandhi. Things can only get better from here.

If only we knew how to use him!
If the acting bit is taken out of consideration Rana Jung Bahadur would probably be my most favourite actor on this list. Be it the Dahshat Khan with the self-explanatory name (Sanam Bewafa), the ridiculous Pitambar Nath (Dulhe Raja), the man whom Shah Rukh slams into a television set (Duplicate), or the piles-affected Pandey who keeps on saying "mera background bahaut dardnaak hai" (Champion, possibly) - and most significantly, that suave inspector in Deewangee - Rana Jung Bahadur never fails to amaze me on screen with his on-screen antics.

Given his name I have always wondered whether he hails from a royal family from Nepal. That, of course, is not the topic of discussion. Royalty would not have added to the image he has acquired from playing the legendary Inspector Kale in Gunda.

This look completely rules over my senses
For a long period of time I used to think that Razak Khan was not capable of keeping his neck straight at all: perhaps there was a muscle or a bone wrong in his constitution. Despite being an ardent fan of Bollywood in 1990s - its worst decade - I had somehow almost managed to miss Razak Khan throughout the decade.

This is something to be ashamed of, because he had played Munna Mobile in Loha and Lucky Chikna in Gunda; even if he had done nothing else in his entire lifetime this would have made him one of the greatest icons in the history of mankind.

Khan flourished with Govinda beginning to take up roles outside the David Dhawan banner. He was almost an inevitability, acting in Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, Anari No. 1., Rajaji, Haseena Maan Jaayegi, Beti No. 1, Pyaar Diwana Hota Hai, Kyo Kii... Main Jhuth Nahin Bolta ('welding anniversary', anyone?), and most famously, as Faiyaz Takkar in Akhiyon Se Goli Maare.

The fastest neck-mover
Roopesh Kumar is the cousin of Mumtaz, who is, in return, Fardeen Khan's mother-in-law. That probably makes Roopesh Kumar the uncle-in-law of Fardeen. The cousins had acted together in superhits like Nagin and Maa Aur Mamta.

A poor man's Manmohan, Roopesh Kumar's career faded out in the 1990s, though not before played ruffians, pickpockets, blackmailers, thieves, and even bade-ghar-ki-bigdi-hui-aulaads in multiple movies. He also tried to make an impact as a director with Hai Meri Jaan and Meri Aan (he also acted in the latter) in the early 1990s, but with both movies bombing he faded into oblivion.

The poor man's Manmohan
Pilaan ke mutabiq Shehzad Khan should have made it big in the industry, but his resemblance with his illustrious father meant that he could rise as much as he should have; he found himself mimicking his father throughout his career.

Bhalla has to be his most memorable role, but Shehzad, who had made his debut with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, also went on to play a crucial role in Barsaat as well as major roles in several 'lesser' movies, almost all of which bombed.

Not everything goes pilaan ke mutabiq
Shiva Rindani had started off with small negative roles in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Izzatdaar, and Dil Aashna Hai. With time his roles grew smaller in duration and stature as did the movies he acted in, though he got to play in David Dhawan's Eena Meena Deeka and Main Khiladi Tui Anari. He was also played Vito in Aatank Hi Aatank (yet another Bollywood remake of The Godfather) and International Khiladi. Thank you, Kaushik Saha, for reminding me of Vito.

However, the role that has etched his name permanently in the annals of the industry is that of Captain Attack (he himself pronounced it as 'Zatack' multiple times in the movie); with his left-eyed goggles he was as noticeable as the other three antagonists in the movie - Danny Denzongpa, Anupam Kher, and Annu Kapoor.

Captain Attack!
Anyone who has acted in Clerk (as Ashok Kumar's daughter and Manoj Kumar's sister, no less) gets automatically elevated to the next level, and Sonika Gill is not an exception. After acting in multiple B- and C-grade movies (Tirangaa being probably the only high-budget movie of the lot) and taking a hiatus she has eventually made a comeback with more B- and C-grade movies.

Bollywood, however, remembers her for playing Raza Murad's moll Vivienne (though they, for some reason, kept on calling her Divya from time to time) in Ram Lakhan; she fell in love with Anil Kapoor, betrayed the illustrious gang of villains, and eventually ended up sacrificing her life the way villains' molls have always sacrificed their lives to protect the law.

Clerk and Ram Lakhan. Period.
Whatever I say of Sudhir will be inadequate. Seldom has the industry seen an actor so versatile, and yet so underrated. It is impossible to choose one from Sudhir's many masterpieces: it's a wonder how an actor so talented has remained this under-utilised in an industry.

Even if we ignore his initial works in Haqeeqat or Shaheed we cannot rule out Sajjan Singh of Prince. In fact, it's Prince that had actually brought Sudhir into limelight for the first time. He was there in Mahal, Prem Pujari, Gambler, Joshila, Heera Panna, and Majboor, but he really came to the forefront with Khhotte Sikkay.

The irresistible playboy Bhagu of Khhotte Sikkay (loosely based on The Seven Samurai, just like Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Sholay, and China Gate) had stolen the show despite the presence of a more or less ensemble cast. Other than being a crucial cog in the plan of Feroz Khan and Satyendra Kappu, Sudhir won the audience over with his "maa ka diya hua mangalsutra" to win girls over.

Among the big guns in the grandeur of Dharmatma was the charismatic pair of Natwar (Sudhir) and Rishi (Ranjeet). They played brothers in the movie, wore identical clothes (!) and terrorised the entire city with crimes of all sorts they kept on committing together.

The name Ranjeet continued to follow Sudhir. He played a character called Ranjeet in Shaan, where he was the henchman Shaakaal threw to the crocodiles in one of the most iconic scenes in the history of Bollywood. Then came Satte Pe Satta, where he played the angry Som Anand, the second brother of the septet.

He kept on playing crucial roles and merged seamlessly into the 1990s. He played Shakti Kapoor's henchman in Aankhen, the Inspector in Raja, and Asrani's senior (!) in the Department of Police in Dulhe Raja before coming home to Rocky in Baadshah. Thereafter his career faded out slowly, but he still remains one of the better Bollywood actors.

The stylish, suave lady-killer: just look at the moustache
A colleague of Sudhir's in Shaan, Sudhir Pandey is the one who survives the initial crocodile round (though his luck runs out in the end). He played a cameo in Saagar before being a household name with the launch of Buniyaad on Doordarshan.

Thereafter he faded into small-scale movies like Paandav, Veergati, and Haasil. During this time his girth and face changed drastically, and the young, handsome man from Shaan was barely recognisable. In between all this he played two semi-iconic roles as Majle Anna in Dayavaan and the Chief Minister in Main Azaad Hoon.

Then came Maatrubhoomi. You would cringe, you would hate, you would loathe, you would want to kill Ramsharan, the father of five men in the movie. If Shaan  had launched him, Matrubhoomi showed how mean Pandey could turn out to be if he wanted to.

Thereafter he played small roles in Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon!Guru, Anwar, and Tees Maar Khan, but everything has seemed to be an anticlimax after Matrubhoomi before taking a U-turn in Bombay Talkies.

Do watch Matrubhoomi. Please.
Despite not making as big as the other star villain-sons like Amjad Khan and Kiran Kumar, Tej Sapru had created a niche of his own in the industry. Of all actors on this list he is probably the most talented, but could not make it big.

It may sound blasphemous, but of all the villains in Tridev (which is a humongous list by all definitions) Tej Sapru had perhaps pulled off the best performance. This is saying something, given the dominating presence of Amrish Puri in the movie. Just look at how protective he is about Sonam in the movie when he realises that there is serious competition.

With his blue eyes and majestic looks Tej Sapru had often played foreigners and the royalty. The best examples of this are probably Sultanat and Ajooba. Other than that he had been played cameos of various lengths in Yudh, Loha (the other one), Zakhmi Aurat, Tezaab, Nakaa Bandi, and Thanedaar.

Amidst all this Tej Sapru played the police inspector in Raat; he also acted as one of Jyothika's three possessive elder brothers in Doli Saja Ke Rakhna. It was a performance as good as any, since he had to compete with Paresh Rawal and Mohnish Bahl - but he never seemed to come third.

But that was expected. They seldom made them better than Tej Sapru. It was a pity that he vanished from the scenario as the villain dried out in Bollywood. Sigh.

Yet another wasted talent
Not many people are aware of three facts about Thomas Beach Alter. First, he is a cricket enthusiast (he had conducted the earliest known recorded interview of Sachin Tendulkar); secondly, Alter often pops up in Ruskin Bond's book for his proximity to the great man; and thirdly, he was awarded a Padma Shri in 2008.

Alter's career started with bits-and-parts roles, mostly at the wrong side of the law as a foreigner or an Anglo-Indian. He was almost always called Tom. He got to act in Shatranj ke Khilari, playing the assistant to General Outram (Richard Attenborough), and Gandhi, where he played a doctor.

He played a British inspector in Kranti, where he took horrifying, melodramatic expressions to standards seldom seen before towards the end of 'zindagi ki na toote ladi', bashing up Madan Puri, and trying to drag Hema Malini away from Manoj Kumar. Then came Khoon Bhari Maang, where he was the doctor who carried out the plastic surgery that played a role so pivotal in the movie.

Few people would remember Dunhill from Tridev, but Musa of Parinda is not as easy to forget, and neither is the cut-throat inspector from Gumrah. The greatest performance (arguably) came in Aashiqui, where he played Warden (?) Arnie Campbell. You can look at his impeccably hostile body language in 'main duniya bhula dunga' (do watch from 3.50 to 4.00 carefully, where he is considered synonymous to the word zamana).

Do have a look at this Tata Sky Commercial as well. How many people do you know have played a profession that is almost synonymous to his profession?

The face of British Raj in Bollywood
It is difficult for movie-lovers to tell whether Kaalia was a more iconic role than Raabert; what they would all agree on is, however, the fact that Viju Khote is the only one to play major roles in both Sholay and Andaz Apna Apna.

Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge? later paid a homage to Kaalia in Sholay, but there was obviously more to Viju Khote than that. From Agent Vinod to Qurbani, from Naseeb to Lawaaris, from Shaan to Sanam Teri Kasam, from Namak Halaal to Afsana Pyar Ka, he has always been there with the face one would recognise in every corner in the world. That includes even Shambhu Chacha in Golmaal 3 ("tumne Shambhu Chacha se shaadi kar lee?").

But the question still remains: "kitne aadmi the?" or "ghalti se mistake ho gaya"?

Kaalia, and then Raabert
The almost unnoticeable commando from Prahaar seemed to have lost track somewhere down the lane till almost identical roles in Fareb and Dastak came his way. Vishwajeet Pradhan was also spotted as man who was keen on winning the reward for handing Bobby Deol over to the law (and got shot by Om Puri) in Gupt.

Everyone remembers the corrupt inspector who had asked to shoot Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla, and gang in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani and was turned down ("main apni tirange pe goli nahin chala sakta") and Preity Zinta's compassionate boss in Sangharsh.

Anyone who has seen Bardaasht can never forget the evil inspector (a part of the trio who had killed and framed Riteish Deshmukh). It probably remains his best performance as well. After playing Puru in both Rakhta Charitra and Rakhta Charitra 2 Pradhan's career seems to be on the wane, though we really hope he makes a comeback.

On either side of the law
I had missed out on Kamal Kapoor, the blue-eyed boy of Bollywood; a huge thanks to Diptakirti for reminding me. We generally tend to remember Kapoor as a Judge or a Police Commissioner, but there is more to him than that.

For example, he had played Shashi Kapoor's father in Namak Halaal, Reena Roy's father in Sanam Teri Kasam, and had brought up Vinod Khanna in Amar Akbar Anthony.

However, Kapoor was also the man who had kidnapped Satyen Kappu's family and forced him to sign the documents in his favour in Deewaar - an act that led to the 'mera baap chor hai' tattoo; of course, he was Narang in Don.

The blue-eyed Bollywood boy
Yet another Diptakirti candidate: Adi Irani had used his real name Ajitesh when he played the boxer in Dil or the stepson in Beta, but changed his name subsequently. Then came Vicky Malhotra in Baazigar where Shah Rukh Khan (no less) impersonated him.

He also played Sudha Chandran's masochist husband in Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain and the man who eventually identified Preity Zinta in Chori Chori Chupke Chupke. Amidst a series of flops there emerged the lawyer of Welcome, a role Irani is set out to replicate in Welcome Back.

The real Vicky Malhotra
***

PS: Please feel free to point out any factual error or notable omission. They will be rectified or added.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Secret Proposal (and an author interview)

No, do not go by the cover. The book is infinitesimally infinitely better than what the cover makes you think it is. The cover simply does not do justice to the contents of the book.

This is yet another romance novel that would get lost somewhere simply because the author did not could not promote it the way the big guns do. However, if you ever come across this one, do pick it up.

An interesting blurb typically boosts the sales for most books. Unfortunately, the books seldom live up to the promises the blurbs build up. The good thing is the fact that The Secret Proposal does meet the expectations.

Brahma's writing is lucid, and, for lack of a better word, fat-free. She knows how to trim the contents, retaining exactly the what is necessary and leaving out the rest. The language is no-nonsense, which works perfectly fine given the complexity of the plot. The reader doesn't lose way in the process.

The author also has that page-turning ability that is the mark of the big guns. The plot, unusual at times, keeps you hooked throughout its length. She is also an excellent judge of human emotions, especially romantic. There are several moments that take you to your own twenties; there are moments throughout the book where you end up smiling and nodding, being able to relate to yourself (or maybe that of someone you know closely).

All in all, a decent start to a promising career.

***

I had the privilege of talking to Aniesha immediately after writing this review, so I decided to do the first interview on this blog. I guess this will be a permanent feature (if the authors oblige) from now on.

Abhishek Mukherjee (AM): Not many people get published at 22. What does it feel like?
Aniesha Brahma (AB): It feels amazing... it had taken quite sometime to sink in, that I finally had a book published. It's a year later now, and it still feels like a dream at times.

AM: When did you take up writing seriously?
AB: I always wanted to be a writer, right from the age of six. But the serious writing began, when I joined FictionPress in 2009. In 2011 a friend casually suggested that I should try to get published. That was the time I was writing The Secret Proposal (then named The Strange Proposal) on FictionPress.

AM: How did the book form in your head?
AB: It was on this very day two years ago... the 12th of December 2011. I was at a wedding and was thoroughly bored. A stray thought crossed my mind - what I met someone interesting in this wedding... what if that person had something to do with my past? Before I knew it my imagination had run wild and Jasmine and Tanveer came into my mind, with their story.

AM: Is the book based on real-life stories or characters?
AB: Like every other writer, the main character was based in part on myself. Lakhi was based on my elder sister, and the wedding scenes were taken straight from my sister's wedding - except the part with Tanveer, of course! That was made up!
Meghan was based on my real life best friend, Soumma Roy Chowdhury. Tanveer was based in part on my childhood crush and a friend's childhood crush. I found it amusing that she liked him for eight long years and didn't do a thing about it.

AM: Is there a particular memory related to the writing of the book that you would like to share with the readers?
AB: I know that a lot readers said that the book seems to drag in the second  half. The reason for that was my fans and readers on FictionPress. I had ended the story in 25-odd chapters. I got private messages and reviews saying that it was too sudden and they wanted to read more about the characters. It was overwhelming to receive messages from the world over, saying how much they loved the story and the characters, and were unwilling to part with them just yet. So my novella turned into a 55,000 word novel.

AM: Does the fact that you may be classified as a romance author have an impact or you, positive or negative?
AB: Not really. Romance writers can branch out. Being stereotyped as a romance author does have it's perks. Most people seem to love reading romances.

AM: What is next on the list?
AB: There is a children's story I am working on, about the hierarchy of neighborhood animals. There's another story too - a romance novel of sorts - dealing with the rights and wrongs of being in a relationship. Let me see which one gets published first. And then, there's a short story in the Coup D'East short story collection as well!

AM: Thank you for your time, Aniesha. It was nice talking to you.
AB: Likewise. Thank you for the lovely interview, Abhishek-da.

Animal Antics

KE Priyamvada was a BBC Mastermind India winner in 2000. KE Priyamvada is also an author these days.

I had picked up Animal Antics with some scepticism. What can I learn from a children's book on wildlife that I am already not aware of?

The poems caught my eye even before I reached the Contents section: the first was a dedication; the second, a small summary of the contents of the book. Both in poems. This might be good, I thought, as I flipped through the pages.

Animal Antics is, in short, a beautiful book. There are 26 chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet, dedicated to an animal whose name begins with that letter. There is also a bonus chapter at the end, dedicated to the planet we love and are hell-bent to destroy using various methods. If this doesn't sound cool enough for you, let me add: in addition to the excellent illustrations the entire book is written in verse.

If that doesn't catch a child's attention I have no idea what will. This is a Mastermind winner at work, so be rest assured that there will be all sorts of intriguing facts. To add to the fun there are two more sections in each chapter: the first provides a concise idea about the animal; the second, called Tidbits, asks you simple questions.*

* I guess I should be ashamed, but I must admit that I couldn't get several of them; do not be worried; the appendix of the book has all the answers.

In short, this is the kind of book that is bought for children but may end up being read by the parents instead, so buying two copies is perhaps a better idea. Nobody, after all, wants a domestic tussle.

***

PS: If you've rued not having known the name of an animal whose name starts with a Q or an X during one of those Name-Place-Animal-Thing contests, this is your chance.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Story of a Girl

Long, long ago, there was a family that had come over to India crossing the border of what used to be East Pakistan. They came to the city that was the greatest of all – the City of Palaces, the City of Joy, and in the early 1900s, the City of Tagore as well.

It was one of those joint families that so defined the city of the era. There were seven children in the family: the elder three were siblings, all sisters. The other four, their cousins, were a sister followed by three brothers.

Despite not exactly being showered with riches from childhood the septet grew up together in the same way that teeth or fingernails do.

But this is not a story about teeth or fingernails. This is a story about one of these girls; more specifically, this is about the second of the lot (who, I must admit, has an issue with her teeth these days).

She was almost a short girl; she had hair curly enough to give her head the look of char-grilled Maggi Noodles; she did not have 20-20 vision either, and was blessed with old-fashioned spectacles at an early age.

She made it up, though. She studied in one of the more renowned schools of South Calcutta and topped in nearly every examination. She also had a rather curious, unusual, somewhat inexplicable penchant for mathematics. In fact, solving mathematical problems used to be a hobby.

It was an absolutely normal childhood strewn with the rather singular traits of the post-Independence era – the kind that came with restriction like children needed to be back home by evening. She accepted everything without a single word of protest. She was, by all definition, a good girl.

School gave way to college where she obtained a scholarship. In college she found a non-trivial man and decided to marry him. Gone were the prospects of pursuing education and becoming a doctorate. She got married, just like that, and went to a distant city miles and miles away from her birthplace.

The scholarship money went into buying a Godrej stainless-steel almirah that she still flaunts with pride. She blended into adulthood with the same ease with which Nutella melts in the mouth.

She came back after about three or so years and almost immediately assumed the dual role of teaching and running a household. This included looking after the in-laws as well.

Obviously she taught mathematics. That was her forte. The surprising bit was her choice of school. Though she got offers from the high-profile options she decided to stick to a nondescript suburban (village, more likely) school instead.

Her father had managed to instil certain non-trivial principles within her. “There will never be any shortage of teachers in the bigger schools. But if all good teachers go to these schools, who will teach in the smaller schools that no one cares for?”

So she took a bus every morning; went to Tollygunge Station; took the train to Budge Budge; then found transport of some sort (rickshaws on most occasions) to reach the school.

Not only did she turn down the offer from the ‘glamorous’ schools, in the process she also decided to spend hours in commuting when a single five-minute auto-rickshaw would have sufficed.

Principles.

She had two sons. Both went to the same school that had a reputation for having space shortage, which meant both had to attend morning school for a few years. She got up at five, saw them off to school, went through her household chores, and left for school.

Maybe she caught a few minutes of sleep in between. Maybe she did not. Nobody knew.

Then, when her husband was transferred to a remote location she had more responsibilities in her life: she had to play a father and a son well. She never flinched, though. No burden seemed to bother her, somehow. She was one of those women.

She lost her little sister from an apparently incurable disease. She absorbed it. About a decade later she lost her father (who was, without a doubt, one of the most rational men to have existed).

She did not wince. She carried on. She reached her fifties without anyone noticing. The woman whose life once revolved around books and sport and relatives was now restricted to a routine.

She left home at ten. From school she visited her mother, who had refused point-blank to leave house and stay with her daughters. She used to visit her every day.

She used to come back at 7.45 PM; her tired brain had to fall back upon mindless Bengali serials – provided she did not have examination papers to check. And she often dropped off to sleep while doing so.

Her sons (especially the proud, haughty, ungrateful elder one) often laughed at her for having such poor taste. She ignored. She walked around, carrying on with her favourite activity of arranging leftovers in exact-sized containers and fitting them in impossibly small nooks of the refrigerator the way only the most logical of minds can.

Then, all of a sudden, the Principal of the school passed away. Everyone wanted the girl, now a woman, to become the replacement; she acquired books the size of bricks and started studying in her mid-fifties.

And then, there she was, once a small schoolgirl in pigtails, now controlling a school of girls in pigtails.

As if she already did not have enough on her plate.

With time she lost her mother as well. It was all school and home from there. She came back by seven and hogged the remote-control, or at least fought over it. The soaps that used to mean nothing to her amazing mind years ago became her fodder for the next day of struggle.

She changed the unremarkable nature of the school for good. She introduced the higher-secondary level, ensured that the school-building expanded under her, and ran through the lengths and breadths of Calcutta to attend various meetings and acquire several grants.

The remarkable bit about this was the fact that she had achieved all this within a ridiculously small time-frame. She worked hard and long – often too hard and too long for most teachers approaching the end of a long, exhausting, monotonous career.

She worked with the single-minded determination of making a dysfunctional school work and succeeded. The intense workload turned her into a borderline diabetic, but she never cared. She was never one of those people who seemed to care.

Alongside all this she turned into the agony aunt to many, including some of her seniors. She sat through whines, personal and professional, hearing them out and almost always going out of her way to help them.

The women who used to be her colleagues ages back were now replaced by their daughters. Some of her new colleagues were younger than even her sons. She held fort, representing the Calcutta of the old, still attempting to lay emphasis on the value of education over training. Most importantly, she was one of those fortunate few who actually liked their day jobs.

On the other hand she refused to use the internet (and kept pushing her hapless sons to excavate newly published circulars on the website of the Board).

She turned sixty, and as it invariably happens with Government employees, she had to retire. In contrast to many other farewells, it was not a big event, though a lot of her colleagues wept openly.

There was no reason for inhibitions. The woman who had made the school her second home was all set to give up everything to return home for good. A chunk of her life – probably the most significant one – was gone.

This was what she had given up her years and her health for. And now – today – on December 1, 2013 it has all come to a predictable end. There was quite a scene at her retirement with colleagues crying and all that mush.

When all that was over she returned home with what looked like a complete horticultural garden. The flowers will wither away in a day or so; the cards vanish somewhere in the convoluted labyrinth of the house; and the saris or whatever they have given will get stored inside that Godrej almirah.

She will be left with a void forever. It has been a commendable effort all these years – but, but – what will you do all day now, Ma?

***

PS: This concept is a poor imitation of Kuntala's excellent piece.

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