Friday, September 21, 2007

The flame flickereth no more?

A few weeks ago, holed up in a small-town hotel one evening, staring dully at the television, my finger stopped jabbing remote when I caught a glimpse of Mashaal.

I had seen the movie before, but yet, I hung on. Waiting for the famous death scene. The one where Waheeda Rehman, who plays Dilip Kumar’s wife with a quiet, assured dignity, dies out on the street. Her husband tries to hail passing cars and cabs, bangs on locked doors and screams ‘ae bhai!’ Nobody stops. Nobody calls a doctor. Nobody listens. She calls out to him, and dies.

I had known I would cry. And I did.

But this time, there was another scene which grabbed my attention. It was the shop-breaking/looting sequence before the death scene. Raja (Anil Kapoor playing a rough mawaali type) and his friends had just been smashing, and stealing from, a store. A very disappointed Vinod (Dilip Kumar, the upright journalist-activist), goes to his room to upbraid him. Raja, however, is not in the least bit remorseful.

He begins to talk of a memory. When he was five years old, he remembered being out with his father, walking through the market. His father had reached out to touch the fabric that was hung up there for sale. The shopkeeper had yelled. The paradox was his father was a weaver. Perhaps, the very man who had woven that bit of cloth, was now forbidden to touch it.

Raja swears that he would not live like his father did. If he was not permitted to touch something in a shop, he would break it.

For a long time, it stayed with me. That sequence. Incredibly, the movie was made by Yash Chopra.

Funny, how they just don’t say that sort of thing in the movies, any longer. No?


bluespriite said...

Yes that they dont.. In fact Yash Chopra even made another relatively hard hitting film called Kala Patthar.. on the coal mines. Am not sure even he could do something like that again.

anuj said...

sounds amazing this second scene. havent seen it in ages mashaal. should see it again. thanks for plugging it. about yash chopra what can one say. he has made some of the greatest hindi films ever made. dharmputra, waqt, trishul, silsila, kabhi kabhi and of course the greatest of them all, deewar. and dil toh paagal hai was one of the lowest points in my hindi film watching life.

the mad momma said...

you've made me want to go back to watch it. no, films nowadays rarely carry lines that make an impact.

bhupinder said...

The answer probably lies in the economics. 1970s-80s scriptwriters had to write for a mass audience that lay in the villages and small towns, and provided space for sensible ones among them to bring in sensitivities like this. Post- 90s, it is more remunerative to script for the NRI audiences that bring in the moolah. Hence the transition of primarily bourgeois film makers like the Chopras from making films like "Kala Patthar" to more contemporary, choclate-y ones.

Also, the demise of Sahir played a role. No one before or after him could have the lyrics virtually dictate and turn and sway the script. In that, his influence on Indian film industry is probably under estimated.

Mystic Bard said...

ah Annie! what a classic moment picked out from the film. Mashaal along with many others comes in the leagues of the more nuanced films directed by Yash Chopra.

Bhupinder: Couldn't agree more with you on the Sahir point.

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