Everything evolves. Everything from living organisms to intangible concepts like art evolve. Or so, we thought. Hindi cinema or Bollywood, as we so fondly call it, has clearly proved us wrong. Don’t get me wrong, the technology used in the making of these high-budgeted movies have become quite sophisticated. Sarees fly mid-air more believably and so do cars, we get to see men fighting each other in high-definition, dance sequences look better with life-threatening flames, so yes, the end product looks good.
But would it really kill our directors to make some sensible movies once in a while? Though one might argue that movies are for entertainment purposes only and some might agree. But the point that Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Amol Palekar, Utpal Dutt, Sai Paranjpye and the likes taught us is that sense can be made in entertaining movies too. (Some directors might not believe that, as they have never tried it at all).
To drive the point home, one could compare Palekar’s Gol Maal to Devgn’s Golmaal (it is a travesty, yes), for lack of another comparison and also because they are namesakes. The first one is a cult, the second one should not have been made. The first one has a hilarious plot with endearing characters, the second one is a bunch of neanderthals whose senseless antics could drive anyone to the point of madness. The first one had Utpal Dutt, the second one had Tusshar Kapoor. The first one had soulful songs that one can still hum, the second one had noise. I could go on but it would be pointless.
It is heartbreaking to think that all our millennials have ever seen in Bollywood are senseless, money-minting flicks.
If you are a millennial, after a profuse apology, we would like to direct you to people like Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Amol Palekar. In case you are not aware of their work, let us reassure you that they gave some of the best movies Hindi cinema has ever seen. Their movies can easily be summed up as by the people, for the people.
But sadly, after the demise of sensible movies, all we can do today on Amol Palekar’s birthday is reminisce about movies like Gharonda , Baaton Baaton Mein , Chhoti Si Baat , Rajnigandha and the likes.
(Can November 24th be declared as National Sensible Movie Day in his honour, please?)
Unlike any hero ever, Palekar was the leading man everyone could relate to. He was the Common Man.
He was not the Greek God or the dancer or the one that swears, he was like the unassuming guy whom we see buying groceries in the nearby store. His movies were not very different either.
Perhaps one of the best is the light-hearted comedy Gol Maal that still remains a favourite amongst Palekar-loyalists. And it is easy to understand why.
Palekar’s films belonged to a brand of Hindi movies that was intrinsically more of brilliant storytelling and less of special effects, or as they say Alternative Cinema. This is that side of Hindi cinema that gave us Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s brilliant films like Chupke Chupke , Mili , Anand , Bawarchi and Khoobsurat .
These movies portrayed the real life of an average Indian, while also serving as a way to escape from reality for a bit. The humour, especially in Palekar and Mukherjee’s movies were nuanced and underplayed. The characters were as special as our next door neighbours. The core issues of the movies were something people easily related to, the ending an absolute winner. Though typecasting these movies would be grossly misinterpreting them.
In short, it was hard to not love these movies.
Palekar was not the all-rounder hero who could save the world and get the girl. He was the regular guy who had to work hard to earn a living and to impress the love of his life. He was funny and awkward. In short, it was a delight to watch him.
Getting back Alternative Cinema is almost impossible. But making sensible movies is not. On this great actor’s birthday, could all the directors just think for a minute and bring back good cinema? Palekar’s is a legacy worth preserving but also one that is the hardest to.
Till then we will keep playing Gol Maal .