Thursday, September 07, 2006

Hrishikesh Mukherjee: A Belated Incomplete Obituary

Hrishikesh Mukherjee was one of the most out standing film makers of the 1970's. Quiet easily the father of middle class cinema as he has been christened by the press in their obituaries.




September 30, 1922–August 27, 2006

His heroes were ordinary men we could find in our own families and neighborhood, we just needed that story telling flourish to make them palatable to the cinema goers. I think his characterisations were very refreshing amidst the larger than life and stereotypical Hindi film format. He made one believe that he was making a film about that neighbourhood Vermaji, touched by some Prem Chandish flair that writers generally attribute to their stories. Hrishi da's movies made you feel good, created no Superman's but in my opinion drawing from rooted ideas of impromptu story telling so famous in small town India. Like when you have to conjure up a story on pressure from your listeners without preparation and you start weaving these yarns of fantasy within the realm of credulity, of course.

I discovered his films owing to the satellite TV boom, or maybe we all did. Golmal, Guddi, Abhiman, Chupke Chupke, Mili, Naram Garam! The most soul searing music, a writers sensibility with that hint of theatrical farce which actors like Utpal Dutt and Om Prakash infused in his films, is surely missed. I didnt see his last film Jhooth Bole Kawa Kaate, so been missing his kind of cinema already.

But there are a lot I am yet to see, for instance, Alaap, Satyakam and many which I may not know about.

I saw Mili again a couple of months back. I remember finding it a bit incomplete when I first watched it as a kid. But I think Mili was perfect this time around. The terminally ill Jaya Bachchan, the anguished scarred Amitabh (almost a Graham Greenish character), where do we get such characterisation. The sound track, the congeniality of Ashok Kumar as the father, the show off Asrani was such an approximation of reality in the world of stereotypical portrayals. Guddi is another great film. I loved it as many times as I saw it. Dharmendra in Chupke Chupke and we all think he can’t act.

Shatrughan Sinha's character in Naram Garam, the movie from which that...gaslight (pronounced ghaslet)..dialogue is continously bandied about.....

My favorite bit is in Naram Garam. Utpal Dutt eager to marry Swarup Sampat rushes to Pandit Om Prakash in Varanasi. But as soon as he reaches, a servant on his heels informs him that she has run away with Amol Palekar, the estate manager and he has to turn back and head home. Pandit Om Prakash is lying languidly on the couch in his dhoti looking forward to the dakshina (donation), when he sees Utpal Dutt going back, he is heart broken, and asks him Kya Hua Zazmaan (Whats the matter, Master/Client?), Utpal Dutt replies, Emergency hai (It's an Emergency/Urgent)! Panditji looks down at this crotch and mumbles to himself, phir aagayi (Emergency! It has come again.)! (For those who miss it, it refers to Sanjay Gandhi's forced sterilization drive during the Emergency Years 1975-76!)


Further References:

For a complete list of Hrishikesh Mukherjee's movies as writer, editor and director have a look at imdb
For a really informed obituary and a good commentary on Abhigyan's

7 comments:

zeba said...

loved your blog especially post related to boundary issues.

zeba said...

enjoyed .....

svety said...

hey satya, u remember that scene from naram garam, where there is this tailor who has been called in to make utpal datt's sherwani and he takes his measurements. and shatru's ram leela antics plus his falling in love to the strains of "dil ka khilona".
Easily one of the best comedies I have seen...

utpal said...

remembering the scene from the movie garam masala can tickle u even today. classic stuff. but u have completely ignored the movie 'chupke chupke' which for me is the best comedy made from bombay(tho i notice the word 'incomplete' in the title of the post).

satya said...

Hi Svety,

I remember Shatrughan sinha's role very well...eating gur and chana and singing sad songs from his transistor...very cool role...no one actually exploited that farcical element in his personality except this movie....cause that was and remains the only thing good about him anyway....


Utpal, chupke chupke, seen it a lot of times and I enjoyed it throughly too. It was a great film, the shudh hindi stuff, Dharmendra as the driver.....no doubt....

And I think we are all forgetting one very initegral aspect of Hrishi Da's movies, that of Keshto Mukhrejee's guest appearances as mostly a drunkard...man did that man ever drink? For a long time since I started drinking, I used to feel so keshto-ish....

xanjukta said...

i felt keshto-ish last night... happy days here are the saturday evenings after the 20 km trek when everyone is too pooped out to move and i go to a place to get happy... (hint hint)...

what i loved about Hrishida's movies was that he managed to make everyone act and his choice of actors was the management thoery of right man in the right place making the organisation more efficient and productive...

Abhigyan said...

I think have mentioned it in my Munnabhai review...Hirani's fav director is Hrishikesh Mukherjee..and he is one guy who has actually got the spirit of his idol right..narrating yarns from everyday happenings, and rather non-existent storylines. He turned out to be much better at being a Hrishian as a director, than our politicians have proved to be Gandhians.