Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004

 

INDIAN CINEMA

Cinema In General

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Pans & Tilts…Big B’s dream, Saif Ali Khan, Rani Mukherjee…

Some called it the wedding of the century. Some, of the decade, and some, of the year. Whatever it might have been, Amitabh Bachchan turned his son, Abhishek’s marriage with Aishwarya Rai (April 20 2007) into one big “tamasha”. A marriage is a somber, personal and an intimate affair, and by converting such a solemn occasion into a public game was unbecoming of a man who comes from a highly respected family.

Amitabh Bachchan in 'Sarkar'
Amitabh’s father, Harivanshrai Bachchan, who died in 2003, was a renowned poet, a man of letters and extremely private. Jaya Bachchan’s father, Taroon Kumar Bhaduri, was as well known: he was a writer, journalist and stage artist who lived in and worked out of Bhopal for the highly regarded “The Statesman”. He counted among his friends men like Satyajit Ray, who introduced Jaya, then 15, to the screen in “Mahanagar” (Big City).

In what appears to lend credence to the speculation that the Bachchans are desperate to become India’s first family, beating the Gandhis (Nehru, Indira, Rajiv, Sonia and now Rahul) in the game, the wedding was an all-out attention-grabbing exercise. Indeed, it was a straight lift from an opulent Bollywood film, replete with garish sets, glitzy costumes and heavily painted faces. Partners in this were the marketing gurus and a media that appeared utterly shallow. The entire sanctity of the marriage was relegated to the background with the Bachchans behaving as if they were on a movie shoot. Even the family’s offering at the sacred temple of Tirupati was made into a public show.

Worse, not one known literary figure was invited to the wedding of Harivanshrai Bachchan’s grandson. The disaffection was pronounced as the Bachchans owe their identity to the Hindi language and the recognition the literary world accorded to the family.


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Amitabh is reportedly aspiring to be India’s next President, if not to establish himself and his family as the nation’s top icon. But he must remember that the way to Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi is not through gimmicks but hard work and service to the country. He has admittedly walked miles and miles from those times when he carried letters from his mother, Teji Bachchan, to her friend, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, asking her to help the young man find a place in cinema. But Big B now looks impatient to cover the last leg of this journey, often making a laughing stock of himself.

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Saif Ali Khan has become emotionally vulnerable. His brash days are over, I suppose. His heart ailment that landed him in hospital and his split with Italian model, Rosa, have transformed him into a caring human. There are indications of his growing fondness for his former wife, Amrita Singh, and his children, Sarah and Ibrahim. It was under these conditions that one saw Saif bond beautifully with the two little actors on the set of “Ta Ra Rum Pum”, to open on April 27. The children regaled Saif throughout the extended three-month-long shooting schedule in New York, and virtually served as anchors and a great source of solace.

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“Ta Ra Rum Pum” was helpful on one more score. The film’s heroine, Rani Mukherjee, got slimmer (some would mischievously say, slim) to get into her costumes, often tantalisingly short skirts. "I got slim. That's the magic mantra. The minute I was told about the kind of look I was supposed to carry off in a major part of the movie, I knew I had to get seriously slim. If I had put on those short skirts looking the way I did earlier, I'd have looked pretty stupid," Rani revealed. Now, please do not go back to those yummy “rossogullas”, the classic Bengali weakness!

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Tailpiece: Once Hollywood heartthrob Humphrey Bogart smoked cigarettes by their hundreds, and the whole American nation aped him trying to beat him at the game of blowing rings. Indian cinema idols smoked as well, and corrupted impressionable minds into a slavery of sorts. Some actors perfected the art of playing with the poison stick. The Tamil superstar, Rajnikanth, mesmerised audiences with cigarette tricks. He developed a unique way of flicking them in the air. But now with a ban on smoking in movies, Rajnikanth will have to think up of something else to regale his fans. He probably has worked out a new set of tricks to grab attention in his latest blockbuster, ”Sivaji”, opening mid-May. Latest medical research reveals that children as young as 10 who see people lighting up on screen are 2.7 times more likely to begin smoking themselves.

(Webposted April 25 2007)