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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Game Changer Of The Century!

My letter to Amitabh Bachchan on being declared 'Game Changer of the Century' on cover of this year's Annual issue of the Society magazine:

Dear Amitji,

Heartiest congratulations on being declared the 'Game Changer of the Century' by the magazine Society on the cover of its Annual issue. It is your modesty speaking when you decline to accept this honor as not being worthy of it. The whole world knows you and you alone deserve the honor and Society has done right to declare it. If you still have any hesitation to accept it, let me convince you looking at few of your finest films that prove the point that you are indeed the 'Game Changer' of Hindi Cinema for sure.With every role, right from Saat Hindustani to Aarakshan you have offered a different interpretation of your most iconic persona.  Aided by great screenwriters Salim Khan, Javed Akhtar, and directors who knew how to draw the best out of you, your  iconic persona was a perfect fusion of all the elements of a hit formula in creating a lasting legacy for Indian cinema. Though the Angry Young Man that you embodied became an increasing staple in masala films, you truly echoed many of the frustrations during the  period of the 70s. So here are some of the many Angry Young Men or the Vigilante Vijay’s you have portrayed:

Vijay Verma in Deewaar – A list would simply be incomplete without mentioning one of your key roles! When you lounged in the dockyard chair in that iconic pose with a cigarette dangling from your mouth and glaring at the henchmen, an indelible moment of cinema history was created. Just from that scene, you created a hero who would willingly get into fights and launched a fashion craze of flares and tight shirts revealing a macho hairy chest! This Vigilante Vijay’s fury over the injustice against his parents by society sends him on a vengeful ascension to the top of  Mumbai’s smuggling ring.  With this film, you perfected one of many of your memorable death scenes, cradled in your mother’s arms and revealing your innocence, which is in direct contrast from your material wealth.

Inspector Vijay Khanna in Zanjeer – “Yeh police station, aap ke ghar nahi!” (this is a police station, not your home!) growls the most famous Vijay to a prisoner. If Deewar fashioned a tragic and stylish persona that shaped all other heroes to come then Zanjeer launched you as an aggressive alternative to voice the collective anger. When his parents are killed, Vijay focuses his obsessive energy onto all the criminals who land up in his jail. This was a hero defied the law to satiate his own rage. Tired of society and its rules, this Angry Young Man was all about the individual which is why it must have been heartening to audiences to see such a rebel on screen. Zanjeer was definitely a star-making role for you as you were so unconventional to other actors at the time.

Vijay Kumar in Shakti – One of your most overlooked interpretations of the persona is your most matured performances. This toned down revisionist masala film places you against another titan Dilip Kumar, and it is incredible to watch two of the most talented actors of Indian cinema face off. Kumar and you match each other and compete too, and it is a revelation to watch the two very different acting styles. They play father and son, but the film delves into their psychological grievances with each other. The neglect and scorn Vijay feels from his father fuels his new lifestyle as a criminal and to look for a father figure in his gangster boss. It is as if the 70’s Angry Vijay that you played had mellowed a tad and become far more sullen and bitter for the 80s. It is remarkable to watch you transition your iconic persona by ushering you into a new grey area and a new decade.

Vijay Kumar in Trishul – Hell hath no fury like a Vijay scorned, is likely the motto of your pairing with scriptwriters Salim and Javed and director Yash Chopra. Trishul is no different but loosely based on Karna in the Mahabharat’s struggle for power against his family and it falls aptly in the Angry Young Man mould. On her deathbed, Vijay’s mother reveals he is the illegitimate son of RK Gupta (Sanjeev Kumar) who ditched her before he was born. Vijay vows to become his father’s competitor and destroy his construction business out of sheer revenge. This was a startling switch from a hero who turns to crime for his parents or devoted to them, as this Vijay does not care for his father. You play this amoral Vijay with maniacal glee complete glaring at everyone around and angry tirades directed at your father ending each with a terse ‘Yes Mr RK Gupta’ before storming off.

Vijay Dinanath Chauhan in Agneepath – Mix in a bit of Scarface, a lot of gravely voiced Brando posturing, and a whole lot of Vijay fury and we get your most seething performances. When your father is framed and killed by corrupt town members and a bad man called Kancha Cheena, Vijay becomes a much feared and ruthless don to the chagrin of his mother and sister. This one of your later roles  let everyone know you were still in the top of your form. With your eyes lined with kohl and bloodshot, and repeating your famous line ‘pura naam Vijay Dinanath Chauhan’ you struck in an image of terror.  You do get the sense that you were putting everything on the line for this film and a little experimentation with your iconic persona certainly helped you land the National Award for this film. .

Subir Kumar in Abhimaan – Rarely do critics cite some of your pre-Vijay films as key in your oeuvre. However, the sparks felt in this film and others like Namak Haram or Anand are previews to the fuller actor you became after these iconic roles. This film by Hrishikesh Mukherjee looks at the marriage of two singers played by you and Jayaji as your star is on the wane and she overtakes you on the charts. With jealousy and   the hurt pride of a once popular star, your sensitive portrayal as Subir  makes a dislikeable character into such a humane tragic person character that the audience feels for him as he alienates all those around him. The early signs of a darker side and buried resentment, which you portray so well in this film can all be seen in your key roles.

Buddhadev Gupta in Cheeni Kum – You could call this your transition to Grumpy Old Man roles, but it deserves a place in this list for your commitment to reinventing your persona. You are the original Angry Young Man but you did have time for romance and humor and R Balki’s script allows you to mesh together all your favorite traits. Balki gives us grizzled chef Buddhadev who wastes no opportunity insulting his staff but lets his guard down around his elderly mother and young neighbour. These sweet moments reveal the softie inside all of the Angry Young men you may have played, they do all have a yearning for love but keep up the macho defence, which is why Tabu can see through your façade.

Subhash ‘Sarkar’ Nagre in Sarkar – Another brilliant revisionist take by Ram Gopal Verma who knew how to capitalize on the persona and the public’s appetite to see you in a negative role.  Certainly, it is the most stylish presentation of yours with menacing camera angles and utilizing the baritone voice for sinister speeches and it completely works in synergy. Playing the Vito Corleone in this film, this Godfather only loosens up around his family but as his wayward son Kay Kay Menon finds out even they are not spared from his wrath.

Debraj Sahai in Black -- It takes a brave man to make a Bollywood movie without color and songs, but that's exactly what Sanjay Leela Bhansali has done with Black. In his boldest movie to date, Bhansali directs you, the living Bollywood legend  as Debraj Sahai, an alcoholic teacher who transforms the life of an Anglo-Indian deaf-blind girl played by Rani Mukerji. After rescuing her from an asylum, Debraj spends years developing the wild child Michelle into an intelligent and gregarious young woman. Determined to see his student graduate from university, he acts as her eyes and ears, guiding her through the tough world around her. But when Alzheimers sets in, both Debraj and his student's life are plunged into darkness once again. Now taking on the role of teacher, Michelle fights to remind her mentor of the meaning of everything he once taught her. Boasting of carefully crafted script, beautiful cinematography, a haunting score and moving performances by Amitabh Bachchan, Rani Mukerji and Ayesha Kapoor as the young Michelle, Black takes you on an uplifting journey of the human spirit.

Raj Malhotra in Baghban -- "The man who helped you take your first steps, will you help him to take his last steps?" The question you ask towards climax of the film keeps ringing in your mind much after you have watched the most compelling movie in recent times. The love between a much married couple (rarely seen on Indian screen) with a lot of warmth and sensitivity could only be portrayed by an iconic persona of your stature. The climax in which you give it back to your children, brings a lump into your throat each time you speak with those wrinkled eyes. And, of course, those awesome dance sequences, you are in your element and seems to have thoroughly enjoyed yourself.

Auro in Paa -- Years after every bit of you being broadcast in biographies and beyond, it makes more sense to not be Amitabh Bachchan and still deliver bigtime. Director R. Balki does exactly that. He takes everything from brand Bachchan from his persona - baritone, height, mannerism - and presents you in absolutely another aura as Auro. The prosthetic makeup is absolutely authentic removing every trace of yours from Auro and inserting you in an absolutely new identity. The climax is sure to bring a lump in your throat and even the stonehearted end up with moist eyes. Without doubt, you deserved all the awards and accloads for your portrayal of Auro. With a new voice, face and body language here is one character of yours which will undoubtedly stand out in your filmography for being delightfully different and charmingly childish. At times you should not be yourself to show the world what you really are. You do just the that and show the world you are the Paa of performing arts.

These are only some of the many roles you have done that covey your iconic persona in different interpretations. The fact that you experiment and constantly reinvent yourself with each role drawing on  public’s love of your image and your own strengths within that image is a testament to your longevity and the fact that you are, indeed, the Game Changer of the Century.


Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Legendary Leading Ladies Of Bollywood

“Just a few smart male actors can completely change the face of a commercial, star-driven film industry. Looking at the one playing the female protagonist here, Vidya Balan – Paa, Ishqiya, No One Killed Jessica, and this – it appears, that change could well originate from the leading lady instead. This is Balan’s, or for that matter any contemporary Bollywood heroine's, ballsiest role so far.

Though Conrad Hilton didn’t put it this way, Silk (or Balan) concludes – There are three things you need for a successful film: entertainment, entertainment, entertainment. Over here, “I am the entertainment.” She is absolutely right, beyond first-rate.”
- Mayank Shekhar's review: The Dirty Picture in Hindustan Times

Bollywood is basically a hero oriented industry. Male leads would often see that their female co-stars got less footage, less meaty roles, less publicity, that they do not turn scene stealers. Nevertheless, some of the most memorable films have been those that were women-centric. These films have given some great female stars who commanded an equal position with the male leads and also no less a superstar status. They are some of the most beautiful actresses, many of them Beauty Queens, who emerged as superstars, with their awards- winning talent and some very successful films to be proud of :

Devika Rani: First Lady of the Indian Cinema and an acknowledged beauty, Devika Rani goes down in the annals of Hindi films as actor par excellence. Karma (1933) gave her instant fame and rave reviews for her performance. She made a very successful team with Ashok Kumar - Jeevan Naiya, Janma Bhoomi, Achut Kanya, Izzat, Savitri and Anjaan. For her contributions to Indian Cinema, Devika Rani was the first recipient of the prestigious Dada Sahib Phalke Award in 1970.

Naseem Banu: Daughter of the legendary playback singer Shamshad Begum, Naseem was one of the most beautiful figures to grace the Indian screen. She was the Beauty Queen of her time and a superstar of her days. Starting her career in Khoon Ka Khoon (1935), she was an overnight sensation on release of Sohrab Modi's all time classic, Pukar (1939). Her song in the movie 'Zindagi ka saaz bhi kya saaz hai, baj raha hai aur beawaz hai' was a big hit. Her other hit movies include Talaaq, Ujala, Begam, Jeevan Sapna, Anokhi Ada, Chandani Raat and Sheesh Mahal. She retired in the mid-50s so that she would groom her daughter Saira Banu for an acting career.

Durga Khote: A strong woman, Durga Khote had a glorious career that spanned 50 years, which included acting, production and direction. Starting her career in Ayodhecha Raja (1932) she acted in over 200 films. Her powerful performance in Amar Jyoti (1937) made her an overnight star who was thereafter sought for woman-centric films, especially historicals. Her major films include Rajrani Meera, Nand Kumar, Adhuri Kahani, Maya Machindra, Patit Pawan, Jeevan Natak, Inquilab, Saathi, Narsi Bhagat, Geeta, Vijay, Bharat Milap, Prithvi Vallabh, Mahatma Vidur, Pannadai, Mirza Ghalib and Mughal-E-Azam.

Shanta Apte: Whanever films about strong women are discussed, V. Shantaram's Dunia Na Mane (1937) tops the list. In the film, Nirmala, an orphan girl is given in marriage to an old rich widower. She revolts and refuses to consummate the union with her husband. Shanta Apte played perfect Nirmala. This was her third most memorable performance in a row - the earlier two being in Shantaram's classics, Amrit Manthan (1934) and Amar Jyoti (1936). Shanta Apte's other great movies include Zamindar, Apna Ghar, Mohabbat, Duhai and Subhadra. She was also a great singer of her time, who sang her own songs in films.

Madhubala: The most beautiful star of Hindi cinema, she was brilliant in both, comedy as well as in high dramatic performance. While she matched Kishore Kumar step by step in his madcap antics in Chalti Ka Naam Gadi, her performance as the doomed courtesan Anarkali in Mughal-E-Azam equalled that of Dilip Kumar as Prince Salim. Madhubala began her Bollywood life in Kidar Sharma's Neel Kamal (1947) opposite Raj Kapoor and became a superstar in Mahal (1949), a super super suspence thriller. A spate of hits followed - Amar, Howrah Bridge, Kala Paani, Phagun, Passport, Half Ticket and Sharabi. Madhubala's memorable career in Hindi films was cut short by her untimely death.

Nargis: One of the greatest Indian actresses, Nargis started her Bollywood journey with a break by the ace director Mehboob in Taqdeer (1943), but real stardom came her way with Mehboob's Andaaz and Raj Kapoor's Barsaat. Both movies were mega hits. Nargis played the lead in a spate of super hits opposite Dilip Kumar - Mela, Jogan, Babul and Deedar. After Awaara (1951) she worked exclusively with Raj Kapoor - Aah, Anhonee, Ashiana, Bewafa, Shri 420, Chori Chori and Jagte Raho. Her magnum opus Mother India (1957) represents the pinnacle of her career and won her the Best Actress award at the prestigious Karlovy Vary Festival. Nargis was the first film personality to be awarded Padmashree.

Meena Kumari: She was one of the most beloved actresses of Bollywood. She took performance to new heights with her classic contributions including Parineeta, Baiju Bawra, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Daera, Ek Hi Raasta, Sharda, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai, Dil Ek Mandir, Aarti, Kajal, Phool Aur Pathar and Pakeeza. She also excelled in light hearted roles - Azaad, Miss Mary, Shararat and Kohinoor. She won Filmfare awards for Best Actress in Baiju Bawra (1952), Parineeta (1953) and Sahib Bibi Ghulam (1962) and made history in 1962 by bagging three Best Actress nominations - Aarti, Main Chup Rahungi and Sahib Bibi Ghulam. She was called the Tragedy Queen for playing the suffering woman to perfection.

Vijayantimala: The first South Indian actress who made it big in Bollywood, Vijayantimala's greatest legacy to Indian cinema is that it has become a must for any inspiring actress to be an accomplished dancer. She started her career in Hindi films with Bahar (1951), a big hit, primarily because of her dance numbers. In Devdas (1955) she played dancing girl Chandramukhi and won Filmfare award for Best Supporting Actress. Naya Daur (1957), a mega hit, made her the most sought after star. Bimal Roy's Madhumati (1958), shot her to the highest echelons of stardom. She won Filmfare awards for Best Actress in Sadhna (1958), Ganga Jamuna (1961) and Sangam (1964). After her last big hit, Jewel Thief (1967), she retired from films.

Waheeda Rehman: Another great dancer from South Indian films, Waheeda Rehman was spotted by Guru Dutt in a Telgu film and brought to Bombay to work in his production, C.I.D. (1956). The film was a big hit but her role of a vamp was not that big. The real srardom was offered to her on a platter in Guru Dutt's masterpiece Pyaasa (1957), followed by two more classics from Guru Dutt, Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962). Her hit movies include Chowdhavin Ka Chand, Kala Bazaar, Bees Saal Baad, Mujhe Jeene Do, Kohra and Ram Aur Shyam. With Guide (1965) she reached the peak of her career, playing the difficult role of a desperate housewife.

Nutan: Launched in Hamari Beti (1950) by mother Shobhana Samarth, Nutan's major breakthrough as an actress par excellence came with Seema (1955), which won her Filmfare Best Actress Award. Whether it was the light hearted Paying Guest (1957) or Bimal Rai's intense Sujata (1959), brought out the best in her. She continued with her bright career with Tere Ghar Ke Samne, Anadi, Chhalia, Milan, Khandaan, Sarswatichandra, Saudagar, Sajan Bina Suhagan and Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki. Her greatest performance was in Bimal Roy's Bandini (1963). She won record-breaking 5 Filmfare awards for Best Actress - Seema (1957), Sujata (1960), Bandini (1964), Milan (1969) and Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1979).

Sharmila Tagore: She won a timultuous welcome to Hindi cinema when she appeared with her glorious dimples and sassy smile in the romantic comedy Kashmir Ki Kali (1964) opposite Shammi Kapoor. With Evening in Paris (1967), she went on to become one of the hottest and most glamorous actresses. She won Filmfare Best Actress Award for Aradhna (1970) and National Award for Mausam (1975). Her other great movies include Anupama, Waqt, Chupke Chupke, Satyakam, Khushboo, Griha Pravesh, Namkeen, Desh Premi and Mississipi Masala.

Rakhee: One look at Rakhee and you are immediately drawn to her gaze. There you find the fire as well as melancholy, depending on her mood of the moment. In Sharmeelee (1971), her debut film, the cameraman devoted half an hour to her close-ups. She is truly a photographer's dream. She has a long list of super hits, to her very successful career spanning 30 years in the industry - Reshma Aur Shera, Lal Pathar, Be-Iman, Heera Panna, Daag, Black Mail, Banarsi Babu, Joshila, Angarey, Tapasya, Kabhi Kabhie, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Jurmana, Kala Pathar, Lootmaar, Shaan, Laawaris, Shradhanjali, Bemisal and more. She won Filmfare Best Actress Award for Tapasya (1976), Best Supporting Actress Award for Daag (1976) and Ram Lakhan (1989).

Hema Malini: She entered Bollywood as the 'Dream Girl' of Raj Kapoor in Sapnon Ka Saudagar (1968), but became dream girl of multitude of movie goers with Johnny Mera Naam, the mega hit of 1970. Then came Seeta Aur Geeta (1972) and she was the top female star, winning the Filmfare Best Actrss Award for the film. Her stocks went high with a string of hits opposite Dharmendra - Raja Jani, Jugnu, Solay, Pratigya, Phandebaaz, Dream Girl, Dillagi, Charas, Azaad, Aas Paas, Andha Kanoon etc. Gulzar brought to limelight Hema's histrionics excellence in Khushboo (1975), Kinara (1977) and Meera (1979). Hema Malini has the distinction of bagging Filmfare Best Actress Award even for her comeback film Baghban, more than 30 years after she won her first award. She was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1999.

Shabana Azmi: One of the greatest actresses of our time, leading light of the Indian New Wave cinema, she dominated the films of the 'parallel cinema' in 1970s and 80s made by India's famous arthouse directors Shyam Benegal, Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Aparna Sen and others. Her most memorable movies include Ankur, Nishant, Junoon, Atithi, Sparsh, Mandi. Madam Sousatzka, City of Joy, Fire, Earth and Morning Raaga, besides the Filmfare Best Actress Award winning films Swami, Arth and Bhavna.

Rekha: Superstar of South India, Gemini Ganeshan's daughter Rekha entered Bollywood with a bang, with her first film Sawan Bhadon (1970) becoming a super hit. Her most memorable movie is Umrao Jaan in which she played the role of the poet-cum-court dancer with the charm that captivated the audience as never before. She won the National Award for the film. Her big hits include - Mr. Natwarlal, Khoon Psina, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Namak Haram, Suhag, Ram Balram, Kasme Vaade, Do Anjaane, Alaap. Khoobsoorat and Khoon Bhari Maang won her Filmfare Best Actress Awards. She also won Best Supprting Actress Award for Khiladion Ke Khiladi (1998). The icon of beauty and glamor in Bollywood, she credits Yoga and balanced diet as the secret of her ageless face and figure.

Sridevi: Stunning beauty and an accomplished dancer, Sridevi came to capture Bollywood in the 80s, after conquoring the South Indian cinema. In fact, she is the only actress to have attained superstar status in Hindi cinema and the South Indian regional cinema at the same time. Dance has always been Sridevi's forte in all her films. Her dance number in the mega hit Chandni - Mere Hathon Mei Nau Nau Churiyan - made the dance mendatory at every marriage in any nook and corner of the country. Childlike, spontaneous and comic, she excelled in the art of slapstick and physical comedy - Mr. India (1987) and Chalbaaz (1989). She won Filmfare Best Actress Award for Chalbaaz and Lamhe and nominations for Sadma, Chandni, Khuda Gwah, Gumrah, Laadla and Judaai. She is now more active as producer than as an actress.

Madhuri Dixit: N. Chandra's Tezaab (1988) - Ek Do Teen Char - took the nation by storm and celebrated Golden Jubilee. The sensational newcomer, Madhuri Dixit, who performed the super hit song-cum-dance number, became a superstar overnight. The Ek Do Teen girl, as she came to be known, gave another stunning performance in Dil (1990) and Madhuri was now the most sought after star. An ultimate beauty and a wonderful dancer, she has achieved milestones in her career with her flawless performance, winning Filmfare Best Actress Awards for Dil (1991), Beta (1993), Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1995), Dil To Pagal Hai (1998) and Best Actress - supporting role for Devdas (2003). She also got nominated for Best Actress for her Tezaab, Prem Pratigya, Saajan, Khal Nayak, Yaraana, Pukar and Lajja.

The great performance of these actors and their glorious and shining artistry par excellence have made Indian cinema unparalleled. Paa, ishkiya, Dirty Picture and Kahani proves beyond doubt that Vidya Balan may be the next to join the league of legendary leading ladies of Bollywood.