Albela (Bhagwan, 1951): One of the biggest musical hits, Albela was also critically acclaimed for direction and performances by Bhagwan and Geeta Bali. It is an inspiring story about a lowly office worker (Bhagwan) who dreams of being a star of the stage. His slow march to the top is helped by the beautiful and successful diva Asha (Geeta Bali) with whom he inevitably falls in love. Bhagwan Dada became synonymous with this film. In fact his minimal dance movements, the gentle swaying of the hips and lift of the hands became a behavioral influence in Hindi films. His form of dance had amazing grace. The film's other great highlight is C. Ramchandra's greatest compositions of his career - 'Shola jo bhadke', 'Sham dhale khidki tale', 'Dhire se aaja ri ankhiyan mein', 'Balma bada nadaan', 'Bholi soorat dil ke khote' and more.
Not only the film Albela was an underdog film, its producer and leading man, Bhagwan Dada, himself was an underdog, as he was not amongst the well established directors nor did he have the personality to play leading role in a movie. His personal story was so touching that even a bio on him was made recently, titled Ekk Albela. It’s the story of Bhagwan Dada who we know as a Hindi film comedian with his unique dancing style. The anecdotal film begins with his early youthful days and goes on to narrate his entry into films and eventual emergence as a successful star of B grade action-stunt films. The film ends with ALBELA, a social-musical produced & directed by him. He also played the male lead in the film with Geeta Bali as his heroine. The most remarkable part of the biopic is its carefully developed screenplay. Bhagwan Dada lived for 88 years. The writers of the film have smartly chosen those anecdotal episodes of his life that were relevant to the premise of the film. They obviously wanted to tell the story of a man who fought various odds to succeed and achieve stardom on the strength of his conviction and in spite of the betrayal of his so-called well-wishers. The writers succeed in this avowed objective quite creditably.
Sir, Bheja Fry (2007) is the second classic example of an underdog film I would like to draw your attention to. A slice of life. Or something that should be a slice of life - good humor. Vinay Pathak reminds you how to take a joke on yourself and Rajat Kapoor how not to make a joke on the likes of Vinay. And they do so in comical situations that build on top of each other supported by some simple but really amusing lines.
On April, 13, (also celebrated as World Cinema Day), Bheja Fry was released in Indian theatres with just 60 prints. Though
Doshi and Ballary knew the film would connect with select audiences, they were bowled over by the mass response. In first week, the film raked in Rs 5.5 crore. It went on to do business over Rs.10 crore and more. Not bad for a film that found itself pitted against a heavyweight like Ta Ra Rum Pum, released under the Yash Raj banner.
When Sagar Ballary first met Sunil Doshi, he had a script ready for a television film. The script, Doshi felt, had great potential -- it revolved around an idiot invited to dinner by an arrogant music company honcho -- and didn't deserve shoddy treatment.
The initial budget of the film, after Ballary failed to garner takers (read producers), was Rs 35 lakh but Doshi was willing to push the envelope and, after studying the finances of the film, they arrived at the figure of Rs 51-55 lakh. Doshi's boutique film production company, Handmade Films, found Ballary's script promising; somewhere Ballary had faith in his own script; and soon enough, both began working with actors who had been their long-standing friends. With finances and actors in place, Ballary completed the film's shooting in 20 days, while Doshi began working on its shoe-string budget promotional campaign barely weeks before it hit the screen. The modest-sized unit of this equally modest film said their silent prayers, crossed their fingers and released the film with the help of Adlabs and PVR.
Apart from several underdog movies, many of our superstars started as underdogs. Salman Khan may have become a superstar today, yet his early days in the industry were not easy. Talking to Huffington Post about his struggles as a Bollywood underdog, Salman Khan expressed how filmmakers used to give various kinds of excuses when he approached them for a role. Salman Khan even shared an incident where he was almost kicked out of a producer’s office. The actor reveals that he approached a producer named Anand Girdhar, who used to make small budget B-grade movies at that time. Salman had approached Anand when the latter was hiring for a movie titled The Graduate. Apparently, Anand had rejected Salman, as the actor was just 17 or 18 at that time. As the producer was looking for a person to play a teacher, he told Salman that he was too young for the role. Although Salman insisted that he could wear a fake moustache and look older, Anand had asked him whether he was going to leave or if he should ring the buzzer to have him escorted out.
Salman Khan reveals that the same producer met him years later and said, “I'm the same guy who kicked you out of my office.”
The actor then hugged the filmmaker and thanked him, as he thought his underdog days in Bollywood made him who he is today.