Dream combo

What are the ingredients of an unforgettable song in the sense of the genre of prolific Bollywood music? In the field of Hindustani Classical music, it is the raag and the way each artist (vocal or instrumental) expands and expounds the notes and innovates the interpretation and a lot of importance is given to the raag, the time of the day that is central. Lyrics are really of secondary importance (Bandish).

Bollywood music consists of three must have features: a) great lyrics, b) a good composer, c) great vocals. When all the three boxes are checked, you have a wonderful song. The movie/ actors are really of secondary importance. It does help of course if in the old times the movie has been a commercial success, the songs became popular in that way. However there are innumerable examples of very popular, unforgettable songs which featured in movies which bombed, absolutely sank to the bottom of the pool without raising a ripple, like a heavy stone put into a lake gently. The situation is all too frequent where one has to scratch one’s head about the origin of a well known song and not be too sure of the movie.

The 70s saw the emergence of the genre of a very vibrant parallel / alternative/ art films. Some of these are absolute gems, albeit not generating enough revenue to pay the bills so to speak, but was still a very satisfying experience all around. They seemed to merge with Basu Chatterjee’s films entering the mainstream and later sadly disappeared almost in its entirety with the scatophilic D Company driven tons of trash that is regularly dumped on our mind spaces by an increasing lobotomised industry that only serves regular fixes of skin flicks, cacophony that masquerades as music and voyeuristic storylines that would be scratched out by any teacher if a kid were to write it as an essay. The saddest part is an utter and complete lack of imaginativeness and a recurring tendency to recycle stories, movie titles, songs from already dubious sources. Every kind of insult is perpetrated on the audience’s “intelligence”.

A huge difference to this recurring carnage is this set of 3 movies made by Basu Bhattacharya in the 70s. All three movies were introspective, centred around marital discord and although complete by themselves, have a common thread that make sense when seen as a set, one after the other. Anubhav was made with Sanjeev Kumar (the best actor on show in my teens) , Tanuja (one of my favourite actresses) and Dinesh Thakur (such an underrated and under-utilised actors in Bollywood, his panoply of talents would have been undoubtedly better handled by Hollywood) . The second Avishkaar had Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore in rather deglamourized roles. The third movie saw Sharmila Tagore with Sanjeev Kumar (in a comeback into the trilogy) and Sarika as the third angle of the triangle. Griha Pravesh made towards the end of the decade dealt with adultery in a sensitive, non lascivious manner.

If I am asked to name a single movie I would like to remember Rajesh Khanna by, it would not be the series of 19 Jubilee hits he gave in a row (unparalleled run of success in the history of Bollywood), but rather by Avishkaar. To me this one movie is all about Rajesh Khanna’s unquestionably very impressive acting ability. Overshadowing the very skilled Sharmila Tagore in frames or sequences that have the two of them is no mean task, and he does this all the time. Amar and Manasi as they are called own the movie. Rajesh Khanna is the disillusioned husband in all senses of the word. There is nothing glamorous about the way he treats the role, and all you get to see is Amar with all his frailties, warts, skin tags and all come alive on the screen. It must have been an extremely difficult for the top Superstar to not just accept a role where he was not the hero in the conventional sense but also pull it off with consummate ease. He gave himself a huge paycut to enact the role, as Basu Bhattacharya was the Producer/ Director and could surely have not afforded the megabucks Rajesh Khanna commanded at the time (and commercial producers lined up outside his door with moneybags, virtually begging him to sign up for their movies) .

Avishkaar is unquestionably the film of/for Rajesh Khanna’s Amar. Through a smokescreen/ pall of thick cigarette smoke, Amar’s fixed gaze with very expressive eyes communicates the sense of loss, defeat and emotional fatigue after his mind, heart and inner peace is shattered to smithereens. When he speaks, his voice is low almost a whisper, a soliloquy, and in two absolutely memorable flashbacks with his hostile father-in-law which to me are THE HIGH POINTS of the movie, Kaka’s emotive skills truly peak. This movie shows him as a director’s actor, somewhat deglamourized but utterly relatable and therefore so much more loveable, somewhat like Vinod Khanna in Achanak and Jeetendra in Parichay/ Khushboo all three by the master Gulzar who successfully transformed glamorous stars into really good actors.

The amazing lyrics for Avishkaar are by Kapil Kumar and the soul stirring music by Kanu Roy. Manna Dey is as soulful in the song as only he can get. In that sense the song (and the movie) checks all the boxes and the song and the score are an utterly unforgettable tribute to the classic era of Hindi films, when every aspect had lasting value.

After seeing this movie I was so impressed by the entire experience, I remember insisting that our college festival (which I helped organise for the very first time ever in G S Medical College) be named Avishkaar. Sharad Iyengar agreed and I am so happy and proud that the name has stuck in the ensuing decades. It has become a huge brand now and kids from the alma mater call me occasionally for guidance and help with it. Great to be reminded of the past that is now sepia toned and wrapped in layers of experiences and events that have happened in the 40 plus years in between.

Go watch the movie folks, tonight on YouTube and you won’t be disappointed. Excellent movie that’s a great model and subject even for those who wish to learn the craft of filmmaking.

Stay safe, stay healthy folks, beat the Wuhan Virus and the criminals who made and unleashed it on an unsuspecting humanity

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

12 replies on “Dream combo”

R.khanna ki ek adbhut bhumika vali movie he Aavishkar ..Mere khyal se unko isi film ke liye rashtriy avord bhi mila he shayad …
Thank u sirji for sharing my best (anand ke jaisi )movie

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These were the actresses who made their entrance when glamour became an intrinsic part of an actress’ arsenal. Nargis, Nutan, Meena Kumari, Waheeda Rehman, et al were beautiful but they also had well-etched roles to play, strong characters who complemented their heroes & their cinema was good. The division between ‘commercial’ and ‘art’ didn’t affect them, since their world was (mostly) one of artistic commercial cinema. Madhubala perhaps, was the one heroine of that era who could also be considered ‘glamorous’. Yet, even she had roles where her obvious beauty only complemented her character, instead of overwhelming it. The new set of actresses were different. They were beautiful alright & with the advent of colour, they were packaged very well. The coming of the musical love-story, the sort of entertaining fluffy confections that were different from the social commentaries that came before them meant that cinema demanded a certain amount of polish & pizazz & so we were introduced to a new breed of women who looked pretty, moved gracefully & provided a perfect foil for their manly heroes. These were actresses who held audience interest by a fringe on their forehead, a dimpled smile, a coquettish look, or an upturned nose.
The roles were (mostly) interchangeable yet the films they acted in wouldn’t have been what they are without these actresses. Within the constraints of their designated roles, they even displayed their acting chops. Some of the actresses in this category even worked with ‘serious’ filmmakers.The best person to begin this category is la Tagore, because she, more than anyone else in this category, was the genuine crossover between two completely different styles of cinema. When she came into the Hindi film industry at the age of 20, she came with the cachet of being a Satyajit Ray discovery. She had already acted in two of the auteur’s films – Apur Sansar & Devi. But her turn as the dimpled Kashmiri beauty Champa with whom Shammi Kapoor falls in love with in Kashmir ki Kali did not really spark audience imagination. In fact, her rather stilted Hindi diction caught her a lot of flak, so much so she was ready to pack up & return to Calcutta. But with an intelligence that belied her years, she allowed herself to be moulded & repackaged as glamour queen in Shakti Samanta’s An Evening in Paris.
Further, playing a double role in the film she appeared in some rather risque costumes. The backlash was immense & Sharmila vowed not to leave the industry without changing that image. In the meantime the well-read, articulate actress went back to appear in her third Ray film Nayak, balancing her glamorous turn with some serious acting. (She would later act in two other Ray films – Aranyer Din Ratri and Seemabadha.)Her unconventional career choices did not end there.Just when things seemed to be falling into place, she got married to Mansur Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi & defying conventional wisdom that married heroines do not do well, returned to the studios to flash her dimples for Aradhana.This was the beginning of a successful run at the box-office. Again, instead of striking while the box-office iron was hot, she took off to have her son, Saif. When she returned, she showed off her abilities in roles as diverse as the ones in Amar Prem, Mausam, Aavishkar, etc. In that sense, the dichotomy between the actress & the star was pretty evident. The glamorous girl who formed a hit pair with the reigning superstar on the one hand ( the Rajesh Khanna-Sharmila Tagore pair would go on to act in seven films together) & the serious, national-award winning actress on the other. As Pauline Kael, the influential film critic writing for The New Yorker, enthused, “She is exquisite, perfect (a word I don’t use casually)…” Sadly she eased out of the movies in the mid-seventies & apart from a New Delhi Times or Virudh, appeared only in a handful of character roles that did no justice to her talent. Sharmila, related to Rabindranath Tagore & married to Nawab Pataudi has been a unique combination of beauty & brains as well as a bridge between Hindi cinema & the best of the Bengali film world.
She was ahead of her time, she portrayed the most traditional roles to the most modern ones.The dimpled actress who moved the hearts of millions as the wife of Apu in Apur Sansar & as Pushpa in Amar Prem could also do more contemporary roles. At her prime, she was the highest-paid female actor in the country. She beautifully balanced her two avatars—the serious persona of realist Bengali films & the Bollywood persona of films with song-and-dance sequences focused on success at the box office. Even her Hindi films, some of which were made by Bengali directors, offered gripping stories, outstanding performances & conveyed some social message. She appeared in Satayjit Ray’s Apur Sansar when she was barely 14 years old. She further honed her acting talent in Ray’s films like Devi, Aranyer Din Ratri  & Nayak. Other Bengalis who directed Sharmila included Tapan Sinha (Nirjan Saikate); Asit Sen (Safar); Hrishikesh Mukherjee (Anupama, Satyakam); Basu Bhattacharya (Avishkaar) & Gautam Ghosh (Abar Aranye).She is a versatile actor. Her roles in Apur Sansar & Devi have nothing in common with her role in An Evening in Paris. She portrayed two sharply contrasting characters in Gulzar’s Mausam & gave an endearing performance in his film Namkeen.No other Bollywood actress has acted in as many films based on famous novels as Sharmila has. For example, Apur Sansar was based on a novel by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay; Safar on a novel by Asutosh Mukherjee.
Her eyes & the modulation of her voice were the soul of her acting. She was able to convey so much through her eyes, without uttering a word in films like Anupama and Devar. In films such as Aradhana, Amar Prem & Aavishkar, she adds so much more realism to her performance with the modulation of her voice. She didn’t copy anyone, her acting is rooted in the nuances of Bengali cinema. She gave the biggest blockbusters in Bollywood with Shakti Samanta & Rajesh Khanna almost amounting to mass hysteria. Yash Chopra debuted as a director with Sharmila’s film, Daag. In the twilight of her career, she acted in the films of young & talented directors like Gautam Ghosh (Abar Aranye) & Nagesh Kuknoor (Tasveer). Underplaying rather than going over the top was the hallmark of her acting. She won two National Awards: Best actress for Mausam & Supporting Best Actress for Abar Aranye. She also won Filmfare’s Best Actress Award for Aradhana & a lifetime achievement award from Filmfare & Screen Awards. She has served as the Chief of the Censor Board & as the Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF. In 2013, she was honoured with a Padma Bhushan by the Government of India.

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I will surely see the movie today –i might have seen it earlier .Thanks for revealing that the name “” aavishkar”” was your “” Invention “” —most apt and suited to the celebrations over the numerous years and I am really grateful to you and Madam Superna for the wonderful history of films –fantastc pieces –gems of information

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