Those Were The Days:
It is possible that many of the young audiences below the age of 40, watching D For Drama’s Golden Jubliee have no idea what the term means in relation to cinema; that there was a time when popular films ran for 50 weeks (or sometimes more). These days, if a film lasts over the opening weekend, the producers throw success parties.
Several romantic films of the 1960s did have a set formula, and worked with the same template with minor variations, and that lasted almost till the Eighties. If popular stars acted in them, and they had good songs, a 25 week run could be reached, if not 50. Hindi satirist Harishankar Parsai wrote a droll piece Film Katha on the clichés of that kind of cinema, which Saurabh Nayyar has adapted into a musical production, aiming more at parody than satire.
Those who have seen those old films, would understand who or what was being parodied—right from the dhoti-clad faithful family servant with that arthritic walk, to the overage hero hanging around outside girls’ college to rescue the heroine from eve-teasers, the simpering leading lady with her giggly sahelis, the villain dressed in flashy clothes and the rich father in that shiny dressing gown seldom seen outside of the film screen!
A script writer (Amit Purohit) comes to narrate a story to a faded superstar. The hero of his story is Rakesh (Girish Sharma—mimicking Rajendra Kumar, Rajesh Khanna with a dash of Mithun Chakraborty), who is the son of the wealthy Thakur Rana Pratap (Navendra Mishra). Rakesh falls in love with the very poor Ranjana (Niketa Saraf), which angers his father. Using the socialistic amir-garib lines that dialogue writers back then had at the tip of their pen, he walks out of the house. (It could very well have been a poor boy-rich girl story, with more or less the same progression.)
The romance is punctuated with songs (music director Shridhar Nagraj has done a fine job)—including one in the park, which, Parsai wrote, had timings set for lovers by the BMC, when nobody else could visit.
The evil zamindar, Surendra Singh (Avneesh Mishra—doing a spirited imitation of that evil Prem Chopra-Ranjeet laugh) has an eye on Ranjana, whose father owes him money.
Nayyar has picked up these and other familiar scenes–like a club sequence, a cabaret, a deus ex machina scene, the melodramatic court sequence, which are hilarious by themselves, even if the play does not quite hang together like the old films did. Despite the plots and dialogue that seem corny today, so many of those films were successful because audiences in those days could somehow relate to them.
The audience laughs at those scenes today and enjoys making fun of old Hindi movies, but these were the building blocks of Bollywood as we know it today. To the credit of Nayyar and his cast, the send-up is entertaining (even if occasionally over the top), especially to audiences who may never have seen any of the films or actors being lampooned, but feel an instinctive affection towards them.
(This piece first appeared in mumbaitheatreguide.com)