The Mark Of Classic:
It’s 41 years since the release of the original Golmaal (1979), Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s no-frills comedy, that remains a Bollywood classic.
Starring Amol Palekar, Utpal Dutt, Dina Pathak, Bindiya Goswami, Manju Singh and Deven Varma—which does not seem like a high-powered cast in the age of the Angry Young Man—the film was a big hit. It also turned Hrishikesh Mukherjee into a master of comedy, though most of his films till then had been serious and intense. The plot was fiendishly simple: a man lies to save his job, then has to live that lie, by creating a fictional twin–all of which makes up a hilarious comedy of errors.
Ramprasad (Amol Palekar) works with Bhavani Shankar (Utpal Dutt), who believes that all real men should have moustaches and that his employees should refrain from any frivolous activities like watching sports. Ramprasad takes leave from work, saying his mother is ill. On being spotted at a match, Ramprasad is forced to invent a twin—a clean-shaven, good-for-nothing Laxman. Things get really frantic for Ram as he has to play both the roles– the oily haired simpleton and the flamboyant twin. Bhavani Shankar gives Laxman the job of teaching music to his daughter ((Bindiya Goswani). To complicate matters further, she falls in love with Laxman, while her father wants her to marry Ram. When Bhavani Shankar visits Ramprasad has to invent a mother (Dina Pathak) too, and then she has to invent a twin, and it all gets completely out of hand.
The humour was in the situations, at the centre of which was a moustache; on the boss’s little quirk, a complex and fast-paced screenplay was built. Gulzar’s lines were witty without being over the top or with double meaning.
Hrishida and a bunch of other wonderful filmmakers of that period, combined the strengths of Bollywood mainstream cinema (they were not averse to songs, for instance, and Golmaal had a great RD Burman score, with Gulzar’s super lyrics) with the narrative power of art house films, to create a body of work that was entertaining without being stupid, and was accessible to the lowest common denominator too. The films of directors like Hrishida, Basu Chatterjee, Gulzar and Sai Paranjpye came to be known as middle-of-the-road cinema. For a while, it attracted a middle-class audience that was contemptuous of Bollywood, and bored with art films.
However, what today’s filmmakers simply cannot replicate is the simplicity of those films, which were so funny because they were about ordinary people like us. Though they have tried—Paranjye’s Chashme Buddoor, Chatterjee’s Shaukeen and Khatta Meetha have been remade with Bollywood masala added—the plot of the latter was borrowed by Rohit Shetty for his Golmaal 3 (of course, the idea came from the 1968 Hollywood film Yours Mine And Ours).
Interestingly, after appropriating the title for his own boisterous franchise, Rohit Shetty did the ‘official’ remake Golmaal, as the cringe-worthy Bol Bachchan. Official in the sense that the rights were purchased, after which Shetty ran over the charming comedy with a large bulldozer and flattened it into a witless farce.
Shetty is unarguably a Bollywood A-lister; his movies make humungous amounts of money and one action scene in his film probably costs more than the entire budget of the old Golmaal, but 41 years later that one stands the test of time. Shetty’s first Golmaal came out in 2006. Let 2047 decide how it fares in comparison.
(This is a slightly modified version of the piece that appeared in The Financial Chronicle dated 12/10/2017)