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Sunday, February 6, 2011

This post is dedicated to my first - and last - filmi crush, Madhuri Dixit. 
And to the man who shared it with me - birthday boy, Nilendu Misra.

The story of Tezaab was a standard issue punch of parental-opposition-to-college romance and
heartless-society-turning-a-promising-character-into-outlaw, which was hardly novel. But like so many Hindi movies where form triumphs over content, Tezaab turned out to be a totally rocking, clapping, whistling masala mix.

I love it for 3 reasons.
It had one of the most dazzling array of minor characters in the history of Bollywood.
It had some amazing scenes that infused run of the mill events with adrenaline (helped in no small measure by Kamlesh Pandey's dialogues).
And it had...
Mo-hi-ni. Mo-hi-ni. Mo-hi-ni. Mo-hi-ni. Ho. Ho. Ho. Ho. Ho. Ho...
(Hat tip for reminding: Abhishek Mukherjee)

Within ten minutes of the film, we had the Biggest Hit Song of the 80s zinging through the theatre like a dynamite fuse. The heroine getting kidnapped in a crowded bazaar in a maze of upturned bikes. A telegram calling an expelled criminal back to the city. But not before he buries a knife between the fingers of a whimpering goon - "Teri zindagi aur maut ke beech ka faasla Munna ki chakoo ke dhaar se zyada nahin hain"    
Whew! And that's only the first, well, ten minutes.
And - oh, the characters! Ah, the scenes!
Suresh Oberoi - much more manly and with better dialogue delivery than his son - as Inspector Singh, who was the sutradhar and the film flowed because of his desire to know yeh ladka Mahesh Deshmukh se Munna kaise ban gaya.
Achyut Potdar, who played Anil Kapoor's father and an upright bank cashier in an one scene role where he refused to comply with the demands of a gun-toting bank robber and got killed in the process
Annu Kapoor, as (Abbas Ali urf) Guldasta, the showbiz wannabe who was willing to be manipulated for a promised shot at stardom but is never beyond the pre-climax redemption.
Kiran Kumar, in his most memorable role as Lotiya Pathan, was the wide-eyed villain running a paap ki nagri of extortion and girl-running.
Anupam Kher played Shyam Lal, the despicable gambler-alcoholic who thought nothing of living off his wife and daughter's earnings and threatening to throw acid on them if they resisted.
Mandakini as the college beauty queen, Nikita in a blink-and-miss role. But you did not want to blink when she was on the screen.
Chunky Pandey was Babban - the archetypal Hero's Friend but with a lot of chutzpah as he pulled off a super con on ek behosh marwari and got to sing the song that defined (and ended) Nitin Mukesh's career (till Neil revived it).
Tezaab followed the Manmohan Desai formula of having an 'item' every 9 minutes - except that the frequency was higher! 
Ek do teen. The Ganesh Chaturthi fight. Bank robbery on the Odessa Steps. Johnny Lever doing a brief Rekha impersonation. Guldasta singing his tuneless ditties. Kehe do ki tum ho meri varna. Munna's defense in the courtroom. Framing of Munna by a corrupt inspector. The storming of Lotiya Pathan's den. So gaya yeh jahan. The final showdown on a ship. 
And beyond everything else, there was Madhuri Dixit in a blue swimsuit.
When you are fifteen, how can that not get completely etched on to your brain?
Tezaab was also the first film to add one song after a few months of its release, in order to draw in repeat audiences. In that song (watch from 6:00 in the clip), many Indian icons were mentioned by way of challenges and counter-challenges between Munna and Mohini. Amitabh ko bulowo toh jaane... Sridevi ko nachao toh jaane... Dara Singh se ladho toh jaane... Phoolan Devi ko darao toh jaane...
Nearly 20 years later, the performer herself became a reference point of success as a film echoed the sentiments of a million Indian girls - Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon.

UPDATED TO ADD: A reader (Manidip Garai) has sent me a few beautiful lines in English, which has an amazing connection to this post. Enjoy!
World’s downed its shutters; the sky is fast asleep
Destinations too are drifting off; sleep roams the streets
Night came and packed off the stars home for the day
Night came and the extras like us went whistling in the bay
This way or that? Old town or new?
Can we really go anywhere even if we go to a few?
Destinations too are drifting off; sleep walks the streets…
Ask me or say something,
Sitting beside, not for nothing
Yes we are close, but far as well
Should we speak? Only time can tell
When did we leave ourselves behind?
How did we miss the world go by?
The sun has set and gone out of our sight
For some hours at least there won’t be any light
World’s downed its shutters; the sky is fast asleep
Destinations too are drifting off; sleep roams the streets


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