Tag Archives: ketan mehta

Hero Hiralal : A Reality Show Ahead Of Its Time

The advent of cable-tv happened in India in the early 1990’s when foreign channels were beaming in the houses of the privileged upper-middle-class. A decade later came the age of the reality shows with Channel V running a contest to form a girl-band on the lines of Spice Girls; and in 2002 Viva happened.

But much before cable-tv was introduced and much before reality shows made an appearance, came the movie Hero Hiralal. It was the vision of Ketan Mehta that he weaved such a tale which seemed pedestrian to begin with, but ended in a crescendo. It was a reality show of high-voltage drama and very much ahead of its times, when nobdoy had come-up with such a concept.

hero-hiralalThe movie released in 1988 and I saw it a couple of years later in DD. The movie starts in a typical boy-meets-girl format. We are introduced to Naseeruddin Shah as Hiralal who drives an auto in Hyderabad. He is a big film buff and that’s how gets the title Hero. His friend Mohan Gokhale plays a movie-poster-painter and one of the landmark dialogs of the movie was ‘phata poster, nikla hero’.

A film troupe arrives in Hyderabad to shoot a movie and Roopa, played by Sanjana Kapoor in her debut movie, is the lead actress of the movie. Hero falls head over heels for her, he takes her round the city in his auto. Kiran Kumar plays the lead opposite Roopa in the movie that’s being made, and Hero keeps landing up during the shooting. He whisks her away and they spend a lot of time together, exploring the city in his auto. Roopa is just being friendly but Hero mistakes her overtures for love.

The movie shooting is complete and the entire cast moves back to Bombay. Hero, in his desperate bid to announce his love to Roopa, reaches Bombay. When Roopa dispels all his notions and feelings of love, Hero decides that life is not worth living and he wishes to end his life.

That’s when Sitara Devi, a publicity agent, enters his life. She does not want Hero to end his nondescript life in such anonymous fashion. She wishes to make his death a mega-event, to announce to the world about the pain and subsequent death of a lover and thereby make him a love-martyr. She turns, what would have been an incident [his suicide], into an event.

Huge hoardings are drawn-up all over the city, declaring this reality show as a must-watch. Lots of publicity is done and people queue-up to buy the tickets. There is media frenzy and reporters scamper to Roopa and and Sitara Devi for exclusive interviews. People on the streets start discussing this event and Roopa starts questioning herself whether she loves Hero or not; and what she can do to stop him from sacrificing his life.

Meanwhile Roopa is being closely guarded so she does not escape to meet Hero. Kiran Kumar and Rohini Hattangadi, playing Roopa’s mom, keep a vigil on her. The talk of the town is Hero and his game-of-death, the tickets are all sold out. People are for the first time going to witness a volunteered death in broad-daylight amidst public eye, and all for love. Hero’s unrequited love has brought him so close to death.

The day of the event has finally arrived. People and media throng the venue and Hero is tied in a glass tank and water starts filling into the tank. Roopa flees from her home, and helping her cause is Amitabh Bachchan, in a special guest appearance who drives Roopa to the venue of the event. Can Roopa stop Hero from giving away his life? Will she stop Hero by declaring her love to him so he has a good enough reason to live for? Will Sitara Devi let someone disrupt the show? Will love triumph?

Naseeruddin Shah was marvellous in the movie, he displayed great restraint. Sanjana Kapoor in a debut performance was good as well. Rohini Hattangadi as Roopa’s mom was just about ok. But Ketan had kept the most important role for his to-be wife Deepa Sahi who played Sitara Devi with lot of strength and vigor. She brought the shrewdness and wile into the character, she was fantastic. And of course, Ketan Mehta as a film-maker, excelled in his artistic vision.

The movie’s unique concept of exploiting people’s emotions for commercial gains is much like the reality shows of today; where behind-the-scene activities, emotional outbursts, minor squabbles and disappointments, impoverished backgrounds are highlighted for higher TRPs. Every incident is micro-managed to gain maximum publicity. Curiosity is generated and the public is made to wait for days together for the events to unfold. The media/event-managers are desensitized and they neither care for the trauma and desperation of the participant nor for the consequences of such unethical event management, much like Sitara Devi in the movie.

In 1988 we had one Hero Hiralal, but in 2009 we have hundreds of Hero Hiralals on every show in every channel. What was a figment of Ketan Mehta’s imagination is now unfolding in every drawing-room with people glued to their couches waiting for their Hero Hiralals to appear on-screen. Phata poster, nikla Hero!

This post was first published on PFC

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Posted by on August 23, 2009 in bollywood, movies


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Amole Gupte – Then And Now

amole_gupte_thenThe first ever screen appearance that I remember of Amole Gupte, was in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. He wore a grey blazer and was doing a running commentary on the last cycle race … Sidharth Sharma reporting from the first check point at Pykara Junction …. etc. That was more than a decade and half ago, and things have changed since then.

When his name flashed allover the media as a result of his fantastic story/scripting of Taare Zameen Par, I just could not relate the two faces. The similarity between the younger Amole and the older one was zilch, I just wondered how Joker[TDK] would look with his make-up ripped off. It was a similar kind of feeling, seeing Amole with those long strands of silken hair falling allover the face. But that was just the beginning of the surprise. Sometime later when I learnt that he would be playing Priyanka Chopra’s brother Bhope Bhau in Vishal Bharadwajs movie Kaminey, I freaked out. My mind started swirling as I began imagining him playing the creepy character from the underbelly of Mumbai, and at the same time I was confused. How would a sensitive guy, who wrote TZP with such sincerity and innocence, pull off an underworld character who is supposed to be ruthless, gripy, wicked, whacky!

But even before TZP was in the making I fleetingly recalled that Amole was the host of a talk-show called Bindaas Bol which was telecast on SonyTv in the mid-90’s. It was more of a discussion forum, much like We The People, hosted by NDTV which started years later, much after Bindaas Bol had come and gone. Even in Bindaas Bol, Amole was a fiery host/moderator with a ponytail. I don’t remember all the episodes, but two of them I can vividly recall. One of the topics of discussion was on ‘Acceptance Of Gays In Our Society’ and I was quite impressed by the depth and maturity of the chat that took place, way ahead of times for mid-90’s. I was really appreciative of the guy. The other topic was about ‘techno-chor’ where they were discussing how to cheat in exams using technology. Sanjay Dutt did that in Munnabhai MBBS, much much later, using hands-free. But the guys who participated in the discussion were using satellite communication and had that connected to their watches and other gadgets which was their own small-time inventions. It blew me off, I too wanted to do that for my 10th Board Exams back then. Well, he raked up a few other politically relevant issues in his show, some controversial and others not so much. But I don’t seem to remember other episodes so well.

Anyways, Amole is a multi-talented personality. Being a product of FTII – Pune, he spent more than a decade there, learning all the various facets of film-making. He was a fantastic painter during his schooling days. I guess we all know that the characrter of Nikumb was based on his school teacher. Even in TZP, those paintings and caricatures/cartoons were all done by him. He put a lot of himself in the movie. Not just painted, he also wrote the song Mera Jahan:

A Little Sweet, A Little Sour
A Little Close Not Too Far
All I Need, All I Need
All I Need Is To Be Free

What a beautiful thought told with such innocence and child-like feelings, simple and straight. And here’s the best part of that lyrical piece by him:

Udne Ko Sau Pankh Diye Hai
Chadhne Ko Khula Aasmaan
Mudne Ko Hai Karwat Karwat
Aur Badhne Ko Mera Jahan

The flights of fantasy that we all want to indulge in, but always skeptical of our own potential is very well worded here. The will to break free was always there. Then of course, the age old philosophy of one-life so live it well on our own terms. Beautifully expressed!

Bachpan Ke Din Chaar
Na Aayenge Baar Baar
Jee Le Jee Le Mere Yaar
Jeib Khaali To Udhaar
Jee Zindagi

I am still surprised that Children’s Film Society of India [CFSI] turned down the script. All the panelists had approved of it, but the head Sai Paranjpe. She rejected it. Of all people, Sai Paranjpe, I am actually more than surprised, I am shcoked. Anyways, destiny works in weird ways.

amole_gupte_nowHe wished Akshaye Khanna could play the character of Ramshankar Nikumb. Reason being that, he was impressed with Akshay’s portrayal of a sensitive painter who goes against societal norms, Sid in DCH. He went around with his script but never could meet Akshaye. That’s when Aamir borrowed the script and read it, with due permission of course, and he wished to be a part of it. What transpired between them, I seriously don’t know. All I know is that, TZP was made well, an awesome movie that swept the awards, was India’s entry to the Oscars etc. Neither Amole nor Aamir want to broach this topic, again. Its a karmic cycle which will catch-up with either of the two or both, soon enough.

By the way, even before his freak appearance in JJWS[Tom Alter was supposed to play the part of the commentator, but that did not happen since he failed to turn up], he had done a movie with Aamir Khan. It was Ketan Mehta’s movie Holi. A movie that I am still looking for, wonder if anybody can provide me some exclusive viewing of this. His association with Ketan Mehta was not new, he was the Assisstant Director of Mirch Masala, another fabulous movie by Ketan Mehta.

Coming back to the Bhope Bhau character in Kaminey, I am dying to see him perform. I wonder what he would bring to the screen. And not just this movie, I am also looking forward to his next venture Sapno Ko Ginte Ginte. It’s a film revolving around children, I hear. Lets wait and watch!


Posted by on July 22, 2009 in bollywood, movies


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