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Kaala Patthar : Adaptation of Lord Jim

Joseph Conrad’s novel Lord Jim, first published in 1900, finds a resonance even today; so timeless was his tale. And many a movie has been based on this book, only the setup has changed with the changing times.

It’s a tale of living an ignominious life and how the protagonist redeems himself. Very recently, we saw this theme being played out in Chak De India, with SRK in the lead role. And before that, Abhishek Bachchan in Zameen got an opportunity to re-live the character of Lord Jim.

But many years ago, it was Salim-Javed who brought this fine tale to Yash Chopra, Indiansed it, added the much needed entertainment quotient by introducing new elements into it and roped in Amitabh Bachchan to breathe life into the character.

After Deewar, Kabhi Kabhie & Trishul, this was the fourth collaboration of Yash Chopra, Shashi Kapoor and BigB. But for this movie, where Amitabh & Shashi gel well and are on the same side, in the three previous encounters they have always crossed swords with each other. In this movie, we don’t get to see that. Here we see Shashi’s calm and cool attitude being the best response to Amitabh’s smouldering anger, equal and opposite in effect.

Among the star cast, Rakhi and Neetu were again regulars who had worked with Yashji earlier; but Shatrughan Sinha and Parveen Babi were new to his school of direction. Their discomfiture in the movie can be gauged by the fact that neither of the two acted in a Yash Chopra movie again. Shatrughan has always indulged in theatrics in his characterisation, as seen in Vishwanath & Kalicharan. And such characters are rarely found in Yashji’s movie. And what can one say about Parveen Babi; she always had the looks but lacked substance.

Much before Coalgate scam and mine block allocation, there was a Seth Dhanraj, played by Prem Chopra, a capitalist who believed in making money by looting the mineral resources and depriving the coal miners of a decent livelihood. And the entire story revolves around this coalmine setup.

Before getting branded as the tour guide of Switzerland, Yash Chopra was known for capturing various industries with good detailing in his movies. In Deewar, the movie begins with a trade union meeting in the rain, and how they discuss the terms and conditions of the factory owners. Later, the movie goes onto capture smugglers lifestyle and how wheeling and dealing goes on in the underworld. In Trishul, Yashji dives deep into real estate development, opening and closing of tenders, and what underhand tricks are used for winning a tender etc. In Kabhi Kabhie too, poet Amit retires into a life of an industrialist. Even in later years, the movie Vijay had the modern outlook on Mahabharat with the backdrop of competitive industrial war. That’s the mark of a good director, they work hard on the characters and the detailing. They are never afraid to try a new setup, a different storyline or unique situations.

Here too, the coalmine workers and their living conditions are captured pretty well. Their working environment, the siren that marks the start of the working hours, the tea stall and the entire setting and backdrop is done with lot of effort.

We see a brooding BigB, playing Vijay Pal Singh, who is nursing a deep pain in his heart, some guilt of the past, a hurtful truth that he cannot runaway from. In his attempt to hide from the world, he takes up a job at a nondescript location where nobody would recognise him. He goes about his job silently, without interacting with fellow workers. The only person who seems to understand him is doctor Sudha, played by Rakhi, and she is the only person with whom he ever speaks.

Sudha can see through the hollowness in his heart and the vacuum in his life, but she can do nothing to fill it as he has built a wall around himself that nobody but him can break. In such a situation, Salim-Javed drops in two characters – Ravi, an engineer who marks the mining zone and looks into the concerns of the workers, and Mangal, an escaped convict who is just looking to have some fun while he keeps the police busy.

Mangal, played by Shatrughan Sinha, annoys Vijay, challenges him to a duel and behaves cocky just to cause an imbroglio, but for no particular reason. And on the other hand, Ravi, played by Shashi Kapoor, tries to assuage the animosity between Vijay & Mangal. BigB and Shatru were pitted against each other just for some whistles and cheap thrills. But it didn’t add much value to the movie. It was just the coming together of two huge actors, UP ka bhaiyya and Bihari babu.

The movie keeps you interested as we are still unaware of the cause of Vijay’s inner turmoil. But the additional characters of Ravi’s & Mangal’s love interests weighs down the movie. It not only reduces the pace but also the intensity of the movie.

Just when the movie starts drifting, Salim-Javed pull another fast one to bring about a sudden mood swing. A mishap takes place and how the lead characters change themselves for the better, and how they all come together to help save lives of the coalminers, takes the movie forward.

Vijay’s hour of redemption finally arrives, where he faces fear dauntingly and exorcises the demons of the past. The shadow of his inglorious act finally vanishes as the sunshine of guilt floats behind the clouds of a brave act, and he is ready to face the world again, with his head held high. He had the author backed role, and Amitabh Bachchan did complete justice to the character.

But the movie didn’t do very well at the box office. Only if Shatrughan Sinha or Shashi Kapoor had been given a meatier role, the movie might have fared better. It was Bachchan’s show all the way. Although, Rakhi did well to get noticed. Rest of the characters just became a supporting cast, in this show largely driven by Vijay.

The movie had some rather mediocre music and forgettable lyrics. Rajesh Roshan was the composer and Sahir Ludhianvi was the lyricist; needless to say, they never worked together again. Ek Rasta Hai Zindagi, sung by Kishore Kumar is the only memorable number from the movie. Rest of the songs were passé and uninspired. One of the few movies of Yashji with such indifferent musical score. Later, Faasle and Vijay were added to this list.

Overall, the movie was no great shake. Salim-Javed probably missed out on that elusive x-factor, which they usually get it right in most movies, but not this time. This was the beginning of a long and listless time that Yashji had to endure for a whole decade. From 1979, when Kaala Patthar released, to 1989, when Chandni released, was a muted period for Yash Chopra. All his movies fared badly in this 10 year period, starting with this movie. Silsila flopped, Vijay and Fasle were disasters and Mashaal was average.

But the story of Lord Jim is eternal, and it shall be played out again and again, in different regions with different flavours and a different backdrop. And Kaala Patthar will always be mentioned, even as a footnote, only because of its honest effort and a good adaptation.

This post was also published on MadAboutMoviez

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Posted by on November 8, 2012 in bollywood, movies

 

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Rang Birangi, Aloo Chat : Filmy Experiment Gone Wrong

So, what’s common between Rang Birangi and Aloo Chat? Ok, lets recall Pati Patni Aur Woh and DDLJ, any bells ringing yet??

David Dhawan’s movie Hero No.1 was a good mix of Bawarchi and DDLJ. Govinda becomes a cook/servant to gain entry into Karishma’s house only to impress her family members and gain their confidence. Of course, lots of movies got inspired by DDLJ and lots of such movies came out, some good…some bad. Similarly, PPAW inspired a string of movies where bosses flirt with their secretaries.

PPAW released in 1978, made under BR Films banner and was directed by BR Chopra. The story was about Ranjeet Chaudhary, a family man who is happily married with a kid. His wife is very nice, caring and faithful; and yet Ranjeet goes out of his way to feign his wife’s illness so he can gain his secretary’s mercy. And this pity turns into more care and affection from her side. Ranjeet does succeed at this and gets the required affection, but at what cost? Sanjeev Kumar played the loving husband and later the lecherous boss, Ranjeeta played the low-key secretary who was a middle-class working woman and not the stereotyped secretary, and finally Vidya Sinha played the loyal and loving wife.

DDLJ, made in 1994, paved the way for NRI audience targetted movie. There is nothing to write about this movie because everybody knows everything about it.

Hrishikesh Mukherjee wrote the screenplay and directed this movie made in 1983 and titled it Rang Birangi. The movie directly picks on the idea of PPAW. Ajay Sharma is the boss of a company and has a beautiful wife in Nirmala. His secretary is Anita, a very dedicated and beautiful woman. Ajay finds his life boring as he is involved in mundane stuff of office activities. That’s when his friend Ravi lands up in his office and quizzes him about Anita. Ajay is offended initially by the thought of flirting with a secretary but Ravi narrates to him the story of PPAW, how Sanjeev Kumar lies about his wife’s health and gains the warmly arms of his secretary. Ravi pushes Ajay into trying the experiment which seems to succeed at first, but later falls flat. How things start going awry makes for a good laugh.

Amol Palekar was Ajay, the boss; Parveen Babi was his wife and Deepti Naval was the simple and nice secretary. The friend who plants the idea in Amol Palekar’s mind was played by Deven Verma. It was a refreshing look at how PPAW situation works only in movies; talk of innovation, one movie referencing another. Coincidentally, Parveen Babi who plays the wife in this movie, actually makes a guest appearance as Sanjeev Kumar’s secretary in PPAW.

Anyways, Aloo Chat makes a direct reference to DDLJ. Nikhil is US returned guy who is in love with Amna, a muslim girl. His parents are orthodox and he does not know how to speak/convince his parents about his love. Nikhil approaches his mamaji who suggests that he should take the DDLJ route. Nikhil’s mamaji hatches a plot whereby Nikhil would bring an american girl, Nikki, home in the pretext of marrying her; and Amna would accompany Nikki. While Amna would try to impress Nikhil’s parents, Nikki would try to create a bad impression so that Nikhil’s parents would approve of Amna at the end of it all; trying to create the reduced-shock-effect…zor ka jhatka dheere se lage. As was supposed to be the result of this experiment, it fails and things go haywire causing much confusion and evokes a lot of laughs. Aftab Shivdasani played Nikhil, and Amna was played by Amna Sharif, her debut movie. A special mention of mamaji played by Manoj Pahwa, who was the narrator and backbone of the movie.

There are many movies which reflect/inspire/copy/plagiarise another movie. Very few movies actually experiment keeping an eye and alluding another movie. So, are there any other movies which make direct references to another movie? An experiment falling under its own weight?? I am really eager to know of it.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2009 in bollywood, movies

 

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