Chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko …

zeenatShe was a cardiovascular risk factor for men of all ages. Blood pressures would hit the roof, hearts would palpitate, tongues would hang out, grown men would drool as she swayed across Indian screens displaying almost everything she had.

Once upon a time, the Bollywood heroine was a goody-goody Bharatiya type, clad in a demure saree or a salwar-kameez, happy to play second fiddle to the manly hero, content to cook for him and sew buttons on his shirt, sing bhajans for the hero’s mother whenever required and bear as many children as deemed necessary or politely allow her man to marry another woman in case she was incapable. Anything remotely erotic was forbidden. At best, she would be permitted a dance or two in a wet saree. Any ‘bad’ behaviour like wearing short dresses, dancing in clubs, talking to strange men, drinking and smoking, was left to vamps like Helen, Bindu and the like.

And then in 1970, Zeenat Aman burst upon Indian screens and made the vamp unnecessary. With her first appearance in Dev Anand’s Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Zeenat Aman blew apart the very concept of a Bharatiya naari. Her debut song in the movie, ‘Dum maro dum’, introduced her to Indian audiences with a chillum in her hand, smoking pot with hippies, getting stoned out of her mind.

‘Dum maro dum’ became a cult classic. Kishore Kumar once said that ‘Dum maro dum’ was powerful enough to bring a dead man back to life. Although Mumtaz was the leading lady of Hare Rama Hare Krishna, nineteen-year old Zeenat Aman stole the show with that single song. And she won a Filmfare award for her role.

Zeenat Aman was born in Bombay, graduated from St Xavier’s college, moved to Germany with her mother and studied in the US, before returning to India. She briefly worked for Femina as a reporter and then got into professional modeling. People from my generation will remember her as the brand ambassador for Taj Mahal tea.

Hare Rama Hare Krishna made a cultural icon out of Zeenat Aman. After that movie, she went from one successful role to another, even as she became typecast as an unconventional, Westernised heroine. Where other heroines wore sarees and salwars, she sported slit skirts and tight shorts. Other heroines would take diction lessons to deliver their dialogs in a pure Northie accent, she spoke in a breezy convent accent. Other heroines were happy to give TV interviews in their homes or in a demure studio setting, she took her interviewer, Bikram Vohra out to a night club and danced the night away with him.

And where other heroines dared to display a small hint of cleavage, Zeenat Aman did not hesitate to drop all her clothes and leave very little to the imagination. The nation watched her in Satyam Shivam Sundaram in stunned fascination, as she went through the movie with hardly a stitch on her curvaceous body.

With Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1977), Zeenat Aman truly broke all the traditional norms, became India’s official sex-symbol and set the trend for other heroines to shed their inhibitions. Tina Munim, Parveen Babi, Reena Roy, Mandakini and Kimi Katkar followed in her footsteps – much to the delight of men across India.

With the song ‘Aap jaisa koi‘ in Qurbani, Zeenat Aman became an international name, and with her role in Don, she became an action-heroine as well. But it was her role as a rape victim in Insaaf ka Taraazu that earned her the respect that she truly deserved for her talent.

Personally, I liked her best in Manoranjan, a naughty comedy made in 1974, in which she played the lead role as a cheerful hooker, happily sleeping with other men in addition to the hero, played by Sanjeev Kumar. Manoranjan made light of the prostitution business, instead of ranting against it, unlike other movies on this theme. No wonder it didn’t do well, but Zeenat Aman was fun to watch.

Zeenat Aman won a Lifetime Achievement award in 1980.  She lives in Bombay now, and is still as active, and as attractive, as ever.

Aap jaisa koi meri zindagi mein aaye, Zeenatji.  Ah well, one can but dream!

Cheers … Srini.


Love in the Qutab Minar …

Only Dev Anand could create romance within the dingy confines of the Qutb Minar. No flowering trees for the hero and heroine to run around, no chirping birds, no blue skies, nothing but ancient stone and a dark winding corridor. And yet this song became an evergreen hit.

Mohammad Rafi’s exceptional voice was one of the highlights of this 1963 social comedy made by Dev Anand and directed by his brother Vijay Anand. Each of Rafi’s songs in Tere Ghar ke samne made the top of the charts. My personal favorite was ‘Tu kahaan yeh bataa’, picturised on Dev Anand and Nutan.

‘Dil ka bhawar’ was the first and only song to be entirely picturised inside the Qutb Minar. No other producer would have thought of picturising a romantic number in such a grim place. All that Dev Anand and Nutan did was to simply walk down the tower. Nutan’s lovely face and Dev Anand’s charm were enough to make the song an immortal classic. Nutan said not a word during the song, her eyes said it all. The song was shot in monochrome, but who needed color when Dev Anand was around?

I saw Tere Ghar Ke Samne in our good old Nataraj Talkies at Chembur, when it was re-run as a matinee show in the early 1980’s. It had an unusual but funny story line, about a young architect, played by Dev Anand, who is simultaneously hired to design a grand bungalow, by his father and by his neighbour, who is his father’s arch business rival. The rival has a lovely daughter, played by Nutan, and the architect promptly falls in love with her and is caught in a dilemma. Finally, he ends up designing the same house for both rival fathers, and manages to win his lady-love, and, as it usually happens in Hindi movies, all ends well.

With Dev Anand at his charming best, Nutan in the prime of her beauty, solid performances by Om Prakash and Harindranath Chattopadhyay as the warring fathers, and superb vocals by Mohammad Rafi, Tere Ghar Ke Samne is a fine tribute to Dev Anand’s skills as an innovative film-maker.

You are still evergreen, Devsaab!

Cheers … Srini.

Main zindagi ka saath nibhatha chala gaya …

They don’t call him ‘evergreen’ for nothing.

He’s been in the movie industry since the days of the British Raj. He has starred in more than 300 movies, and written, produced and directed about a hundred of them.  From the 1940’s till this day, he’s introduced so many newcomers to Bollywood that half the industry owes its career to him. Many of those newcomers have themselves retired from movies, but he is still going strong. He’s won so many awards in India and abroad, that he says he has himself lost count!

The man is an industry all by himself. Next week, he turns eighty eight years of age, but Dharamdev Anand simply will not stop. His eyes still sparkle, his voice is still clear and his style and charm are still intact.

If there is one man who defined polished style in Bollywood, that would be Dev Anand. By no stretch of the imagination was he ever a beefy hunk. Dev Anand was slim to the point of being frail. Delicately handsome, articulate and intelligent, with a characteristic habit of lightly nodding his head, Dev Anand was a rage with the ladies. And man, was he versatile. Romance, comedy, tragedy, mystery, action, negative roles, he’s done them all.

Dev Anand was part of the Big Three, the trio that dominated Bollywood through the fifties and sixties, until Rajesh Khanna shook the foundations of Bollywood with Aradhana in 1969. The other two of the Big Three, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar started playing fatherly roles in the late sixties and eventually faded away. But Dev Anand continued to play lead roles right through the seventies and eighties, and held his own against the Rajesh Khanna phenomenon. Rajesh Khanna came and went and another phenomenon called Amitabh Bachchan took his place. But Dev Anand stayed.

In 1978, at age 55, he directed Des Pardes, and starred opposite Tina Munim who was all of 20 years old. After that, he starred opposite Tina Munim in Lootmar and Man Pasand. At age 60, he paired up with the 25 year old Padmini Kolhapure in Swami Dada. All these movies were hits. At age 70, he played the lead role in Awwal Number, with Aamir Khan as the hero. This movie too was a hit.

Dev Anand helped out innumerable struggling actors and made their careers, when no one else was willing to give them a break. Zeenat Aman, Waheeda Rehman, Sadhana, Vyjanthimala, Hema Malini, Richa Sharma, Tabu, Jackie Shroff, music director Rajesh Roshan, the list goes on and on.

During the Emergency in India, Dev Anand took a stand against Indira Gandhi, and openly campaigned against her. He was, and still is, a champion of free speech and has strong views about censorship. Dev Anand’s controversial movie ‘Censor’ made in 2001, about the archaic censor laws in India, was critically acclaimed.

Not all of his movies were hits. Some of them were resounding flops. But that didn’t stop Dev Anand from creating films. Many of the films he made, like Hare Rama Hare Krishna (Zeenat Aman’s debut film), Jewel Thief, Prem Pujari, Tere Mere Sapne, Censor, Sache ka bolbala, were way ahead of their time.

Dev Anand’s best movie is ‘Guide’, that he produced in 1965. Based on RK Narayan’s novel, Guide was directed by Vijay Anand, his younger brother. A deeply moving and spiritual story, memorable songs, and an exceptional performance by Dev Anand in the lead role, make Guide one of the top ten Indian movies of all time. Guide became the first film to sweep all the major Filmfare awards in a single year.

Hero, producer, director, writer, mentor and poet, Dev Anand will never say die. Here’s wishing Devsaab a very happy birthday.

Cheers … Srini.