Wednesday, April 25, 2018

V : VCR and Video Tapes Part II #AtoZchallenge

Just like all good film franchises, this post is a sequel to my last year's post on the same subject. Films are close to my heart, so I don't mind repeating this topic. In last year's post I talked about the times, when cable TV was yet to make in-roads in India. I also ranted about embarrassing wedding videos and wrote about two film tapes - Bhavani Junction and Do Anjaane - which were lying at our home and I watched them multiple times. As a pre-teen, I shouldn't have watched these highly graphic films at all.

Fast Forward

Bereft of multiple sources of entertainment in small towns, VCR (Video Cassette Recorder and Player) was like manna from heaven. Days passed slowly in small towns, before the advent of satellite TV and the all powerful internet. I remember three films from those days, which I must have watched umpteen times, not only because they were entertaining, but also because they allowed a restless kid to escape the insipid hot afternoons; and mostly because these video tapes were lying at home. The jury is still out on whether a child should have been allowed to watch films like these. I don't think at that time the concepts like child-friendly content or parental control had taken root in India. I think I have grown up fine, though some of my close friends might have a different opinion. 

1. Yaadon Ki Baaraat  (Procession of Memories) - I love watching this film even now, but for different reasons. Now I watch it for its timeless music, its perfect execution of 'lost and found formula', which Hindi films of yore had done to death and of course because of Zeenat Aman. (For the uninitiated Lost and Found formula means, where siblings would get separated in childhood because of multiple reasons and the narrative will propel forward to bring them together, while the separated siblings do several other things on the way.) This film is a revenge saga as well, with one of the coolest villains of Hindi Films played by Ajit - Shakaal, getting undone by his mismatched shoe sizes. 

As a child, I watched this film because of a particular scene, where a couple steals food from two wealthy obese men while they are skinny dipping in a lake. I used to find it hilarious. Now I find that scene stupid and totally unnecessary in the screenplay. (Hindi films used to be of 3 hours then, with economy in narration not a worry.) I also used to watch the film again and again, because of its cool action - airplanes, trains, a railway track climax and a villain's den that had automated doors.

 Film's Poster - Yaadon Ki Baaraat

Zeenat Aman in 'Chura Liya' song

2. Mera Gaon Mera Desh (My Village My Country) - I definitely shouldn't have watched this film as a child. At core it is a highly violent film and glorifies villainy. But I watched it many times then, maybe because I was enamored by strong and cool villains. Vinod Khanna, played Jabbar Singh with such flair. The film was about a dacoit who tormented villagers and how an outsider Ajit, a petty thief himself, played by Dharmendra, takes him on. 

My favorite part of  this film was when both the hero and heroine get captured by Jabbar Singh and are tied in his den, a nautch girl, performs a song. The song goes like, "Maar Diya Jaaye, Ya Chhod Diya Jaaye", in which the nautch girl is giving the hero a choice between life and death, as Jabbar looks on, and drinking to his heart's fill straight from the bottle. Till the climax, it is the villain who enjoys his life. A great lesson for a child?

 Film's Poster - Mera Gaon Mera Desh

Jabbar Singh with his bottle played by suave Vinod Khanna

3. Ghayal (Wounded) - This is one of my all time favorite Hindi films. Even today, I can watch it and rattle off all its dialogues from memory. It is a powerful film, where the hero takes on a corrupt system. But let me tell you, as a child I shouldn't have watched it. It released when I was 10 years old. I think this one is definitely a PG rated film. (By the way, the two films mentioned above released before I was even born, so I must have watched them on VCR about 10-15 years after they came out. That says a lot about shelf life of their content.) I must have watched Ghayal 40-50 times. And not because its villain was cool. But because I idolized Sunny Deol, who played Ajay Mehra, an amateur boxer turned hardened criminal, out there to avenge his brother's death, with great conviction. Yes, the villain here was not cool like Shakaal and Jabbar Singh, but Balwant Rai, the rich scoundrel, played by Amrish Puri, was more impactful. As a viewer, you would clap with glee when he gets gunned down at the end. 

I must have liked this film because of multiple reasons. One, it had a screenplay like I had never seen before in Hindi films - flashbacks and flashbacks within flashbacks, constantly keeping your interest alive. Second, it had such powerful claptrap dialogues, that even today when you hear them, you get goosebumps. Third, while at heart its story was a revenge drama, just like the above two films, the villain here was a metaphor for everything wrong with our system - politics, police etc. I must have turned cynic after multiple exposures to this film. Fourth, the film was a police procedural as well and the cat and mouse game that ensues, is exciting. Lastly, it had an ensemble cast comprising of some of our best actors at that time. 

Film's Poster- Ghayal

Closing Credits

Is this a surprise, that all the three films I wrote about in this post had someone from Deol family? The first two had Dharmendra in the lead and Ghayal had his son Sunny Deol as the hero. 

I don't regret watching these films as a child.

My last year's challenge post from letter V was about the impact of Home Videos and VCR on my childhood. Read it here.

My theme for this year's #AtoZchallenge is all about writing stories, anecdotes and observations from my life in form of easy to read listicles. You can read the theme reveal post here.


Roland Clarke said...

VHS tapes bring back so many memories - from pre-recorded to taped programmes. I had dozens at one time, but only have the most sentimental. Now it's all DVVDs and Bluerays - with region problems.

I've not seen many Indian films, but I do remember watching Satyajit Ray's films decades ago and some Bollywood movies that reached UKK television. I also have a DVD of Lagaan (Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker) which I have watched a few times.

My theme is video game origins so:

Charan Deep Singh said...

Lagaan was a good good film Roland. Indian cinema has produced some really good films in recent times. In fact the regional language films are really bringing cinema alive.

JAGAT KUMAR Singh said...

Hi Charan
I have always been fan of your this special attribute and admire your write up on movies. Earlier on FB and now on blog. Keep writing my friend, I will there as one of readers. All the very best

Charan Deep Singh said...

Thanks Jagat