We all have our favourite Amitabh Bachchan movies. Most people who grew up in the seventies feel that Deewar was his best performance. The eighties lot likes to talk about Agneepath which was released in 1990. Some others talk about his comic timing in Amar Akbar Anthony and Chupke Chupke. The women admire his rather innocent performance in Anand. A dear friend of mine refuses to see the Don movies starring Shahrukh Khan on the premise that nobody could play Don like Bachchan had.
More recently the audience found him rather endearing in Paa, where he played a reel life son to his real life son Abhishek Bachchan.
My favourite Amitabh Bachchan movie is a rather unknown one which came and went at the end of the eighties. Unlike Agneepath which was later recognized as a classic, the movie still hasn’t found the audience that I feel it deserves. And unlike other late eighty Bachchan duds like Prakash Mehra’s Jadugar, Ketan Desai’s Toofan and Manmohan Desai’s Ganga Jamuna Saraswati, I haven’t seen it play on any of the movie channels, either.
The movie was called Main Azaad Hoon and it hit the movie screens in 1989. This Tinnu Anand directed film was a copy of the 1941 Hollywood movie Meet John Doe directed by Frank Capra. (The Wikipedia entry of Main Azaad Hoon calls it a remake of Meet John Doe but that’s something I am really not sure of. In the late 1980s nobody officially bought remake rights in Bollywood, they just copied from wherever they wanted to). The movie also has my favourite Bachchan song “kitne bazoo kitne sir, gin le dushman dhyan se, haare ga wo har baazi jo khele hum jee jaan se”, one of the last songs that Kaifi Azmi wrote.
Main Azaad Hoon starts with Shabana Azmi who plays the role of a female journalist called Subhashini. She writes a column in which she reproduces a letter from someone she calls Azaad. Azaad, writes Subhashini, is going to commit suicide on January 26, from the highest building in the city.
The twist is that there is no Azaad. It is just a figment of Subhashini’s imagination. The newspaper has a new owner and he has asked the editor to fire Subhashini. Subhashini on the last day of her work writes the letter from Azaad just for the lark of it.
The story improves the circulation of the newspaper dramatically. The newspaper owner has political ambitions of his own, asks Subhashini to stay back and keep the Azaad story going. This requires Subhashini to catch hold of someone who can play Azaad.
She gets hold of unemployed youth who has landed up in the city and doesn’t even have money to buy food. Reluctantly that man with no name agrees to play the role of Azaad just once, for a few rupees. But his first performance as Azaad is a huge hit with the people who have come to hear him and he is persuaded to keep going.
So the story evolves. In a rather tragic end Azaad does commit suicide on January 26, as Subhashini had written in her column. (Here is where the copy was different from the original. In Meet John Doe, Gary Cooper who plays John Doe, is persuaded not to jump).
The movie obviously bombed at the box office. A story of a newspaper journalist and an owner keeping a false story going to bid up the circulation of the newspaper as well as push the political ambitions of the newspaper owner, was probably 20 years ahead of its time. Also those were the days when Amitabh Bachchan beat up the villains to solve all the problems in the world. And here was committing suicide like a coward. This was a sure-shot recipe for disaster. And the movie sank in the theatres on the very first day of its release.
But the story of Main Azaad Hoon in which a journalist writes about an individual who does not exist and keeps the story going when the circulation of the paper goes through the roof, is very relevant in the times that we live in.
This is an era where the pressure on journalists and editors who work for newspapers and primarily television channels to get exclusive news and to break news before anyone else does is huge. The pressure is so huge that at times decent behaviour does not have any place in the profession.
The most recent example is that of Gagan Narang winning the bronze model in the London Olympics. The news channels were waiting at his home as his parents watched him shoot. As soon as he won all hell broke loose and every television journalist wanted his father to answer the “aap kaisa mehsoos kar rahe hain” question.
The pushing and shoving could be seen “live” across all the television channels. Several journalists could be heard shouting at the top of their voices trying to attract the attention of Narang senior to their questions. It is an entirely different issue that none of the journalists present had anything different to ask other than “aap kaisa mehsoos kar rahe hain?”But everybody wanted an exclusive none the less. For all those who watch television news regularly, this shouldn’t come across as a surprise.
Another recent case where the media reported wrongly in order to keep a story hot and get you, me and everyone else, emotionally involved, was the case of the Bhattacharya kids in Norway. Arnab Goswami of Times Now caught onto to the story and kept shouting at the top of his voice like his normally does, and turned it into an issue of national importance.
Abhigyan and Aishwarya, children of Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya, had been put under foster care by the Norway government under the aegis of its Child Welfare Service (CWS). Goswami with almost no research of why this had been done presented a one sided picture of the entire story blaming the Norwegian authorities all along. Once Arnab was at it, others had to follow suit or risk losing their TRPs (television rating points).
As The Hindu wrote “It (the television media) gave the impression that the Bhattacharya children were separated from their parents only because they were not well-dressed, slept along with their parents and not in separate beds, were fed by hand, and so on. They saw in the action what they called a “cultural bias” or “cultural discrimination.” The other side — the real issue of universal child rights — was totally ignored.”
But that as The Hindu later found out was not really the case. It sent its Europe correspondent to investigate the case and the truth that emerged was much more complicated than the way it was being presented on television.
“After reviewing the files and interviewing the family as well as CWS officials, the picture that emerges is a complex one that defies easy pigeonholing. The strains of negotiating a foreign culture and environment are evident — both for the Bhattacharyas and for the Norwegian authorities — but the fact that the family needed assistance is undeniable. The parents have said they themselves approached the kindergarten for help when the older child showed autism-like symptoms, now diagnosed as Attachment Disorder. The mother, too, said she was suffering from post-partum depression and was unable to cope in the Norwegian cold, with a husband who worked long hours. Though littered with cultural misunderstandings and even insensitivity, all the reports submitted by care personnel working independently of each other saw a problem in the mother’s refusal to admit the seriousness of the boy’s condition or to accept help,” the paper wrote in an editorial on March 20.
But if Goswami and others of his ilk had presented both the sides, the story wouldn’t be “sexy” enough to drive the TRPs. It wouldn’t have got all of us, the emotional fools that we are, emotionally involved.
To give Goswami and the television channels their due they did play a huge role in helping the family unite and ensuring that the kids came back to their parents. But the same cannot be said about the Guwahati molestation case. The truth that seems to be coming out in this case is that Gaurav Jyoti Neog, the reporter of the news channel News Live, which broke the story, may have instigated the molestation in the first place.
As the newsmagazine Tehelka reports in its latest cover story “The raw footage shows the other girl being chased by a group of boys. Someone shouts: “Catch her, make her naked, make her naked, catch her.” This voice is strikingly similar to the voice the channel admits belongs to Gaurav. (The authenticity could only be proved by a forensic examination, but ex facie it does appear to be Gaurav’s) This can be deduced from the circumstances around the clippings. In a situation where there is a lot of noise in the background, it is likely that the most audible voice will be of the person holding the phone. Also, most of the people voice matches the earlier male voice that News Live had itself identified as belonging to Gaurav.”(you can read the complete story here)
What Goswami and his channel did was not very different from what the other news channels do all the time though the degrees vary. The point I am trying to make is that when the race for TRPs is so strong once in a while we will have situations where reporters and editors will try and create news out of nothing. The character played by Shabana Azmi did that in Main Azaad Hoon. And the same thing seems to have happened with Gaurav Neog and News Live in Assam. There are no easy solutions to this problem. Some experts have asked for increased government role in policing the media. But the thing is that most of the regional television news channels are run by politicians or people acting as fronts for these politicians. Given this situation an increased role for the government in policing the media might lead to the politicians favouring their own channels over others. The News Life Channel which is now accused of instigating the molestation in Guwahati is promoted by the Health Minister of Assam and run by his wife.
In this scenario the only way out for the television channels is to behave more responsibly and not to create news and crisis when none exist. Also they need to realize that shouting at the top of their voices doesn’t tend to increase the importance of the issue. Now only if Mr Goswami were listening!
(A slightly different version of the article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on July 31,2012. http://www.firstpost.com/india/the-indian-media-and-its-main-azaad-hoon-syndrome-398743.html)
(Vivek Kaul is a writer and can be reached at [email protected])
So the world has rediscovered Rajesh Khanna or so it seems.
Around one pm today I was at Rhythm House, the only decent music shop to survive in Mumbai, after the onslaught of MP3s and what not.
As soon as I entered the shop I heard Kishore Kumar singing “zindagi ke safar main guzar jaate hain jo makam wo phir nahi aate”. For the half an hour I was at Rhythm House only Rajesh Khanna-Kishore Kumar songs were played.
Rhythm House has also created a special shelf where all the Rajesh Khanna audio CDs, VCDs and DVDs have been separately put up.
“Aaj subah sab se kewal Rajesh Khanna hi bick raha hai,” a shop attendant told me as I paid for my purchases ( I wasn’t buying Rajesh Khanna by the way. I have all of him that is necessary).
While returning home the taxi driver told me “kya gaane the sahab Rajesh Khanna ke, subah se Radio waale wahin baja rahe hain.”
News channels have been broadcasting songs, trivia, interviews and even a documentary in remembrance of India’s first Superstar.
A television channel has advertised on the front pages of a Mumbai daily that it shall be showing Kati Patang and Anand in the evening today (as you read this Kati Patang has probably started and Anand plays at 9pm).
Kati Patang is clearly a movie of the late sixties and the early seventies with a rather predictable storyline. But the Rajesh Khanna movie that has stood the test of time is Hrishkesh Mukherjee’s Anand. A story of a character called Anand who is dying of cancer but who does not give up his zest for life, even though he knows that he has a very short time to live.
Mukherjee, who also wrote the story, originally wanted Shashi Kapoor for the film. But Shashi Kapoor had just tasted success with Jab Jab Phool Khile and was probably more interested in doing romantic roles rather than a role in which his character died in the end.
Then Raj Kapoor, Shashi’s elder brother, and a great buddy of Mukherjee came into the picture. The trouble was that Mukherjee was superstitious about letting Raj Kapoor die on screen. Kapoor and Mukherjee were great friends and Kapoor referred to Mukherjee as babumoshai
Kishore Kumar was also considered for the role. But the story goes that he had a tiff with Mukherjee. Mukherjee who was a prolific film director wanted Kishore Kumar to act in one of his movies. Mukherjee paid him half the amount agreed on in advance and the remaining half was to be paid after the film was shot. But Kishore Kumar wanted the entire amount in advance. He refused to shoot for the movie. Mukherjee took him to court and won the case. The court directed Kishore Kumar to complete the movie and thereafter Mukherjee would pay him the remaining half.
Being the cranky genius that he was Kishore Kumar landed up on the sets with his head and moustache half shaved and apparently told Mukheree that “Aadhe paise mein aadha Kishore hi milega!”
After this Rajesh Khanna got the role of Anand. In fact, it is said that Mukherjee also considered Bengali matinee idols Uttam Kumar and Soumitra Chatterjee for the roles of Anand and Dr Bhaskar Banerjee.
The role of Dr Bhaskar Banerjee eventually went to Amitabh Bachchan. As IMDB points out “Mehmood advised Amitabh Bachchan to grab a secondary role alongside the then heartthrob Rajesh Khanna in the film, saying, “All you need to do is feed off Khanna, the rest will take care of itself.””
Bachchan had just landed in Mumbai a few years back giving up his comfortable job (what we now call a boxwallah) with Byrd & Co, in Calcutta, as it was then called. He was great friends with Mehmood’s younger brother Anwar Ali.
Every “big actor” does one role during his character that people remember him for. Marlon Brando had “The Godfather”. In case of Robert de Niro it was “Raging Bull”. For Amitabh Bachchan it was “Deewar”. And for Shah Rukh Khan it was “Dilwale Dulhainya Le Jayenge (DDLJ)”.
Anand was Rajesh Khanna’s Deewar. His Godfather. His Raging Bull. And his DDLJ. He reached his peak with Anand and his acting only went downhill after that. Khanna played out Anand’s part brilliantly but the role as explained came to him by sheer chance. Success is about things that happen. It is also about things that do not happen.
What is ironic though that Khanna who was a romantic hero did not have a heroine in the movie. This was a huge risk. But the fantastic script, songs, dialogues and music pulled it through.
Hrishikesh Mukheree did not make a better movie than this. It was also Salil Chouwdhury’s peak as a music director. And Gulzar’s dialogues in the movie are still doing the rounds and even helping news channels like Aaj Tak make a living. Sample this:
Zindagi aur maut upar wale ke haath main hain jahapanah,
use na aap badal sakte hain na main,
Hum sab toh rang-manch kee katputliya hain,
jinki dor uparwale ki ungliyon mein bandhi hain
Kab kaun kaise uthega, koi nahi bata sakta
ha ha ha…
The news channel Aaj Tak started playing this scene from Anand even before Rajesh Khanna’s death was announced. Such was the power of these lines. Anand’s dialogues are probably the most powerful dialogues in Hindi cinema after Sholay and Mughal-e-Azam.
What also stood out in the movie were two songs written by a new lyric writer called Yogesh. Yogesh started out writing songs for movies like Flying Circus, Marvel Men, Rustom Kaun and Husn Ka Ghulam, what were known as stunt movies back then. Hrishikesh Mukherjee heard the lyrics of two songs that Yogesh had written and loved them. But the rights for those song were already with a producer called LB Lachman.
As Yogesh told DNA in an interview few years back “Lachmanji was adamant about keeping the songs, but Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan and Mukherjee pleaded with him. Bachchan, who was a young man then, would say to me, ‘Kavi Raaj, yeh do gaane humein dila di jiye (Please get us these two songs somehow).’ Finally, Lachmanji relented and gave them one of the songs.”
This song was kahin door jab din dhal jaaye. Mukherjee was so happy with Yogesh that he asked him to write another song and Yogesh came up with the even better zindagi kaisi yeh paheli hi. These two songs turned what was a brilliant movie into an extraordinary one.
The other standout performance in the movie was that of Johnny Walker playing Issabhai Suratwala who Anand keeps calling Muralilal. Suratwala on the other hand keeps calling Anand as Jaichand.
Anand is a movie which has a tragic undertone throughout. But even with that the movie is not a tragedy. It makes you laugh at different points of time, only to make you cry in the end when Anand dies. The last scene of Anand which news channels have been playing nonstop since yesterday is probably the most powerful last scene ever shot in Hindi cinema. I can’t think of anything else that comes a close second.
All these ingredients went into making what has truly become Rajesh Khanna’s crossover movie. A movie that has stood the test of time. And can still be watched. That also explains why it is played on television almost every week.
The timelessness of Anand also tells us is that good cinema isn’t about shooting in Switzerland or having item numbers. It’s all about a story which is well told and the different ingredients coming together just in the right way. Rajesh Khanna was brilliant in Anand. But so were Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Salil Chowhdury, Gulzar, Yogesh and Johnny Walker. And yes Amitabh Bachchan.
Khanna may have given bigger hits like Aradhana and Haathi Mera Saathi. But can you really sit and watch these movies now?
Anand was his truly standout performance. His swansong. His tour de force.
If there is one Rajesh Khanna movie that you should be watching it has to be Anand.
And that’s what I plan to do when the clock strikes nine pm today, for one last time. What about you?
(The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on July 19,2012. http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/a-hand-me-down-role-in-anand-crowned-khannas-career-383511.html)
(Vivek Kaul is a writer and can be reached at [email protected])
I remember reading an interview with Shekhar Kapur years back in which he described his experience with Javed Akhtar during the making of Mr India.
When Akhtar first recited the line “Mogambo Khush Hua” to Kapur, he wasn’t impressed. This was the main line of Mogambo, the villain of the movie. As Kapur recounts on his blog “Hmmm, I thought – there must be more to that.”
But Akhtar was convinced about the line. “Shekhar Sahib, when Kapil Dev hits a six over the grounds, people will shout Mogambo Khush Hua, and when people play three card brag (teen patti) and if they get three aces, they will shout “Mogambo Khush Hua.” “You trust me on that,” Javed Akhtar assured me,” writes Kapur on his blog.
Kapur ran with what Akhtar told him and the rest as we all know is history. Mr India was a huge hit. Such was the power of the line that people started to use it during the course of regular conversation, whenever they felt happy about something. As Kapoor writes “And some time later as I was watching Kapail Dev hit a six over the Sharjah grounds I saw a huge banner go up in the Indian supporters. It said : “Mogambo Khush Hua.””
“Mogambo Khush Hua” became one of the most famous one-liners that Hindi cinema had produced. But this wasn’t the best one-liner that Akhtar ever wrote. His best one liner clearly has to be “Mere Paas Ma Hai” from the movie Deewar. The line is simple yet so powerful.
Deewar was released on January 1, 1975. Around six months later on June 25, 1975, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India declared a state of emergency. During the 21 month period of emergency Indira’s younger son Sanjay almost ran a parallel government along with his cronies. One of his major areas of concern was overpopulation and the government under his instructions forcefully carried vasectomies all over the country. This phenomenon got Atal Behari Vajpayee all worked up to write a poem titled “aao mardon na mard bano”. Those were the days.
Sanjay Gandhi wouldn’t have been able to force vasectomies on thousands of Indian men without the “love” and the “backing” of his mother Indira Gandhi, who is said to have had a soft corner for her ill-tempered son. “Mere Paas Ma Hai” was a line written for Sanjay Gandhi rather than Ravi, the character played by Shashi Kapoor in Deewar , who speaks the line in the movie. Chances are that if Deewar had been released six months later during the emergency, the line wouldn’t have made it past the censor board.
India is at the same stage again. The love of a mother for her only son is holding the country back. The moves are already being made. Pranab Mukjerhee has been packed off to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The next decision that is to be made is who will replace him at the Finance Ministry?
Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister, wants to run the ministry with his team of economists: Montek Singh Ahulwalia, the deputy chairman of the planning commission, C Rangarajan the Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council and Kaushik Basu, the Chief Economic Adviser to the government of India. He is also hoping that Raghuham Rajan from the University of Chicago, a former Chief Economist at the IMF, to join the team.
But will this be allowed to happen? The answer is no. Sonia Gandhi needs a politician as the minister of Finance. A politician who can like, P Chidambaram did, come up with schemes like the Rs 71,000 crore of farmers loans being waived off. A politician who can get the right to food act up and running.
A politician who can get onto a helicopter and drop bucket loads of money from it. Okay, not quite that. But a politician who can ensure that voters of this country have been bribed enough in the name of poverty and economic development, so that when Lok Sabha elections happen in 2014, they vote for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the Congress. All this to ensure that Rahul baba takes over the reins of the world’s biggest democracy.
This means that the fiscal deficit of the government of India will continue to go up. The government will continue to borrow more and more. And interest rates are likely to remain high. Economic sense be dammed.
And in the next few months you might hear of an A K Antony or a Digvijay Singh or a Jairam Ramesh or a Kamal Nath or a Sushil Kumar Shinde or even the all guns blazing all the time, Kapil Sibbal, taking over as the finance minister of this country. The name doesn’t really matter because none of them have voices or ideas of their own. Even if they did they have long been put on the backburner because all that matters now is that “Rahul Gandhi has to be made the PM”.
Manmohan Singh is the only person who can stop a seasoned Congress politician from taking over as the finance minister of India and limiting the serious damage to the Indian economy that would come with it. The good “doctor” has got more and “much” more, than he would have ever bargained for. He can resist moves to appoint a politician as a finance minister by threatening to resign. That is one thing that the Congress won’t be able to handle. It would set the cat among the pigeons.
It’s time for Singh to payback to the country for all that the country has given to him. But the question is will he be as docile as he has been and allow a mother’s love for her son to takeover? Will Rahul Gandhi say “Mere Paas Ma Hai”? Or will Manmohan Singh by resisting a full time politician taking over the ministry of finance, give us, you, me and everybody else, an opportunity to say “Mogambo Khush Hua”.
(The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on July 2,2012. http://www.firstpost.com/politics/babalog-prophecy-why-akhilesh-wont-ever-transcend-mulayam-368232.html)
(Vivek Kaul is a writer and can be reached at [email protected])
Some eleven years back I happened to be at an event where Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was the main guest. Since he was in a hurry he came in dancing into the hall and immediately asked the audience to ask him some questions.
After a few questions came this gem “Swami ji, jeevan ka matlab kya hai?“. To which he replied “jisne jeevan ka matlab bataya usne samjha nahi, aur jisne samjha usne bataya nahi.”
This philosophical gobbledygook or to use a simpler term mumbo-jumbo, left the audience impressed, and they kept talking about for some days to come. Ravi Shankar was an upcoming guru back then who was trying to find his audience and we all know he has done rather well since then.
Over the years I have thought a lot about the statement that he made on that given day. Why did he say what he did? I guess those were the days when he was trying to build a story around what he stood for. He was trying to create an image of himself in the minds of people, which was significantly different from the gurus already present and doing roaring business in the market for ‘spirituality’. And his story had to be different from them.
The story that Ravi Shankar perfected and spread over years is that of spreading happiness and peace, targeted at the upper middle class segment of the society with a dash of yoga and music thrown in for good measure. He supports this story with a bit of philosophical gobbledygook at times. The fact that his rise coincided with the so called India growth story is no coincidence. People worked longer hours under a whole lot more stress. They also made a lot of money, something which they could use to be spiritual on weekends and seek peace, a few times a year.
Ravi Shankar is not a mass market guru like Sai Baba of Puttparthi was or Baba Ramdev is, these days. He does not hold his sessions in open grounds like Baba Ramdev does. He holds them in air-conditioned halls. And he makes sure that he stays true to the story he stands for. Recently when Baba Ramdev went on a fast against corruption in the country, Ravi Shankar was asked, why doesn’t he go on a fast like Ramdev had? To which his reply was “I have so many followers outside the country. If I go on a fast, it will become an international issue. This is our problem and it should remain in India.”
So even though Sri Sri thinly associated himself with Ramdev’s campaign against corruption, he didn’t go all the way with it. Associating himself with a mass market guru on a mass market issue would have spoilt his story of being an international guru promoting peace and happiness through yoga, music and mumbo-jumbo, to the upper middle class. He had modeled himself along the lines of Osho Rajneesh (though Ravi Shankar is nowhere as radical as Rajneesh was), who was also a rich man’s international guru and he stayed that way till his death.
Spiritual gurus in India are big brands and big brands over a period time build stories around them. These are stories that help the mass market to relate to them. And when it comes to big brands, they don’t make bigger brands than film stars.
Dilip Kumar was the brooding lover. Raj Kapoor was the Indian Charlie Chaplin who got lost in the big bad city. Dev Anand was the gunda with a noble heart. Rajesh Khanna was the boy next door who got the girl in the end with some hiccups thrown in between for good measure.
As times changed, people forgot Khanna rather quickly, and Amitabh Bachchan became the angry young man. Bachchan tried to do something different now and then, but was unsuccessful at it during his hey days. Chupke Chupke and Alaap, two of his best performances during his hey days didn’t set the box office on fire. In the late 1980s he played the man with no name in the superb Main Azad Hoon (inspired by the great Hollywood flick Meet John Doe) directed by Tinnu Anand, who had also directed the Bachchan comeback movie Shahenshah. Main Azad Hoon tanked at the box office.
In the next generation, Salman Khan became the bhai next door. Shahrukh Khan became the new Rajesh Khanna, the sophisticated guy next door, who gets the girl in the end, after singing a few songs in between. This story became attached to Shahrukh Khan since Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge(DDLJ) released in October 1995. His anti hero movies of Darr, Anjam and Ram Jaane all came before DDLJ.
Almost all of his biggest hits after DDLJ have had Shahrukh playing the sophisticated guy next door, who usually gets the girl in the end. Be it Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum, Dil to Pagal Hai, Chalte Chalte, Main Hoon Na, Veer Zaara etc
Whenever he is tried to go against this, be it Swades, Paheli, Kabhi Alvida Na Kahna or for that matter My Name is Khan it hasn’t worked for him. And most recently that assault on the senses called Ra.One.
In the recent past Chak De India has been the only Shahrukh movie that has worked where Shahrukh did not play the guy next door. The reason the movie worked was that it had a strong story line, which isn’t a characteristic of most Shahrukh movies, and had a fairly limited budget.
So that leaves us with Aamir Khan the other big star of the generation. What is his story? His story can be expressed in that old Maggi Tomato Ketchup line “It’s Different”. Aamir Khan over the last ten to twelve years has been associated with movies which do not fall under the ambit of conventional Bollywood cinema. Be it as an actor or even as a producer.
As an actor he has done movies like Lagaan, Dil Chahta Hai, Mangal Pande, Rang De Basanti, Taare Zameen Par, 3 Idiots and Dhobi Ghat – Mumbai Diaries. These are movies which would be categorized as “different” in the scheme of Hindi cinema. Almost all of these movies come with an overt social message as well, something that Bollywood isn’t really known for. His next release Talaash, looks like what crime writers call a “police-procedural”. It is a sub-genre of detective novels where a murder or murders for that matter, are investigated painstakingly by normal police detectives, who are not as smart as Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.
Getting back to the point, during this period Aamir has also done an out an out masala flick like Ghajini, where his role required him to shave off his hair, something that no other Hindi film super start would have agreed to do. The only normal masala film that he has done in the last few years is Fanaa. And that is the exception that proves the rule. Aamir Khan likes to do movies that are different from the usual and have an overt social message.
Even his films as a producer, Lagaan, Taare Zameen Par, Peepli Live, Dhobi Ghat and Delhi Belly, fall into the “it’s different” category. And other than Delhi Belly which was an out and out zany adult comedy, the other movies had an overt social message.
So that brings us to Satyamev Jayate, Aamir Khan’s latest big hit. As Aamir has repeated in many interviews around four years back he was approached by Uday Shankar, CEO of Star India, with an idea of doing a game show. This Aamir rejected, as the Open magazine reports, saying “I don’t want to do a game show. I want to do something dynamically different”.
There you have it from the star’s mouth himself. He wanted to do something that was “different”. Aamir Khan probably understood much better than the people who wanted him to do a game show that the image he had built over the years wouldn’t allow him to do a game show. A game show required a star who didn’t really have a “serious-thinking” sort of an image that Aamir has. A Salman Khan could pull off a Dus Ka Dum. But an Aamir couldn’t. A Shahrukh could do Zor Ka Jhatka in his informal sort of way. But couldn’t pull off a Kaun Banega Crorepati which required the gravitas of an Amitabh Bachchan.
Media reports suggest that Aamir Khan and Star TV’s CEO Uday Shankar did not leave it at that. As Business Standard reports “It started some sort of engagement between the two to leverage the power of television. After over one-and-a-half years Khan, who undertook extensive research with his creative team, hit upon the idea of Satyamev Jayate.”
So convinced was Aamir about the idea that other than hosting the show he even decided to produce it under his banner Aamir Khan Productions, which will get paid a whopping Rs 45 crore for the 13episodes planned.
The entire concept of the show jelled with Aamir Khan’s image of being associated with work that is “different” and has an overt social message to it, though the social message in Satyamev Jayate is much more than any of his movies.
Aamir Khan went looking for an idea like Satyamev Jayate and found it. But it can also be safely said that an idea like Satyamev Jayate needed a presenter like Aamir Khan. They are “made for each other”, as the old Wills cigarette ad went.
(The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on June 23,2012. http://www.firstpost.com/living/why-aamir-khan-and-sj-were-made-for-each-other-354892.html)
(Vivek Kaul is a writer and can be reached at [email protected])