I heard it on my school bus, number C2. Rajesh Kwatra from West Patel Nagar would tell it to me like it is. Sholay, Do Jasoos, Pratigya, Chacha Bhatija, Hera Pheri, Kalicharan. En route from Pusa Road to New Rohtak Road, between leftover lunch, choorangoli and mortal combat over window seats, Rajesh Kwatra was my eyes, ears and a balcony seat to a world populated by Amita Bachchan, Amjaad Khan, Dhan Tan Taan and Dhishkyaoooon. It saved my family money and gave me social acceptance as demonstrated by the following dramatic revisualisation:
Conan the Barbarian from East Patel Nagar: “Oye Bangali tune wo wali pichchar dekhi hai?”
Skinny Bong from Karol Bagh: “Dekhi hai” (white lie).
CBEPN: “Oye wo wala scene jisme ‘Halicopter’ crash hota hai!”
SBKB: “Oye wo wala scene jisme uska tauliya gir jata hai!”
CBEPN and SBKB (in unison): “YaaaBhissshummm. YaaBhisshuumm.” (Exeunt, in a frenzy of shared comradeship and violence.)
On the days Rajesh Kwatra had a tummy upset, I would carry on the narration myself to a group of listeners who had missed the climax. This resulted in creative alterations to the script, like Viru coming back to kill Gabbar once Thakur had finished pulping his hands.
Upon narrating to Kwatra and his posse the story of Vishwanaath—a film they had seen and I hadn’t—there ensued a debate as to which version was better and it came down to a fist fight. These were tough kids. They would kill for an aam paapad. The right to tell a film story and alter it was not a privilege easily squandered. One had to earn it. Subsequently I developed the skill of narrating films no one had seen, not even I. This saved lives and eventually, careers.
I think my dad got a raise in the late seventies. Suddenly, for a six-year-old, I was seeing blockbusters without having to use the by-now patented Kwatra Remote Audio Visual Cine Aid Kit. This resulted in me learning the following:
- Submarines are planes that don’t have wings and fly through a magenta sky (Parvarish, Liberty).
- A sadhu can wield a broom, run, scream and ask all the women to cover their heads (Dus Numbri, Paras. This did not happen in the film but outside, at the ticketing counter).
- A full-grown man can have a glittering, silver moustache and upon repeated asking, no one tells you how or why (Amar Akbar Anthony, Liberty).
- You can’t touch a woman’s breasts except with the aid of a long stick (Angoor, Liberty).
- Men wear skirts (Dharamveer, Liberty).
Also, by now my elder sister had started having a hand in choosing the films to go to. As a result we saw a lot of sissy films like Rajnigandha, Chitchor, Chhoti Si Baat and Chupke Chupke. The thing was we kept talking about these films for days, unlike the other blockbusters. Then Golmaal and Damaad happened and I was called upon to sing the title songs every time my sister’s giggling friends arrived home.
Armed with such essential knowhow, I developed a narrating club of my own where the following rules were imposed upon pain of excommunication to the girls’ seats in the school bus:
- Vinod Khanna was never to be defeated by anyone in any fight. Not even Amitabh Bachchan. (Later, this mitigating sub-clause was passed by unanimous vote; he may, only if Amitabh is his lost brother and Vinod knows it and loses knowingly.)
- It’s Bhisssshummm. Not Dhisssshummmm. Only sissies go Dhisssshummm when hitting someone in the solar plexus.
- After jumping off a plane you somersault thrice as you land on your legs.
- Bruce Lee is alive and now lives in Tilak Nagar.
- Amjad Khan knows my uncle.
- Amol Palekar wears a false moustache. (I don’t remember who started this but it wasn’t me.)
This started me very early on my path to world domination. I was within a whisker of getting my own window seat when my killjoy family shifted to the western suburbs of Delhi.
It gets dark and sordid from here. The bus was different. These kids were sissies who read books. The neighbourhood theatre got burnt down in riots. I missed all the ‘Gunmaster G9’ films. But I heard the songs from Shashi Kapoor’s Junoon and Gulzaar’s Meera on the radio. No one narrated me Ajooba or Ghulami. They were showing Cocteau, Ray, Costa Gavras and Ketan Mehta on television. I asked about the logic of Anil Kapoor’s long locks under a crisp navy cap in Tezaab and lost friends. I was mesmerised by his killing in Parinda and lost a girlfriend. The slide downhill continued till my sister admitted that she only watched LSD since I was her brother and why couldn’t I make it like Three Idiots? No one gives me a window seat on any bus now. What a fall!