Finger raised, cuss words linked to canines on his lips, even wild threats to suck the foe’s blood, the hero was not always a polite epitome of virtue. He had his mean side, especially when antagonists tormented him and his loved ones at their hideouts.
A 24x7 domestic help, a Man Friday, an inveterate loyalist who served his master hand and foot, in sickness and in health. In good times and bad, his employer had him by his side even when his children abandoned him, or a baddie chopped both his hands off.
A flying god, a ten-headed demon king, disrobing of a lady gambled away by her husbands...everything held audiences in thrall. Coins were thrown lustily; makeshift temples came up inside theatres. Today’s net-savvy, Baahubali-loving kids are better off without them.
The Good Doctor
The inevitable doctor from a faraway land! Somebody desperately needed surgery when there appeared, out of the blue, a white man in a white apron, often called Dr Michael or Dr Richard—an expert saviour!
From lip-locks to love-making, flowers were the ubiquitous metaphor for just about everything—romantic or carnal— that would evade the chopping blades of the censor board. Whenever lovers came close, a pair of canoodling flowers played spoilsport.
Lost And Found
If not Kumbh Mela, a mishap or a scheming villain was instrumental in separating siblings. Thankfully, parents were clairvoyant to give them identical lockets for a climactic reunion.
Loin Of The Town
A long tunnel, colourful 15-watt bulbs flashing along the way with staccato beep sounds, leading to a villain’s den where a small pool is filled with....simmering acid. A bimbo by his side to light up his Havanas, the Big Boss was a cross between a zany scientist and a couturier’s role model.
The cop-versus-robber tale, often played out by siblings, was a predictable staple. Bad bro had the moolah; good boy had maa, who was torn between the apples of her eye.
Halt The Shaadi
Everything was in place—hymns recited by panditji, who would ask the couple to take the saat pheras. Just then, a habitual spoiler had to arrive and yell: ‘Yeh shaadi nahin ho sakti!’
The ubiquitous VAT 69—the eternal favourite of good old baddies. No villain’s den earned respectability without this showpiece. The logo seemed to give a bigger high than the beverage itself to whoever held it aloft like a
Mum’s The Word
A damsel-in-distress breaking the news to an unscrupulous paramour, usually a rogue about to dump her, with that shattering line, “Mai tumhare bachche ki maa …”
A mansion with a wide, red-carpeted staircase, a stuffed tiger or two, hanging rifles, portraits of menacing forefathers... The thakur’s haveli looked like a museum. Whether benevolent or a crook, he was the monarch with the family glare.
Duel For Dialoguebazi
The titans clashed and an exchange of heavy-duty dialogues flowed freely on screen. Economy of words was an alien concept to multi-starrers with mega stars. The louder they delivered the punch lines, the faster they sent the audience into delirium.
They rode horses and even mules through the dusty terrain of Chambal (at times on the outskirts of Bangalore too)—some as Robin Hoods, others as devils incarnate—but they all lived happily under open skies, with porous hideouts serving as the entertainment pads where they hosted what the millennials know as item numbers today.
Serenading his ladylove with liberal use of Urdu and Farsi words in songs, the leading man pranced around the trees with gusto, rolled over the meadows, wearing woollens, oblivious of the freezing girl in chiffons he had for company in Pahalgam.
A comedy of errors or a dhishoom drama, double roles, triple roles, even nine roles played by one actor gave an extra edge-of-the-seat thrill to a potboiler. For a change, it would be their looks and not identical lockets that brought about the reunion.
A large portrait of his departed better half hanging on the wall, a sullen-looking widower looked up and sighed, “Aaj teri maa zinda hoti” to his daughter, a blushing tomboy, about how mom would have delighted in her, and how time was ripe to find Mr Right.
My Bro Strongest
The chirpy little sister crooning ditties about the bonds between siblings on Rakshabandhan had a macho brother who doted on her, but she was invariably a liability: getting molested, kidnapped or raped—a key cog in the wheel of the good old revenge drama.
Being wet in rain or getting dunked in a lake while dodging devils, the lady love, drenched in white and shivering to death, had to be comforted. Far from prying eyes, a mere bonfire would not do— her inamorato had to revive her through a night of passion.
Widowed or separated, the poor mother eternally grappled with cataracts, struggling to put the thread through the eye of a needle. Incessantly coughing, she was indulgent towards her son, often a wastrel.
Long before the white revolution took place elsewhere, Bollywood was already promoting milk to the hilt as an elixir of life and, of course, vigour—a must-have prop of sorts in the pre-sildenafil citrate days, kept ready exclusively for the bridegrooms on their first wedding night.
That Divine Light
And when it seemed that all was lost, a divine light emanated—from a Goddess Durga idol or out of the palm of Shirdi ke Saibaba—restoring someone’s eyesight or reviving a terminally ill patient from his deathbed. Miracles elicited thunderous applause in theatres, not guffaws!
The janaab-in-a-sherwani, sher-o-shayari on his lips, met the mohtarma-in-a-burqa blushing through her eyes. Their songs were penned by Urdu stalwarts, and sermons delivered on social barriers that sought to crush love, sorry ishq!
The Broken Pot
The mustard fields have survived but the quintessential village of mere desh ki dharti, with its musical bullock carts, has vanished. And so has the curvaceous bucolic belle who carried water in an earthen pot with oomph to meet her suitor.
The Late Entrants
‘Qanoon ke haath’ may have been long, but they were always late. In film after film, they arrived after the climax, grim and clueless, to drag the villain to gaol after the hero had beaten him to a pulp. ‘The End’ was the only thing that followed their exit.
Text by Giridhar Jha & Illustrations by Sajith Kumar