Trans­form­ers of Bol­ly­wood

Writer duo Salim-Javed in­cepted masala movie idea through Yadon Ki Baaraat in B-town that ex­celled af­ter emer­gence of Amitabh Bachchan and his ‘An­gry Young Man’ image

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Amonth af­ter Raj Kapoor’s Bobby in­tro­duced young ro­mance to Hindi cin­ema through his 1973 cult clas­sic Bobby, Nas­sir Hus­sain pushed the en­ve­lope fur­ther with ar­guably In­dia’s first ‘masala’ film, Yaadon Ki Baaraat.

Un­like Bobby, Yaadon Ki Baaraat was an ensem­ble that could not be slot­ted into any one genre. It had el­e­ments of ro­mance, ac­tion, thrill, re­venge, mu­si­cal and fam­ily drama. To­day, these are con­sid­ered the in­gre­di­ents of a quin­tes­sen­tial Bol­ly­wood pot­boiler. It was in fact the film that set the ball rolling for the trans­for­ma­tion of Hindi cin­ema into Bol­ly­wood. Prior to that, Hindi films ei­ther re­flected a macro con­text or bor­rowed tales from rich folk­lore and his­tory of the sub­con­ti­nent. It was only with Yaadon Ki Baaraat that Hindi cin­ema found a lan­guage that was cus­tom-made for its di­verse au­di­ence.

While Rishi Kapoor, who starred in Bobby, ar­gued that the ‘storm that Amitabh Bachchan was’ never al­lowed his young ro­mances to be the au­di­ence’s pri­mary view­ing choice, Nasir’s tem­plate of a masala film per­sisted. Salim-Javed had al­ready in­tro­duced Bachchan as the An­gry Young Man ear­lier that year through Prakash Mehra’s crime ac­tion drama Zan­jeer. He was the lone wolf who was more in­ter­ested in aveng­ing the wrongs done to him by the sys­tem than the prover­bial run­ning around the trees.

Salim-Javed painted Bachchan’s Sho­lay co-star Dhar­men­dra with the same colours in Yaadon Ki Baaraat, a first for an on­screen hero re­galed with love let­ters for his roles as a heart­throb He-Man. As the Bachchan jug­ger­naut hit the 1970s Bol­ly­wood with all its might, the Yaadon Ki Baaraat for­mula held on ow­ing to its ap­peal that cut across fans of dif­fer­ent gen­res. The film re­volved around three broth­ers who get sep­a­rated in child­hood (four years be­fore Man­mo­han Shetty’s Amar Ak­bar An­thony re­leased) and tread dif­fer­ent paths, grow­ing up into a crim­i­nal (Dhar­men­dra), a ser­vant (Vi­jay Arora) and a mu­si­cian (Tariq Khan). While Dhar­men­dra rep­re­sented the crime, pain and ac­tion com­po­nent, Vi­jay stood for the young ro­mance, Tariq glued the film to­gether with its mu­sic and fam­ily quo­tient.

The premise of broth­ers get­ting sep­a­rated in the child­hood only to re­unite as adults was not en­tirely newly even then. But its mod­ern set­ting set the film apart. The mi­lieu was not a vil­lage and the cause of sep­a­ra­tion was not get­ting lost in the Kumbh Mela. Their sep­a­ra­tion episode was key to how their in­di­vid­ual lives pro­gressed thereon. Dhar­men­dra was on the look­out of Shakaal, the mur­derer of his par­ents, Tariq searched for his aban­doned broth­ers and Vi­jay, like a hope­less ro­man­tic, set out to find love. Col­lo­quial English also made its pres­ence felt in di­a­logues like “Come on kids” and “Leave me alone” (as op­posed to the damsel in dis­tress calls of “Ch­hod do mu­jhe”).

An­other as­pect of the film that pro­claimed that it be­longed to an era ahead of its time was the mu­sic.

RD Bur­man upped the ante with his sound de­sign, iron­ing the os­cil­la­tions and blunt­ing the jags in his com­po­si­tion. Ac­com­pa­nied by sea­soned lyri­cist Ma­jrooh Sul­tan­puri, Bur­man con­cocted mu­sic that caught the at­ten­tion of a gen­er­a­tion that was grad­u­ally grav­i­tat­ing to­wards Western mu­sic. While ‘Yaadon Ki Baaraat’ was the the­matic ti­tle track, the best of the lot re­mains ‘Chura Liya’, the iconic smol­der­ing love song that tip­toed on the fine line be­tween coy­ness and sen­su­al­ity, just like the ac­tress it was filmed on — Zeenat Aman.

Zeenat blurred the lines be­tween the chaste hero­ine, who was sup­posed to ro­mance the hero with zero as­ser­tion of her own in­di­vid­u­al­ity, and the vamp, which high­lighted her sex­u­al­ity and ‘mod­ern’ out­fits through slow dances on se­duc­tive songs. She, how­ever, did not ‘don’ neg­a­tive shades like He­len or Aruna Irani. She merely hu­man­ized the hero­ine and stood out as a glam­orous lead­ing lady, which Dim­ple Ka­pa­dia also toyed with in Bobby but not as bold as Zeenat. All these el­e­ments men­tioned above con­sti­tute a main­stream Bol­ly­wood film as we know it to­day.

Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar in 1971

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