‘Shaant gadadhaari Bheem, shaant!’
Thus goes a dialogue of almost as iconic proportions as the mythological saga it chooses to parody. Kundan Shah’s masterful 1983 comic set-piece, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron may well be mistaken for a stupendously silly slapstick saga by a non-discerning viewer. Delve a tad deeper though and it’s impossible to miss the extreme pathos that is delivered like a sucker-punch, straight to the gut, through this one-of-a-kind tragi-comedy that truly is in a league of its own making. Sleazy politicians, oily contractors, manipulative media-persons, corrupt cops, naïve secretaries, all in a theater of over-the-top garish absurdities and buffoonery, topped off by the honest unsuspecting protagonist lead-pair, trying to make a decent living in an indecent country. Now, is that not India for you, in a nut-shell? I thus choose to call it the most prophetic work by an Indian film maker.
Prophetic, not in the sense as visualized by businessmen (who like to call themselves filmmakers) like Harry Baweja, who waste their money and what is infinitely more important, our time, in portraying a futuristic vision of both a CGI-laden Mumbai and Priyanka Chopra, but at a far more philosophical and prodigiously disturbing level – that nothing will change in this country. True to its claim, thirty years hence, nothing has. Therein lies its true brilliance. Surely, it is to Indian cinema what Kubrick’s immensely prophetic Doomsday Device classic Dr. Strangelove is, to world cinema.
Take a bow, Mr. Kundan Shah! You will, forever, be remembered for giving us an epic farce that is as relevant if not more, three decades after its inception.
‘Teja main hoon, mark idhar hai!’
Need I say more? Raj Kumar Santoshi’s tacky, largely-puerile and completely zany comedy of errors, Andaz Apna Apna has grown into a home-grown legend of sorts. In spite of its poor production values and plot holes that you could drive a tractor through, its position among the highest echelons of escapist classics this country has ever produced, is unquestionable. Nobody will ever know how he managed to rope in four of the biggest names at the time, with what really seems to be, a script-less film. It is amply evident that the man who had delivered back-to-back smash hit dramas with Ghayal and Damini, was out in the playground, and boy was he out to have some fun! While the effort was predictably a commercial dud, in years to come it would go on to garner a fan base that cannot be touched, even with the “danda” used to hit “teelu!”
The legendary P.G. Wodehouse once famously said of farce in all its forms –
“You either make a comedy set in a believable world, bringing the audience’s attention to real matters against a backdrop of farce, giving birth to the genre of black-comedy. Else, you choose my way, that of completely ignoring reality and creating comical set-pieces in a world of make believe.”
I concur. Humor is among the toughest realms to master, simply because of the delicate line it has to tread. You either choose to be relevant, and root your farce in real issues, or you go the irreverent way, completely breaking the rules and blazing a trail so insane that it becomes impossible to resist. Are you listening, Rohit Shetty, David Dhawan and Priyadarshan?
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