It started with the image of a young man sliding down a block of ice, or perhaps with trying to emulate another thin and small guy by holding a small plastic guy by holding in my hand, or with a bearded guy wearing a turban, walking in a sparse arid land, speaking words in urdu that I had trouble understanding. These are the three most distinct images that I remember from over twenty years ago which started my love for cinema.
We lived in Sonpur and Papa rented video cassettes from Patna, a different city altogether. My brother and I benefited greatly by my father’s own interest in movies and his interest in passing on his interests to us. So along with movies starring young khans whose idea of teenage rebellion was singing loudly while riding bikes on a high speed or by defying their parents to marry the girls of their choice, we were treated to silent films with tooth brush moustached gentlemen eating leather shoes with style and panache, and a fat and thin duo who had the funniest accidents I had ever seen. They frequently walked into walls, stepped on pitch forks, or had paint buckets dropped on their heads.
But the other ‘English Films’ I had trouble appreciating, because of the simple fact that all they spoke seemed gibberish to me. Hindi films had much more appeal, especially with the appearance of a hero who knew ‘martial arts’ and who could ‘do judo karate’.
‘He does all his own stunts.’
‘But all the heroes do their own stunts dada!’
‘No! Only HE does his own stunts.’
‘Mithun Chakraborty can break walls with his hands.’
‘They are paper walls, only HE can break real bricks with his bare hands.’
And that is where the conversation would end. I always considered my brother to be an infinite reservoir of knowledge, and whatever he told me had to be correct.
The man who slid down stairs on a block of ice took backseat (at least for a couple of years) because even though he had acted in a movie with a friendly ghost and an awesome cricket match, he had taken to stalking pretty women with dazzling smiles. I did not completely understand how he was the villain because he sang all the songs in the movie, but in the end it was clear that he was the guy with bad intentions.
But HE never disappointed, along with a body builder actor who had the worst voice in the world, he kicked, boxed and kick-boxed villains with a hundred percent success rate. He flew in the air with two guns in his hands, and shot the goons with deadly accuracy. Trying to imitate him this way resulted in a broken sofa in my house.
Movies confused me at times, the Gentleman Raju was a stalker, the friendly ghost was killed by the action hero. The only consistent villain was the bald man with a booming voice. And the only consistent hero was a thin and short guy, who cheated me by appearing in the beginning of a movie called Damini and not staying on for the whole deal.
The early 90s was a time when the movies were simple, all songs were shot either in the rain, or in the mountains. The villain and/or the father of the heroin had a huge house with staircases and in the end everything exploded. All the songs were antakshari friendly. Ronit Roy was a successful band master and or an eight year old, college promised to be a place where there was a lecture on Romance (and Love and Dance).
The ice block boy redeemed himself to me two years later thrice, once by dueling with Javed Jaffrey on the streets of Bombay verbally, with an awesome song in a movie that I did not see, and then by acting in a movie where in a rare instance he loses the girl, but not before bringing a small town Don to tears by singing his life story.
The third movie was special, because it was a reincarnation revenge saga about two brothers who are killed by a corrupt Thakur and who come back in their next life to avenge their own deaths (in retrospect it seems kind of unfair because their killers had already grown quite old when they returned). I loved this movie so much that I insisted on buying toy guns for my brother and myself so that we could pose in front of the mirror the way the heroes posed in the poster.
In 1994 came a movie that was a super-duper hit. Its songs stayed on the top of music charts for weeks and my family, my aunts, uncles, cousins, all wanted to see it. It was a long film, and it had its fair share of comedy, by the end of the movie I heard a weird sniffling sound in the theatre which I did not recognize.
I came back disappointed from the film, of the hundreds of characters in the three hour long movie, there was not a single villain. There were no guns fired, there were no explosions, just an ultra smart dog who was prudent enough not to swallow jewelry and paper.
For me an era of movies ended that day and I inadvertently (with the help of Zee Cinema) decided to headlong dive back to older movies, showing angry young men and dacoits with black tilaks on their foreheads.
But I will write about that later.