Buddha Ho Gaya Bachchan?
“There is dearth of good writers,” seems to be the unanimous voice of every producer/director whose last film flopped. “I have a beautiful subject, zara hatke story, we have been working on the script for the past two years,” voices another section of the Hindi film industry. “But where is the story?” asks the viewer. Damn the critic. Forget the younger lot of actors and film makers. Stop, and take a stock of the recent starrers of the often ‘greatest Bollywood actor’, Amitabh Bachchan. There is no denying he is a great actor, and can essay any role with conviction, but then he needs story-based scripts and directors, not fans or sycophants. But in this film he looks laughable in throwing boxing shots at youngsters and goons alike sporting those outlandish colourful costumes with, as a colleague said, “kitschy sensibilities.”
In a recent interview, the celebrated Indian English novelist, Amitav Ghosh observed: “Indian cinema of the 60s and 70s was very important to me. I remember the early Mrinal Sen, his Bhuvan Shome. I’m still haunted by that film, its images. But also Hindi cinema of that time, Aradhana…I also loved the old Kishore Kumar movies. The way in which stories were constructed in Hindi cinema…I basically lost interest in Hindi cinema during the Amitabh Bachchan period. All that star appeal sucked out everything else. The story-telling power of Hindi cinema just disappeared. But before that, what I would have compared Hindi cinema to would be opera, you know, structured like opera, in the sense that like opera always builds towards drama, in the same way, Hindi cinema was very focused on building towards climaxes, towards creating situations of drama. Bachchan’s stardom killed it all.”
Wonder what were co-producer-director Puri Jagannadh, co-producer-star Amitabh Bachchan in their wisdom set out to do in Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap because neither the story nor the action (but for an odd dialogue here, and two there) justify the title? Were they making a spoof, a slap stick, a vendetta, or knitting together what has come to be known as a series of gags? But then what Bachchan did is more of a spoof, a sad twisting of his past hit numbers, and making a valiant attempt at replicating the old magic that had failed long time ago. Does anyone any more remember Toofan, Jadugar, Ganga Jamuna Saraswati, Lal Badshah, Aaj ka Arjun and his other failed masterpieces post five-year hiatus from acting? If anything, it shows a further degeneration of the most accomplished Bollywood actor ever as proven by those oil-and-soap ads that dominate the television screens in every household. Bachchan tries his best to be an item boy that he cannot be any more, or could have been had the makers tried something more original than playing golf with those numbers. The replay of Mere naseeb mein tu hai ki nahin when he sees separated wife Hema Malini in a mall, or that of Raveena Tandon and Tu cheese badi hai mast mast. Wonder whatever happened to her much-touted item number that is missing from the released version?
Then there are other old ingredients: making a grand entry a la Shahenshah into Makarand Deshpande’s pub; the motorcycle ride and the wooing of Sridevi in Aakhri Rasta; the Ageenpath like dialogue delivery, or when he tries to save the write-off girls from the goons. And the hundred other elements that have been randomly stolen from non-Bachchan starrers. There is not a single scene where Vijju says to ACP Kunal Malhotra Bbuddha Hoga Tere Baap. A baap who is shown to return from his Paris exile with the mission to knock off a daring cop that an entire Mumbai underwent is unable to wipe off. Does that sound familiar too…the Bachchan Bollywood of the 70s and the 80s? If not, the director makes him mouth dialogue suggesting how generation X was trying to imitate him.
Or when he recounts his association with the Bombay city, the monsoon, and the underworld. Getting back to the apology of a story, or disjointed plot and patchy editing, as a colleague pointed out, here is supposedly “the founder member of Mumbai mafia” who no one seems to have heard about, including that classy villain, Prakash Raj (remember Dabangg), the sharpest shooter in town –sporting two watches, sorry three towards the climax – multi-coloured shades that change with the lighting for the shots (no he does wear custom-made suits in-between as well). So this sharpshooter, one of the original city dons, joins the villain in his sole mission of killing the cop who has vowed to wipe out all garbage from the city within two months. Then suddenly the director and scriptwriter realised their mistake. They make the ACP the don’s long lost son. So instead of shooting off the ACP, who has been shot by one of the goons, he wipes out the entire gang to avenge the attack on his son. Some flashbacks are thrown in as tear jerkers, and mindless romance.
During Bachchan’s peak years, 1973-83, and then again 2000 onwards when he moved to character roles with Mohabbatein, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Bagbaan scriptwriters were still conjuring up situation (even escapist fare in the first phase) that carried the stories forward, giving him enough scope to perform and emote, with ample dose of romance thrust upon the angry middle aged man, anything he did on screen still seemed plausible. Even his silences warned about the imminent burst of a volcano. And all this lasted till the love of money over-rode all other considerations and he signed on dotted lines for endorsements and films alike – factors that were contrary to his towering persona.
One tends to agree with the school of thought that whenever Bollywood history is rewritten, the Bachchan phenomenon would be termed the dark phase in its chequered history, as also the beginning of near-total degeneration that is visible now.
By Suresh Kohli