“Don’t cry….He hated tears… ”
This was the first tweet I read the other day as I casually checked in to see what’s happening.
I felt my insides cringe at the thought of what might have happened. Sure enough, as I scrolled down to read the other tweets I read prayers for eternal peace for his soul. Rajesh Khanna had passed away.
I felt hot tears well up and I blinked them back furiously, willing myself not look like a fool in the office. But it took minutes for the news to spread and within no time, news channels were switched on and the dreadful news flashed across the screen. India’s First Superstar was no more.
The realization was painful. That jovial, handsome, smiling face on the screen was now officially history. And swift on its feet came another realization; an Era was ending. One by one, all the Greats were leaving us.
The men and women who made magic in black and white, who’s music made the heart climb up into the skies of joy and plunge to the deepest trenches of sorrow, were leaving us. Only a handful of them remained now. A very precious, VERY mortal handful.
And after they’re gone, what would we be?
An Industry that produces a million shit films a year? Full of meaningless action sequences and cheap item numbers, brainless humor and sleazy kissing and sex scenes? A thousand songs releasing every year, each sounding more or less like the other? A hoard of producers and actors and directors who were more concerned about how much more money they would be making than about the quality of work?
The Master Magicians were leaving… what would remain would be cheap, roadside tricksters that promised you a trick and left you crestfallen with a dumb ace-from-the-sleeve trick and a much lighter pocket.
It was a desolating, depressing realization.
Since the news broke, there have been Rajesh Khanna movies screening back to back on the TV. I’ve seen a fair few of them before and I honestly envy my mom and dad’s generation since they got to live through all that awesome cinema!
Anand, Kati Patang, Amar Prem, Aradhna, Sacha Jhuta, Safar…
And these are just the Rajesh Khanna flicks!
If you put together the movies of that era, the ratio of good story telling to bullshit video tricks is alarmingly opposite to what it is today! Every scene, every shot meant something. Every note in every song, every line of a lyric meant something. There was barely any shot just for the heck of it. There was no rhyming because it needs to rhyme sort of songs. Everything meant something. Everything was thought out with the actor, the writer, the producer, the director and the whole wagon-full of people involved concentrated on one point; how best to tell the story.
When that became their focus, things may have gone smoothly, or things may have been rough. They may have had arguments and falling outs and financial rough patches. But what came out at the end of the day… left you speechless. They used to take years to make one movie but oh what movies! What stories! They put their hearts up on the screen and they were loved. loved? heck, they were deified!
They didn’t have special effects and mind blowing fight scenes and steamy sex scenes and item numbers…. They had something much much better. They had moments. They had the real thing; the real emotions. They didn’t need a sex scene… they had romance. They made themselves Legends on the basis of that stuff! Today, they call it ‘corny’. well, if that was corny, then in the words of Iris Simpkins (Kate Winslet) from “The Holiday”, “I Like Corny…. I’m looking for Corny in my life…. ”
When Rajesh Khanna was in his prime, I hadn’t made an appearance yet and my mom was considering writing him a love letter. In blood.
But still, his demise is as painful to me as it is to my mother. I can feel the loss even when I didn’t really see what he was when he was The Superstar. Yet, I feel the loss. It is not like he (or any of the other Legends) were still doing stuff like they did back then. They haven’t made that sort of cinema too often since I was born. Yet knowing that these men are still around, still living and breathing is a sort of a happy thought.
I guess somewhere deep within me, I was hoping that them being around meant that there is still hope for good work to happen. Somewhere deep within me, very selfishly, I wanted to be sitting at their feet and listening to them tell me about how it was done; how one blank, white curtain can be made to come to life. Without LCD screens and 3D technologies…. How they did it…
I wonder, when I am older and when I have kids, will my kids feel like this for any of the men and women on the screens today?
Forget them! Will I feel like this?
I don’t know… Maybe, barring an Aamir Khan or two, I may not even give it a second thought! I may actually ask, “who?” when someone broke this sort of news to me.
I don’t know what sort of a future we’re heading towards when it comes to Cinema. But if there is any way of taking from the past and bringing in the best of it, I would love to do that. I don’t want the five minute superstars and the twitter celebrities. I want a Superstar. I want a Rajesh Khanna.
To conclude, since I already began with the quote from The Holiday, I’d like to end with a thought from the same movie. I keep thinking of Arthur Abbott’s (Eli Wallach’s Character in the movie) speech at the ceremony held for him. It goes something like this:
“I came to Hollywood over 60 years ago, and immediately fell in love with motion pictures. And it’s a love affair that’s lasted a lifetime. When I first arrived in Tinseltown, there were no cineplexes or multiplexes. No such thing as a Blockbuster or DVD. I was here before conglomerates owned the studios. Before pictures had special effects teams. And definitely before box office results were reported like baseball scores on the nightly news…”
I guess deep within me, I too want to sit like Iris Simpkins and listen to the legends as they share their stories…. I want to be awed by their experiences…. I want to be inspired by the sheer magic of them…. before the rest of them decide to leave us too…
(Note: I do know that I’ve been harsh about Bollywood today. I appreciate that a lot of you may take offence or not like to read what I’ve expressed and in such cases, I generally welcome feedback in comments and I encourage people to express themselves but for once, for just this once, I request you not to defend today’s cinema in the comments. I don’t say that they are all trash and that no good work is being done anymore. I’m just saying that there is no legendary work anymore. If you don’t agree, unfollow the blog if you must but please PLEASE don’t argue over this in the comments. Thanks!)