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Sunday, December 19, 2004

the turning point

The exact point of time when teen-age love stories hit the Indian screen is difficult to determine but, if one says that it all started with ‘Bobby’, one may not be too far away from the truth.
The greatest entertainer of them all, Raj Kapoor had a number of firsts to his credit – including heroines in ‘wet’ scenes (Sangam and Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram). But ‘Bobby’ was certainly a path breaker – it was all about teen age love that did not have the sanction of the appropriate authorities, meaning the families. What eventually followed is something we read about practically everyday in the news papers – some even make it to the TV networks. The endings are seldom happy. When the children elope, the Police swing into action, make life miserable for their friends and close relatives and ultimately haul them up to court. While the girl is normally send to some home, the boy faces the law.

Happy endings are rare.

When such stories are translated into movies today, we are entertained by ‘youngsters’ who have just crossed the portals of schools and have joined college. Since in India, schooling ends by the time one is sixteen, these go-happy youngsters are obviously teen-agers. The boys meet at the gate; none of them appear to be carrying books! Their dresses and antics do not give any indication that they are in a college for studies. When the girls come on the scene, they play the fool with one another to impress the girls. Then there are those song and dance routines. Revealing dresses and provocative gestures garnish the song sequences – apart from titillating the basic senses, they appear to serve no tangible purpose. There are stock dialogues for these occasions and the group of ‘students’ automatically fall into line of the ‘leaders’ – the hero for the boys and the heroine for the girls. Invariably, a pair of the students plays the role of jokers. Here also, the role-players have mastered the art of boring the audience with their antics and stale dialogues.

As these ‘love’ stories progress, the villains make their entries.

These characters are usually the spoilt brats of hi-fi personalities like Ministers and Police Chiefs. Their villainy is depicted via scenes of unclothing some near and dear ones of the hero. What follows are marathon running, long chases and fights. Here, it must be said that our fight masters deserve credit for dreaming up sequences in which the hero is able to withstand inhuman bashing and, lift the villain and smash him several times on the floor. When the villain becomes limp, the hero still has sufficient strength left to hoist the heroine on his strong shoulders and walk away into the sunset.

It is a sad state of affairs when thirty plus heroes agree to don the mantle of teenagers. The message that goes out to the world at large about the Indian student community is certainly not worthy of emulation. In fact, they give rise to juvenile crimes.

There was that beautiful movie on teen age love called ‘Summer Holiday’ where Elvis Presley was the hero. He was a singer and, as a backdrop of his hit numbers, there was a double-decker bus in which a group of students were going on vacation. An acceptable situation – unlike the ones we see in our Indian versions. Similarly, there was that famous ‘Come September’ where the duo Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin gave wonderful and realistic performances as teen-agers and Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida as the more mature pair.

Bobby was certainly a turning point for Indian cinema.


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