Rubina P. Banerjee takes a look at several actor combinations and the iconic scenes they enacted that have made for immortal movie moments.
The rave reviews had made the movie a must-see and one was almost banned from social circles if one confessed that one had yet to see the film! When the social pressure got to me, I braved a despairing rain-lashed evening for a dekko of the precious film. From the very beginning I was determined to find some flaw in this masterpiece,yet the simplicity of the movie won me over slowly yet surely.
This was everyday life in all its dreariness… and the loneliness was mine yet the articulation of it was unique.
There was ambition overtaking experience and the calm exasperation of Irrfan Khan at Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s repeated attempts to learn the job from him brought out the interplay of these two masterful actors. The initial hostility turned into passive patience and finally relented to a reluctant friendship which bloomed with every lunch they shared. The daily ride home on the local became a journey into knowing each other and forever changed the equation between them.
The principles of the two men were so different. Irrfan was the man of integrity and experience. Nawaz, a survivor, whose words were a means to an end. A simple example of this was one of the conversations Irrfan and Nawaz share where Nawaz adds that his mother used to say so. Irrfan is confused and questions him saying that he (Nawaz) had just told him that he was an orphan, so how did his mother mysteriously appear in the picture? Nawaz laughs and says, “Sir, ‘Ma kehti thi’ bolne se wazn badhta hai!” (By saying ‘My Mother said so’ my words acquire a greater depth) Irrfan is bemused as he takes Nawaz’s white lies in his stride. It is from this point that he starts liking Nawaz despite the latter’s fawning flattery and imposition on his attention.
Watching the interplay of these two awesome actors was a treat; how each anticipated the other’s reactions, each expression, each gesture seemed at once to be as individualistic to the character portrayed while appearing so simple, so spontaneous. I realised then that I was privileged to be watching the mesmerising histrionics of an awesome actor dyad and was fortunate to see them share screen space.
THE LUNCH BOX brought alive the magic that is cinema, where actors weave stories through expressions, and their interaction on screen creates the clichéd chemistry which etch those cinematic moments as memories. It is rarely that we get to see this chemistry and we are all the more privileged to have in our era such dexterous actors who make milestones of memories with their sheer histrionic capacity.
Watching Nawaz and Irrfan reminded me of another actor duo who had enthralled us with a similar reading of each other’s craft – Naseeruddin Shah and Farooque Shaikh in Sai Paranjpye’s KATHA (1983). The chemistry between Naseer, the simple Rajaram Joshi, and his friend, the flamboyant Farooque aka Bashudev, starts from the moment Bashu steps into Rajaram’s humble chawl. It is masterly in the scene where Bashu takes his friend to a fancy restaurant for lunch and recounts his many jobs. Rajaram’s face is flushed with admiration at his friend’s versatility but cannot help asking Bashu why he was not able to stick to any job.
Even before the question leaves Naseer’s lips, Farooque answers with a flamboyant, “Spirit of adventure!” and, wiping his fingers on the napkin, adds decisively that no matter how much anyone offers him he cannot be pinned down to a job. Rajaram, who prides himself on his recently acquired permanent status at work, can’t quite understand this but is yet awed by Bashu’s bravado.
The body language, the expressions, all suggest two diametrically opposite characters who are yet friends and the actors spontaneously respond to each other’s quirks. Watching Naseer and Farooque or Irrfan and Nawaz was like watching a well-synched jugalbandi of two maestros!
The classic song ‘Ek chatur nar…’ from PADOSAN shows off the excellent comic timing of the greats Mehmood and Kishore Kumar. The song takes off with Kishore Kumar starting the song and Mehmood trying to outdo him with not just his singing but elaborate dancing. Mehmood’s Bharatnatyam steps incite Kishore Kumar to provoke him by singing ‘Oh tere…seedhe ho jaa re’ to which a bashful Mehmood straightens his lungi and ties his hair knot in a determination to defeat. Desperate, Guru(Kishore Kumar) changes the lyrics and the tune of the song, bewildering Mehmood, whose expression is a treat to watch and then the triumph when he finally finds the note proclaiming, ‘Hum chodega nahi ji!’ The song is one you can watch over and again just to see the comic antics of this duo.
The MUNNA BHAI series had the same immaculate comic timing in the lead pair of Arshad Warsi and Sanjay Dutt, especially in the scene where Circuit tutors Bhai on how to replace slang words with genteel ones, atleast when he goes on air.
“Bhai vaat nahi bolne ka, durgati bolne ka,” he says and proceeds to asking Bhai to be vinamra, to which Sanjay Dutt replies,“Yeh vinamra kaun hai?” The entire conversation takes place in the loo with an employee making repeated attempts at using the loo and Circuit kicking the disturbing ‘leakage’ out everytime. A laugh-inducer if ever there was one!
Perhaps JAANE BHI DO YAARO owes its iconic stature to the lead actors who made an art of comic timing– Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani. Who can forget the scene where Shobhaji, the editor of Khabardar, visits the studio and Sudhir (Ravi Baswani) vows to make her the model she dreams of becoming – and receives a slap for his pains. Vinod steps in even as Sudhir is recovering from his mistake and, despite Sudhir’s attempts at warning him, delivers the same lines and receives the same reward. Ravi Baswani’s helpless expressions, as Naseer goes through the elaborate sales spiel, are delightful! Wish we could have seen them in more films together but the chance will never come again with the sad demise of Ravi Baswani.
Then there are the actor duos who have made us shift in our seats by the sheer intensity of their performance. The names that immediately come to mind are Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil in the few movies they acted in together, such as ARTH and MANDI.
The confrontation scene in ARTH at the party where Shabana meets her husband’s lover is classic. Smita’s recoiling in horror as Shabana, disheveled and drunk, asks her husband how she had failed as a wife. This was indeed a moment caught in time and its universality of emotion.
The same intensity sears the screen when Om Puri confronts his father in ARDH SATYA. Or in the final scenes of SAARANSH between Rohini Hattangadi and Anupam Kher. Devastated by the death of their only son, Parvati (Hattangadi) lives in the hope that her son would be reborn in the womb of Soni Razdan, their tenant. Her husband (Kher) realises that she is losing her sanity and asks Soni and her fiancé to leave the house. Parvati breaks into hysterical cries at this juncture and her heartbroken tears accuse her husband, “Tum rakshaas ho,” she says as she turns away from him. Even in this blur of tears the question repeats itself: was her hope more debilitating than his despair?
The question reiterates itself while watching Dr. Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan) and Anand (Rajesh Khanna). The grave doctor is disturbed by his patient’s making a jest of his illness and rebukes him.The doctor’s scorn soon turns to admiration when he realises that Anand fully understands the terminal nature of his illness but is determined to live life to the hilt, in the time he has. Babumoshai and his Anand are immortalised especially in the last scene where Amitabh is unable to accept his death and shakes Anand’s lifeless body repeating “Baatein karo mujh se” and the recorded voice of Anand comes on, as a look of hope suffuses Amitabh’s face only to dissolve in despair as Anand’s last laugh echoes.
The screen lit up every time Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri were together in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s ABHIMAAN and MILI. While in ABHIMAAN, Jaya played the perfect foil to the flamboyant singing star that her husband was, in MILI, the roles were reversed and while he was steeped in tragedy she was bright and able to bring him out of his introverted ways.
Tabu and Irrfan Khan share the same chemistry.Whether it is the frame from MAQBOOL where Tabu’s flirtatious antics put Irrfan in a dilemma or Irrfan bidding his last goodbye to Tabu in THE NAMESAKE, the two of them together are a powerful pair on screen.
Konkona SenSharma and Irrfan Khan too make for a win-win combination. In the last scene of LIFE IN A METRO, Konkona finally realises that the loud, crude Irrfan is the man she would like to marry and accosts him even as he approaches on a ghodi in the full finery of a dulha. As Konkona tells him he lifts his sehra to say, ‘Pehle kyun nahi boli? Petticoat-blouse usi ke maap se sil gaye hain.’ Her life-changing decision meeting with such a callous response makes her angry and she leaves in a cab while our dulhe miyan trots behind to bring her back.The chemistry that Konkona and Irrfan share makes this ludicrous situation believable and absolutely delightful!
The perfect twosome, however,was Farooque Shaikh and Deepti Naval. The Eighties came alive with their vivacious charm. The lacklustre life of the pre-globalisation era, as depicted in films like CHASHME BUDDOOR and KISSI SE NAA KEHNA, took on a new shine with their pairing. The famous ‘Chamko scene’ comes to mind where Farooque Shaikh is enchanted by the bubbliness of the Chamko girl and after the entire washing demo, sheepishly tells her that he had given her a freshly laundered towel to wash! He is mesmerised and she is radiant while the bubbles of the jhaagwala Chamko make falling in love seem so easy!
BOX OFFICE BUSTERS
And then ofcourse there are the box office busters whose paired presence on screen made the cash registers ring, while audiences hailed them immortal and rushed time and again to see their favourite heroes together. The Big B and Garam Dharam in SHOLAY, Shah Rukh and Saif in KAL HO NA HO, Salman and Aamir in ANDAZ APNA APNA and of course Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi in the MUNNABHAI series made for millions and for movie moments that can be enjoyed time and time again!
This article first appeared in December 2013 issue of Cine Blitz magazine