Films that gained a ‘cult following’ over the years,despite being unnoticed on release
[Y]ash Chopra is looked upon as the grandfather of candyfloss romance, an antithesis to the more ‘artistic’ genre of films. One wonders why. Here’s what his early films were about:
Unwed mothers and illegitimate children – Dhool ka Phool (1959)
Partition and the rise of Hindu fundamentalism – Dharmputra (1961)
Taut, song less thriller about a fugitive, a lone woman and a corpse – Ittefaq (1969)
A man who lives with his wife and the ‘other woman’, Hindi Cinema’s first Ménage à trois- Daag (1973)
In 1981, we had another of his equally risqué works, Silsila. Expectedly, sparks flew when the Screen God of the time shared screen space with the reigning diva. Rekha and Amitabh were quite an item on screen and allegedly, off screen too. The grapevine has it that Chopra was inspired to make Silsila on this relationship and how Jaya (Bhaduri) Bachchan reacted to it. Well, the vine might have got it all wrong – but Rekha and Mr. B sure sizzled on-screen. Unfortunately, the public wasn’t too amused to see their idol cavorting around with his lover as his wife laid sobbing, back home. But the music (by Shiv-Hari, lyrics by Javed Akhtar) was quite successful, and till today, re-runs on TV never fail to boost TRPs.
Spiderman was 13 years away, Krrish, 17 years. Even the Batman franchise was to start 2 years later with Tim Burton’s film. And we had apna desi Superman. If you’re familiar with the Superman cast of characters, check out the actors who played them, and go bang your head on a wall or something:
Jor-El – Dharmendra
Jonathan Kent – Ashok Kumar
Clark Kent (Shekhar) – Puneet Issar
Perry White – Sonia Sahni
Jimmy Olsen – Jagdeep
Lex Luthor (Verma, aka “Chairman of the Underworld”) – Shakti Kapoor
One of the better known rip-offs of Superman, this one is popularly labeled as the ‘Indian Superman’ and enjoys quite a following on the net. Catch this hilarious review on Stomp Tokyo.
Om Darbadar (1988)
Not having seen it is okay, but if you haven’t even heard of Om Dar Ba Dar, you most likely aren’t a film buff. It is India’s answer to Luis Bunuel’s or Andy Warhol’s surrealist films. Directed by Kamal Swaroop, an eccentric and flamboyant genius, Om Dar Ba Dar released in 1988 and went largely unnoticed.
The film itself is best summarised in an awesome blog review, and I quote:
“Here’s the plot of the film: Horoscope, dead frog, cloudy sky, the moon, radio program, caste reservation, bicycle, Mount Everest, women’s liberation, communism, sleeveless blouse, Yuri Gagarin, miniature book, Nitrogen fixation, man on moon, terrorist tadpoles, computer, biology class, turtles, Hema Malini, typewriter, sleazy magazines, hibernation, text inside nose, googly, James Bond, severed tongue, fish rain, shoes in a temple, World War, assassin creed, Gandhi, illicit trade, the lake, goggles, hopping currency, helium breath, counterfeit coins, underwater treasure, diamonds inside frogs, fireworks, the zoo, explosives, town at night, dead man, visit of God, the Panchsheel Pact, foreign tourists, Promise toothpaste, holy men, Fish keychain, Ram Rajya, food chain disruption, anti-cooperation movement, birth control, bagpipes, gecko, Jawaharlal Nehru, Aviation centers, Potassium Cyanide. And I guarantee you, this is as lucid as it can get.”
The VHS of the film landed up in a closed gathering of renowned artists at Kasauli. With them watching, re-watching and copying the VHS, the film acquired a life of its own and spread far and wide, particularly among the intellectuals. It was selected for the Experimental Film Festival – founded by filmmaker Shai Heredia, and a DVD copy started floating around. Suddenly, a print of the film became a coveted thing to own. Some had seen it, some hadn’t, but everyone talked about it. Rumour has it that an NFDC official DVD release is in the works. Fingers crossed!
Aamir Khan never talks about it. Strangely, nor do his fans. But there were two films early in his career that showed only a glimpse of the future perfectionist – and were totally different from the slew of rom-coms that he did immediately after. They were Holi (1984) and Raakh. Raakh was unusually stark and violent for the time – it had Aamir witnessing the rape of his girlfriend helplessly, and then taking to violence to avenge it. But it isn’t as run-of-the-mill as it sounds. PankajKapur does a brilliant job as a renegade cop who takes Aamir under his wings and teaches him how to kill. The film earned Aamir his first National Award. In 2009, it was announced that Palador was to come up with a DVD and a limited theatrical release, but for reasons shrouded in mystery, the project was shelved. Till it is resurrected again, long live YouTube!
Mithun Chakraborty, being born and raised in Kolkata – has a sizeable fan following there. Back in the day, so did Big B. After Ma Durga, Tagore and Uttam Kumar, every self-respecting Bong worshipped ‘Omitabho Bochchon’ (believe it or faint, there’s an Amitabh Bachchan Temple in South Kolkata. For real). When these two teamed up for Agneepath, all hell broke loose – back in the 90s, we grew up on stories of street fights in Kolkata between Mithun and Amitabh Fan Clubs.
For all the fanfare, the Scarface-inspired gangster epic about the rise and fall of a flamboyant mafia-goon, fizzled out on the Box Office. Critics panned it too. But the legend stayed on. Amitabh’s quirky dialogue-delivery (the Haain! became almost his signature for mimics), Mithun’s tomfoolery, Mukul Anand’s stylized direction and some good action set-pieces made it memorable. So much so that despite a star-studded, gritty remake, the name’ ‘Vijay Dinanath Chauhan’ evokes but one voice – and face. The one you can see above.
With Lamhe, Yash Chopra was back to non-traditional, risqué plots. Insanely unconventional by Bollywood standards, this film had Sridevi falling in love with the man (Anil Kapoor) who raised her, and who once loved her mother (Sridevi again!). This was too much for apna desi film-going crowd to handle, and the film bombed. But TV re-runs, and its timeless compositions kept it from obscurity.
Andaz Apna Apna (1994)
Mogambo from Mr.India had a brother. Who has a son – Crime Master Gogo, alias Band Master Toto, the legendary Mogambo kabhatija.
Ram Gopal Bajaj has an evil twin, Shyam Gopal Bajaj, aka Teja. To distinguish, one of them is marked with a cross on the right cheek, giving rise to the retort, “Main Tejahoon, mark idhar hai”
Bhalla sounds like yesteryear villain Ajit – he has a sidekick Robert, who he calls ‘Raabert’
Aamir Khan is Amar and Salman Khan plays Prem. Man: “Tumne Sholay picture dekhi hai?”
Prem: “Haan, 10 baar.”
Amar: “Haan, Iskebaap ne likhi hai!”
How many movie references can you squeeze in a single film – weaving them in such a way that they become a part of the plot? Andaz Apna Apna probably holds the Bollywood record for movie nods – the above examples of course refer to Mr. India, Ram aur Shyam, Amar Prem, and Sholay. Ajit’s long-term sidekick Raabert makes an appearance, and the above conversation is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that Salman’s father Salim Khan co-wrote Sholay. The film is as crazy as it sounds. Probably crazier. When it released in 1994, despite the casting coup of Aamir-Salman, it tanked. But today, when one looks back at it, it is acknowledged as one of the all time best comedies in Hindi cinema, right up there beside JaanyBhi Do Yaaro and the original GolMaal.
They name Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) as the worst film of all time. Clearly, ‘they’ haven’t heard of Kanti Shah and his cult classic Gunda. Ed Wood’s no match for Kanti Shah.
Ace film maker Kanti Shah made quite a name for himself, directing films loaded with sex, violence and his own brand of zany comedy. And Gunda was Kanti Shah at his very best. The hero and the villains tease each other in delicious double entendre, making it a point to rhyme almost every dialogue. And there’s not a single conversation that doesn’t contain sexual innuendos. The film has all but four locations – a dockyard, an air strip, hero’s place, villain’s place. Many years since its release, a curious thing happened. The unlikeliest of people, the Indian diaspora, bloggers, journalists, even some critics, started talking about it. Fan sites came up. It was rated very highly on Imdb. Gunda, the phenomenon, had arrived.
The ultimate underground film, made by the God of all that is sacred in Indian Indie Cinema – Anurag Kashyap. The story of Paanch is the stuff of Bollywood folklore. With some of the most talented cast ever, Paanch also boasted sterling compositions by Vishal Bhardwaj and Gulzar. Some dinosaurs down at the Censor Board decided that it was too ‘violent’ for us to see. Thus the aam junta missed Kay Kay Menon’s best performance ever – he just goes ballistic on this one. Anyhow, about seven years since its banishment, a ‘Preview Copy’ of Paanch was all over the internet – providing an opportunity to watch…no, witness this classic.
Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II (2003)
There are some films where the premise is so crazy, it has ‘cult’ written all over it. In Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part II, the insanity begins with the title. From then on, it only gets downhill. A copywriter, wedded to a cop, saves a mobster, befriends him, and ends up wiping off two warring gangs. If that doesn’t sound crazy enough, check out this conversation:
“Achhawojo black & white tasveer lagi hai, tere boss ki hai kya?”
“Nahi, Gregory Peck ki hai..”
“Gregory…Bandra ka hai kya?”
“Nahi, usske thoda aage hai – LA”
“Naale ke paas?”
No Smoking (2007)
Take Kafka, add a generous sprinkling of maverick Kashyap, throw in John Abraham, wee bit of Stephen King, stir hard – and you have No Smoking. Almost universally reviled in India (applauded and acclaimed overseas) – barring devout Anurag Kashyap worshippers and miniscule number of discerning viewers and critics – this film never failed to inspire extreme reactions from people. For some, it was the best adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial, for yet others, it was an extreme exercise at self-indulgence by Mr.Kashyap. What does the bath-tub represent – is it a portal? What’s the shower in the end? What’s the deal with the coin-booth? Who is Baba Bangali really? The debate rages on.