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BOLLYWOOD & PUNJAB : A friendly creative relationship of seven decades. (An overview by Bobby Sing) - Part Two

22 May, 2012 | Articles on Cinema

Character sketch of a SIKH in Hindi films in the decades from 1940-1980
Coming to this important part of the write-up, there is a specific reason behind discussing the character sketch of a SIKH in Hindi films only in these four decades of the last century (before the 80s) and not as a whole. While a few learned friends may be able to guess that easily, but let’s talk about it later when we come to the 80s itself with its major films.
Dharmendra - Bobby Talks Cinema.comIn the difficult pre-independence period and then in the initial years of an independent India, a Sikh or even a Punjabi character was always portrayed in the films as a strong, well-built, influential personality with a command of his own. This solid portrayal of Sikhs further got strengthened with Dara Singh’s famous international wins over many deadly wrestlers, which was loved by the whole nation unanimously. As an after effect, many a times Sikh characters were used in sequences wherein they were shown interfering a street fight and then settling the matter with their loud voice or helping the Hero in a difficult time all of a sudden, pushing his car out of a deep pot-hole or as military officers fighting for the pride of the country. In short, in the beginning, Sikh characters were more used to depict power or authority as a dominating personality who had the final solution in all the tough situations and had a say of their own.
But slowly as we progressed, the characteristics of a SIKH starting changing from a tough person to a larger than life figure who knows how to live life king size with a spirit of enjoyment. Now this transformation was crucial because that’s where the fun element got associated with the SIKHS used in the scripts after a couple of decades.
Hema Malini - Bobby Talks Cinema.comSo with the changing times, a SIKH character in a scene started generating a decent smile on the faces of the viewers and the makers now started using them in some lighter moments of the script. Yes, the fun element was there in this portrayal, but still it was all done with a fair dignity which cannot be termed as offensive from any angle. In the next two decades, it was great watching many entertaining sequences involving Sikh characters where they successfully used to win millions of hearts in the theater and everyone used to cheer for them with a great applause. Like when Raj Kapoor meets a Sikh on his World tour in “Around the World” or when Dharmendra disguises as a Sikh in “Jeevan Mrityu” or when a Hero following the villain just hires the taxi of a Sikh driver and then starts interacting with him in Punjabi. In fact, a Sikh taxi driver, Sikhs as Army officers and a character trying to make an escape in a SIKH’s getup were among the favorites of most of the writers and directors in these few decades. At times, the SIKH get-up was even given to the Heroine, like in “Jaaneman” where Hema Malini keeps fooling around with Dev Anand posing as a Sikh Taxi Driver speaking Punjabi.
To be precise, there was a lot of positivity around the portrayal of SIKHS on screen in these decades. There were various Punjabi phrases of Traditional Folk used spiritedly by almost every music director likeOye Hoye, Balle Balle, Shava Shava, Baari Barsi Khatan Gaya Si, Bhangra, Gidha, Mela, Baisakhi, Heer, Ranjha, Sohni, Sohniye, Goriye, Baliye, Jind, Jindarhi, Mahiya, Mitwa, Jugni and many more. Along with the melodious Punjabi notes, the writers-directors used to show SIKHS as strong people who had the guts to follow and support the truth without any exception. One of the best examples of such characterization is the role played by Prem Nath in Manoj (Bharat) Kumar’s “Roti Kapda Aur Makaan” as Himmat Singh. But unfortunately, it all changed after the mid 80s due to a shocking historical decision and its dreadful outcome.
Though according to many critiques, 80s didn’t contribute much to the Hindi Film Industry due to various reasons. But as far as Punjabi Influence is concerned, it started on a very bright note with Yash Chopra’s Silsila (1981). In this intense love story, two world famous exponents of Hindustani Classical music, Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasiya and Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, joined in as a team called Shiv-Hari and composed songs for Silsila, including a track based on Punjabi Folk, “Sar Se Sarke Chunariya”. In addition, “Silsila” also had a sequence of “Anand Kaaraj” (Sikh marriage ritual) in the film with a Devotional Shabad in its soundtrack, “Baanh Jinha Di Pakadiye” by Bhai Harbans Singh Jagadhari Wale, which interestingly was repeated again by Chopra’s son Aditya in Shahrukh Khan’s 2006 film Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, sung by Bhai Harbans Singh again in a new version. Probably Yash Chopra got inspired from the classic rendition of “Mitter Pyare Nu” by Mohd. Rafi in “Nanak Naam Jahaz Hai” (Punjabi) released in 1969, which is till date remembered as the best ever rendition of this Shabad by any artist.

On the International front also Kabir Bedi featured in the reputed James Bond series movie “Octopussy” as a tough Sikh bodyguard in the year 1983. And t
he choice of subjects based on Punjab’s traditional stories continued in the industry with “Sohni Mahiwal” (1984) with an impressive score by Anu Malik and “Ek Chadar Maili Si” (1986) based on the novel by Rajinder Singh Bedi. Plus the directors continued with their trend of keeping a song with Punjabi touch in their film, such as Dhanwan, Khuddar, Ek Din Bahu Ka, Arpan, Sharaabi, Karma, Chandni and more. Besides, there were two major trendsetting debuts in Punjabi Folk/Pop music in the 80s that also influenced the Bollywood music directors, especially Bappi Lahiri to make the inspired versions of their hit tracks in their films.
At the start of the decade, there was Gurdas Maan (Maamla Gadbad Hai) and towards the end it was Malkit Singh (Tutak Tutak Tutiyan). Bappi Lahiri used both of their cult hits for his songs and that too with the same title as Mamla Gadbad Hai (Dharam Adhikari) sung by Kishore Kumar and Tutak Tutak Tutiyan (Ghar Ka Chirag) sung by Asha Bhosle and Amit Kumar. On the other hand, Usha Uthup from South India revived the famous “Kali Teri Gut Te” by Asa Singh Mastana, which she definitely used to sing in her energetic shows in a novel way. And even Ghazal-King Jagjit Singh liked to end his serious Ghazal concerts with Punjabi songs, Tappe and Boliyan.
But then, just before the mid of the decade, came a major national setback for Sikhs in 1984. It was the “Blue Star Operation” which led to many deadly consequences for the nation, both politically and socially. Such was the power in this unexpected blow that suddenly all the music, dhol and rhythm got silent in just few months and then took its own time to get back on track after a few years.
Bally Sagoo1990s
The 90s was an important decade for India’s national development since now the foreign investors were here and so was the Cable TV revolution redesigning the entire entertainment industry for the better. The ‘84 setback had changed the equation in the country and it was a while people had heard all those melodious notes from the rich culture of Punjab at a loud volume.
But as they say, may be that was the lull before the storm since loads of Punjabi artists came from all over the world with a bang in this decade. The early 90s saw the rising of a new bright star Bally Sagoo (from England), who introduced the world with a fresh term known as “Bollywood Remixes” never heard before. The man made way for a whole new trend of both good & bad remixes which continued till the first decade of the next century. Along with this shining star, a new Sun of Music came into the limelight with his inimitable style who simply transformed the way people used to listen & enjoy music.

Ustad JiAnd the maestro was Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan with a divine gifted talent who, along with Urdu, was hugely responsible for spreading Punjabi all over the globe. Interestingly, one of the most famous albums of those times in the entire world was “Magic Touch” (released in the beginning of this decade), which had both Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Bally Sagoo spelling The Magic together.
Nusrat’s music first reached Bollywood in the form of cheap versions like “Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast” in Mohra. But later he received a warm welcome by the Industry post Shekhar Kapoor’s “Bandit Queen” and then featured musically in films such as “Aur Pyar Ho Gaya”, “Kachhe Dhaage”, “Dhadkan”, “Dillagi” and more. As a huge fan of the master, the genius A. R. Rahman also worked with him in the song “Gurus of Peace” featured in one of Rehman’s solo albums.
By this time of the decade, things were returning back to normal and Punjabi Music was once again being composed, sung and heard in the north. After a small gap, Bollywood had restarted adding songs with the Punjabi feel in their projects such as “Anar Dana” (Henna), “Mainu Ishq Da Lagya Rog” (Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin), “Bhangra Paaley” (Karan Arjun), “Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna” (Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge) and more. But the real unexpected hurricane was yet to come.
Daler-MehndiPost 1995
In the mid 90s came a man who just in a few months brought back SIKHS on to the World Front through his upbeat, high energy and youthful music. He was Daler Mehndi dressed in his long shining robe and tight pants. In simple words, Daler Mehndi was like a sharp U-turn taken by a speeding car for the entire nation. Having seen the success of this dancing musician from close, I was myself pleasantly shocked to see the Daler wave roaring all over the country and abroad in just a few years. He was not only the most loved singer by the DJs but was also the most favourite of the marriage bands, even in the functions down the South. In other words, Daler did not belong to only Punjabis at that time and was the music man for every single person of any origin who wanted to shake his leg on some pumping pulsating punjabi beats playing on the dance floor.
And if a person becomes so much famous all over, then how can Bollywood be far away from him for too long. But here I would like to share an interesting trivia, relating Daler Mehndi to Bollywood through another leading icon of the industry, Amitabh Bachchan.
The 90s was a tough decade for Amitabh since success was not smiling at him from many years and he desperately was in need of some good movies. Now not many know that in this crucial period of his career, Amitabh got a warm helping hand from 3 Punjabis enjoying their individual big success in the entertainment Industry. First it was the magic touch man Bally Sagoo with whom Amitabh collaborated for his music album “Aby Baby” (1995) in which he re-sung the modern remixes of his own Hit songs. After this music album, Amitabh himself called in the hugely popular Punjabi Pop Icon Daler Mehndi to compose, sing and also feature along with him in his upcoming movie “Mrityudaata” (1997). Daler delivered what was expected from him and gave an instant Hit track “Na Na Na Na Na Re” in the movie, which though became a Big Chartbuster but could not save the film at the box-office. Having tried his best, Amitabh now met his last resort Yash Chopra, who once again helped Amitabh in getting back his Midas Touch through a film called “Mohabbtaein” (2000) in which he was (for the first time) paired with the youth icon Shahrukh Khan.
Towards the mid of the decade, Punjabi Music or Bollywood films made around Punjabi theme had become the In-thing and Hits were pouring in from almost every corner. At one end Daler Mehndi was performing all over the world giving a new proud recognition to the punjabi attire and at the other came the most successful film of Bollywood “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge” (1995) which was full of Punjab and its flavor from start to finish. DDLJ along with Shahrukh Khan took Punjabi culture into several new countries of the world where Indians were living from years. In fact DDLJ along with Gurinder Chadha’s “Bhaji On the Beach” (1993) opened a new foreign market for Hindi Films, particularly for the ones related with Punjab. Encouraged by the phenomenal success of DDLJ and with an eye on the big new foreign market, Bollywood film-makers now started planning projects, especially keeping the Punjab factor in mind.
Sunny DeolAs a result, suddenly Punjab became the favorite subject of all the production houses which once again breathed a new lease of life into the Sikh characters on screen after a long gap. Gulzar came up with a sensitive portrayal of the Punjab terrorism issue in his well received project “Maachis” (1996) and the changeover gave us the first SIKH hero in a Hindi Film “Border” (1997) which was a huge success featuring Sunny Deol in the role of a Sikh Commanding Officer at the borders.
Supporting the strong successful wave, Punjabi songs returned in Bollywood projects with a big bang. Post 1995, the dance floors and Djs couldn’t do without songs such as Chappa Chappa Charkha Chale (Maachis), Saade Naal Ravoge Te (Mrityudaata), Sona Sona (Major Saab), Sapne Mein Milti Hai (Satya), Ni Main Samajh Gayi (Taal), Nach Baby (Khauff) & many more. Punjabi melody was once again prominently there in soundtracks such as Kachhe Dhaage, Border, Maachis, Viraasat and Taal. Following the trend, all the top music composers had a compulsory Dhol or Punjabi track in their scores, like Vishal Bhardwaj, A. R. Rahman, Anu Malik, Adesh Srivastava & Anand Raaj Anand. However, along with the veterans including Jagjit Singh, now there was a completely new class of singers specialized in Punjabi songs, namely Sukhwinder Singh and Jaspinder Narula, who had a minor edge over the others due to their strong Punjabi base, origin and range. Plus in the lyrics department, (other than Gulzar) now every non-Punjabi was into writing the saleable Punjabi songs using some fixed phrases.
So if we study this particular phase from 1995-2000, then Punjab & its colorful music had made a strong comeback in Bollywood after a gap of few years. But sadly it wasn’t all positive as there was another dark side to this which was well noticed by the community in the right time.
(To be continued in Part 3)

Tags : BOLLYWOOD & PUNJAB, Punjabi content in Hindi Films, Punjab's friendly creative relationship of seven decades with Bollywood, An overview by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, Articles On Cinema by Bobby Sing, Sikhs in Hindi Films, The Depiction of Sikh characters in Hindi Films, Punjabis in Bollywood, Researched articles on Bollywood.
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