What Happened to Great Filmi Dialogues

Have chalu and chatpata one-liners replaced the earlier gems


A recent, mass-circulation publication flashed a screaming headline announcing news they genuinely believed needed national attention: Salman Khan’s latest jhatka signature line from his next, Eid-release, Kick. It went Mein dil mein aata hoon, Samajh mein nahin! (People love me but can’t comprehend me). The trailer of this film — the report breathlessly went on to say — was recently launched at a suburban multiplex in Mumbai, among suitable hysteria from Bhai’s fans and attracted over 1.5 million digital viewers.

Producer Sajid Nadiadwala, making his directorial debut with this film, gravely confessed that the lines went brilliantly with Killer Khan’s persona in this film as well as his name, the Devil.

Nadiadwala is pulling out all the stops to make Kick an edgy, dark, stylish, mass-entertainer built on Salman Khan’s gold standard template. “Rajat Arora, the writer and I, had long, detailed discussion and creative sessions about how to nail that perfect, precise line that will signify the Devil’s character, speedily, simply and effectively. Finally, we struck! Salman Bhai too was bullish about the line and felt it went brilliantly with his role-profile.”

So, this will be his big line to drive the narrative of his film and kick off yet another popular one-liner in-the-making. Whether the dil versus samajh combo in Kick will work with the audience remains to be seen, but the thought that strikes many of Bollywoods, more informed and evolved fans is how the deep, meaningful and well-scripted dialogue of earlier times appear to have been totally booted out by smart, populist, down-market, taali-oriented lines created for popular consumption. The exquisite dialogues of a Gulzar, the power-packed lines of Salim-Javed, the amazing gems of Mughal-e-Azam, have they totally disappeared?

Who can forget Dilip Kumar’s (Prince Salim’s) soul-stirring lines in Mughal-e-Azam: Duniya mein Dilwale ka saath dena; Daulat-wale ka nahi. Taqdeer badal jaati hai, zamana badal jata hai; mulkon ki taareek badal jaati hai, Shahenshah badal jaati hai, magar is badalte hui duniya mein mohabbat jis insaan ka daaman thaam lete hain… woh insaan nahin badalta. Or Haq hamesha sar jhukake nahin, sar uthake manga jaata hain (Saudagar), or again, Yeh, khoon ka rishta hai, Insaan na inhe banata hai nahi tod sakta hain.

What about Salim Javed’s arsenal … Mere Paas Maa Hai (Deewar), Mein aaj bhi phenke huey paisa nahin uthata (Deewar), kitne aadmi the? (Sholay) Jo darr gaya, samjho mar gaya (Sholay). How about, Rishte mein hum tumharae baap lagte hain, naam hain Shahenshah! (Shahenshah) or Babumoshai, zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahin (Anand), Yeh bachchon ke khelne ki cheez nahin. Haath kat jaye to khoon nikalta hai (Waqt) … the list is endless.

Strong, powerful, evocative words imprinted in memory, right?

Okay, now brace yourself for new-age gems like … Don’t angry me!; Silent ho jaa verna mein violent ho jaoonga!; Brother-in-law will die Tommy’s death; Goli nahin marenge salay ko, kehke lenge uski; Hum tum me itne ched karenge, ki confuse ho jaoge ke saans kahan se le, aur pade kahan se; Mujhpe ek ehsaan kar na ki mujhpe koi ehsaan na karna; Ek baar jo maine commitment kar di uske baad toh mein apne aap ki bhi nahi suntaa; Teen cheez ko kabhi underestimate nahin karna, I, Me, Myself.

Wow! Wassup guys? Ki hoya? What’s happening?

Respected veteran film and TV writer, Kamlesh Pandey ascribes two simple reasons: “One, the respect for the Hindi language is gone because in today’s globalized times, its not considered career or future-friendly. English is emphatically perceived as the lingua franca of moving ahead as can be seen by the mushrooming of Spoken English courses offered in every corner of the country and enthusiastically embraced by every spectrum of society, including the domestic help!”

The second, he suggests, has to do with both the content of most new-age movies and profile of the younger, successful, market-savvy actors and film-makers. “Most of them are neither conversant, knowledgeable nor interested in the beauty of Hindi dialogue. They are more English-oriented and Hollywood driven or come from advertising where sharp, smart, clever one-liners are in demand driving that nature of communication. Also, they believe that quick/instant impact is the key for today’s novelty seeking audiences not interested in the beauty, aesthetics, depth or resonance of quality dialogue. In such a scenario, how can you expect anything but what you get?”

Film and TV actress Joysree Arora agrees. The gifted Delhi-based veteran, who played the mother to her brood of kids in Doordarshan’s ground-breaking Humlog and also SRK’s mom in Chak De, compares the entire scene to junk food: “We live in a world of SMS, net-lingo, twitter, etc.. where legitimate language, English or Hindi, has gone for a six! Why should Bollywood be any different? Majority of the actors can’t clearly speak Hindi, with the right pronunciation and enunciation. As a speech specialist, it really disturbs me, but what to do? Don’t Angry Me rocketed the film and its hero to super-hit zone and since nothing succeeds like success, why should film-makers give a damn to sanctity of language? Audiences have been converted to market and movies, products. So, what sells is what rules, like junk food. Sad, but true …”

Mumbai-based collegiate Siddharth Kothari vehemently disagrees and doesn’t quite know “where these oldies are coming from!” He invites them to a ‘reality check’ and reminds them that “Prince Salim is dead and gone and Dilip Kumar has retired ages back, is 91 year old, so can we please concentrate on the here znc now?”

Clearly, not a great fan of reverence or respect, 20 year old Kothari believes in cutting to the chase in a flash. “All this blabber about great dialogues in the past and how Dilip Kumar’s intensity and the Big B’s (Amitabh Bachchan) baritone while delivering those memorable Salim-Javed’s gems … I think they are both obsolete and irrelevant examples in today’s scenario! We want fast-paced, spicy, fun-filled entertainment and Salman Khan and gang give us that, in style! When we want life-transforming speeches, we’ll read the Best Speeches book, okay? Zap us, man, with those zingy one-liners. We love it!”

Marketing Guru and Social Commentator Santosh Desai is amused at young Kothari’s take and points to the changing times “that have brought about this unapologetic response.” Desai refuses to be judgmental mode as he ascribes this to generational differences. “For one, today’s Bollywood Hero is light years away from the hero of yester years — morally upright offering flowery, passionate speeches on love, duty, virtue, responsibility to family and nation, etc. or the tragic hero luxuriating in sorrow! Can you imagine a Sujata, Pyasa or Chaudvin ka Chand scoring with today’s audiences? Secondly, the requirements and expectations of the hero and audiences have changed as indeed the very idea of mainstream commercial movies. They seem to be more like full-blown cinematic animations — in comic books — with emotions and passions hyped up and faked in a delightfully audience-friendly way. In this scheme of things real, passionate, true-to-life interaction can hardly ever happen, so where is the scope of the dialogues that you speak about ever coming into play? In the new cinema — Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Pradeep Sarkar, Anurag Basu, Sujoy Ghosh, R Balki — things are more real but the eloquent magnificence of the dialogues of yesteryears, sadly, is truly history. Sign of the times, I guess. Like advertising, its market forces at play, the spicy, clever, one-liners calling the shots!”

O Yes Abhi! Har ek friend zaroori hota hai, Kuch meetha hojaye, Dimag ki batti jala de, Thanda matlab Coca Cola, Darr ke age jeet hai, Har ghar kuch kehta hai…are some best selling ad slogans that could work as interesting templates.

Film critic Saibal Chatterjee believes that earlier writers came with a “literary and cultural sensibility and hence invested their dialogues with that flavor. Today, the dialogue writer has been replaced — as Santosh Desai has rightly pointed out — by the ad copywriter, constantly looking for sharp, chaalu, popular lines that will instantly connect with the hoi polloi! Catch phrases are used like item-numbers for dialogue that are designed to catch fire with the audiences. In this scenario, where is the need or requirement for writers or audiences to even consider great dialogues? Can you ever even begin to think of great dialogues in trash like Humshakals?”

Theatre director-actor Delhi-based Avijit Dutt hits a delightful tongue-in-cheek, note: “It’s the bimaru usage of Anglaise, boss! If Salman Rushdie introduced the world to Indian English, it’s the other team, led by another Salman, symbolizing the coming of age of mainstream fare. The colloquial has come to roost! In the confidence of a nation finding its feet and not treating film as a talkie, but a complete filmic experience where yelling and whistling comes with a frenzied audience connect, anything remotely classy, refined or superior will obviously invite the hugely popular retort — Don’t Angry Me!!”

So, in conclusion, in the era of Grand Masti, Humshakals and Kick, great dialogues are out and don’t have a hope in hell. Do the people miss it? Not audiences who rocketed the Akshay-Sonakshi Holiday to a Rs.100 crores in 10 days. As for the endangered species that do miss dialogues of yesteryears, turn to channels that screen old movies or go buy the oldie goldies. However do definitely remember, main tere agal bagal hun tu mere agal bagal hai, kyunki ter a hero idhar hai. Anything else is, as the 60 carat gem yells … Gandi Baat, Gandi Gandi Gandi Gandi Baat!

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