Bust a movie
Somewhere along the spectrum of bad, good and great cinema, there are these 'masala' films that are so bad that they are awesome.
It was around the time when Saddam Hussein had just invaded Kuwait, Mandela finally walked free, Margaret Thatcher resigned, and the World Wide Web was launched that yours truly — a strapping young teen in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, then — experienced an earth-shattering event.
It all happened one day when a friend of my dad’s landed at our place with the VHS tape of a film intriguingly titled Bad Taste from the local lending library. You see, those were the days of the VHS tape. Anyway, I popped the cassette into the player. Some 20 minutes in, Mom trooped out of room, declaring that it was "disgusting"!
- Statutory warning: watch the below video at your own peril, and only if you have impeccable control over your gag reflex.
I must admit, I too had felt revolted at first. It checked all the boxes that a cheap-indie-horror-meets-science-fiction-meets-gore-fest should. Zombies, check. Aliens, check. Brains splattering all over the place, check. Hero stuffing his brain matter into his skull, placing the offending skull piece back in place and tying it up with his belt after a fall from a cliff and then going about his business, check. Initiation ceremony where one has to drink green goo regurgitated by the aliens, check. You name it, it had it all.
But, in a strange sort of way, I was quite taken with it. It opened up a whole new world for me. Cheap thrills never felt so good. (And, oh, the actor-director of this particular flick was none other than Peter Jackson who, a couple of decades down the line, would go on to helm the Lord of The Rings trilogy and win an Academy Award to boot).
Fast forward to 1992, and we are back in Indore and I am hooking up with my old buddies from school. And one of my best friends says to me, " Chal yaar, picture dekhne chalte hain [Dude, let's go watch a movie].”
He replies, “ Kabrastan!”
And that was the day I fell in love with Hindi cinema all over again.
For someone like me, who was fed up with the string of formulaic and drab romance flicks kickstarted by Amir Khan’s QSQT, Kabrastan was that forbidden fruit that one lusts after and finally manages to acquire.
Whatever Bad Taste did for me, Kabrastan did better. As we walked out of the cinema hall, I felt refreshed like never before, so happy at having spent money on ‘pure’ entertainment.
With video tapes available on rent for as low as Rs. 5 and the Cable TV phenom, Veerana, Purani Haveli and Do Gaaz Zameen ke Neeche soon followed Kabrastan. Bad acting, awful make-up, tacky special effects, ‘horror’ scenes which had me doubling up with laughter, buxom leading-ladies lathering up in the showers before the ghost struck — it was all there.
The Horror genre soon gave way to a swathe of Hindi movies where the accent was on entertainment: pure masala. No high-brow stuff here at all; movies populated by big stars and fringe actors alike. No Oscar award–winning performances, or National award aspirations here. But, damn, these movies were paisa vasool (so worth the money).
I started revisiting movies that I had watched earlier but whose 'classic' passages I had ‘missed out' on or not fully comprehended. I was completely hooked, but my indulgence was not without guilt. Was I the only one who liked these movies? Were my pal and I freaks for indulging in this fare?
I agonised over this through my college years, and a couple of jobs later, time had zipped ahead to the 2000s. It was around now that a friend of mine on Facebook put me onto a group called ‘I Love Trashy Hindi Movies’. I was delighted.
The internet explosion was uniting people of similar tastes. What a relief it was to realise that I wasn’t the only one. There were so many of “us” out there, from all walks of life — engineers, artists, journalists, advertising creatives, head honchos in MNCs — all joined by a love for the same thing.
"If you have seen Aatank Hi Aatank, Dariya Dil, Free Entry, Zulm Ki Hukumat, and Khuda Meherbaan Toh Gadha Pehlwaan, I will share Moderator rights with you!" declares the man behind ‘I Love Trashy Hindi Movies’, Shome Sengupta.
“We are here for a laugh — not at someone, but just at some of the things that graced the silver screen and turned trashy,” says Shome, a director at an MNC. That resonated with me, summed up the sentiment which is shared across the spectrum in this group.
Of course, everyone in this group has been asked these questions: why these movies? Why these flops, why these sleazy horror movies? Why this trash?
But, what is it that makes them trash? That is where the point lies. They have an appeal that has completely eluded the average movie-goer — a charm which my brethren on the group and I have embraced. It is not just a question of sleaze or flop or horror. “It is something that has become a cliché, or is so bad that it’s really good: white shoes, villains’ strange dialogues, weeping moms, catchphrases... these are some common examples. What it is NOT is something so boring that it interests no one,” says Shome.
Entertainment for entertainment's sake, if you will. Leave your brains out and enjoy.
Quizzer, blogger and movie buff Ratnakar Sadasyula — he was the friend who introduced me to this group — says: “I love watching the stuff, just for the silliness of it, but again it should be action or comedy, or some sub-genre like the Nagin or Daku stuff.
"There are things in life which are so bad that they are good and you begin to enjoy them," says Vivek Chaudhary, another member. Akh Laq Hussain calls it ‘comfort entertainment’, much like the idea of ‘comfort food’. “These films have no artistic value yet we watch them and, after 2 1/2 hours, feel stronger, more patriotic or... er... very romantic," he says. Some of these “insanely stupid” movies were, back then, mainstream family entertainment.
I still remember that afternoon show at Neelkamal, in the blue-collar roughneck neighbourhood of Malwa Mills, where I had my tryst with destiny, with Kabrastan. Moth-eaten seats, rickety fans, restrooms which needed no signage (you just had to follow your nose) all added to the experience — experiences which were essentially the same when watching other movies, good, bad or outright stinkers, with family or without.
I wonder if we seriously go to these outlets in such neighbourhoods just to have our dose of entertainment.
Bollywood's greyest phase
Padmanabh Subramanian offers an elaborate explanation worthy of the group's moderator. “These were typically movies from the late '80s-'90s, which is considered one of the ‘greyest’ phases of Bollywood by experts. These are films made earnestly, but somewhere the end result brings in unintentional humour; the presentation is a bit tacky, production values a bit low, the plot haywire. And actors top it up with over-the-top performances... In short, the audience is kind of taken for granted.
“There is one set of B-grade formula films which will have a unique set of lead actors and artists working in them. The directors of these films would also be more or less fixed. The other set of films would have mainstream superstars & popular directors, joining hands but going wrong in the screenplay/execution, thereby making it trashy. Nevertheless, these films offer a different type of entertainment which most of us in the group love to watch & relish.”
Do the women — not my mum, no — enjoy such productions?
Turns out that you do the gentler gender a disservice by being presumptive of their tastes. Nandini Arora "loooves" this brand of entertainment, as does Parmita, who, like me, is aghast that she actually went to a few such entertainers with her family. “I remember watching songs like Choli Ke Peeche Kya hain, Tu Cheez Badi Hain Mast Mast and Sarkai Leu Khatiya with my parents and elder sister!” exclaims Parmita.
Nandini says: “There is no man-woman [distinction] here on this group. Just like the sufi and bhakti movements, the followers believe that souls are gender-free, you know.”
The lines in these movies plumbed the bottom of the literary ocean. The songs were corny. The locations, the costumes — everything about these movies — were over the top. And the writing was sub-par. But, as Nandini attests, entire scenes from these films are burned into our memories...
Manoj Kumar’s bhabhi yawns suggestively after donating blood and says ‘ mera ang ang toot raha hai [I am breaking apart]’ causing her husband to think she is a chhinaal or adulteress ( Clerk).
Young female students take off their jackets and start dancing on desks to show how progressive they are ( Censor).
Then there are lines like ‘ apne baap se keh ek saand khareed ke de de [tell your father to buy us a bullock] ( from Raja ki Aayegi Barat), or ‘ mujhe woh haseen dard de do, Sooraj [give me the beautiful ache, Sooraj]’ (from Prem Aggan).
This scene from a "porny-horny horror film" (Nandini’s words, but as succinct a description as any), where Harish Patel (of all the people) tells his woman to hurry up in the bath, saying, " tum andar geeli ho rahi ho, main yahan bahar [you are getting wet in there, and so am I out here]", is indicative of what to expect from these flicks.
The fan-following for such cinema is a movement that is growing exponentially. And three-time national award–winner Gouranga 'Mithun' Chakroborti or Mithun-da, as the world knows him, is a deity of this movement. " Prabhuji" is how we refer to him, and his movies are the stuff of legend.
From splitting bullets with a knife to outrunning one to save his mother, he is the king of trashy movies. Movies like Gunda, Jallad, Diya Aur Toofan and Cheetah constitute our scripture. A must-visit site for all us has been >Arnab Ray’s blog from way back in 2005 on the actor and some of his ‘best’ work.
Fact is, almost every top actor/director worth his name has, at some point, been associated with such movies. From Manoj Kumar’s Clerk to Amitabh Bachchan’s Ajooba and Toofan to Shah Rukh Khan’s Guddu, several of Dev Anand’s works during that period and Amir Khan’s Tum Mere Ho, a naag-nagin caper, have all scraped the troughs just to entertain us.
They may or may not have been box-office hits; in most cases they have been duds. Unwittingly or otherwise, these are movies which had a lasting impression on a section of movie-goers. We saw them differently, enjoyed them differently. They continue to be a source of joy for us buffs, where relaxation after a hard day’s work means a quick search on YouTube and watching your favourite trash or trolling the cable channels and having fun, again and again.