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Tribute to the saga of mistaken identities

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Dadasaheb Phalke awardee Gulzar’s ‘Angoor’ was a clean comedy

Within minutes of the announcement that Gulzar is to be the recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, his old friend, Debu Sen, was at his place for a few moments of quiet celebration. The accolades were deserved for Gulzar, as he has just completed 50 years in Hindi cinema. It was no ordinary moment for Debu too; he had seen Gulzar grow from his first day in the industry. And were it not for him, Gulzar probably would not have crafted a masterpiece called Angoor .

More than a decade before Angoor hit the silver screens across the country, Gulzar had penned a script obviously inspired from Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors . It was adapted for cinema by Debu Sen in the form of a film called Do Dooni Char . The film, made in 1968, sank without a trace at the box office. It left Debu crestfallen but the fire in Gulzar raged on. Even as he went from one to another, graduating from Mere Apne to the likes of Mausam , Aandhi and Khushboo , the unfulfilled promise of the script of Do Dooni Char stayed with him. It came to bail him out at the right time. His film, Kitaab had not done too well; the thought of making something completely removed from his usual style of filmmaking occupied his mind once again. However, no producer was ready to put his money on a failed script. A producer in fact wondered aloud that directors want to remake their successful films and this was the first time he saw anybody keen to remake a flop film! However, luck was with Gulzar, and a first-time producer Jai Singh, a lover of Shakespearean drama, stepped in. The script got a new lease of life, was given a new dash of paint. And thus came about Hindi cinema’s best tribute to the saga of mistaken identities.

Half of the film’s genius lay in its casting. Starring — one uses the word with a degree of inaccuracy — Sanjeev Kumar, as effortless an actor as one has seen in Hindi cinema, with Deven Verma, an under-rated actor with a gift for timing, Angoor had everything going for it. At the helm was Gulzar, a man who would tolerate no slack. Working under his baton were Moushumi Chatterjee, Deepti Naval and Aruna Irani. It was early days in the industry for Deepti while Moushumi and Aruna were never suspected to possess any unusual skills when it came to acting. All three delivered. And to think they were all supporting actors in a script about a pair of male twins! Yet Gulzar chalked out neat characters for all the three ladies with Moushumi surprising everyone with her voice modulation and near perfect timing.

The story, for the uninitiated, is about a pair of twins separated in childhood during a sea voyage. They grow up, go their own ways, meet. And from there begins the journey of fun with not just bystanders but even spouses mistaking one for the other! Angoor comes across as a sweet, clean comedy; one where nobody has to slip over banana peels to make us laugh. Angoor is just a nice, crisp film with a jest a minute. Some fun comes from the one-liners, a good portion from the unsaid words and well expressed emotion.

Add to that really well chiselled performances from the cast, and you have a masterpiece.

The film, along with Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron , changed the way we looked at the medium. Yet the brilliance of the film leaves you asking one question: Why didn’t Gulzar make another comedy? Indeed.

Genre: Comedy

Director: Gulzar

Cast: Sanjeev Kumar, Deven Verma, Moushmi Chatterjee, Deepti Naval, Aruna Irani, Yunus Parvez, C.S. Dubey, T.P. Jain

Dialogue, screenplay and lyricist: Gulzar

Story: Based on Shakespeare's “The Comedy of Errors”

Music director: R.D. Burman

Box office status: Superhit

Trivia: Deven Verma won Filmfare Award for Best Comic Actor. Remake of “Do Dooni Char” starring Kishore Kumar and Asit Sen in double role. Gulzar wrote lyrics for the movie.

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