Bollywood: Lost & Found Movies

The formula forever: revisiting the lost and found trope in Bollywood scripts

A still from ‘Kismet’ 1943

A still from ‘Kismet’ 1943  


Starting from ‘Kismet’ (1943), the ‘lost and found’ socials has been the safest stock for filmmakers to invest in. Enough has been written and spoken about these, but there may be a few unexpected twisty flavours of the lost and found trope in Bollywood scripts that are worth re-visiting.

Suddenly a young man in the audience named Vijay joins the singer Monto midway through the song Yadon ki Baraat. And Monto immediately accepts Vijay as his long-lost brother. Thankfully the claim to be the real Vijay, the long-lost brother of Monto and Shankar was a genuine one. In fact, in most cases the ‘lost’ brothers, fathers, mothers and sisters were indeed what they claimed to be when they were ‘found’. But let us explore a few ‘founds’ that weren’t so genuine.

Lost & found an imposter In Ravi Chopra’s Zameer (1975), an imposter Badal (Amitabh Bachchan) is planted as Chimpu, the long lost son of Thakur Maharaj Singh (Shammi Kapoor) . The fake tattoo of ‘trishul’ on Badal’s left shoulder (a fake tattoo) misleads Maharaj Singh to believe Badal was actually his son Chimpu who had a ‘trishul’ birthmark. Zameer was a remake of Bombai ka Baboo (1960) which saw Dev Anand in the titular role.

Similar examples of an imposter posing as the long lost are – Khel Khilari Ka, Manzil Manzil and Sanam Teri Kasam. The common factor in all this was an inside job. Someone close to the family knew that they were desperately looking for the ‘lost’. In Zameer it was the servant Ram Singh. In Bombai ka Baboo it was a blackmailer Bhagat who coerces Baboo into an imposter’s identify. In Manzil Manzil, it is a family friend who was privy to an agreement between two friends one of whom owed money to the other.

Lost & found the dead To add more flavour, there have been stories in which a fake, posed as a ‘lost’ who was already dead. In Do Anjane (1976), a wealthy family had lost their son Naresh in the Kumbh Mela (where else?). Many years later, a seriously injured young man found near Nashik, they believe to be their lost son, is actually Amit, a middle-class man who has lost his memory. .

In Ratnadeep (1979), a railway employee bears an uncanny resemblance to a man whose dead body has been just found inside a train. And he lands up posing as the long-lost family member (who, unknown to the family, is already dead).

In Kati Patang (1970) the leading lady Madhu (Asha Parekh) poses as a young widow (Poonam, played by Naaz) of a man estranged from his family. Poonam who is Madhu’s friend, loses her life in a train accident and Madhu impersonates her as per her dying wish. And who can forget the village bumpkin Vijay being asked to take the place of the dead mafia king in Don (1978)? In Samadhi (1972), a kidnapped (subsequently dead) child is replaced with a living child. In Mera Gaon Mera Desh, an old Mausi believes Dharmendra to be her long lost son who had been kidnapped by dacoits – which he is not. But the young man doesn’t want to break her heart and plays along, pretending to be her son. While these are instances of mostly good people turning imposters, Hindi films also bear testimony of villains turning imposter after murdering rich heirs. Like Roopesh Kumar in Dharkan (1972). Only to be punished by the reincarnated soul.

Perhaps there was a psychological angle to the families accepting their ‘lost’ so easily as ‘found’. Their eye would see what the mind wanted to believe. And hence, it was easy to dupe someone into believing the false. How else does one explain Seth Manoharlal overlooking his son’s photo copy resemblance to Daku Laakhan Singh in Samadhi? Or that their late son would not have left behind a photograph of his bride Poonam in Kati Patang? But in today’s age where even a Pizza delivery boy’s ID is verified before entering a residential apartment it is unlikely that someone claiming to be the ‘lost’ one would be accepted without due diligence of DNA tests and biometrics. And ‘finding’ the ‘lost’ would be far easier today as the lost person is likely to pop up as ‘People you might know’ on Facebook.

Thus, starting the late 1980s, perhaps with the advent of computers, the ‘lost & found’ theory was ‘decommissioned’ from Bollywood. But, the ‘lost and found’ socials arguably remained one of the safest stock for film makers to invest in for almost three decades. It still remains one of the most entertaining relics of the film history.

(The writers are the authors of the National Award winning ‘RD Burman: The Man, The Music’ and the MAMI Award winning ‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil - 50 Classic Hindi Film songs’. They research extensively on Bollywood.)

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 7:16:15 PM |

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