Blast from the past Friday Review

Qurbani (1980)

Qurbani  

As the Hindi film industry closes its doors on Pakistani artistes, one goes back to the days when it feted a young singer from the neighbouring country. Nazia Hassan was not only the first Pakistani but also the first foreigner to win the a Filmfare Award. At 15, she was the youngest to win the coveted trophy for “Aap Jaisa Koi”. Of course, there was none like Nazia. Her nasal voice was discovered by Feroz Khan in a club in London and he asked friend Biddu, an emerging name in the international circuit, to compose a song with her. Those were the days when the whole album was composed by one composer. But Khan went against the norm and convinced his trusted composers Kalyanji Anandi that he needed this song.

It was not the first time that Feroz Khan went against the tide. Over the years, he changed the way Hindi film heroes walked and talked on screen by imbuing the characters he played with a swagger and flamboyance which was unheard of before. On paper he must have sounded cocky, but like Raaj Kumar, Feroz Khan had the guts and grace to carry everything larger-than-life with ease.

As a director he would put style over content. Driven with crisp dialogues, his narrative often moved from a fist fight to a car chase to a shoot out. He would not hold back from a using a helicopter if it meant a great shot. And in between those thrills there would be lilting music with a ravishing actress dancing to the tunes of a chivalrous hunk. Often the songs of his films carried more depth than the storyline. He had experimented with this style in “Apradh”. With “Dharmatma”, he reached to the masses and with “Qurbani” he established his brand.

Many years back, when he was in Delhi to promote “Jaanasheen”, after a long wait, when the interview started in his suite, one asked him about the representation of female characters in his films. Khan said, “Hum mard ko uski zubaan aur aurat ko uske husn se pehchante hain.”

It was a dialogue in the film but Feroz Khan believed in it and Qurbani defines this philosophy. Early in the film, as Rajesh he smashes the brand new Mercedes of Raka (Amrish Puri) just to prove that he doesn’t have the graciousness to match the expensive vehicle.

On the other hand, despite being a compulsive thief, Rajesh knows the difference between being naughty and being lustful. When her love interest Sheela comes out of the sea in a bikini, the camera pans to the mischievous twinkle in Rajesh’s eyes and Sheela asks why did he join him making it a normal evening in the life of the couple. He remarks had he been there they would have set the sea on fire. Such is their chemistry that we believe him. Add to it the debonair charm of Vinod Khanna as Amar and we have a triangle where each side is equally disarming. There are times when you don’t know whether it is a romance, bromance or something in between! If there is a simmering sensuality, there is talk of selfless friendship as well epitomised by the timeless title song.

Casting is a crucial factor in Qurbani. Amjad Khan sheds his Sholay image and turns up as a jolly good inspector who chews the scenery effortlessly.

Despite the presence of Amrish Puri, Shakti Kapoor turns up as a bigger villain. And the reins of the devilish game is in the hands of a woman called Jwala (Aruna Irani). Be it the femme fatales or leading lady, his Feroz Khan’s female characters always had some agency to manoeuvre in the male dominated universe. Much before Katrina Kaif drove a Royal Enfield in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Sheela turned up on a motorcycle to pick Rajesh from prison. While he was in jail, she develops a bond with Amar who is a single parent.

In Khan’s stylish universe, there was always a place for dialoguebaazi laced with Urdu. So Rajesh asks a henchman who comes to take him to Vicky on gunpoint: ye daawat hai ya adawat, (is it an invitation or ill will). It is Kadar Khan, who appears in a cameo, at his best.

At the end of the day, it is the music that makes Qurbani timeless and made it a profitable venture even before the film released. It introduced Bollywood to a new sound which ultimately led to the disco wave. Who can forget “Laila O Laila”, where Kalyanji Anandji used the less known voice of Kanchan, who forged a team with her husband Babla. Kanchan also sang the popular number “Kya Khoob Lagti Ho” in Dharmatma. My favourite is “Hum Tumein Chahte Hain Aise”, where the irresistible voice of Manhar Udhas makes you believe in love amidst all the car chases and crashes.

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 9:52:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/Qurbani-1980/article16083324.ece

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