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Millennium Post

Romantic climax to BA(Hons) movies

I am paying tribute to Indian cinema by telling the story of my journey as a film viewer. I have talked about my childhood and adolescence. In my last column, I reached adulthood as a cinema fan with Guru Dutt’s Pyasa, when I was in Class XII. Soon after that I moved to Delhi in 1985 to do Economics (Honours) from Delhi University’s (DU) Hans Raj College. It would be right to say I did a three-year course in movie watching, with economics and other subjects as subsidiary papers. There is a saying that you can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. Well, I went to college but did not study. A corollary of the saying is also true: If water is available and the horse is thirsty, it will go to water and drink on its own. So in Delhi, with the freedom to do what I wanted in the absence of supervision by guardians, I followed my bliss by watching as many movies as I could. In my class was a student named Shah Rukh Khan. Yes, SRK. More about him later.

During the period of my graduation from 1985 to 1988, Delhi only had those single screen cinema halls of old. These halls served a rich fare of both new and old movies. I caught up with many good movies of the past. I developed a special liking for Rajesh Khanna and saw almost all his hit films, discovering the magic of the trio of Kishore Kumar, Khanna and the Burmans, SD and RD. I discharged my duty as a film buff from Bihar by watching Bihari Babu Shatrughan Sinha at his thundering best in Kalicharan and Vishwanath, hits with which he established his acting career. What has always struck me about Sinha both as an actor and in real life is his supreme self-confidence. It creates an aura around him within which he is indomitable.  

Shakuntalam located inside Pragati Maidan was the most popular cinema hall among DU students. It was the cheapest hall where a movie could be seen for Rs 3. And it showed good movies. There were two open air film theatres inside Pragati Maidan, Falaknuma and Hans Dhwani, which did not charge any fee and showed great stuff. I saw Garam Hawa in Falaknuma. I would rate it as one of the best movies I have seen. The storytelling in the film is superb. There’s reason for it – the story in the film is by the legend of Urdu fiction Ismat Chughtai and has been adapted for screen by the great poet and film lyricist Kaifi Azmi. With brilliant performances by all its actors, the film shows how the scorching winds (Garam Hawa in Hindi) of Partition devastated society, families and individuals. I like cinema the most when it does not just hover around the externals of life, but goes deep within life to reveal its most authentic faces. Cinema will no doubt have to be about the physicality of human existence. But it realises itself best when it goes beneath physicality to the mind, heart of soul of life. And of course, a good story told well has timeless and universal appeal. Garam Hawa scores on these fronts.

All the movie viewing took its toll on my studies. Films and other non-academic pursuits had shifted academics to the background. The climax of this scheme of things came three days before my final year exams when Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (QSQT) hit cinema halls. My preparation for the exams was zilch and I was struggling to find focus. My roommate saw QSQT on the Friday it was released. My exams began on the Monday of the next week. My roommate knew very well that I had not studied at all for the exams. The expression on his face was of guilt, pain and happiness at the same time when he told me on Friday night after watching QSQT, ‘Amit, I know you should not be doing this, but if you can, I recommend you see QSQT tomorrow. I will come with you.’

I saw QSQT on Saturday and Sunday and when I was writing my exam paper, all I could see on the page before me was Juhi Chawla and all I could hear inside me were songs of the film. QSQT deflated the academic scores of many students. A fight broke out in Hans Raj College mess when someone told a newborn Juhi Chawla fan that she was 28 years old and married. Of course, she was much younger and single then. She had to be. The cardiac health of so many people depended on her age and marital status. QSQT was pure emotion and the youth embraced it with all its heart. It made it dreamy and tender.

Time takes away all that it brings in its flow. But some things remain the way they were when you first experienced them. QSQT is still a spring breeze. My account as a film viewer continues. One Shah Rukh Khan is waiting eagerly to make his appearance.

The author is a senior journalist and columnist
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