Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Movies of a generation

Every generation has a movie that sort of defines it. So it seems to me. When I look at those around me, I see people clinging to some movie or the other that they feel was "theirs." My view has a strong Indian bias, of course, and one has to admit that cinema is more entwined with people's lives in India than elsewhere. Where else would one find temples erected to celebrate film stars?

Coming back to generations, I thought I'll try and come up movies that probably some generation identifies as "theirs." These are more ruminations on my part, so if you have comments, please do share.

The first generation and the first movie that comes to mind, my mind, i.e., is the bell-bottom angst-ridden 70s and the era of teeny-bopper romance Bobby (the bell bottoms) and Zanjeer (the angst). Both these movies came out the same year (1973), and both started two parallel mainstream trends that sometimes met. With Bobby, Rishi Kapoor began a long career trying to romance women of varying age with a routine that more or less stayed the same over 20 years. Early on he tried to romance older women Simi Grewal (Karz) and Rakhee(Doosra Aadmi), and later on girls less than half his age.

Rishi Kapoor's antics notwithstanding, anyone with even the remotest of Indian connection will probably know the significance of the other movie of that year. Zanjeer brought to Indian cinema the persona of angry-young-man, with rage that was simmering just beneath the skin of the otherwise tall, charming police officer. The cause was much helped by the fact that this persona was played with endearing sincerity by Amitabh Bachchan. The rest, as they say, is stuff history is made of. From 1973 to today, no generation has grown up without being fed on his legend. And he still remains a tour de force.

It is small wonder then that a generation would identify themselves with Zanjeer. 1970s were pretty tumultous for India. We saw the corruption and Congress-led dirty politics at the worst, culminating in an emergency and total breakdown of the democratic system. The decade started with a war with Pakistan and ended with the Indian political system having gone through a complete upheaval and returning to its original state. And still, through all this, it was a time of bell-bottoms and rebellious love -- thanks to Bobby.

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