The original “Khiladi” of Bollywood, Akshay Kumar plays the role of an honest cop and as a lookalike – a petty thief in his latest Hindi venture “Rowdy Rathore”. This movie I hear is among the Rs 100 Cr (US$20mn) grosser club. The highlight of the film they say are the dialogues particularly the one liner variety, one of which goes like this: “Jo mein bolta hoon woh mein karta hoon, joh mein nahi bolta.. woh main definitely karta hoon!” Hearing this, I couldn’t help feeling that the Hindi cinema or Bollywood as it is called affectionately has been hit by a Tsunami from South.
There was a time may be in the 60s and 70s when Hindi Cinema was setting the trends in film making in India whether it was storytelling, filming techniques or for that matter music. The stories of siblings separated at birth, Cop and thief under the same roof, Robin Hood type heroes,.. and many more of that ilk which all originated in Hindi made its way to South Indian cinema as well. I guess then came a time in the 80s where there was a flow of ideas in reverse with quite a few Tamil / Telugu movies being re-made in Hindi. For some reason, Anil Kapoor was a fixed ingredient in this type of rehashes. However a point to be noted is when these movies were re-made they were done by popular Hindi film makers and they re-packaged the movies with Hindi sensibilities in mind. Brilliant film makers from the South still considered Bollywood as an alien turf and were happy to just be in their own space – whether it was Tamil/ Malayalam or Telugu .
But slowly and steadily film makers like Maniratnam, Priyadarshan, Kamalhaasan and their types started breaking the doors of Hindi cinema by themselves and started getting noticed. While Mani and Kamal would try to straddle both the Tamil and Hindi worlds with a fine balance, Priyan would just re-cook popular south hits in Hindi with North India spices. This trend opened the doors for technicians (cinematographers, Music directors, Editors, Sound engineers,.. ) from the south to step into Bollywood and earn their place under the Mumbai sun. Thereby, north of the Vindyas got to hear a A.R Rahman, see the world through a Santosh Sivan and dance to the beats of a Prabhu Deva. And Prabhu Deva would soon turn a director and make himself a most “Wanted” commodity in Bollywood. The difference between other makers from the south who made an impact in Hindi and Prabhu Deva I reckon is that his movies are no doubt Hindi movies but made with the south sensibilities intact. Now defining these so-called south sensibilities is a bit tough one for me but I would presume most people understand where I come from and let us call it the “South way” of film making. And one of the key elements of this South way is the “Punch” dialogue.
In the 90s, when Rajnikant was just a Tamil or at the most a South phenomenon (unlike today where even a reigning Bollywood Badshah like SRK has to co-opt the now Superstar Rajnikant for a cameo in his Sci-fi Superhero film Ra-One to spread its market beyond the Hindi belt) he started the trend of what is now called the “Punch” dialogues” in Tamil/Telugu film industry. In a movie named “Baasha” released as early as 1995, in which Rajni plays the role of a Mumbai Don partially and an Auto rickshaw driver partially – one of his dialogues “Naan oru dhadavai sonna, nooru dhadavai sonna madhiri” (When I tell once it is same as telling 100 times) attained iconic status and in an industry which just is happy to follow trends rather than setting one, the “Punch dialogue” as an essential part of the South way arrived. The delivery of a punch dialogue happens like this. The villain or some such people provokes our hero, our hero pauses, lifts his right hand and his 1st finger ( with a swoosh), camera gets into tight close-up of the hero’s face and the hero delivers that dialogue which packs a 100 punches! Soon after he turns and walks away (in slow motion of course) followed by his troopers!!! And this dialogue gets repeated few times in the movie to add to the punch! Post this movie “Baasha”, Rajni would later follow it up with similar one liners which became a rage among his fans so much so that Director Shankar had to explain why he did away with punch dialogues for Rajni in his last movie Robot!!. Emulating the Super star, his contemporaries like Vijayakanth and much younger heroes like Vijay are continuing the trend of these dialogues to this date. It was not too late for the trend to catch up in other southern language movies like Telugu or Malayalam.
So when Prabhu Deva got the opportunity to make a Hindi film that too with the original Hindi brawn hero Salman Khan, he got into the act with a fully blown South type masala pot boiler with “Punch Dialogues” thrown in good measure. It went on to become a top grosser at the Box office re-writing records and along the side making writers re-write their lines for future action films in Hindi!!! So while PD earned the distinction of bringing the “PD” into Hindi movie, what came as a surprise was Rohit Shetty an acclaimed “Copy and Paste” film maker took the punch dialogue and the South way into another level with his action flick “Singham” with Ajay Devgn and with this ensured that South way is here to stay in Bollywood. After Salman and Ajay, when Akshay turned towards Prabhu Deva for a desperate hit and when a sensitive film maker like Sanjay Leela Bhansali puts his money on the same, well I cannot help but conclude that the South Tsunami has hit Bollywood !!! And if I tell you that the punch dialogue which I had referred in the opening paragraph was part of Rajni’s super hit movie “Annamalai” of 1992, you will agree with me that the “Punch”ing of Bollywood is complete!!!! And now imagine what will happen if Prabhu Deva gets a chance to make a Hollywood film and makes a Will Smith deliver that Punch Dialogue !!!
Post punch oops script : As I was just writing this blog, I realized that the original punch dialogue was actually from a Hindi movie called “Don” made in the year 1978 which has transcended generations, actors, directors and still continues to pack a lot of punch!
“Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, namumkin hai.”