By Saibal Chatterjee | OPINION |
Hindi cinema of the 1970s and 1980s, the two decades that saw Rishi Kapoor at his peak, rarely, if ever, sought geographical or cultural specificity in the stories that it told. The Mumbai movie industry catered to a pan-Indian audience. In the films that it produced, therefore, it refrained from placing its characters in a defined ethos. On the stray occasions that it did, the manner of doing so was strictly superficial.
Kapoor, a Punjabi by birth, was a youth icon whose appeal transcended linguistic boundaries. Several of the major directors that the hugely popular actor worked with had roots in Punjab but they did not always set their films in the state. His illustrious father, Raj Kapoor, who launched his career as a lead actor in 1973 by casting him in the super-successful Bobby, was born in Peshawar, North West Frontier Province.
Lyallpur in undivided Punjab was the birthplace of H.S. Rawail, with whom the actor did 1976’s Laila Majnu. And Yash Chopra, who cast Kapoor in the multi-starrer Kabhie Kabhie in 1976 and went on to do other films with him, including Chandni (1989), was born in Lahore. But with Rishi Kapoor, they did not ever make a trip back to their roots.
It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that Kapoor played a role in a film that was located wholly in Punjab — Sukhwant Dhadda’s Ek Chadar Maili Si. Adapted from Rajinder Singh Bedi’s Sahitya Akademi Award-winning Urdu novel of the same name, the social drama wasn’t a box-office success. But all these years later, the film stands out as a shining example of a piece of formidable literature that was effectively brought to life on the big screen with the aid of great performances from the actors and outstanding cinematography.
The film deserves to be rediscovered by audiences. It ranks among the four best screen adaptations of works by Punjabi writers, alongside Chandraprakash Dwivedi’s Pinjar (based on Amrita Pritam’s celebrated novel), Mani Kaul’s Uski Roti (a 1969 film adapted from a Mohan Rakesh short story) and Rajendra Bhatia’s Pavitra Paapi (1970), based on Nanak Singh’s novel of the same name. The last-named film came into existence at the insistence of Rawalpindi-born Balraj Sahni, a great admirer of the writer’s literary output.
The veteran actor died on 30 April 2020 (corrected) after a two-year battle with cancer. To read the full story, ‘Punjab in Rishi Kapoor’s veins’ (The Tribune, 3 May 2020), click here. Other films mentioned in this piece are Ek Chadar Maili Si, Do Dooni Chaar (2010), Sadiyaan (2010), Patiala House (2011), Deewana (1992) and Andaaz (2003).
Pakistan touch to Malaysia’s first local Punjabi movie (Asia Samachar, 7 April 2020)