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Twice as nice

Gulzar’s classic Angoor still tickles the funny bone.

Written by Harneet Singh | New Delhi |
February 20, 2011 4:59:23 pm

Gulzar’s classic Angoor still tickles the funny bone

You know the scenes by heart. You say the dialogues with the characters. And whenever you get to watch Angoor,you want to watch it till the end.

Angoor’s story is simple: two pairs of identical twins get separated at birth,and when they meet years later as adults,their worlds collide. The first set of twins is called Ashok (played by Sanjeev Kumar) and the other,Bahadur (played by Deven Verma). Based on Shakespeare’s play The Comedy of Errors,Angoor puts you into the mood from the word go when Utpal Dutt (as Kumar’s father) says of his twins,“Yeh to comical errors ke bachche hain”,and decides to call them with the same name. The family adopts another set of twins whom they call Bahadur. An accident splits the family and each child is brought up in a different place,by a different parent.

Angoor was Gulzar’s second attempt at The Comedy of Errors. He had earlier written Do Dooni Chaar (1968) for Bimal Roy Productions. “Bimalda was on his deathbed and all his assistants,including me,wanted to keep the banner in business. Bimalda’s chief assistant,Debu Sen,directed Do Dooni Chaar based on my story,” says Gulzar.

Initially,Dev Anand and Johnny Walker were to play the lead parts,but were replaced by Kishore Kumar and Asit Sen. “We couldn’t make the film the way we wanted to. Every day,we had to go and narrate scenes to the producers and get permission to shoot,” Gulzar says.

The failure of Do Dooni Chaar kept hounding Gulzar. When he had established himself as a director,he was keen to retell the story. “I remember sharing the idea with Yash Johar. He was affectionate towards me and said,‘Tum phir se kuch naya laye ho. Hit films ki remake toh suna hai par flop film ki remake tum hi kar sakte ho’,” says Gulzar.

For this new version,Gulzar went to his favourite actor Sanjeev Kumar. “I’ve always maintained that RD Burman and Sanjeev Kumar were my two anchors. The lines in Angoor were written with the sense of comic timing that only Sanjeev possessed. I was confident we would make a good film. After all,thoda sa main bhi bada ho gaya tha,” says Gulzar.

Kumar and Verma were the perfect pair. And Kumar’s poker face comedy was the funniest aspect of the film. When Kumar,who’s attired in white lungi-kurta throughout the film,says,“Dekhne mein ainvayi lagta hoon,” you realise how extraordinary an actor he was to play someone so ordinary. Equally good is the scene in which the other Ashok asks his twin brother’s wife Sudha (Moushmi Chatterjee,in her career-best performance),“Mujhe nanga dekha hai aapne?”

Like with all Gulzar films,the characters in Angoor are quirky. The suspicious Ashok is a jasoosi novel aficionado. His entry into the film happens in a rib-tickling scene in which he is reading Ved Prakash Kamboj’s detective book Agyaat Apradhi,on a train. Moushmi’s character is a catalyst to the double trouble as she wants the necklace that Ashok has promised her. That one necklace is the common link that connects all the sequences in the plot.

Verma,who plays the bhang-loving servant,Bahadur,is in fine form. His Pritam aan milo comic set piece is memorable. Even a minor character like the jeweller’s assistant,Mansoor Miyan (Yunus Parvez),has his funny moment when he famously says,“Maine haar Ashok saab ke zaano pe rakha tha”. When prodded by Kumar to define the word zaano,he replies “ghutno.” To which the comeback is,“Jo aadmi ghutno ko zaano kehta hai,woh Ashok Kumar ko Kishore Kumar nahin keh sakta.”

“Sanjeev was a livewire in comedy. He added his own little mannerisms and touches. In the scene with Yunus,he got so involved that he asked me if he could say his lines too,” Gulzar says.

The film is simple and real. The scene in which Bahadur is forced to take out the key from Prema (Aruna Irani,the other Bahadur’s wife)’s blouse is howlarious. So are the dialogues. For instance,about his father,Ashok says,“Mere pitaji marne ke pehle ek din zinda the.” Musically,there wasn’t much scope but record label HMV urged Gulzar and RD Burman to plan a soundtrack. Asha Bhosle’s Hothon pe beeti baat aayi hai is the pick of the lot.

Over the years,the appeal of Angoor has grown. Gulzar shares an anecdote. “I remember bumping into Urmila (Matondkar) in Goa who was sitting on a swing and laughing uncontrollably. She had just seen Angoor and could not get over the exchange between Sanjeev and the taxi driver — when the taxi driver asks him where to go,he replies,‘Kyun batayen tumko.’ Urmila asked me how I could write such a line. I told her I just did,” says Gulzar.

A humble request to director Rohit Shetty,and actors Shah Rukh Khan,Tushar Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor,who are apparently planning a remake of this classic: Let this classic be. Let’s start a campaign,send emails,and organise candle marches to let Angoor be as it is. We love the taste.

harneet.singh@expressindia.com

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