It was the decade when a phenomenally gigantic tornado was rising up in India. It had demolished many standing colossuses and was gearing up to gulp down even more. Nothing could stand its power… except one tiny little plant. It did not only emerge and survived, but it also endured. It kept growing slowly but steadily, while the great tornado continued its dominance. The tornado was AmitabhBachchan and the ‘plant that survived’ was AmolPalekar.
Basu Chatterjee first planted the seed of this plant in Ranjnigandha and soon Amol became the talk of the town. He was nothing like the mainstream silver-screen gods that ruled then – he wasn’t a charging angry young man like Big B, he wasn’t a Greek god with oomph factor like Dharam Paji, he wasn’t an intense tragedy king like Yusuf Bhai, nor was he a crackpot laughter-box like Mehmood.
What made this plant survive, you ask? Well what made him survive was a very simple tiny little fact – he was us. You and I. Unlike the legends of his time, he didn’t display any out-of-the-ordinary or dashing deeds, but rather often played an underdog, who had to slog in a government office to make a living, run to catch a 09.10 local, mutely listen to his cribbing mother, feel helpless and clueless at his girlfriend’s whims, or even employ the help of a third person to ‘groom him’ into winning the love of his life.
And this, not extraordinariness, but ‘extra’ ordinariness is what made him ‘our hero’. He didn’t live unrealistic dreams that we daydream about, but rather brought our real lives on the silver screen and ‘like a dream’ he managed to achieve all those small and insignificant but ‘real’ things that actually matter to us, then may be it’s a job at a good company or just a mere window seat in a local train, the sense of satisfaction was real.
The master of such divine ordinariness, Mr. Amol Palekar, is turning 71 today. Let’s look at his five memorable films:
- Rajnigandha: The carefree and laidback Sanjay was the debut character of Amol’s Hindi film career, which kick-started his inning and established him as a hero-with-a-difference.
- Chhoti Si Baat: The common-man redefined! Who could forget that goofy awkward Arun Pradeep who tried to get out of his nervous-zone by employing the ‘personality development’ services of Col. Julius Nagendranath Wilfred Singh to win his lady-love? As cute as it gets!
- Bhumika: Completely opposite of what he did in Chhoti Si Baat. Keshav Dalvi in Bhumika was a complete anti-hero, yet not a villain… just not a hero. We hated Keshav’s guts, but loved Amol just for the same thing.
- Baaton Baaton Mein: Just like Chhoti Si Baat, this film had a hardcore Mumbai feel and the character of Tony Braganza was as Mumbaikar as he could get. The artistic, maternally pressured, and bitten-by-love Tony was, is, and will always remain the darling of all of us.
- Gol Maal: The hard-hitting finale of this list could be nothing else but the totally impulsive and fun Ramprasad Dashrathprasad Sharma. This moustache-driven comedy was as much a triumph of Amol as it was of Utpal Dutt. Absolutely timeless classic!
Having said this, and heavy-heartedly having missed many other respectable mentions, let’s wish this timeless underdog a very happy birthday!