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The Mountain Man

Friday, May 25, 2018

This week’s release Bioscopewala, is inspired by the Rabindranath Tagore story Kabuliwala, on which the Hemen Gupta classic was also based. (There was an earlier Bengali version, directed by Tapan Sinha, starring Chhabi Biswas in the titular role). The Hindi film, produced by Bimal Roy, starred Balraj Sahni, in one of his finest performances in a career studded with memorable films. He played an Afghan seller of dry fruits in Kolkata, at a time when there was a sizeable population of Pathans in India, who were mostly traders and moneylenders. Like many of his countrymen, Rehmat Khan left his family behind in his village in Afghanistan to come to Calcutta (now Kolkata) to make a living. All he has to remember his Amina, motherless daughter by, is her handprint on a piece of paper. Kabuliwalas were familiar figures in the streets of Kolkata, going door to door, selling their wares—nuts, spices and woolens. Because so many of them were tall, bearded, kohl-eyed and ferocious-looking, they were used as bogeymen to scare children. But Mini (Baby Sonu), the little daughter of a kindly writer (Sajjan) befriends the lonely Kabuliwala, much to the annoyance of her mother (Usha Kiron). Mini reminds him of his daughter, and so chatting with her, giving her nuts and sweets, repairing her doll, gives him great joy.

After he has made enough money to return home, he starts to collect his dues from people who owe him. One of them refuses to pay up and abuses Rehmat. In the ensuing melee, the man is killed, the gentle Pathan arrested and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. When he is released, he goes to see Mini, still seeing her as a little girl in his mind’s eye. He is stunned to see that she is grown up now and it is the day of her wedding. When, against her mother’s wishes, Mini’s father brings her to see her favourite Kabuliwala, the man who lit up her childhood, she cannot remember him. Rehmat is shattered by the thought that his own daughter might not recognise him after so many years. He has no money to return to Afghanistan; Mini’s father decided to do away with lights at the wedding, and gives the distraught Kabuliwala money to go home and meet his daughter. The film was not a commercial success, but its songs like Aye Mere Pyare Watan and Ganga Aayi Kahan Se were hits. Years later, it is still lump-in-the-throat moving, and a large part of the credit goes to Balraj Sahni for his poignant turn as a homesick father. I was constantly swimming against the tide: Aamir Khan on early film choices His box office credentials are unmatched today but Aamir Khan says despite facing initial scepticism of the industry people, he has always been someone who believed in experimenting with film roles. The actor, who has completed 30 years in Bollywood, walked down the memory lane to reflect on the film choices that set him apart from the crowd and made him feel like a "lone ranger".

"When I came into the industry, I was a minority, I was a lone ranger, who was trying to do films that I believed in, but the market did not believe in it and a host of people also did not believe in it," Aamir said in a group interview. With hits such as "Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak", "Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander", "Baazi", "Earth", "Sarfarosh", "Lagaan" and "Dangal", Aamir has become one of the most bankable stars in cinema today but the actor said it has not been an easy ride to stardom. "I was constantly swimming against the tide to do the films I believed in. Now the tide has changed. So the films that I believed in then and no one else did, have actually become more mainstream today." Aamir, 53, believes the audiences' sensibilities are changing and if "Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander" would have released today, it had better chances at the ticket window. Asked if he thinks the risk has paid off now, he said, "I don't know if I can say that, I was not doing it for a pay-off, I was just doing it. I was not concerned if it will payoff or not, my focus was to do films that I believed in. When I do a film like 'Talaash', I know it is not going to be the biggest hit of the year but I want to do it." The actor has bridged the gap between commercial and contentdriven cinema but insisted he is not searching for social content in a film. "I am not setting out for what the next social issue (should be). I have had a mix range of films like 'Delhi Belly', 'Thugs of Hindostan', 'Dangal', etc, I am getting drawn to stories which I like.

" The actor said he reacts to a script like an audience member. "It has to be something that excites me, engages me, sometimes it might have a message, sometimes it might not. I don't think whether it is commercial or not. I am not able to think like that. I feel my cinema should be good and I want it to be loved by as many people (as possible)." He became a star overnight with success of his debut film as lead actor "Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak" in 1988 and realised he had become famous when he could no longer use the public transport. In 1973, Aamir appeared as child actor in his uncle Nasir Hussain's film "Yaadon Ki Baaraat". "The first time I sensed I had become popular was after 'Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak'. It was quite mad. I did a successful film, but I didn't have the money to buy a car. Aamir said he earned Rs 11,000 for his debut.

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