Jivin’ with Javelin to Jeet the picture
The movie that made me realise there’s always more to Bollywood that meets the eye
Director: Raj Kanwar
Actors: Sunny Deol, Salman Khan, Karishma Kapoor
Step # 1: Raise your leg. Plant it firmly to rock. Solid. Raise other leg the same way. Bang boot hard enough to break other piece of stone
Step # 2: Lift both hands now to form perfect square around the chest. Allow biceps to tear out of the tight T-shirt. Clench your fist
Step # 3: Keep feet planted to ground. Move both hands vigorously together. Arms remain where they are. Don’t be gentle as you cut through air. Don’t feel shy. Make sure no one’s at your arm’s length.
Ok, just imagine javelin in both hands. Try throwing them at the same time. Better.
Now repeat the steps marching sideways, and then forward. Untrained sophisticates can perform the suggested stunt. Tight headband, waistcoat over a body-hugging tee, jeans bulging from the crotch, is advisable for lowered air supply. It helps with the rush of blood.
This is what got patented nationwide in the mid-90s as Sunny Deol’s hathoda (hammer), or cockroach dance, depending on which part of India you were in, or which step you were better at. Hathoda for Paaji’s shadow boxing with bulging biceps; cockroach, for heavy stamping of feet that made it look like a fat insect was getting crushed under those heavy black boots. Cockroaches incidentally take pride in their powers of resilience. They can survive nuclear holocausts, it is said. Try getting under Sunny Paaji’s feet, you cockroach. Even humans don’t stand a chance.
On that, a little later. The cockroach-hammer move was in itself a moment in movie history — if only histories recorded common man’s preoccupations. The song went, “Yaara O’ Yaara, Milna dobara…’ Crowds chorused (I think), “Jaane kya rang layega….” The picture was called Jeet; make that Jeet picture. It was the summer of 96 – the infamous bedroom position rightly reversed, because men watched movies only with men at theatres in India those days.
This is exactly half a decade before Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai made watching Bollywood films somewhat urban cool. Yet, Aamir Khan in that suave flick had the same issues as Sunny Paaji did in this one. Both liked a girl. Another boy liked her too. That other boy (Salman Khan here) had an upper hand, since he was the girl’s longtime family friend. A woman’s (Karishma Kapoor) gotta do what a woman’s gotta do. Period.
Getting to a woman’s heart of course is the easiest mating trick learnt from Hindi movies. Go chase her, you moron. As does Sunny Paaji: he stands outside her door, under her balcony, watches her dance to a song at the Gateway of India…. At some point, the girl gives in. At the temple, of course.
“Tum taakatwar ho sakte ho, insaan nahin, tum ho jaanwar (You could be strong, but you’re not human),” she says, taking the shawl off her salwar kameez. “Mita lo gandi hawas (Satisfy your dirty lust), here, kill me,” she suggests for rape me: “Better die once than many times over, kill me, kill me.” Sunny plays the ‘unbathed’ Karan, poor street ‘roughian’, filthy “naali ka keeda (guy of the gutters)”. He never talks.
Cops take him in, torture the crap out of him. This has a delirious effect on his otherwise sharp brains. He imagines a full-length song. As do we. Sunny D in the hills, with the girl of his dreams. What could he be doing? Making the hammer-cockroach moves. Sort of. Very subtly this time: Step #1, #2, #3. Song blares, “Tu Dharti Pe Chahe…” Deadly “Yaara O”, as you’d know, hasn’t happened. The heroine’s not his yet.
There’s only one way she can be, following Bollywood’s universal laws of ultimate attraction. If the hero saves his girl from getting raped, she’ll rightly bed him in return forever. He does save her eventually, from a bunch of goons, different from him. They’re together now.
Outlaw is in ‘louv’. He’s taken his headband off, gotten rid of his stubble, taken a shower, cleaned up his act. Girl leaves him for Salman Khan, in case her dad gets another heart attack. Gee, thanks. She has to match his non-steps in the hills again. He’s a rich fellow, so he wears suits in golden and fluorescent green tones. She’s married. The film’s over, though we are about halfway through. This is the part I wanted to walk out.
Youth is wasted on the impatient young. We were three school kids at Delhi’s Paras cinema that afternoon. The audience had merely warmed up to the picture. I’d had enough. This is when my friend Vishek, an incredibly tolerant Bollywood fan, gave me a talisman that’s saved my life several times since, “Don’t see the movie for what it is. See it for what you can make of its spirit.” Words of wisdom from him — moment of epiphany for me. Raj Kanwar was the picture’s director. Sridevi’s repeated taunt from Kanwar’s Laadla should’ve echoed in my ears, “Understand? You ‘batter’ understand.” I did. I did.
Hamming and the hammer dance is what I saw. Nasal Nadeem-Shravan’s Saason Ki Mala, lifted from a soulful Nusrat sufi number, is what I heard, being played to Kathak’s beats. The usually constipated Alok Nath is whom I stared at. Sense, like a dufus, is what I looked for. All of which was still coming in the way of a magnificent indoor dream of stadium sized office cabins, living rooms, bedroom, the occasional trips abroad. Producers take pride in their generosity. It’s called foreign location.
Crowds had probably come in for the heroes. They are the ‘bhais’ of Bollywood — Sunny, Salman (Karan, Raju) — who make movies happen, with their blessings alone. Nobody expects them to act, or do a retake of a shot as well. Are you kidding me? Neither should eat into the other’s space, ideally. Sunny completely disappears, sits at home, when Salman is on screen (a third of the film). And there, Sunny Paaji comes back again – raising his finger, “Aaaayyiii…” — with longer hair, tighter headband, scruffier face, looking fiercer, to save his ex girlfriend and her husband. His audience celebrates. Karan Raju, like Karan Arjun, are now friends. Both sets of fans are happy.
This is people’s cinema. Everybody in the audience gets something to take home. Even educated elites can sense sociology in the story of an outlaw, at the margins of society, whom only a prostitute (Tabu), another outsider, will gladly accept. Anthropologists can appreciate the vision of a city as a jungle.
Some could acknowledge cosmetic genius of the buck teethed villain (Amrish Puri) — eyebrows bushier than Anil Kapoor’s moustache, thicker strands of hair jutting out of both his ears. Others could repeat Salman’s favourite refrain, “De diya na jhatka! (Gave you a shock!)” As Mohan Joshi, the minion in this movie, would put it again and again, “Common sense ki baat hai.”
The net is spread wide. Something should stick. Finally after years, something did. Step #1. Step #2. Step #3. The nation learnt a new dance: the hammer-cockroach, an unmovable wall that ‘walks like an Egyptian’. Sunny Deol made motion picture history. Jeet, victory. At last.