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The filmy bandhan

The filmy bandhan
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Hindi film screenplay writers have strived to give new twist to brother-sister relationship over the decades and every time they have added a new...

Hindi film screenplay writers have strived to give new twist to brother-sister relationship over the decades and every time they have added a new fragrance in the old bonding

Perhaps it all started with Nanda playing the blind sister of Rehman in “Choti Behen” and moving the audience to tears. Her immortal song ‘Bhaiya mere rakhi ke bandhan ko nibhana…’ became the anthem song of a patriarchal society endorsing male protection to woman in India.

Ever since filmmakers went out of their way to include some emotional drama in the brother sister track of their stories, so much so that there was a time it was impossible to conceive a Hindi film without the mandatory ‘bhaiya behna’ song sequence. The effect was contagious and gradually it was not just the mainstream but even in the parallel cinema wanting to include a brother sister angle in their offbeat stories.

Who can forget Raj Kapoor’s grim reflection of the street children through baby Naaz and her adolescent brother in “Boot Polish”? Or Satyajit Ray’s internationally acclaimed “Pather Panchali” shedding light on perils of rural India through a unique bonding between older sister Durga and her kid brother Appu.

Our screenplay writers have strived to give new twist to the relationship over the decades and every time they have added a new fragrance to the old bonding. From the Black & White “Aaaj Aaur Kal” to Karan Johar’s “Gippy” about an adolescent sister and her saviour brother, our films have explored many shades to the relationship. If in the olden days the hero had to go through the act of pleasing four diverse brothers before he could ask for the hand of his beloved in a comedy in “Ek Phool Aur Chaar Kaante” in “Josh”, Chandrachur Singh had to face the wrath of an extremely possessive Shah Rukh Khan before he could romance his sister Aishwarya Rai.

The sacrificing sister was a recurring motif in Hindi films and Meena Kumari in the sixties was the infallible older sister maintaining the balance in the family. Remember her singing ‘Mere bhaiya mere chanda…’ to Dharmendra sitting on the jhoola in “Kaajal”? The brother and sister are so close that their spouses Dharmendra’s wife Padmini and Meena Kumari’s husband Raaj Kumar feel isolated and resent them. In 1971 Dev Anand marked a new turn in the sibling relationship with his highly acclaimed “Hare Ram Hare Krishna” launching Zeenat Aman. It was the first time we saw a hero putting his life/ girl friend on hold to rehabilitate his drug addict sister. She is his project and priority and his beloved Mumtaaz has to accept it without complains. ‘Phoolon ka taro ka….’ where master Satyajit carries his little sister on his back and entertains her to distract her from the problem after all these years, tugs at your heart strings.

For a long time no wedding celebration could be complete without ‘Meri pyari beheniya banegi dulhaniya…’ popularised by Rajesh Khanna in “Sacha Jhootha”. Naaz played Khanna’s crippled sister unable to reach out to her brother in a swelling crowd. It was an era where actresses like Nazima, Naaz and later others who made a career out of merely playing sister to heroes. Till as long as Rajesh Khanna ruled, Naaz played his ‘behna’. It was rare but sometimes the sister played a more important role than the heroine. Tanvi Kher as Mithun Chakraborty’s sister in “Pyaari Behna” is an example of this.

Popular cinema to a great extent is determined by the image of the hero and Amitabh Bachchan on screen was perceived as the eternal family man. The mother and sister in Hindi films gained momentum in the wake of his success and Nirupa Roy is a standing example of that. In most of the films made during the Bachchan reign, he was fighting a moral or social battle and played the ideal son and brother who would do anything to restore the dignity of his family. Interestingly all his films succeeded in delivering a different message that worked with the audience.

In “Majboor” he strived to secure his handicapped sister, in “Adaalat” he sought revenge for her rape; in “Trishul” he assumed responsibility for her marriage. His crusade for his sister continued from “Shahenshah” and “Agneepath” to “Aaj Ka Arjun” in the late 90s. Infact it would not be wrong to say that the mother/ sister lost significance in mainstream when Amitabh Bachchan stopped playing the conventional hero.

Unlike Bachchan the family was never the focus for the new hero Shah Rukh Khan barring a few films like “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham” or “Main Hoon Naa” and even in these were stories about brothers never sisters. Perhaps the new-age writers wanted him to focus on romance and did not deem him fit to shoulder bigger responsibilities.

The current filmmakers clearly have no interest in the extended family of their lead stars. Ram Gopal Varma has repeatedly said that he is bored of the parents/siblings angle and his films have done away with the extended family completely.
After 63 years of independence the Indian woman has transformed beyond recognition and is no more dependent on her father/ brother/husband for protection. She is capable of fending for herself and this is evident in the fun advertisements where the brother ties a rakhi to his sister for protecting him over all these years or another sister on the motorbike tying a rakhi to the police cop and not expecting a favour. On the other hand there is the infallible sister Divya Dutta of Milkha Singh in “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” willing to make any sacrifice for the welfare of her brother.

And both these images are true because India lives in multiple centuries simultaneously.
Bhawana Somaaya/ @bhawanasomaaya

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