I feel lucky that I still have memories of the days when film stars were far removed from our mundane existence and inhabited a magical world to which mere mortals like us were never able to get access. We could only watch their films and that too on special occasions. Going to the movies was like a festival and had a sanctity which one can never even imagine in today’s world where it seems that the cinema is a resident in our homes.
What I was saying is that film stars were beyond our reach. They were almost like the gods. Inaccessibility into their world was the main reason for this status. They were only to be seen on screen. They would hardly ever mix with all and sundry or be seen at functions. There were only the newspapers, magazines and radio as far as mass media was concerned. Doordarshan was there, of course, but it did nothing to familiarise us with the innermost secrets of these beautiful people.
My mother tells me of a time when a few scenes of a film were shot in our neighbourhood in Dehradun. The film starred Shashi Kapoor and Vimmi. But the funniest part was that these two never once visited our town. A tonga went around the area with a man announcing that all young people who wished to be seen in the film should come to the office of the unit set up in one of the houses in the colony. A crowd of young men and women could be soon seen at the office. It turned out that they were being made to try out dresses of the hero and heroine. The girl and boy who best fitted into Vimmi’s and Shashi Kapoor’s clothes were chosen as the pair who would be shown traveling in a tonga and getting down from it at the Dehradun Railway Station. The most disappointing bit was revealed at the last moment. Their faces would not be shown! Only their backs would appear! Hearing the story, I always wonder how they could have nursed the hope of their faces being shown! The point is that the very idea of our colony being shown as a location in one of the scenes was enough to make people go crazy with excitement. Just watching those “doubles” climb into the tonga became such a special experience which was the talk of the neighbourhood for weeks! Such was the charisma of cinema in those good old days.
Came the seventies and a new god was established one whose glory has not been surpassed till date.He was Rajesh Khanna! His pictures that appeared in film magazines were cut out and pasted on the walls of the rooms of many youngsters, especially girls. There was no satellite TV or internet which would bring Khanna closely into our lives. He lived in a charmed world of which we could just get a remote feel through his persona as seen on celluloid. People screamed with joy when he bent his head slightly and closed his eyes for moment (one of his best known ‘adaas’).Girls wrote letters to him with their blood and even got married to his photograph! And when he announced his marriage, it was the biggest calamity that befell the superstar’s innumerable female fans.
It is indeed difficult to witness such hysteria related to film stars these days. We are more than familiar with them. They can be seen and heard the whole day, thanks to the all pervading mass media and the latest technology. They are special no more!
“Tragedy King” Dilip Kumar, ethereal beauty Madhubala, tragedy queen Meena Kumari, India’s Elvis Presley- Shammi Kapoor, “Lux” beauty Asha Parekh, the royal Raj Kumar –these and many more stars of that time were placed on a high pedestal by their fans and were not part of the world in which ordinary mortals live and work. Their place was in the skies and the joy which people got from this hero-worhship knew no bounds. There was a huge difference between their world and ours and it was this difference we tried to bridge when we went to watch their movies. But once we were back home, we again saw them as larger than life, in our mind’s eye. Covered with gold dust, they ruled our imagination from an uncoverable distance.
Saturday, 13 April 2019 | Jaskiran Chopra | Dehradun