Sharaabi : Amitabh Bachchan is Intoxicating

India has never seen a bigger  movie star than Amitabh Bachchan. His first movie performance was in Saath Hindustani released in 1969, which means, that this is his 50th year as a movie actor. To commemorate this auspicious moment. i intend to write a series of pieces on my favorite films of his. I start with Sharaabi, as its my Favorite film from 80’s, which is generally considered a dark period in both the history of  Hindi cinema  as well as in Bachchan’s career.

Sharaabi is my favorite Amitabh Bachchan film from the 80’s  as well as one of  my favorite Bachchan performances of all time . i admit, it isn’t much of a film. Its more like a wordy  stage play.But therein lies its charm. Prakash Mehra, the director along with his screenwriters, have fashioned a very old fashioned screenplay which emphasizes on melodrama and dialogues.  Bachchan had this to say about Mehra “He never bothered about the technical aspects of a film , he would just place the camera in one place and get on with his narration”  .Sharaabi proves how truthful Bachchan’s observation about his regular collaborator is. they have made a lot of movies together before like Zanjeer, muqaddar ka sikander and Laawaris, which were all blockbusters. Mehra had a big hand in turning Bachchan into a megastar.The film is an adaptation of Hollywood film Arthur , where the lead character was played superbly by Dudley Moore . But the film is suitably indianised or Bachchanised to turn it into a perfect vehicle for Bachchan to showcase his talent for dialogue delivery, Comedy, trademark dance moves and drunken scenes.

 

Mehra had a great ear for good dialogue and music .  His regular dialogue writer was the Late Kader Khan’s who passed away recently.Kader Khan wrote dialogue for a lot of Bachchan films and was a key creative force in creating the bachchan persona.  This film is no different. It can also be said that there isn’t a greater actor in the world than  Bachchan when it comes to dialogue delivery. He is blessed with a  magnificent voice  Then there are those measured pauses while delivering the lines,the modulation , the rhythms, its just fantastic. Moreover, There isn’t a better actor who can do an entertaining  drunken scene than Bachchan .  Mehra has designed the  lead character of Vicky by fusing these two qualities of the actor.  His Vicky  is an alcoholic, mischievous, sarcastic , romantic son of a wealthy businessman (Played by Pran).Father and son does not get along and Vicky is more closer to his mentor and confidant Munshiji (played by Om Prakash) . Vicky also has delusions about himself being a great poet and indulges in some absurd poetry from time to time which is disapproved by Munshiji who has a good taste in poetry. These character traits ensure that Bachchan   gets to say some of the most funniest and  best lines – as seen in the video clip below –  and since he is an alcoholic , he gets to say the lines in a drunken stupor. Its a One man Bachchan show all the way where he pulls out every trick as a superstar performer .The screenplay is cleanly written with a straight narrative line  . There are no subplots , no spectacular set pieces – like in the Manmohan desai films of the time- . Its all about his character and the dynamic that he shares with the co actors like Om praksh , Pran, the heroine Jaya Prada and of course Actor Mukhri ,who has a famous supporting role as Nathulal , with whom Bachchan engages in some good-natured banter. The film vows  with Bachchan’s genius with words and comedy.

 

 

It’s obvious that I am a die hard Bachchan fan, but I must stress that  i am much more a fan of Bachchan, the star performer than Bachchan the pure actor. i am not just talking about his larger than life one man variety entertainment  shows like Amar Akbar Anthony , Suhaag,Naseeb, Lawaaris etc but also Zanjeer, Deewaar, Trishul, Kaala Paththar too. even there , you could see the star charisma , the starry mannerisms and tics that elevate what is basically a more realistic character to a more mythic , more larger than life plain. By that account Bachchan is one of those rarest of rare actors who is capable of doing both;Give a realistic dimension to the larger than life  characters as well as giving a mythic scale to real characters.

 

But by the mid 80’s Bachchan has grown so big that directors had starting casting him for only mythic roles.When Sharaabi came out in 1984, he had pretty much stopped doing more realistic characters even in the masala genre . He had also stopped  doing multi starrers, concentrating on doing fewer films where he is the lone star..He was also about to make the monumental mistake of joining politics that would dent his image irrevocably. The very next year , Manmohan Desai’s film  Mard would be released that would water down his serious  masala hero even further, making it more comic booky .Bachchan’s character in Mard was a strange mix  of Phantom ,Zorro and the regular hindi film hero. Even Prakash Mehra’s next with Bachchan would be the atrocious Jaadugar where he played a kind of Desi Mandrake.  So Sharaabi happened at a turning point in his career and it would be sort of a  last of its kind.   Inspite of its masala feel ,it is more of a genre picture. A musical romantic dramedy , if you will   It falls into the latter category where the character is earthbound but still feels mythic , ‘masala’ because Bachchan is playing it.

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The film also breaks the myth that Bachchan and good music  do not go together. Its a true blue musical, with a lot of the narration done through songs and music. Music director Bhappi Lahiri does give a very commercial score , but there is a good mix of classical in it, showing Mehra’s influence.All the songs in the film became superhits .  The Bachchan introduction number  gives an inkling as  to the kind of film that is going to unfold. Its  mainly a fun song with a separate film within it ,where Bachchan plays a drunkard husband and Smitha Patil his wife. A crazy mix of music, comedy and drama where Bachchan is in his elements with his dance moves and comical mannerisms.

 

 

Then there is Naulakka manga dhe tere song which is about 10 mins long and is one of the longest songs in hindi films. I love the way , log kehte hain main sharaabi hoon begins. usually the hero sings who i am songs are more fast paced, more peppy, but this one is very classical

 

 

Then it proceeds to the more romantic tracks like Inteha ho gayi and then to the more philosophical Manzilen apni jagah hai.It will also be one of Kishore Kumar’s last full albums for Bachchan. Manmohan desai had stopped using Kishore Kumar long time back sticking to Mohammed Rafi and then after his death his clones like Munna and Mohammed Aziz. Kishore Kumar’s vocal process adds a lot to the songs.

 

As i already said, it isn’t much of  a masala film and so there are just a couple of  Bachchan fight sequences.One a very funny fight with a group of thieves who had stolen his stuff and the other in the climax. . The final act of the film does drag, once Bachchan leave his house and starts playing the lovelorn hero.  The tone of the film also  takes a heavy melodramatic turn with the death of Om Prakash and Bachchan trying to quit drinking and all that.  But it doesn’t matter, because Bachchan always  delivers as a star actor, whether its comedy, Drama or Melodrama, and keeps things watchable. Truly , there will never be anybody like him again

4 thoughts on “Sharaabi : Amitabh Bachchan is Intoxicating

  1. MANK, you said it. This is one of my favorite Bachchan performances of the 80s. One thing that separates him from the rest is that he always gave the audience more than what they wanted; not once would you be bored. He lived the role as Vicky. The supporting performances are fantastic whether it is Pran, Om Prakash, Mukri or Jaya Prada. I especially like Suresh Oberoi’s cameo.

    I used to not like the soundtrack, but now I have a better appreciation of it. You have a mixture of classical, comedy, romance and philosophy. Kishore Kumar continues to be my favorite singer since my childhood and he and Amitabh match each other perfectly.

    There is only one superstar and that’s Amitabh Bachchan. We will never see the likes of him again.

    Like

  2. hi mank! so happy to read about sharaabi!
    what a relief it was to hear kishore sing for amitabh again!
    during my boards, would play sharaabi cassette on repeat mode while studying.
    madly in love with the songs and the dialogues!
    this blog was long due..will visit regularly..
    PS; thanks for putting tht pic on the cover!

    Like

    1. Thanks Ramki, This blog happened accidentally and must say you cartoon was one of the triggering points :). But now i its getting interesting .I hope i get time to write more often

      Liked by 1 person

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