Chan chan chan… when you heard the jingle of her payals, you knew the village belle meant business. A flick of her chunri, a heave of her ample bosom, plumped up with mirrorwork and beads, one coy glance — and the hero was smitten.
There was a time when the gaon ki gori ruled the filmi roost. Sholay’s Basanti was the supreme example, of course. She had the hero right where she wanted him, she danced, she sang, she had humour, action, a chase scene, and some immortal lines of dialogue: Chal Dhanno, aaj Basanti ki ijjat ka sawaal hai.
But Basanti’s world has changed. So have our films and so have we. The village idyll holds little interest now for teenagers who have grown up on a diet of designer clothes, glossy dance sequences and slick choreography in their movies; and stories of farmer suicides, Maoist violence and SEZ battles in their newspapers.
The rural hinterland now spells farmhouses and eco-friendly projects, not tales of village life or strife. Shyam Benegal, however, is one of the few in recent times to have successfully revisited the village locale in mainstream cinema with
Welcome to Sajjanpur. Did anyone say Billu? Yes, director Priyadarshan has always been comfortable in a rural setting, right from Virasat. But Billu, with its glitzy item numbers propping up a simple tale, only proves our point. And if you say Omkara, well, the gaon ki gori has now become an item girl.