Ultimate Rajshri reproduction
Actors: Sachin, Ranjeeta Kaur
I walked into a film called Jaana Pehchana, a prophetic title, given that the phrase means familiar. Unlike most readers on this page, I knew this was going to be a sequel to Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se. I stepped out having watched two pictures for the price of one, both this, and almost wholly, the 1978 Rajshri hit. Lucky me. Tell me another movie that uniquely offers you time-travel and lessons in pop-culture history such as this, and I’ll hand you over the right side of my brain that seems to me a bit wobbly right now anyway.
The theatre I watched this film at is the Art Deco single-screen Liberty, a legendary cinema in Mumbai that had hosted Rajshri’s Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (HAHK, as they called it), for 105 weeks in a row as it went on to become the biggest commercial success of its time. The great MF Hussain watched HAHK close to 60 times, it is said, from the same seat reserved for him at Liberty theatre, which also had a series of his paintings inspired by the film at its foyer. Those were the days, my friend.
HAHK (1994) was incidentally based on another Rajshri movie Nadiya Ke Paa (1982). One Sachin Pilgaonkar had played Salman Khan in that Bhojpuri film. He is the director, and hero, on this one, just as he was the star of the 1978 blockbuster this is supposedly a sequel to.
The curtain literally rises at Liberty. Opening credits flash over a pink display with Indo-saracenic motif in the corner. This goes on for about a minute, even managers in the Rajshri office are suitably acknowledged. A much older Sachin finally appears on screen. He’s a hotshot, media-shy, philanthropist-businessman now, who takes care of people’s “wellness, not only illness!” He chose never to marry or date women after he lost his girl during his youth. But Ranjeeta is there in this film too. Which is, kind of, bizarre, right? Her character had died in the old Ankhiyon Ke Jharokho Se out of terminal illness. The movie was an adaptation of Erich Segal’s Love Story.
No sweat. This wrinkled Ranjeeta is no relation to the younger Ranjeeta. She’s merely a look-alike, an author, who’s been commissioned to write Sachin (or reclusive businessman Arun Prakash Mathur’s) biography. He sees her, and is stunned. So are we, as I said.
And then, finally, starts the retro magic of a late ‘70s movie before us as the star-director picks out his favourite scenes, dialogues, and pretty much all songs from the under-rated Ravindra Jain’s soundtrack. This is film-buffery at its best. It’s been attemped in Indian films before. Gautam Ghosh’s Abar Aranye (2003), for instance, had scenes from Satyajit Ray’s Aranyer Din Ratri (1970), which it was a sequel of. But not the whole film in fast forward that we’re delighted witnesses to. Noble Iftikar resurfaces as the doctor. So does Harindranath Chattopadhyay, working the violin in a stereotypically Catholic, Bandra family that talks in the twang of good ol’ ‘Macs’: “Kya bolta haai, kya kaarta, kidhar jaata…”
Calming allure of the earlier film comes through. The last time Bollywood remade Love Story, they’d turned the Ali MacGraw classic into a slut-fest on the rocks called Khwahish (2003), heavy publicised for its 17 kisses that the makers had kept count of. Sachin asks his girl out instead in more charming ways, “How about a date? Din mein dono saath saath rahenge, ghoomenge (We’ll spend a day together, travel around?) Any objections?” Not at all. Heroine’s floored. Hero drives her around in a two-seater convertible. This is ultimate comfort cinema in deliciously crummy Eastman colour for those of a certain vintage that grew up appreciating films for its appealing simplicities.
But that was that film. What about this? Oh true, the one I’ve walked into has another name. Don’t fret. There are a few minutes of the new as well. Just a few? Yeah. And someone got paid to do this? Apparently. The director's credit doesn't mention Hiren Nag, the person who filmed about half this movie three decades before? No. Super! I know.
The rare sad story in an old Hindi movie, you know right away, will finally find a happy ending 33 years after. Geriatric biographer and her ancient hero go back to the same college campus, its library and the auditorium, travel in the same convertible, visit the same hill and beach, park and church, falling in love, it seems, all over again!
This is when you begin see in twos: Sachin at 21, in his frizzy curls; Sachin at 54 in, what looks like, a wig. Ranjeeta, with a hennaed fringe, scary eyelashes, in a saree; much younger Ranjeeta as Lily in shirts and skirts. Your grandmom and your girlfriend on either side in the theatre: One leaves humming the melodious bhajan type romantic number “Ankhiyon ke jharokon se”; the other goes home with a slight headache. This is classic mild. Smoke it.