Of romance and realism
Posted: Dec 16, 2011 at 2004 hrs IST
Dev Anand. Dapper, debonair, slim and trim with chiselled good looks, the quintessential Prince Charming. Ram Kapoor. Ungainly, gauche, broad and bulky, rumpled and crumpled, sweating profusely — the least likely female heartthrob. Two more different men it would be hard to imagine. Except that for those who watch television like they eat and sleep, the two actors were by far the most romantic men on view in the last few days.
Dev Anand's death became Sunday's rendezvous with romance. Mamata Banerjee's startling disclosure that the UPA government had decided to hold back FDI in retail would normally have been the news of the day, hotly pursued by Team Anna's bike show, but both barely vroomed into sight as news channels took us back in time, made us fall in love all over again with Devsaab. No channel was immune, not even DD News, to his charms or his songs, which played on every channel and everyone's lips — gaata rahe mera dil. It was a day of nostalgia and longing as we watched and listened to the "evergreen" hits from his films in a day-long Chitrahaar tribute. We felt forever young, this Sunday, rather like the actor himself.
It was one of those exceptional occasions when viewers of entertainment channels or films, switched eagerly to news TV — for entertainment — and a glimpse of well-remembered, treasured moments from Guide, Jaal, Hum Dono, Hare Rama Hare Krishna... And there was the man himself, in the last interviews he had given to the news channels, his head still cocked to one side, although the puff of hair had been flattened with age, still so articulate, so there and with it, you felt you could reach out and touch him. "That", as he said to CNN-IBN, "is what immortality is about".
The party carried over into Monday. And as so often happens when the festivities carry on for too long, the tributes began to get a little silly. Thus, we saw the most unusual sight: Dev Anand and Suraiya, his leading lady on and off screen during the late '40s, in a reconstructed conversation (if indeed it ever took place) about how and why he was the Gregory Peck of Hindi cinema (Aaj Tak). Huh? One question: since when do we turn to news channels for entertainment?
Ram Kapoor, meanwhile, was fumbling with his hands, all thumbs suddenly, faltering in his attempts to embrace his wife Priya and exercise his fundamental rights as her husband (Bade Achche Lagte Hain, Sony). Unfortunately, he was prevented from realising this happy ambition, by his "mother" — wouldn't you just know it? — who chose that very moment to feign an illness, some 7813.08 kilometres away. Ram is honeymooning in Australia with Priya and has, finally, fallen for her, which is exactly what his "mom" in India does not want — thus, the summons. The consummation of "Ram weds Priya", alas, awaits another episode.
Bade Acche Lagte Hain is at 10.30 pm and ranks fourth in the viewership ratings. According to at least one recent survey, Kapoor is the most popular fictional character on TV. For a leading man of his girth, a middle-aged gent who wears black suits three sizes too small for him with a plain red tie (I tell you!!), this is a remarkable achievement. That his relationship with Priya (Sakshi Tanwar) is also the most likeable love story on television is a slap in the face for all the other romantic leading men and women. Those young guns with sculpted bodies and features, gelled hair and smouldering looks; those women, dressed perpetually in wedding finery and caked with make-up that can rival Dulux in the paint department — together they're too lightweight for our Big Fat Indian Bridegroom and his giggly, plain Jane wife.
However, it says something positive about the serial and the audience: the serial has cleverly presented a refreshingly realistic Ram-Priya relationship while retaining the melodrama allure of the saas-bahu in the subplots involving his wicked relatives. The audience has responded enthusiastically to the "real" characters. Now, if only others would learn from Ram Kapoor, in so many ways, a man of substance. l