Films that are 50

Films that are 50: A Dilip Kumar double treat in ‘Ram Aur Shyam’

The thespian proves that comedy is as easy as tragedy in the 1967 hit comedy.

Several 1967 releases were top grossers, including Jewel Thief, An Evening in Paris, Upkar, and Ram Aur Shyam, which featured two Dilip Kumars for the price of one.

Ram Aur Shyam was the remake of the popular Telugu film Ramudu Bheemudu, which in turn was loosely based on Alexander Dumas’s The Corsican Brothers. It is not always easy for an actor to convincingly portray more than one character. The triple roles by Dilip Kumar in Bairaag (1976) and Amitabh Bachchan in Mahaan (1983) didn’t impress audiences. Shah Rukh Khan’s dismal performance in Duplicate (1998) proved that a snarl here and a growl there isn’t enough to distinguish an evil character from a good one.

The success of Ram aur Shyam, directed by Tapi Chanakya, must be credited to two great actors – Dilip Kumar and Pran. These two fine performers had previously complemented each other in Madhumati (1958) and Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966). In both these films, Pran played Dilip Kumar’s nemesis to perfection.

Pran and Dilip Kumar in Ram Aur Shyam (1967).
Pran and Dilip Kumar in Ram Aur Shyam (1967).

Ram, meek heir to great property, is regularly tortured and humiliated by his evil brother-in-law Gajendra (Pran), who has no qualms about whipping Ram from time to time to break his spirit – until Shyam, the twin, takes Ram’s place by accident and sets out to deliver justice.

Ram aur Shyam has two stand-out scenes. In the first one, Shyam (pretending to be Ram) takes Gajendra to task for having been mean to his wife Sulakshna (Nirupa Roy) and their daughter. The second is the scene in which Shyam slaps and whips Gajendra until Sulakshna begs him to stop.

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Shyam slaps Gajendra.

The other enjoyable scenes from Ram Aur Shyam are the ones that exploit Dilip Kumar’s comic talent, especially the sequence in which Shyam, a farmer, auditions as a swashbuckling Zorro-like character in order to fulfill his dream of becoming an actor. Shyam beats up the sidekicks for real during the shoot. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t get the role. He is duly chastised for his acting adventure by his adopted mother Ganga (Leela Mishra), who locks him up to exorcise the “acting ka bhoot” that has possessed him.

Dilip Kumar’s exaggerated mannerisms, playful body language and funny dialogue as he addresses his mother as “Mummah” and urges her to let him make his mark in filmdom, are a delight to watch even a half a century later.

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Ganga ticks off Shyam.

The scenes of Dilip Kumar as the flamboyant Shyam are in sharp contrast to those of the timid Ram, who is so terrified of Gajendra that he dare not look him in the eye. Dilip Kumar has said in interviews that the scenes were very well written and gave him ample opportunities to demonstrate the stark differences between the twins.

It is obvious that Dilip Kumar really enjoyed working on Ram Aur Shyam, which was a break from the tragic roles with which he had come to be associated. Dilip Kumar signed Ram Aur Shyam after he was advised to lighten up by his psychiatrist. The thespian’s bonhomie with his co-stars Waheeda Rehman and Mumtaz is apparent, leading to relaxed and memorable performances from all concerned, especially in the comic scenes.

The music by Naushad, with lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni, adds to the movie’s charm. One of the best songs is Aaj Ki Raat Mere Dil Ki Salaami Le Le, in which Shyam bids farewell to Rehman before abandoning his fake identity as Ram. The other is the birthday song Aayi Hain Baharein, in which Shyam dispels the pall of gloom in the house by organising a birthday party for his niece. The song marks a departure from despair. The viewer feels assured that henceforth, all will be well in this household and that the evil Gajendra will soon get his just desserts – which literally happens when Shyam forces him to eat cake at the end of the song.

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Aaj Ki Raat Mere Dil Ki Salaami Le Le.

The roles of the twins were reprised by Hema Malini in Seeta Aur Geeta (1972) and Sridevi in Chaalbaaz (1989) to critical and commercial acclaim. It is not easy to pull off a double act. The body language must go hand in hand with facial expressions, dialogue delivery and voice modulation. Viewers should be convinced that they are watching two separate and dissimilar characters. Only a truly fine actor like Dilip Kumar could have done pulled off the double act so convincingly, making Ram Aur Shyam a lasting treat for Hindi film buffs.

Nirupama Kotru is a civil servant. The views expressed here are her own.

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From catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalised by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.