Props In Old Hindi Films

Hindi films have evolved over the last fifty to sixty years. Old Hindi films had lots of court scenes in which the real hero was the judge with his famous prop – the ‘hammer’. The heroine would faint in the witness-box (remember Suchitra Sen in ‘Mamta’?) and everyone would panic loudly. All that the judge had to do was hit the hammer twice (not once but twice) and say ARDER! ARDER! (He meant Order, Order!)

Then again, when someone was accused of murder, that person’s spouse would come running into the court shouting: “Yeh Jooth Hai! Yeh Khoon Maine Kiya”. The poor judge is cockeyed now, looking at the accused and the spouse by turns and saying, “Aapko Jo Kuch Bhi Kehna Hai, Katerey Mein Jaa Ke Boliye.” Promptly comes another good Samaritan, yelling: “Yeh Dono Jooth Bolte Hain – Khoon Maine Kiya” in order to save them. By now, there’s chaos in the courtroom, the judge goes crazy and hammers thrice, ARDER! ARDER!! ARDER!!!

In flicks, the defence lawyer knows every loophole in the law and every ‘Daffa’ (section) of the Indian Penal Code by heart which leaves the prosecution totally flabbergasted and whenever an innocent is accused, the camera pans to the blind-folded lady’s statue with the scales of justice tilted, just to show symbolism!

Throughout the film, there’s only one police inspector, one judge, same lawyers and the same ‘extras’ sitting in the court-room and the same stupid guy near the entrance… “So-and-so Haazir Ho”. By this time, the viewer wants to leave the cinema hall for some popcorn or samosa!

Another much used and abused prop was the poor piano. If the judge hammered his table, our Hindi film’s hero hammered the poor piano keys with both hands and that too, on the same spot, whether the song had high notes or low notes. In one such movie, my granny had remarked, “Piano Vagarej Ke Masalo Pisej”? Not the hero’s fault. He is disappointed in love and takes out his frustration on the poor piano, plonking away at the notes without a clue about flats, majors, minors, fingering, pedalling, deportment or arm-wrist co-ordination whether it was Dilip Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna or Sunil Dutt, they all made a hash of the piano-playing scene in which the heroine (Yeah! The same one who jilted the hero) would just stand next to the piano like a statue).

Needless to say, the songs were quite melodious and good, it was only the so-called piano playing that was not portrayed properly. Who can forget, ‘Hum Aaj Kahin Dil Kho Baithe’, ‘Dost Dost Na Raha’, ‘Agar Tum Na Hotey’, ‘Chalo Ek Bar Phir Se Ajnabi Ban Jaye Hum Dono’, ‘Pyar Diwana Hota Hai Mastana Hota Hai’ and many, many more??

The telephone was another prop in the good old Hindi films. So useful to convey love. Remember Sunil Dutt singing, “Jalte Hain Jiske Liye, Teri Aankhon Ke Diye” to Nutan. I still get goose-flesh every time I hear this song. In another film, the villain guffaws into the phone asking his victim to bring the ransom money in a suitcase and deposit it at the Mandir behind the Kaali Ghati. Or our favourite ‘Loin’ (Lion Ajit) would ask on the phone: “Mona, where’s the Sona?”

Surprisingly, in Hindi films, everyone using the phone would have all the numbers by heart. No one used a directory. What’s more, they never got an engaged number or a wrong number- always the right one.

When they used a public phone, they never inserted a coin, like the call was on the house.
In today’s flicks, the cop has graduated into a somewhat realistic character but previously, he was just a prop; always arriving after everything was over. The vamp would save the hero’s life with her last phone-call from a public booth warning him that the villain is on his way to kill him- “Tum Apney Aap Ko Bachao” would be her last words before she would be shot dead by the villain’s henchmen.

As for that most beautiful of all emotions, LOVE, old films made a hash of that too. All the world is supposed to love a lover but the viewers were sick of those forty-plus college ‘BOYS’ (Cardboard – pupils) who always came home with a First-Class-First degree in hand and were rewarded with a gajar-ka-halva by their widowed mom who would immediately speak to the photograph of her late husband on the wall: “Dekho, Hamara Ravi Aaj Pass Ho Gaya.” At times, the father would mouth similar sentiments saying, “Agar Teri Maa Zinda Hoti”.

Those days, college romance was running around trees (a better work-out than going to the gym?) Most love-stories were unsubstantial pop-corn stories inducing yawns while the lead pair would run and run till the viewers became cock-eyed. The thirty-plus college-girl applied two kilos of powder and after the hero ran a marathon around trees, she would lower her artificial eye-lashes (thicker than Venetian-blinds) to show consent, and at times saying, “Aap Bade Voh Hain”. In the Gulf countries, the sub-titles promptly translated it to: “You are a big that” (whatever it means!)

Previously, the hero was beastly without being biological. They would handle the heroine like a tube of toothpaste, get drenched like a wet sparrow but there was no kissing. When the hero and the heroine fell in love, flowers bloomed, hundreds of ‘Matkas’ appeared on a deserted beach, hearts stopped, fluttered, pounded and heaved (without any coronary ill effects), stars dazzled, the full moon shone brightly and the heroine’s eyes sparkled like lazer-beams ready to scorch a hole through the cinema screen; the romantic-scene went beyond the boundaries of mere time, space, grammar or logic- instead of saying it with a single kiss! Is it the end? You must be joking. There were still six more romantic songs after which the hero touches the heroine’s little finger and she gives an orgasmic sigh, raves and rants in delirium. She ‘burns’ with love as though she is sitting on the equator.

What pests these lovers were! Obviously, whoever said, “All the world loves a lover” had never seen an old Hindi film where there were not just love-triangles but love-quadrangles. Of course, some films were enjoyed only because of their music and dances – ‘dance and trot and to hell with the plot’, was the box-office mantra!

Some exceptions were there, like good iconic films and at times masterpieces like the old black and white films of Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt. There were also terrific song and dance visual extravaganzas as in all films of the great V. Shantaram but that will be serious writing… Another article for another Saturday! Till then- Achcha, Toh Hum Chalte Hain!!

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