Bobby at 50: A Tribute

‘Bobby’ a film on Teenage love story released in 1973 liberated the Middle class India ; the bulk of the film goers. It freed us from the clutches of our parental controls as the college crowd clapped, wept and cried watching Rishi Kapoor and Dimple, meeting, shying, loving, separating, fighting, cajoling, contesting, escaping, eloping, dancing, […]

‘Bobby’ a film on Teenage love story released in 1973 liberated the Middle class India ; the bulk of the film goers. It freed us from the clutches of our parental controls as the college crowd clapped, wept and cried watching Rishi Kapoor and Dimple, meeting, shying, loving, separating, fighting, cajoling, contesting, escaping, eloping, dancing, defying as their story unfolded on the screen. It reflected the sub – conscious desire of us all, our parents, grand parents, teachers and the masses. Raj Kapoor gave us a film which we had not even seen among the Hollywood cinema to which we were exposed. ‘ Summer of 42’ did explore briefly this teenage desire to be together and the protagonist in it also did get liberated by the young widow whose husband had died in the ongoing world War. But it was Bobby which was near us and brought the colors and music for us on screen. The film lifted the Taboo . The commercial success of the film transformed the theme and story. A simple  teenage love story written by the Marxist film maker and writer Khwaja Ahmad Abbas who had earlier written ‘Awaara’, ‘Shree 420’, ‘Mera Naam Joker’ for Raj Kapoor. It was a love story of a Boy of rich parents who do not have time for him and on account of his naughtiness is banished to boarding school . On his return to Home there is a grand party thrown by his parents in which his Nanny arrives uninvited to give him a cake. She is accompanied by her granddaughter ‘Bobby’ played by Dimple Kapadia. On seeing her Raj played by Rishi Kapoor falls in love with her, though they do not meet but he sings a song in the party” Main Shayar to nahin , magar ai haseen jab se dekha maine tumko ; mujhko shayri aagayi… “. Raj wants to meet her and visits his Nanny. They meet, fall in love, but the rich and poor conflict arises which after heart aches and adventures is overcome. They finally live together happily.
Prior to Bobby there were many love stories about students. But the role of the students was played by elders and aged actors -Rajendra Kumar, Sunil Dutt, Manoj Kumar, Pradeep Kumar etc. With ‘Bobby’ it was perhaps the first time when the age of lead actors was realistic ( though Rishi was 21 at the time of release but he looked a teenager), Dimple was 16.
They looked a convincing ‘Teenage couple’  and acted and sang’ Teenage ‘ – “ Hum tum ik kamre main band hon aur chabi kho jaye “.
The magic which mesmerized us all was the presentation of the film. It was a love story in which new actors were introduced. It was perhaps the first time when a young love story had ‘young lead actors’. Rishi had played a Chubby boy in ‘ Mera Naam joker’ who falls in love with his teacher  , but all that was forgotten when he arrived in slim and trim shape and was different and new and most viewers considered him to be a newcomer.
Raj made this movie as a ‘bench mark’. Though it is learnt that he was not much hopeful of it’s success. He had planned a big dacoit movie starring Dharmendra and Mumtaz titled ‘ Daud’ based on the story of the famous Gujrati writer Abid Surti; but that was not to be. He expected ‘ Bobby’ to be a moderate success film as the actors were new and perhaps it was sort of an experiment. Little did this creator knew that he will launch a new era of young love stories, a new norm a new genre in Hindi film cinema. No matter how skeptical and unsure he was of his film’s success he controlled each aspect and department with astuteness for which he was known. His famous music director duo of Shankar Jaikishan had delivered their best music before Jaikishan died suddenly. Known not to many Raj Kapoor himself was a gifted musician and music was the core of his cinema. Shankar Jaikishan gave music to most of his films but it was distinctly Raj Kapoor music with most songs written by his favorite Shailendra. He made music on his harmonium in his famous RK cottage with his team consisting of Shankar- Jaikishan, Shailendra, Hasrat Jaipuri, Mukesh and Lata. They made a formidable group which presented great music from ‘Barsaat’ to ‘Awaara’ to ‘Shri 420’ to ‘Jis desh main Ganga behti hai’ to ‘Sangam’ to ‘Mera Naam Joker’. In  his films the music matched with the film step to step. Music was the soul of his cinema.
This was in Bobby too but the voice, the sound the ‹sur› of Bobby was different from his films prior and thereafter. ‹ Bobby› gave s new ‘sound’ a new ‘meter’ matching with the teenage love story . Music was by Laxmikant Pyerelal but after this the duo never gave a similar music in any of their films, the reason  was that there was no Raj Kapoor. A new male voice in Shailendra Singh was discover ed. ‹Main Shayar to Nahin….. ‹ Anand Bakshi wrote 5 out of 8 Songs but such new poetry, such newness and novelty was unique , though he continued to  be hugely successful and prolific. The reason again was Raj Kapoor and his creativity, his control and mediation and mastery. Two songs – ‹ na maangu sona chandi, na maangu bangla gaadi ye mere  kis kaam ke…. ‘ and ‘ jhooth bole kawwa kate kale kawwe se dariyo main maike chali jaungi tum dekhte rahiyo’ were written by Vithal bhai Patel. Another sufi song ‘  besak mandir masjid to do Bulle shah ye kehta, par pyar bada dil kabhi na todo is mein dilbar reinda….. ‘ was sung by Chanchal and is credited to Raj Kavi Tulsi. In addition to Shailendra Singh folk singer Chanchal found success and did sing in films there after. The song sung by Chanchal and his words of ‘ separation and longing’ set in Kashmir opened a new style and situation and used thereafter in films such as ‘ Hero’ by Subhash Ghai where the folk singer Reshma sings on the beach ‘ chaar dina da mela lambi judai’. The two typical Goan/Koli songs ‘ na mangu.sona chandi.. :’ and ‘ jhoot bole Kawwa kate’ were extremely popular and added value to the film. Altogether along with the young couple the songs too were a great attraction.
In any good Indian film made for larger public the songs are not only central to the story but move the story and the story and the film is remembered through its songs. What made Bobby unique was also its casting. From main actors to the minor and character artists were cast correctly. Appropriate casting was one among the many qualities which Raj Kapoor possessed . Firstly; he had to present his son and work on his physique ; make him slim and trim from a chubby boy to a lover with whom the young girls in the audience should fall in love! And he succeeded in that. Dimple was exotic ; from another world! If one was to describe her in one word , it would be ‘sophisticated’, ‘ class’. In addition she had that Regal beauty. No one had seen such a face before . As parents of Raj , Pran and Sonia Sahni were cast perfect; Pran was a known face and a versatile actor but Sonia was cast because she was beautiful and arrogant as required in character and was indeed a surprise pick. It is learnt that Raj Kapoor had asked Sadhna; the famous heroine for the role of Rishi’s mother but she declined; such was the insight and interest of Raj Kapoor in his films. For the parents of Bobby he cast Duga Khote as her Grandmother she had acted opposite Prithvi Raj Kapoor and was honoured with Dada Saheb Phalke award ; she played the caring and careful Christian Nanny to the T . For the role of Jack her father he cast his brother in Law ,Premnath – strong, robust , hardy , boisterous, who was in retirement after his successful stint as hero in sixties, as a swashbuckling star. His role as the main villain in Vijay Anand’s ‘Johny Mera Naam’ was so successful that he had an excellent return as a villain. The villain in Prem Chopra his single dialogue made history. Aruna Irani in a flirtatious role , played her best role. Farida Jalal as a dim witted , doll like girl with wide eyes and dialogues suiting her mental state was again tapped correctly. All the above factors made the movie unique .

Premnath as Jack Briganza

The film opened a new genre of subject and film making ‘ Teenage love story’, a subject not Taboo but never explored or experimented. Firstly ; the success of the theme and ‘teenage casting’ brought a large number of films on screen . In many Rishi was himself the hero – ‘Khel Khel Main’, ‘Rafuchakkar’, ‘Zinda Dil’, ‘ Jhoota kahinka’ and many more. But; Rishi remained a ‘young hero’ perhaps for a very long time. He was also cast with numerous new heroines in romantic roles- Nitu Singh ( he did maximum films with her and later married her too) was his most successful pair; Kajal Kiran ( Hum kisi se kum nahin), Shoma Anand ( Barood), Jaya Pradha in her first Hindi film ( Sargam ), Naseem ( Kabhi Kabhi ), Ashwani Bhave ( Henna) , Ranjeeta ( Laila Majnu ) and many more. Bobby gave rise not only to new love stories , but also to new romantic pairs one such successful and popular pair was that of ‘Sachin and Sarika’s. ‘Geet gaata chal’, was their most popular and successful film. Sachin also gave hit films with Ranjeeta ( Ankhiyon ke zaronkhon se ) and ‘Balika Badhu’ with Rajni Sharma.
The film families were coming of age and their next generation was being prepared for the silver screen ; Raj Kapoor showed the way. Most of the actors/stars and actresses too launched their children based on the template prepared by Raj Kapoor/Bobby. Rajendra Kumar launched his son Kumar Gaurav with Vijayte Pandit in ‘Love Story’ the film had good music by R D Burman and was successful . In the same year ( 1981) Sunil Dutt launched his son Sanjay Dutt opposite his girl friend Tina Munim in ‘Rocky’ which too was successful. Dharmendra launched his son Sunny opposite new comer Amrita Singh in ‘Betaab’ written by Javed Akhtar and was a big success, his second son was also launched with another star daughter Twinkle Khanna in ‘Barsaat’. Amir khan and Juhi Chawla were presented by Nasir Hussain in ‘Kayamat se Kayamat tak’ a hugely successful tragic love story, much later but here again ‘Bobby’ was the stimulus . Salman Khan and Bhagwashri another new couple were put on screen by Sooraj Barjatia in a block buster love story in 1989, ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’. After Bobby, there was no sin in loving; there was no guilt; there was no wrong; there was no secret to love and seek love, to dream of love ;to search and woo our partner . even if our parents had led an unromantic/sedate life of conformism ; having been married in concurrence to the will of their parents . But this banner of love , this flag of romance every young wanted to hold and spree with it .
Such was the strong undercurrent of this movie.

Dimple as ‘Bobby’
After more than 50 years of having seen the movie twice on its release , it is now that I ponder as to why the name of the film was ‘Bobby’ when it was a story of Raj and Bobby. But the writer Khwaja Ahmad Abbas and the producer –director Raj Kapoor did not make any change to the title . Yes; the film belonged to ‘Bobby ‘because she was the emancipator in the movie ; it is she who readily accepts the friendship of the rich boy on equal footing when she emerges with the background music playing like an ‘overture’ and says “ Main hun Bobby; mujhse Dosti karoge”. She agrees to go on a date with Raj after seeking her father’s approval. Now this was plausible in a Christian liberal home which Raj Kapoor selected as story. Therefore it is also a love story which is not a routine love story but a progressive story which imagines a new India which has broken its traditional mold and inter –religion marriage was acceptable. No where in the movie the question of her religion emerges . What emerges is class- conflict, the rich-poor question which continues to bog the Nation more still.
Thank You Raj Kapoor! For liberating us.
In dinon dil mera , mujhse keh raha
Tu khwaab saza, tu jile zaraa
Hai tujhe bhi ijazat kar le tubhi mohabbat
Hai tujhe bhi ijazat kar le tubhi mohabbat
Sayeed Kadri- Life in Metro (2007)