An actor can make his or her presence felt even with a few lines. Actors may complain to film directors about having too little to say. Directors argue back that it is not what you say that matters as much as how you say it. Bollywood fans recognize snatches of dialogue that have, despite their brevity, been able to express a powerful emotion. Yesteryear villain Ajit will always be remembered for the way he uttered ‘Mona Darling’ in keeping with the soft-spoken, deadly menace his character exuded. Desi audiences watch him smoking his cigar, wearing horn-rimmed glasses, and dressing in his trademark white suit loved the way he projected a villain who loved to have a ‘good time’ long before bad-boy billionaire Vijay Mallya.
‘Sholay,’ was way ahead of its time in cinematic technique but it also introduced an exceptional villain in Gabbar Singh. As a matter of fact, Amjad Khan was himself never able to recreate the magic of that first performance. Fans still remember ‘Arey O Samba,’ ‘Tera Kya Hoga, Kalia?’ and ‘Le, Ab Goli Kha.’As a piece of dialogue to work with what could sound less impressive than ‘Kal aana’ meaning ‘Come tomorrow’? But decades after ‘Ardh Satya’ was first screened, cine-goers still remember how Sadashiv Amrapurkar uttered those two words: such dismissal, threat, and malice in two, seemingly innocuous words. Audiences were mesmerised.
Actor Prem Chopra recalled having once expressed his disappointment Raj Kapoor for having too little to say in Bobby in a scene. And yet he smiled remembering how audiences loved: ‘Prem naam hai mera. Prem Chopra.’ He injected such sleaze and sliminess in the second last word.
Before casting Amrish Puri in ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,’ Steven Spielberg watched his performances including Mr India in which Amrish Puri played Mogambo. Few remember what else Mogambo might have said in the film, but everyone still remembers ‘Mogambo Khush Hua.’
Writer duo Salim-Javed wrote many scripts for blockbuster films with Amitabh Bachchan. Big B too immortalised some lines by the way he delivered them. In a recent episode on ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ it was revealed that Film and Television Institute (FTII) students decided to carry out an experiment to try and better Bachchan’s anguish filled remarks to the almighty in ‘Deewar.’ The snippet of dialogue was ‘Aaj Khush to Bahut Hoge.’ After repeated attempts, students gave up!
What’s true for Bollywood is equally true for cinema elsewhere. Arnold Schwarzenegger may not be a great actor, but no one else could have done The Terminator better. ‘I’ll be back’ is perhaps as memorable, if not as eloquent as Marlon Brando somewhat lengthier ‘I’ll make him an offer he cannot refuse.’ In literature, Shakespeare wrote many plays but if we were to think of a short snippet that might require an actor to rehearse for hours, it would possibly be from Julius Caesar.
‘Et Tu, Brute.’
Rajesh Talwar is the prolific author of 36 books across multiple genres, and has worked for the United Nations for more than two decades across three continents.