As a kid, a friend of my dad had gifted me an audio cassette of Tridev. Those days the audio cassettes would come in a special edition which had an entire film in the audio format as it would be in its theatrical version. And the cover used to bear the name “Full Songs With Dialogues.”
I was only 5 years old when I first heard the songs and dialogues of Tridev but from a very early time this movie has had a special place in my heart. And later on thanks to Tridev, also came to know of the whiz kid director, Mr Rajiv Rai.
The Dvd of Tridev which I proudly possess gives an interesting translation for its great opening monologue by Naseerudin Shah. And it goes like this:
“Paap se dharti fati…fati…
(The Earth is torn by lawlessness…sorry no subs for the echo effect )
Adharm se aasmaan…..aasmaan……
(Heavens are cleaved by wrong ….. )
Atyaachaar se kaapi insaaniyat……
(Humanity is trembling with atrocities…shudder )
Raaj kar rahey Haivaan……
(The reign of Satan prevails )
Jinki hogi taakat Apoorv
(Those who have infinite strength….. And not Apoorva Agnihotri)
Jinka hoga nishaana abhed
(Those who target unflinchingly)
Jo karenege unkaa sarvanaash
(Those who will destroy them(The paapis that is) )
(They will be called…..)
(Trinity….Trinity….Trinity….Hell yeah… Trinity it is )”
80’s was a time when the torture club was at it’s peak. Almost every other film had the same elements (desh ke dushman, idealistic cops, damsels in distress, clash of good vs evil etc.)
Tridev also had a very similar skeletal. Tridev or the trinity of Sunny Deol, Jackie Shroff and Naseeruddin Shahh represented the modern day Avatar of Brahma , Vishnu and Mahesh who intended to wipe out crime in their own unique way after being disillusioned with the system.
But its execution made all the difference, all thanks to Rajiv Rai. He exactly knew how to mix and match all these elements in the right amount so as not to give viewers a feeling of nausea(Something which most of the movies during 80’s excelled in.)
He always directed his films with a lot of style and panache. At heart he was a true blue masala film maker, but his execution and direction made his films a cut above the rest. The story, screenplay , editing was often tight andd it didn’t let a sense of boredom or restlessness creep in the viewer’s mind.
And due to almost same reason Rai’s movies are still mostly watchable. Despite having some cliched elements in his films, it stood apart from the usual rut of Bollywood.
Rajiv Rai also had a knack for creating some great baddies and giving them unique names. Every film of his had an assortment of a such villains. Be it Don(Dilip Tahil) and Dunhill, Goga and Ganga(Tej Sapru and Dan Dhanoa), the mute Raghav(Rajesh Vivek), The evil mantri (Raza Murad) or the legendary Bhairav Singh/ Bhujang (Amrish Puri) .
Each and every character was unique and mostly a memorable creation. The transformation of Bhairav Singh to Bhujang is done in an amazingly quick way. Remember a wicked signature tune for Bhujang ??
His other hukum ka ikka or trump card was dialogue writer Late KK Singh who came up with the Paap se dharti phati monologue and other gems. A good thing about Rai’s movies was that it was very fast paced and there would hardly be a dull moment in any of his films.
Tridev went on to become a box office smash and put Rajiv Rai right on top of the league. How can one forget Viju Shah ?? Viju Shah gave some of his best scores for Rai’s films. Officially Kalyanji-Anandji were credited as composers for Tridev but it was Viju Shah who went on to garner great attention as he was the music arranger for Tridev.
Who can forget the songs of the film such as ‘Oye Oye’ , ‘Gali gali mein phirta hai’ , ‘Raat Bhar jaam se jaam takrayega’ & so on.
Due to Oye Oye, Viju Shah became popular and formed a special jodi with Rai from Tridev onwards.
Tridev also marked a beginning of the long association between Rajiv Rai & Naseeruddin Shah who had an important presence in almost every Rajiv Rai film thereafter.
All said and done Tridev was and still is a truly a kickass entertaining masala film.
I happened to see Yudh much later after I saw Tridev and came to know even later on that this was actually the debut film of Rajiv Rai.
Again the film had a very typical storyline where two brothers are separated at birth only to meet years later under different circumstances. But, Rai adds a unique twist to the proceedings thereby elevating it above the other lost and found flicks. Rai’s stylish direction can be sampled in the opening scene of the movie which involves a looting of cash van of a bank. This scene is executed quite stylishly for a film in that era.
Rajiv Rai never lost sense of the story and screenplay even while making a mass friendly entertainer. This separated him from other regulars like Shibu Mitra’s, B. Subhash’s, T. Rama Rao’s of 80′s.
Yudhh had a great cast of Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor, Pran,Nutan and Danny etc. Danny plays the villain Gama Mateen with a lip smacking relish. Notice that Gama Mateen is always accompanied by four suited booted accomplices. So cliched, yet so much fun. Also this was the film which had Anil Kapoor’s iconic line Jhakkas!!!! Truly paisa vasool stuff i say
Rai followed the super success of Tridev with Vishwatma. The male starcast was the same with an addition of Chunkey Pandey instead of Jackie Shroff.
In terms of story line it was similar to Tridev. With only difference being the desh ke dushman(Again Amrish puri and gang) creating havoc in India from foreign shores. In other terms, it was like an unofficial sequel to Tridev.
But the superb songs and dozen odd interesting characters still made it enjoyable. Be it Ajgar Juraat ( Amrish Puri), Mahesh Anand (Rajnath), the Nilu brothers or Blue panther gang or a crazy Tapaswi Gunjal(Gulshan Grover) speaking in chaste hindi. Kiran Kumar also gleefully hams in a cameo as Naagdansh. No one can forget the song ‘Saat samundar par’ which still continues to be a rage in all discs, clubs, weddings, parties and so on.
But this film failed at the box office; perhaps the fact that it had a slight hangover of Tridev to an extent maybe caused its failure or audiences were expecting even more from Rai, in terms of entertainment. Whatever may be the case, one can’t deny that it was a wholly entertaining movie with the all cliches intact.
Leaving behind the failure of Vishwatma, Rai returned with a bang with Mohra. This time he opted for a mostly new cast of Akshay Kumar, Raveena Tandon and Suniel Shetty and Naseeruddin Shah still stayed put. Paresh Rawal, Sadashiv Amrapurkar also pitched in great supporting acts.
It seemed like a routine film centered around the clash of good and evil . But it was a taut & well layered thriller which completely shocks the viewer during it’s culmination.
The film also had some great numbers such as “Tu Cheez badi hai mast mast”, ‘Tip tip barsa paani’, ‘Na kajre ki dhaar’ amongst others.
It also had an ensemble of some of the greatest bad ass characters ever witnessed on screen. Such as Tyson “Dirty Mind” (Gulshan Grover), Jibran(Raza Murad), Irfan (Tej Sapru ) and the meanest of them all Jindal. When the twist in the tale is revealed in the end it completely makes you jump out of your seat. Total Kickass stuff I say. Mohra also proved to be one of the early hits of Akshay Kumar and Suniel Shetty’s careers.
Undoubtedly Gupt was the best film of Rajiv Rai . It gave suspense thrillers a completely new dimension. And changed the way suspense thrillers were made in Bollywood. Honestly, It just doesn’t get better than this .
This is how ideally a murder mystery should be. Filled with half a dozen suspicious and shady characters. Prem Chopra, Sharat Saxena, Dilip Tahil , Raza Murad etc. Remember Tej Sapru’s Danda Kar Doonga(whatever that meant) act ?? Each character shadier than the other. The needle of suspicion points equally towards everyone but the climax is a real shocker when the killer’s identity is revealed.
Of course equal credit must also be given to Shabbir Boxwala, who has co written the script along with Rai for Gupt, Mohra amongst others. The subplot involving all the baddies who are admitted to the same hospital after getting bashed up one by one by Bobby Deol was funny enough. Gupt turned out to be yet another massive hit by Rai. It also gave Bobby Deol’s career a much needed shot in the arm. It’s been 14 years since Gupt released and I am yet to see a murder mystery which has been better than Gupt in the last decade or so.
But enormous success also meant enormous troubles for Rajiv Rai. An attack on his life by the underworld forced him to flee India and settle at London for quite some time.
When Rajiv Rai returned with “Pyar, Ishq aur Mohabbat” in 2001, I was zapped like many other fans. Romance was a genre which Rai wasnt adept with at all and even though the film had some good songs By Viju Shah, it never became a crowd favourite .The cast was a flop actors reunion (Suniel Shetty, Aftab, Keerthi Reddy, Monica Bedi, Isha Koppikar) and it was the debut film of Arjun Rampal (shudders). Bad acting, dialogues and a lousy script killed this film at the Box office.
Rai then came up with Asambhav in 2004. A lavishly mounted thriller much like Tridev, Vishwatma ; it had a slick look, great visuals, some good music but a messed up screenplay. This film also had many bad guys but unlike a Tridev or Mohra, Rai just could not get it right with this film. Needless to say the film tanked at the B.O .
A year or two ago it was rumoured that Rai had approached Akshay Kumar for a film. But the project fell through when Kumar quoted a huge fee . It was then reported that Rai had approached Aamir Khan for the same movie. And Aamir Khan had shown quite an interest in it. Since then but there has been no update about this project.If this news is true, it will be great to watch this unique actor-director jodi.
Like many people even I want to see Rajiv Rai back in action. If not, then we can always watch the umpteen re-runs of his movies on Zee cinema and cherish those memoires and be happy, always remembering him for his true blue masala blockbuster films.
I really cringe when every other Bollywood film maker today claims his film to be a throwback to the masala films of yore. Perhaps they should take a crash course from Rai to know what it is to make a good enjoyable entertaining movie. Amen to that.
(Note: This post was earlier published in PFC and has bee re-edited here)