What is it about Hindi movies and mind-blowing first appearances of matinee idols that mesmerizes us?
Elaborately choreographed opening sequences create a flutter in the stalls, driving the 'first day first show' audiences absolutely wild.
As kids, one heard stories of how hundreds of currency notes and coins were swept off the floor of cinema-houses after full-house openings. A career as a theatre usher seemed, both, mentally and financially rewarding.
Fortunately for me, my mother -- who was a raving film fanatic herself -- initiated me to the magical world of celluloid. She was beside herself with joy, sharing my thrills with child-like enthusiasm.
Quite naturally, my mother recommended my first goose-pimple-inducing intro-scene. On a Sunday -- in the days of solo-channel Doordarshan -- I had finished my homework early to watch the Rajesh Khanna-Sharmila Tagore starrer Aradhana.
After all the tear jerking followed by Khanna's death and Tagore's term in jail, cut to this phenomenal scene of Farida Jalal's boyfriend coming in on an airstrip. As the familiar signature tune of Aradhana reached a crescendo, you have Rajesh Khanna Mark II sauntering in from the horizon in an air force uniform; helmet perched on shoulder.
Sharmila's sentimental turn, me going hooh-haah, my mother wiping tears of joy -- remembering the days of yore in Shillong, where she watched the movie first -- and a raving-screaming-whistling film fan was born!
This first was followed by hundreds of paisa vasool sequences. Each one of which was worth the price of admission by itself.
To name a few:
- Amitabh Bachchan zipping down Marine Drive on his motorbike in Muqaddar Ka Sikander.
- Aamir Khan turning around in his loose-black-tie-white-shirt-black-waistcoat to tell the world what his Dad used to say in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak.
- The Big B racing across Afghanistan deserts in a deadly game of bouz-kashi in Khuda Gawah.
- Ajay Devgan entering the college perched on two motorbikes in Phool Aur Kaante.
- Hrithik Roshan coming on a snazzy bike and stopping next to Amisha at a traffic light in Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai.
Shah Rukh Khan bursting onto a studio from a ceiling made of television screens in Main Hoon Na.
Almost 20 years after the Aradhana experience, I was in a theatre for the first day first show -- February 1, 1991 to be precise -- of the late Mukul Anand's Hum. During the film, Tiger (Amitabh Bachchan) dives into the screen, latching on to a chain to save his friend Gonsalves (Romesh Sharma). My own leap landed me straight over the seats in front and underneath some screaming fans. The cut on my forehead did not leave a scar, though I still lovingly attribute the injury on my left brow to Amitabh Bachchan's appearance in Hum.
A large part of the cinematic experience for me is the satisfying first appearance of the hero, and in some cases, the heroine. Very few people have seen a film called Toofan. And even fewer remember it. But the symphonic quality with which AB's appearance is built up in that movie is stuff that legends are made of. I strongly recommend this movie for Bachchan's introduction scene alone.
A cursory examination of the most memorable opening sequences has revealed that fathers have pulled out all stops to make their sons appear in front of the audience through the most snazzy efforts. Be it Aamir Khan's college function, Ajay Devgan's double-bike stunt or Hrithik Roshan's dream debut, fathers have really laid it out for their sons.
Remember how Kumar Gaurav swooped down in a yellow aircraft, much to the hysterical delight of the female audience? What a pity it all went downhill for him after that initial flourish.
In order to lend greater weight to my groundbreaking research on the 'Impact of first appearances on the fate of a film, in particular, and on the zeitgeist of the nation, in general', I am trying to formulate an equation to measure the unforgettable-ness of an intro-scene.
The first cut seems to suggest the impact (I) can be calculated as:
I = A*(B + C/D) + E
*A = a multiplier of 1 (if the star's past has not been shown) or 2 (if the past has been shown as traumatic)
B = people involved in the build-up sequence
C = time (in minutes) in which the hero is seen in silhouette, mask, parts of body, items of clothing, etc
D = Industry ranking of the star at the time of the movie's release
E = number of weeks that the previous movie of the star has run for or the number of cover stories s/he has got (in case of debutants)
Some would say that in the present times of over-exposure of stars, the charm of the first appearance stands greatly reduced: what with the star visible almost everywhere -- on mobile phone, refrigerator, etc. commercials, NDTV's Night Out, and elsewhere.
Hence, empirical data is being collected to study the effect of one more variable (F) in the equation -- where F = number of distinct television appearances, including commercials, made by a star in the month preceding the film's release.
P:S: For all those offended by the complete absence of female stars in the above study, let me quickly recommend Malaika Arora, who filled up the screen with her curvaceous mid-riff as she exhorted the entire nation to go Chaiyya chaiyya (Dil Se..) with her and pioneered the fabled vehicle of the Female First Appearance -- the item number.