The very best of Prakash Mehra
Prakash Mehra passed away on Sunday morning. The late filmmaker was 69, and had been suffering for a while, and died of multiple organ failure. May he rest in peace.
Mehra gave us some sensational films, right from the beginning of his career. As our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, here's a look at the best of his legacy, the parts of him that will never die.
Image: Prakash Mehra (top left)
Haseena Maan Jaayegi
Mehra started out with this rollicking Shashi Kapoor-Babita comedy, where the pair start off as lovers. When war breaks out, Kapoor's Kamal heads to the front where he meets Rakesh, also played by Kapoor. Rakesh wants to kill Kamal to usurp Babita's heart instead, and there is a scuffle.
It's a zany script that could be straight out of a Laurel and Hardy film, and yet there is darkness and death during all the hilarity. A truly interesting debut from a 28-year-old director.
Image: A scene from Haseena Maan Jaayegi
Mehra's second film was a compelling drama about a small village being lorded over by an authoritarian Panchayat. The local leaders are right-wing Hindu conservatives with more than a slight dictatorial bent to them, and the film is about oppression, good in the guise of evil and vice versa.
It's a strong film starring brothers Feroz and Sanjay Khan, along with the dazzling Mumtaz and Rajendra Nath in an interesting role as a Baniya of a lower-caste with higher aspirations.
Image: A scene from Mela
Amitabh Bachchan owes his career to this gripping actioner where he plays an introspective cop suspended from his job after the vile Ajit -- who murdered Bachchan's family -- gets him framed under false charges.
Based loosely on the story of a real gangster, this film sees Bachchan at his Angry Young Man finest, scorching intensity behind his eyes and kicks that can knock a door down.
Pran and Jaya Bachchan also star as his unlikely allies, and both shine in their roles.
Image: A scene from Zanjeer
Many years before Priyadarshan and Akshay Kumar came onto the scene, Mehra helmed this very enjoyable, gloriously over-the-top comedy starring Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna as a pair of conmen so dedicated to their craft that they actually, briefly, walk on water.
Yet the two buddies grow estranged when a murderous backstory emerges involving their fathers and even though high melodrama is reached via the circuitous plotline, the film never stops being fun.
Image: A scene from Hera Pheri
Mukaddar Ka Sikandar
Young Sikandar has a rough childhood, orphaned at an early age. Working as a domestic servant, he falls in love with the household daughter and is asked to leave. Many years later, Sikandar -- now played by Bachchan -- has made money and buys a house opposite that of his childhood sweetheart (Rakhee) but she thwarts his advances.
Sikandar falls into alcoholism and starts visiting a prostitute, played by Rekha. While massively melodramatic, the film traverses a fascinating character graph for the leading man.
Image: A scene from Mukaddar Ka Sikandar
Bachchan returns yet again to play an underprivileged hero in Mehra's Laawaris. This time he's born to a wealthy businessman (Amjad Khan) but out of wedlock, to his liason with a singer (Rakhee). This bastard status sees him abandoned and raised by a drunkard, played by Shreeram Lagoo.
It is a heavily dramatic plot, rather theatrical in its complexity, and all is made light by the comic lunacy of Mere Angne Mein.
Image: A scene from Laawaris
There is much campy madness in this story about a naive boy raised by his grandfather. The boy, Bachchan, heads to the big city and starts working in a hotel where he makes friends with the owner Shashi Kapoor and ends up saving his life time and again.
The plot isn't as dramatic as Mehra's others, but this film showcases an acting masterclass from Bachchan, who is at his hilarious best.
Image: A scene from Namak Halaal
Bachchan plays a rich man this time, but one spoilt right from childhood as a negligent father let him get hooked to alcohol very, very prematurely.
Bachchan grows up resenting the father but very addicted to the bottle, and one day the father turns him out -- and we realise Bachchan has no means to make a living, having spent his formative years with booze.
An interesting cautionary tale, dressed up with enough drama and great music to keep audiences hooked.
Image: A scene from Sharaabi