Readers Write In #615: An Amrish Size Void

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Readers Write In #615: An Amrish Size Void

By Vishnu Mahesh Sharma

I was 11 years old when I witnessed the cinematic juggernaut that was Gadar. While, since its release, the film has been enjoying an unswerving following among common cine-goers, I, strongly, believe that it never really got its share in the circles of film intellectuals. In those cine discussions, the critics always,and unfairly so, uproot the hand pump of jingoism to beat the rest of writing and musical brilliance that Gadar represents.

Nonetheless, as an admirer of the 2001 release, I am both excited and nervous in anticipation of Gadar-2. The excitement is there as the sequel gives me a chance to experience Tara-ism on a large screen (which I missed in my childhood) and the nervousness is there, as I really want this sequel to elevate the cherished memories of the first part to a new height.

But, and this is a huge but, the place of my heart, in whose corner the aforementioned excitement and nervousness reside, has largely been occupied by a void. How large is this void? Well, it is an AMRISH-size void. An Amrish-size is large enough to eclipse any modern day Hindi Film Villainy. Any heroism, even if in far vicinity of Amrishness, used to be pulled and swallowed by the formidable Amritational force, which was as much mysterious, menacing and murderous as that of Bermuda Triangle is.

But, and this is a huger but, this week when I will be entering into a theatre for a Gadar-2 show, the menace will pave the way for tenderness. There will be a lump in the throat of this once murderous pull which has now become a nostalgic void; memories of previous Gadar will impeach the once formidable forte of devilry. The void will search, in futility, for its Amrish Screen Persona. Moreover, with every attempt at the search, the void will become bigger and bigger.

Amrish Puri in Gadar was not an archetype villain in an archetype love story. He was a personification of vulnerability in villainy. This paradoxical and oxymoron phrase needed an actor of his caliber to get itself manifested on the screen. Amrish Puri dosed a generic negative character with tinges of humanity here and there.

Take the early portions of the story, for instance. Ashraf Ali boasts about his privileges, social status and political connections but at the same time, he is worried like any other common person of that unfortunate time. In this scene, the transformation from an opportunistic businessperson to a concerned family man is a treat to watch. The eyes filled with rage, in microseconds, fear for the inevitability. In later portions, we see a highly motivated, single mindedly focused and shrewd politician who would arrange his daughter’s betrothal for political gains. He is mercilessly inattentive towards the plight of a son and a mother. We hate him. However, we also get glimpses of the father in him towards the end when he scorns a couple who asks for Sakina’s gold jewelry in return of their favor. In this stretch, the merciless man himself goes through an agony, which he forced his daughter to go through.

Any lesser actor would have struggled with this enactment of sudden change of heart. In the film, this is a bit abrupt (one of the few instances where writing is weak). This seamless and convincing wedlock of vulnerability and villainy (not quite author backed) could have easily gone astray and become an unintentional laughing stock, if not for Amrish. His understanding of the broad masala text, grammar and pitch of the character was so flawless that he single handedly saved the day in these melodramatic sequences with his unmatchable gravitas. Only he could have used that baritone voice to produce both terror and empathy. The film needed that; his character needed that; we, the audience needed that.

Thus, on August 11, 2023, Tara will be there; Sakku will be there and so will be there Jita and India-Pakistan love-hate relationship, but Ashraf Ali will not be there. So will not be there those eyes, which were capable of accommodating both burning rage and heart melting tears in a blink of an eye. I, like many others, will enter into a theatre with an Amrish-size void but, and this is the hugest but, I, like many more others, will come of out of it with the AMRISH-size void.

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