This is a picture I keep going back to.... the magnificent Fort in Lisbon. It was a terrific evening.... and I couldn't stop clicking.
Am in Delhi for two days.... may or may not be in this space.... you have been warned!
My column in Bombay times today...
Hai! Hai! Now funerals as ‘events’…
“Itna sanaata kyun hai, bhai?” could well be A.K.Hangal’s epitaph. Such is the irony and tragedy of life. When the senior actor passed away at age 98, after dedicating over 50 years of his life to movies and theatre, merely a handful from the film industry showed up to pay their last respects. Hangal’s one liner from ‘Sholay’ ( “Itna sanaata…”) must have reverberated in the Vile Parle crematorium where his last rites were performed by his grieving son, surrounded by Raza Murad, Ila Aroon and a few others. Such a poor showing for a Padma Bhushan awardee, who had acted in more than 200 films! Expecting major stars to turn up at the funeral, the Mumbai police had arranged for a bandobast… but obviously, the big guys had other priorities. However, it has to be said that when funds were required to pay Hangal’s mounting medical bills, and it became known that the actor was leading a life of penury, several large hearted stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and Mithun Chakraborthy, generously came forward to help the family. All the more distressing that the turn out at the Grand Old Man’s funeral was as low…. Even if the tributes were lavish.
It’s now come to a point where we make zero distinction between ‘events’. Everything has been converted into an event. And numbers say it all, whether it is a movie premiere, fashion show, birthday, music launch, book launch, film preview,success party, shaadi …. or funeral. It’s only about the celebrity turnout. Another line from ‘Sholay’ comes back to haunt us today, “Kitney aadmi thhe?” Hungry for content, media wallas wait for hours , often in awful conditions, for the big names to show up. When that does not happen ( as in the case of poor Hangal), features’ editors holding up a page for the all important celeb images, tear their hair out in frustration. All that blank space has to be filled! A film star funeral generally guarantees several photo- ops . Look no further than Rajesh Khanna’s. There were enough images and quotes at his blow out of a funeral to cram into several supplements. Poor Hangal was not as blessed.
This is the way the cookie crumbles, not just in Bollywood-crazy India, but in Hollywood as well. From Michael Jackson to Liz Taylor and Whitney Huston, the coverage of their spectacular funerals was flashed across the globe for days and weeks , focusing as much on their achievements as on the celeb quotient at the ‘events’. P.R. firms have started to recognize high profile funerals as valid image making ( or breaking) opportunities. These days , it is not unusual to receive calls from assorted p.r. agencies crassly asking, “ So…. will you be attending so-and-so’s funeral?” The time is not far off when there will be show stoppers at crematoriums and fashion designers will create ‘looks’ for funerals, same as they create lehengas for weddings. Sounds horrible – but it’s happening!
A.K. Hangal will be remembered with love and respect by his Marxist colleagues. For a humble tailor from Karachi to make it in Mumbai’s film industry and contribute to over 225 films, is by no means a small achievement. Rahim Chaacha lived and died, as a brave and proud worker. Thank God, his funeral was not converted into an event.