“Ebhabeo phire asha jaaye”—-Chandrabindoo
[ Even like this, one can come back ]
Millions shed tears as Rajesh “the Kaka” Khanna vanished away from the public eye in the 90s, even though once a while like in “Aa Ab Laut Chalen” (Come on let’s go back) he would make a special appearance, giving us a darshan in a wig, a wig that would be, keeping in mind his age, as black as a tear from the eyes of a black hole. Of course these sporadic sightings would only make us pine even more for those glorious days when Rajesh Khanna would just slant his head and nod keeping his eyes shut and luscious lips half-open—a mannerism that would seduce no make that compel women (even some men) to drop their towels with a “Bhool kahein na humse ho jaaye” desire burning in their body.
But despite the requests of his fans, Mr. Khanna stayed away from greasepaint choosing to serve the country as an MP, wiping the tear from every eye with a “Pushpa I hate tears”, while the world of film had to stay content watching old tapes of Kaka fighting a fishing net singing “Isi liye Mummy ne teri mujhe chaaye pe bulaiya hain”.
Now at long last the wait is over. With the phenomenal “Wafaa” directed by Rakesh Sawant, one of the greatest talents of his generation (whose prior work consisted in getting his sister, Rakhee Sawant to cover herself in nothing but coins in the critically-appreciated “Hot Money”) burning up the box-office, Kaka has staged an exhilarating comeback, in the process putting the “come” back into the word “comeback”, as he essays the role of a lifetime—mega-billionaire, blonde-headed Amrit, the owner of a huge business “umpire” (as he refers to it).
Married to a buxom vixen Veena (Pakistani actress Laila), Amrit however has a big problem. A “sharirik sambandh main dooriyan” problem to be precise. Everytime he tries to “Jai Jai Shiv Shankar” his wife than, because of his age, he runs out of steam, has an asthma attack and collapses in an inglorious heap, leaving his young wife dissatisfied, so much so that she starts cavorting around the palatial bungalow in skimpy bikinis, throwing tantrums and pointing her rifle at her husband. A man whom Amrit refers to as Doctorrrrrrrrrrrr diagnoses this as clinical loneliness and Amrit offers to console his wife by introducing her to his pet dog while saying “Yeh hain mera wafadar doggie, pyar karo khelo isse”.
When a virile driver, with a penchant for silver baniyans and sky-blue trousers, installs himself in Amrit’s palace, Veena’s attention is drawn to this horndog. And finally one day while Amrit tosses about his bed clutching his puff after yet another aborted take-off, Veena finally finds gratification as the driver does a “Excelletor jor dabayo mama miya pom pom” on her.
But then murder and lust and “dushman na kare dost ne jo kaam kiya hain” treachery rears its ugly head as the movie takes a turn for the dark with tinges of “Bitter Moon” and generous dollops of “To Chase a Crooked Shadow”. Things soon reach a blistering climax. India’s Hale Berry— Sudesh Berry joins the verry berry mysterious mix. The “Chal chal chal mere saathi o mere haathi” heroine breaks into maniacal laughter in fits and starts. And all the time Rajesh Khanna orchestrates the mayhem with a tour d’force “mujhe zindagi ne mara” performance.
Of course a discussion of “Wafaa” cannot be complete without a comment on the needless controversy surrounding it. Before the movie was released, a few deleted scenes of an adult nature strangely made its appearance in the public domain. Now had “Wafaa” not been such a mainstream production one would have suspected the leak to be a cheap marketing gimmick but in this case the leak can be attributed to the immense public interest in the movie as it was in production. Now these scenes consisted of a few tastefully shot love scenes between husband Amrit (Khanna) and wife Veena, which it must be pointed out were essential to the story development just like Sharon Stone’s leg-uncrossing scene was for Basic Instinct and had not obviously been introduced for pure titillation. However instead of appreciating the aesthetically pleasing footage, critics launched an obscene attack on Wafaa and the great actor in particular using many negative adjectives of the likes of “retch-worthy” in this context.
Despicable as this attack is, we brush this away with a “Kuch to log kahenge logon ka kaam hain kahena”. However what we cannot forget are the marvelous insights provided by “Wafaa” into social mores prevalent in the world:
Amrit’s Sister to bhabi Veena: Aaar tum yeh kahe rahe ho ki mere bhaiyya ki age tumse baadi hain to yeh humare jaise Americans ke liye kuch naheen.
Bhabi Veena to Amrit’s sister: Americans ki biwiaan to doosron ke saathe so bhi jaayein to unhe koi faraq naheen padta..
And even if we can forget that, there is no way to forget Kaka, who brings back the glory days once again with a subtle, nuanced performance that would make even the dead-for-decades Babumosai come back from the netherworld.
Yeh kya hua, kaise hua, kab hua, kyon hua…..yeh na poocho. Cause what we have seen in Wafaa is pure magic.