The first time I heard about the “Ice Bucket Challenge” was when a video of Satya Nadella, the Great Indian Whose Achievement We Have Appropriated, showed up on my Facebook News Feed. I first thought seniors from college who had missed ragging him had finally managed to catch hold of Nadella or perhaps the people who had paid for Windows ME had. Anyways I soon found out that this so-called ice bucket challenge was the new viral sensation, the Macarena of 2014, though I am still not sure if dunking yourself with ice gets you out of a contribution to ALS (the Wikipedia entry seems to suggest so and so does Charlie Sheen’s video) or that you are supposed to do both. Anyways, it is a most worthy cause, millions of dollars have been raised and everyone from Justin Bieber to Sonakshi Sinha have done it but not Modi and there, Arnab Goswami and Caravan magazine and Kafila, you have an idea for your latest outrage.
This post is though isn’t about the ice bucket challenge per se. It is about icy baths in Hindi films, the mechanics and the implications.
Which means I have to start with the original “Ice Ice Baby” song, namely “Thande thande paani mein nahana chahiye”.
It was an age when leading men did not need rock-hard abs and rippling muscles to impress audiences or, for that matter, to make a play for Hema Malini.
I am of course talking about Sanjeev Kumar, who only lost weight when Gabbar Singh cut off his hands.
But his high-fat content did not prevent him from getting shirtless and extolling the act of bathing in ice-cold water, despite what cold water reportedly does to men.
Not to him of course because as the song goes on he walks up and grabs Vidhya Sinha and makes her wet or I should clarify, in the words of the song, he makes her sari wet.
But in all this song of ice and fire, and chilly drenchings, the most seminal (and I use the word intentionally) remains “Aa Gale Lag Jaa”. No this is not the movie with the two heroines, Urmila Matondkar and Jugal Hansraj, but the one with Shashi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore. Shashi Kapoor, unlike his elder brothers, never really had a great solo career, despite the good looks and the talent, with his biggest successes inevitably coming in double-bills with this guy whose wife wants to ban jokes on MPs.
“Aa Gale Lag Jaa” was one of his modest hits and it had the most innovative ice bucket challenge-type plot device ever.
Let me go through it in some detail.
Shashi Kapoor meets and falls in love with Sharmila Tagore during a figure-skating competition. There they flirt with each other to the tune of “Wada Karo Naheen Chodoge Tum Mera Saath”, which when you read it carelessly, does seem to mean something else. Anyways after the competition is over, Sharmila Tagore asks Shashi Kapoor out on a date. But not to a coffee shop or for a movie. No. She asks him if he can come and volunteer for a medical experiment that is to be conducted. Now if Shashi Kapoor was thinking about anything other than Sharmila Thakur’s bare midriff, he would have thought “Hmmm…maybe she wants to steal my organs”. But so besotted with her is he that he says Yes. So he comes to this medical college where he is made to strip and lie down on blocks of ice. Even then he does not consider the possibility that they are planning to harvest his organs. Such is love.
Apparently this is a slightly off-normal medical school , possibly inspired by Dr. Mengele, where if they want to teach students hypothermia, they make a man lie on blocks of ice and develop the symptoms. One by one the comely doctors (all women, take that diversity) take his vitals—pulse (60), temperature (90) and then Sharmila Tagore takes his blood pressure, which is one number (68), since obviously his systolic and diastolic blood pressures are the same and equal love. The doctor asks what should be done to him. Tagore blubbers some medical gobbledygook after which the doctor tells the assembled doctors that, when no medicine is present, the only way to save a man dying for hypothermia is “jismani garam” (body heat). It does not take much for the smart doctors to cotton on to the fact that he means the honky tonk and for those too dumb to get it, the doctor mounts Shashi Kapoor, and is about to do a kinky maneuver when Shashi Kapoor, a gentleman to the core, wonders if it would be better if one of the other doctors did this part of the demonstration.
Needless to say, this is all a set-up for what is to follow.
Sharmila Tagore falls into a ice-cold pool of water while dancing with Shashi Kapoor in the mountains. Shashi Kapoor takes her to a cabin and tries his sincere best to increase her body heat . He rubs the soles of feet. He tries to start a fire. But nothing seems to work till he remembers the medical lesson. With infinite reluctance on his face, reminiscent of the expression Rohit Sharma gives when he is dismissed (which is often and soon), he turns Sharmila Tagore to the side, removes something at her back, which is censorspeak for “undress” and then uses his jismani garam. And as per The Law of Roop Tera Mastana, if you are holed up in a deserted cabin with a character played by Sharmila Tagore and happen to catch a glimpse of her bare shoulders, the probability of you getting her pregnant is one.
And so she gets knocked up and the challenges begin. All because of an unintentional ice-bucket challenge.
Fast forward fifteen years. The Big B is in a mid-life crisis, too old to be the angry young man and still too young to realize that a bright future lies in the future as a quizmaster, brand ambassador of Zoom Money Transfer with Locked in Exchange Rates Jhatajhata fatafat, and actor of age-appropriate roles. He had signed on to this movie with the rather Neil Nitin Mukesh name “Ganga Jamuma Saraswati” which just happened to be directed by the same man who had made Aa Gale Lag Ja (Manmohan Desai).
Ganga Jamuna Saraswati had many demented situations, none perhaps as demented as a the notion of a duet sung by Kishore Kumar and Pankaj Udhas with music by Anu Malik. One of these set-pieces was the ice-bucket challenge thing once again. Meenakshi Sheshadri it is now who falls into the frozen lake (unrelated factoid: gossip magazines used to refer to her as the “Ice Maiden”) and Amitabh Bachchan is forced by circumstances of course, the exact same circumstances that had plagued Shashi Kapoor all these years, to cojoin with the freezing girl. What’s truly amazing is that Amitabh does the same set of actions that Shashi did, almost in the exact same order, including turning Sheshadri to the side and unclasping one button (the very same), and then making the same anguished expression of martyrdom. The result is also exactly the same. Meenakshi Shesadri gets with child, another series of complications ensue that culminates in Amrish Puri getting his bald head chewed off by a crocodile.
How did Amitabh Bachchan know exactly what to do, given that he never heard that lecture in the doctor training college?
But of course.
Which finally brings me to the point. While the ice bucket challenge might now have come to mean ALS awareness, in my days it had another connotation, almost as altruistic.
It meant heroic copulation, where the act is motivated not by lust but by supreme self-less duty.
Or as the kids call it nowadays, married-couple sex.
And now that I have made that joke, I shall take a cold shower.