That (S)quintessential Drunkard Of Hindi Cinema – Keshto Mukherjee
Today is March 3, the death anniversary of the top comedian of the decade of the 70s, Keshto Mukherjee. As per the internet, he passed away on this day in the year 1982. I do not remember seeing the news in the newspaper that time but it might have made me sad about him, only the second time, the first instance being in the film Zanjeer when Ajit’s henchman give me a horrific death out of the fall from a local train. Otherwise, it was mostly the laugh riot whenever he appeared on the screen doing many memorable cameos most of which were of a drunkard.
It was not that he started the trend but he certainly made the genre iconic and trendy. It was certainly amazing how he entered the stumbling shoes/ footwear and the stumbling meter of a typical drunkard with so much fluency. On top of that he served the role with a dash of innocence / cynicism at times and the comically helpless expressions. Add to that, the squint he would summon in his eyes was simply outstanding and who will forget the thin curl of hair that would dangle on his face to help the squint?
All these weapons certainly made him a genuine comedian. It was not that he did any serious or other than drunkard roles but we all know Bolywood is often very eager to brand any artiste and when Keshto did the drunkard role first time in 1970 I think, there was no looking back for him and he stumbled / stuttered all the way to the success. However short his role would be, he was hard to be missed / ignored.
Sample the iconic scenes of Sholey where he played a barber acting as a spy for a Angrez fanatic jailor or the solid solution he provided to help the shayar Dharmendra reach the kaafia of ‘Gulab’ in Chupke chupke.
There are many such scenes but remembering that this article will be published on ‘songpedia’ not the ‘scenepedia’ lets enjoy some of the songs where he made his hilarious presence with the exception of the few scenes some of which led to the songs.
1. Mere saamne wali khidaki mein – (Padosan 1968)
Padosan is without the argument one of the greatest comic films of all times. With the likes of the king Mehmood , the Guru of the film music, Kishore da and the light hearted Sunil Dutt taking part, it is not easy to be remembered doing a supporting role of a comedian with some competition from Mukri , poker faced Agha ( with the iconic dialogue) and others.
Here is the scene where the Guru is rehearsing a play of laila Majnu with his ‘Bangdoo-s’ and this Bong-dude played by Keshto often falters at the pronouncing of ‘Kais’ the real name of Majnu adding to the Gas-tric trouble of his tutor.
Prelude scene :
Main song :
The hilarious gang of this film was led by Special-Chhabbis played by Sunil Dutt. When it came to the helping of this ‘besura’ friend to win his girl there is no limit to the innovation and resourcefulness of Kishore da and his Bangdoos.
The innocent Keshto does a lovely on-screen Amrutrao Katkar by playing the sharp rhythmic reso reso on the household brrom the instrument and the rhythm which went on to become the quintessential feature of the music director of this movie, R.D.Burman.
2. O Mehki Mehki – Bombay to Goa (1972)
It is nearly the same gang of Padosan again with Sunil Dutt giving way to the would-be-superstar Amitabh and Sayra Banu to Aruna Irani. Agha was retained as the father of the heroine while Kishore da played himself in the cameo in this a song, a songlet actually, with the repeats of only the Mukhada lines.
Chorus was the essential part of not only this song but nearly all songs of the film album and most scenes. Even though the macro design of this song was from the foreign help of (r)Honda , the interiors were ingeniously furnished by RD with superb two tier choral structure on the foundation of robust melodic vocals of Kishore da.
The bus in this laugh-riot-on-wheels film was a day traveler but apart from the choral tiers it was the speechless performance by Keshto, the dozing-all-the-way character that imparted the sleeper class to the comedy.
His jaw dropping burst and subsequent finger biting performance in the fag end is quite effective to be itched in the memories about this film.
3. Ek baar jaane-e-jaana (Kaala Sona)
The female beauty and the bottle of wine have always been the keys that have often opened the locks of toughest males in the history of mankind. The intoxication went on to add different flavors of opium/ marijuana, heroin that attracted the bollywood film makers in the early 70s. One such movie was ‘Kaala sona’ appearing in 1975 that featured the villain doing the trade of opium.
The hero of the mission takes the help of the beauty of heroine to keep the security on the way to the den of the villain engaged with the dash of the intoxication. This dose of intoxication supported by the bohemian heroin(e) (singing one of the most enchanting, sophisticated low profile yet acting-as-a-slow-poison den song from the cabinets of Asha and R.D.Burman) proves too much for the security persons headed by our celebrity drunkard.
The special effect fanatic director, Ravi Nagaich doesn’t fail to pitch in with the superb visual effects of multiple and inverted images of the heroine.
4. He re lalla he re lalla – Chacha Bhatija (1977)
By the mid 70s, Keshto had become so famous and wanted by the film directors that the roles were reserved for him. Chacha Bhatija released in the late 70s saw him appearing as a central character playing the groom of Tuntun in this song.
Even the lyrics were personalized with the mention of his iconic name.
5. Tu mungala – Inkar (1977)
There have been many bar songs and many item songs played by Helen but not a single song achieved the cult status of this song from Inkaar. Playing of this song sends the listening and dancing crowd crazy even today.
Usha Mangeshkar who was really content playing the second / third vocal fiddle to her celebrity sisters hit the jackpot with this song alongwith the devotional album of Jai Santohi Maa.
If I am not mistaken, Keshto played a fisherman in this movie. Here he seems to be the bait for the big fish Amjad to be caught in the police nets. There are many extra and ordinary ‘sharabi’s wooed by Helen but Keshto was simply extraordinary, always.
6. Aazad (1978) scene –
As mentioned in the opening caption there are some songs where Keshto dosen’t act but his act in the precluding scene is the principal cause for the song situation to exist.
Aazad released in 1978 was directed by Pramod Charaborty, popularly known as Chakki da. His films had some common features like the folk dance songs, Dharam_Hema pair and a drunken song by the characters who have accidentally been intoxicated. Music of most of his films was blessed by the Burman father-son. If Jugnu had a drunken solo in the form of ‘jaane kya pilaya tuney’ this film had a promising drunken duet.
This scene shows that innocent fumble by Keshto which leads to that duet , no marks however for guessing that song.
7. Golmaal (1979) comedy –
Such was the spell of his drunken comedy that even the celebrity director and family guy Hrishikesh Mujherji couldn’t escape the overhang of Chuoke Chupke and he repeated Keshto in Jurmana (opposite to another king of drunken comedy , Amitabh) and this classic comedy filmGolmaal.
Although the story was mainly based on the comedy arising out of the situation, double role and the usual eccentricities of Utpal Dutt, Keshto in this small role imparts intoxicatingly innocent touch particularly with his hats-off magic of bringing bottle from his magical hat. That disgustingly cute expression of ‘Beimaannnnn’ certainly adds a touch of class.
8. Ek taanete jamun kemun (Troyee ) 1982 –
Khub jamega rang jab mil baithenge teen yaar : Mithun, an unidentified and Keshto. Troyee is said to be runaway hit in Bengal with even his music proving the chartbuster.
Keshto even being a bong played very few roles in Bangla films although he used to share a very good relation with the iconic director Ritwik Ghatak and had very tiny but important roles in the maestro’s films such as the trickster in Bari Theke Paliye, the madman in Ajantrik or character roles in Nagarik and Jukti Takko Aar Gappo. (Source: Wikepedia).
In one of his last films he plays a drunkard this time intoxicated by ‘Ganja’ . The song is a typical Bong folk with the occasional dash of ‘dum amro dum’ and performed by the real musical years, Kishore da and Pancham.
Although the addiction of any liquor is injurious to health, it were the talents of the likes of Keshto who imparted so much glamour to it that even a teetotaler would be tempted to experiment it and enjoy the status of ‘shukhi ..shoboy shukhi’.
Indeed he was a great comedy artist who made (heee) Hay while his career shone in those glorious 70s.