And one can only hope they will be one day. Well at least we have one. Who I wouldn’t mind being in ‘any room with’. Like his character (Avinash) in ‘Bombay Talkies’ said about Randeep Hooda’s character ( who also I wouldn’t mind being in any room with, whether he is Sahib or Gangster ).
I first saw ‘Mujhse Fraaindship Karoge’, which is probably Saqib’s first movie in chronological order, quite a while after its release (the title didn’t sound very promising, plus all new cast, is usually too much of hedging. I stand corrected). The movie was not bad, definitely a topological topic ( of social interactions in the wake of social networking sites, like my favorite Facebook). The new guy (Saqib) never once tried to take his shirt off, or rip it off or take it off and rip it. Yet, he had smooth moves (in dancing and otherwise) and obviously wasn’t hiding fat under the clothes (which for the longest time has been the only reason Bollywood stars and starlets would avoid being shirtless).
His delivery is smooth and contained, comic timing, flawless. I have not seen that in a long time, since I would have to say ‘Hera Pheri’ and Paresh Rawal ( Saqib is not quite there yet, but he is a kid and Paresh Rawal is a veteran). There is no doubt the kid is a natural. When he laughs it doesn’t seem like he is choking on a pebble that is trying to come out of his nose. Its a good hearty or sarcastic or knowing laugh- whatever the scene demands. Also, MFK didn’t try too hard to kick and prod you into laughing. So over all.. I found a new interesting actor, but the movie dissolved in my mind.
Then more recently I saw Mere dad ki Maruti.. I couldn’t actually remember where I had seen the guy in the first scene. But seeing the absence of shirtlessness, even amidst pelvic thrusts and one, slightly-over-the -top dance number, I recalled another actor in another movie like that, and indeed, it was the very same guy. Now, I will never forget him. MDKM, overall was not bad. The female leads really need to either develop some character that doesn’t have such blank eyes and call themselves ‘Chandigarh ki Shakira’, like that is something that deserves an award, or just simply shut up. To be fair to the character, it ( I mean she) did try to redeem herself later, but by then it was too late. Ram Kapoor is good as always, and looking at Saqib you won’t know he wasn’t born in a punjabi household. Nothing great or a must watch, but what I would call a ‘can’ watch, over, say, Friends-with-benefits, Friends-having-babies-together (as the benefit), Friends-with-extra-benefits, Benefits-and-Friends and Friends-who-basically-sleep-with-everyone OR High-school-girls who just can’t seem to get enough and yet show the heart to fall for a nerdy- invisible-geek.
Bombay Talkies, on the other hand is actually a well made film with four different YET appropriate stories about how movies and Bollywood has affected different parts, personalities and people of India. Saqib or Avinash’s story is the first one where he is gay and is strongly attracted to his boss’s husband ( Ranbeer Hooda, a newsreader). I would be remiss to forget to mention Rani Mukherjee (married to Randeep Hooda , Saqib’s boss, works in a tabloid magazine) who is as good an actor as Bollywood has ever produced and then destroyed mercilessly. However, she has more mettle than her contemporaries and can take a challenging and small role and make you want to kill all the Karan Johar’s and Aditya Chopras who just make movies that have no soul. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Karan Johar, in fact, had directed this short story and I have to say, it was good. Karan Johar also did perhaps the first mainstream movie, again with Rani, about extra marital affairs being less than evil ( Kabhi alvida na kehna), he tries to be different, I think, maybe he tries too hard and wants commercial success as well, I don’t know, he never seemed even average to me, as a director. But this story was very well handled, I thought. Hooda is in denial about being gay, but Saleem senses his attraction to him and in fact, immediately sets about getting it straight with Rani and Hooda. Their attraction is fortified by their love of old Hindi film music, something that encompasses them in their own sphere, as a little girl sings their favorite old song ( Lag ja gale..se, se). I think the singing by the very talented child singer was a sweet and unusual angle, but the background score should have been a little older person, the song is way too mature and poignant for a child, other than being my favorite too..
Since this post is not about the movie, I will not detail the other three stories, which were also very well made, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, thankfully no longer requires an introduction or any praises. He will and has done for Indian theatre actors what had been owed to them for ages and not paid. He will no doubt extract that in full and more.. Despite the imminent and perennial danger of being type-casted, his Temur lang ( in an otherwise lack -lustre movie, Talaash) is a character I will never forget. Speaking of Talaash, I think Rani Mukherjee did real justice to her character of a distraught mom, looking for any form of hope.
Coming back to Saqib, the boy can cry. He doesn’t look like he is trying hard to strangle a cat, while whistling , when he does that ( in case people don’t get who I am talking about in all these references to shirtless, style and character less actors who cannot do comedy or cry and definitely cannot dance, it is usually Salman Khan, though the contrived shirtlessness is now an epidemic). When Saqib (Avinash) gets angry and you feel the tension between his egotistic, willfully ignorant and bully of a dad and him, on the issue of him being gay and his imploding frustration. He is outrageous with his boss, yet you feel his nervousness and anxiety about her reaction and possibility of acceptance, towards him and his sexual orientation. From the chemistry in the music room between Hooda and Saleem to Rani’s deliverance from feelings of subconscious inferiority, the scenes were quite moving. A definite step in the forward direction for Indian Cinema. I hate using oft used phrases- but when Hooda kisses Saleem ( yes, they even show that), sparks do fly and it doesn’t seem apologetic or superfluous at all.
Saqib Saleem, please don’t change. You are a sight for sore eyes, an oasis in the desert and while I am undoubtedly going overboard- maybe that is needed to finally make Bollywood what it could be. One Nawazuddin or Paresh Rawal can’t seem to get the job done. Join ranks with the gangsta’s like Randeep Hooda. While I am at it, Saqib ji, kya aap ‘Mujhe Fraaindship Karoge?’
Oye … Saleem Saqib Sirf Mera Hay !!!
Yes, Saqib Saleem is quite promising. I remember chancing upon “Mujhe Fraaindship Karoge?” with almost negative expectations and honestly being quite surprised with the movie in general as also by his ease in front of the camera. We definitely need more people like him, today’s generation as they are called, to bring some change to this money-making first-week multiple crore grossing industry. The problem with the Nawazzudins and the Irrfans and the Hoodas is that they are such stalwarts that, once established, do not leave any room for any one. Saqib is not quite like that : he is no Faizal Khan or Maqbool or Babloo. He is the almost shy Avinash, who can fight against his father to uphold his homosexuality but feels apprehensive of his boss’ reaction; he is the guy next door, Vishal, who writes song lyrics for his happening singer friend Rahul; he is someone who wouldn’t stop you dead in your tracks, yet once you passed by, you’d come back, trying to remember what it is that made you so fond of this memory. I think him and Prateek Babbar and Rajkummar Rao and Imaad Shah and some other fresh faces will not let Hindi movies rot away too soon. They will need their own sweet time, but till then we have some other people who still make (some) Hindi movies a delight for sore eyes.
This post brought back a ton of memories that shouldn’t have been cast aside in the first place. Thank you for that.