Sunday, August 21, 2016

Brief encounters: The 40 most memorable Hindi film cameos

There’s something that Marshall McLuhan and Yana Gupta, Habib Tanvir and Marilyn Monroe have in common. They’ve all had memorable cameos in films. Like a riff or a haiku, a great cameo can contain multitudes even when it lasts just a few seconds. It’s also one of the most audience-involving of cinematic devices, for a successful guest spot very often requires viewers to bring their own associations with the cameoing personality into play.

We have selected 40 Hindi film cameos we believe are the most memorable. We did not allow appearances that exceeded a certain time limit (no Rajesh Khanna in Andaz, for example) and imposed a one-entry-per-film/actor clause (bent slightly for Amitabh Bachchan). It’s a tribute to the inclusivity and wonderful weirdness of our cinema that this list numbers, alongside perfectly serious turns by famous actors, cameos by magicians, voices, blackboards and goats.

We would like to thank Karan Bali, Sidharth Bhatia, Varun Grover, Pavan Jha, Madhulika Liddle, Akshay Manwani, Jai Arjun Singh and Beth Watkins for all their help and wonderful suggestions.

Nargis in ‘Jagte Raho’, 1956
“I used to always tell her… I want you to be the mother of my films,” Raj Kapoor said of Nargis late in his life. Though ‘Jagte Raho’ was produced, not directed, by Kapoor, it does have Nargis as a symbolic Yashoda singing to an infant Krishna. She appears in the closing minutes of this 1956 film to sing ‘Jaago Mohan Pyare’ (sans subtext, Krishna’s mother asking him to wake up) and offer Raj Kapoor’s beleaguered homeless man some water. After the high drama of the previous 130-odd minutes, it’s a relatively calm end. Today, it’s a rather poignant scene. Nargis and Kapoor broke off their affair soon after. This brief appearance would be her last in an RK film.

Shah Rukh Khan in ‘In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones’, 1989
It all began here. Three-and-a-half minutes into ‘In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones’, a young man in a white robe and shorts, with centre-parted hair and his arm in a sling, gets about 30 seconds of screen time and a couple of lines. The actor reappears 15 minutes later, this time in blue-and-white polka-dotted pants, and talks about “piddling”. It’s difficult to imagine that this unprepossessing person still has a job as an actor, let alone that he’s Shah Rukh Khan. These two brief scenes in Pradip Krishen’s film, written by Arundhati Roy—which never made it to theatres—were his first big screen appearances.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui in ‘New York’, 2009
You’re begging to be lied to when you ask Bollywood fans when they first noticed Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Most will say something outrageous like ‘Sarfarosh’, in which he’s there as an inmate for some 30 seconds, or ‘Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.’, in which he has one scene with Sunil Dutt and Sanjay Dutt. But if they speak of ‘New York’ and the searing scene in which he gives an account of his character’s torture by the American authorities on tape, you might want to believe them.

WM Khan in ‘Kabuliwala’, 1961
Though Balraj Sahni is the lead in ‘Kabuliwala’, director Hemen Gupta (or perhaps producer Bimal Roy) decided to have Wazir Mohammed Khan lip-sync to ‘Ae Mere Pyare Watan’—probably the greatest Hindi film song about homesickness. Khan doesn’t appear anywhere else in the film, though he has a “Pashto supervision” credit. This was the second classic track featuring the actor. The other, ‘De De Khuda Ke Naam Pe Pyaare’—which he also sang—was the first musical number in the first-ever Hindi talkie, ‘Alam Ara’ (1931).

Bhupinder Singh in ‘Aakhri Khat’, 1966
The story goes that playback singer Bhupinder Singh was originally cast as the lead in ‘Aakhri Khat’. He turned down the part, and after Sanjay Khan passed as well, Rajesh Khanna got to make his debut. But director Chetan Anand evidently thought Singh had screen presence; he had included him as one of the soldiers singing ‘Hoke Majbur Mujhe Usne Bhulaya Hoga’ in ‘Haqeeqat’. In ‘Aakhri Khat’, he cast him as the nightclub performer who sings ‘Rut Jawaan Jawaan Raat Meherbaan’. It’s a striking scene, with Singh strumming a guitar and winding his way around close-dancing couples in a shadowy room. Also cameoing is trumpeter Chic Chocolate, shot in profile and looking rather like Louis Armstrong.

V Ratra and VK Murthy in ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’, 1959
During a film shoot in Guru Dutt’s ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’, Waheeda Rehman’s character wanders on to the set and ruins the shot. Someone calls cut, and we see, perched on a descending crane, the film’s director, played by Dutt, flanked by a cameraman and his assistant. The bespectacled assistant is V.K. Murthy, Dutt’s favoured cinematographer, and the man behind the camera is V. Ratra, who shot Dutt’s first film, ‘Baazi’. Why was Ratra cast as the “senior” in the scene, when it was Murthy who shot ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’? Perhaps it’s a reference to the fact that Murthy did indeed start out as Ratra’s assistant. Or maybe Dutt thought Ratra would be able to handle two lines and an eye-roll better than his director of photography . At any rate, Murthy remains silent in the scene, though his images in the film swoon and sing.

Amitabh Bachchan in ‘Hero Hiralal’, 1988
Towards the end of Ketan Mehta’s ‘Hero Hiralal’, film star Roopa (Sanjna Kapoor) is desperately trying to hail a car so that she can save Hiralal (Naseeruddin Shah) from being killed. A crowd of autograph hunters surrounds her, only to clear seconds later to make way for Amitabh Bachchan. When Roopa tells Bachchan it’s a matter of life and death, he remarks, “So you want a happy ending too.” Then, turning to the camera and pointing at us, the viewers, he says, “And you as well?” Apart from being a nifty piece of fourth-wall breaking, Bachchan’s remarks could also be seen as bringing the assurances of commercial cinema (boy gets girl, villain is routed, everyone lives happily) to the more uncertain middle cinema of Shah and Mehta.

The goat in ‘Gangs Of Wasseypur–Part 1’, 2012
How do you make an already hilarious scene even funnier? Add a goat. As Huma Qureshi is schooling Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s young hood in hand-holding etiquette, a brown goat enters the scene behind the two actors, positions itself perfectly between them and gets up on its hind legs to sample some leaves. It seems unlikely that the goat was deliberately inserted into the scene (if indeed it was, it’s a casually brilliant performance by the animal). Whether planned or not, it’s one of the best disruptive four-legged cameos in Hindi cinema, on a par with the buffalo in Mrinal Sen’s ‘Bhuvan Shome’ (1969).

Gulzar in ‘Griha Pravesh’ and ‘Raincoat’, 1979 & 2004
Gulzar did his most sustained piece of screen-acting in ‘Jallianwala Bagh’—in fact, it’s long enough to qualify as a supporting part. In its place, we’ll include the poet’s cameos—one silent, the other just his voice—in ‘Griha Pravesh’ and ‘Raincoat’. In the former, he appears as an appreciative listener during the ‘Logon Ke Ghar Main Rehta Hoon’ sequence —a mini-masterpiece of side glances. And in Rituparno Ghosh’s film, his voice recites the poem that forms part of the haunting ‘Piya Tora Kaisa Abhimaan’.

Mukesh in ‘Aah’, 1953
For reasons too convoluted and lachrymose to relate here, Raj (Raj Kapoor) must get to Neelu’s (Nargis) wedding before he dies of tuberculosis and she marries his friend. He elects to hire a ‘tonga’, even though the film, ‘Aah’, takes place in the age of motor cars and time is of the essence. The ‘tonga’ driver is playback artiste Mukesh, who transports Raj while singing ‘Chhoti Si Yeh Zindagani’. It’s quite something to see Mukesh’s voice attached to his own face instead of Kapoor’s, and to see how relaxed and upbeat he looks even though he’s ferrying a dying man.

Deepak Dobriyal in ‘Gulaal’, 2009
As the minor henchman Rajender Bhati, Deepak Dobriyal in ‘Gulaal’ gets little over 5 minutes of screen time. He spends a minute of this executing one of the coolest pieces of acting in recent Hindi cinema. At a ‘panwadi’ with two people he’s supposed to inform on, Dobriyal fends off their questions wordlessly, employing a series of raised eyebrows, blinks, head tilts and barely perceptible nods. It’s as brilliant an exploration of Indian body language as can be squeezed into 60 seconds.

Dharmendra in ‘Khamoshi’, 1970
A cameo that’s barely there. As the patient nurse Radha (Waheeda Rehman) fell in love with, Dharmendra is an almost spectral presence in Asit Sen’s ‘Khamoshi’, haunting Radha’s present and dictating her actions. In the ‘Tum Pukar Lo’ sequence, he has his back turned to the camera. Only for 3 seconds do we see his side profile. Later, in a love scene, we hear his voice, but his face is obscured by Radha’s hair. Finally, in ‘Woh Shaam Kuch Ajeeb Thi’, we see his face, in close-up, for what might be a whole second. Madhulika Liddle has written evocatively on her blog about how vital Dharmendra’s presence—or conspicuous absence—is here. Watching ‘Khamoshi’ again, one has to agree. He’s hardly there, and yet, he’s the whole film.

Frank Worrell in ‘Around The World’, 1967
Sir Frank Worrell was one of the great West Indian cricketers of his day, an elegant batsman and the nation’s first black captain. The Indian public at the time would have known that he donated blood after Nari Contractor was hit on the head in a 1961 match and taken to hospital. So it’s not that strange that Worrell would make a minute-long appearance in the Caribbean segment of ‘Around The World’, one of those globe-trotting films that came into vogue in the 1960s. A drunk Om Prakash introduces Worrell to Mehmood and proceeds to quiz him about Milkha Singh (“India’s fastest bowler”), Shammi Kapoor (“India’s greatest wicketkeeper”) and Mohammed Rafi (“India’s opening bat who’s always not out”). True to form, the cricketer handles this nonsense with equanimity. Sadly, he died away before the film released, which is why it opens with the intertitle “Dedicated to the loving memory of Sir Frank Worrell”.

Dilip Kumar in ‘Koshish’, 1972
Out for a stroll, Hari (Sanjeev Kumar) and Aarti (Jaya Bachchan) see a phone booth and decide to ring up people at random—never mind that they’re both mute. Their first two victims yell and hang up when they hear wordless noises at the other end. Of all the numbers in all the phonebooks in all of Bombay, they reach Dilip Kumar on their third attempt. He’s patient at first, but eventually gives up, muttering, “This guy speaks even softer than I do.”

Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan in ‘Ki & Ka’, 2016
‘Ki & Ka’ isn’t the smartest of films but at least it gets its cinematic references right. Businesswoman Kia (Kareena Kapoor Khan) starts feeling insecure when her hitherto unemployed husband, Kabir (Arjun Kapoor), becomes famous as a homemaker. It’s ‘Abhimaan’ with the roles reversed, a point underlined with a thick red marker when Kabir is invited to meet Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan, who acted in the 1973 film about a singer jealous of his wife’s success. In an earlier scene, Jaya ribs her husband about whether he could have given up his career for her. Of course, he responds. “Rubbish,” she says. “You can’t boil a cup of water.”

Pran in ‘Guddi’, 1971
One well-worn legend of Indian cinema is that parents refused to name their children Pran for several decades. That his screen villainy would spill over into real life must have been a source of some irritation for the actor. It’s pleasing to see the Pran-as-scoundrel myth gently deflated in ‘Guddi’. Pran, playing himself, turns up during a film shoot, chats with Dharmendra (also playing himself) and impulsively gives him his watch. When movie-crazy Guddi (Jaya Bachchan) warns Dharmendra that there’s likely to be some ulterior motive attached to the gift, he laughs and tells her that Pran is an exceptionally helpful person in real life.

All the cameos in ‘Luck By Chance’, 2009
There may be films with more celebrity appearances than ‘Luck By Chance’, but Zoya Akhtar’s film has them all beat when it comes to cameo quality. One perfect guest spot follows another: Mac Mohan delivering his famous line from ‘Sholay’ for an acting class; a dapper Aamir Khan in period get-up shooting for a film within the film; Akshaye Khanna doing an exquisite bit of squirming. Karan Johar and Shah Rukh Khan turning up to deliver hard truths about the film business. And Anurag Kashyap is very funny as a writer visibly lacking in confidence and describing a dramatic scene in detail, only to be dismissed with “Oye, institute…”

Juhi Chawla in ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa’ and ‘Andaz Apna Apna’, 1994
In 1994, Shah Rukh Khan’s star was on the rise, but even then, the idea that Deepak Tijori would get the girl instead of him at the end just seemed wrong. Luckily, the last scene of Kundan Shah’s film restores the natural order of things with a charming deus ex machina. Juhi Chawla, playing an unnamed directions-seeker with six bags, enters and, 3 minutes later, walks off with Khan. That same year, Chawla also turned up opposite another Khan—Aamir—as a hilariously filmi version of herself in ‘Andaz Apna Apna’. Two very different cameos, both excellent distillations of Chawla’s comic talent and easy charm.

Deepti Naval in ‘NH10’, 2015
On the run from a group of homicidal men led by Satbir (Darshan Kumar), Meera (Anushka Sharma) is offered shelter by a village ‘sarpanch’, Ammaji. Since it’s Deepti Naval—who usually plays level-headed, likeable characters—in the role, we in the audience let our guard down as well, even though ‘NH10’ has given us no reason to feel hopeful from the start. It’s only after precious moments have elapsed that Meera realizes Ammaji is Satbir’s mother, as ruthless and honour-obsessed as her son. It’s a great example of casting against type, playing on audience expectations of what a Naval character would be like, and then turning them on their head.

Naseeruddin Shah in ‘Party’, 1984
Govind Nihalani’s caustic ‘Party’ is bookended by visions of Amrit (Naseeruddin Shah). In the first scene, we hear his voice as Sona (Deepa Sahi) reads a letter from him. From then on, he’s a constant presence, his actions and motives dissected by guests at an arty get-together. News eventually arrives that he’s been attacked and killed. In the film’s last scene, Amrit finally appears as a nightmarish vision for two of the guests. He walks in a daze towards the camera, his tongue cut out, looking like something out of a zombie movie. It’s as if the verbal savagery and spiritual anomie of the guests has taken physical form.

Shashi Kapoor in ‘Ijaazat’, 1987
In ‘Ijaazat’, Sudha (Rekha) and Mahender (Naseeruddin Shah) meet by chance in a railway station waiting room. The two used to be married. Towards the end, just as Mahender seems on the verge of suggesting they get back together, a man in a suit bursts in and apologizes to Sudha for keeping her waiting. It turns out that Sudha has married again. As she leaves the room in tears and walks down the platform, the husband (played by Shashi Kapoor) realizes who it is he’s just met, and turns and gives Mahender a dazzling smile. Whether it’s a smile of commiseration, awkwardness or forced joviality is impossible to say.

Everyone in the Mahabharat scene in ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’, 1983
Along with the musical duel from ‘Padosan’, this is a strong contender for the funniest Hindi film scene of all time. A stage production of the Mahabharat is crashed by the film’s heroes and villains, just as the disrobing of Draupadi is about to take place. Several actors appear only in this one scene: Adil Rana as the sleep-deprived Bhim; Jaspal Sandhu as the blind Dhritarashtra, who valiantly stays in character even as everything collapses around him; Uday Chandra as Yudhisthira, with his warnings of “Shaant, gadadhari Bhim”; and Vidhu Vinod Chopra as Dushasana, who hits his lines so hard that they’re doubly funny.

Kaifi Azmi’s in ‘Sone Ki Chidiya’, 1958
In ‘Sone Ki Chidiya’ (1958), a writer, Shrikant, recites a Kaifi Azmi poem, called ‘Makaan’. Though it’s Balraj Sahni on screen saying “Aaj ki raat bahut garm hava chalti hai…”, the sonorous voice is that of Azmi. Years later, Sahni would star in the Partition drama ‘Garm Hava’, written by Azmi.

Bertrand Russell in ‘Aman’, 1967
There are unlikely cameos, and then there’s Bertrand Russell wearing bright red shoes and sharing a scene with Rajendra Kumar in ‘Aman’ (1967). The British philosopher was strongly in favour of nuclear disarmament, so it makes thematic sense (if no other kind) that he would turn up as himself in a film about an Indian doctor who goes to help the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The two-and-a-half-minute scene in which Kumar’s character seeks the 94-year-old’s blessings at his London home, is fascinatingly awkward, with Kumar’s line delivery in English fairly dodgy and part of Russell’s answer drowned out by narration in Hindi.

Madhuri Dixit in ‘Dharavi’, 1992
Madhuri Dixit revealed in an interview how, for her role in ‘Dharavi’, she drew on an encounter she’d once had with a fan who approached her and began talking as if he were an old friend. “I was startled initially, but felt sympathy for him too,” she said. This sympathy is palpable in ‘Dharavi’, in which she’s the embodiment of the narcotic hold cinema has over the residents of Mumbai. Rajkaran (Om Puri) lives in the titular slum and drives a taxi for a living. His gritty, hardscrabble existence is contrasted with his pastel-shaded dreams, in which Dixit (as an impossibly glamorous version of herself) is in love with him.

Johnny Walker in ‘Anand’, 1971
Anand (Rajesh Khanna), the cheerful terminal case at the centre of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1971 film, has a habit of hailing strangers as his old pal Murarilal. This approach is unsuccessful until comedian Johnny Walker comes along and responds to Anand’s overtures by calling him Jaichand. The two of them set about inventing details of a long friendship, until the impatient Bhaskar (Amitabh Bachchan) points out that Anand isn’t Jaichand. With the placidity of Joe E. Brown saying “Nobody’s perfect” at the end of ‘Some Like It Hot’, Walker points out that his name isn’t Murarilal either, but Issabhai Suratwala. Later, Walker supplies the line about life and death being in the hands of the one above, which Anand borrows for his goodbye message to Bhaskar.

Anil Mange in ‘PK’, 2014
A thriving genre in the early years of Indian cinema, the mythological is virtually extinct today. The gods are usually invoked for satirical purposes now, as in Rajkumar Hirani’s ‘PK’, with Aamir Khan’s alien exposing the hollowness of organized religion. A standout sequence is his encounter with a stage performer (Anil Mange, painted blue) who is playing Shiva. ‘PK’ comes across him and, assuming that he’s seeing God on earth, starts to pursue him. What follows is a memorable bit of slapstick acting from Khan and Mange, whose large eyes convey his character’s confusion and growing panic.

Harindranath Chattopadhyay in ‘Chala Murari Hero Banne’, 1977
Harindranath Chattopadhyay, born in 1898, was a poet, a musician, a member of Parliament and a Padma Bhushan awardee. He also worked in films, playing Daduji in ‘Bawarchi’ and Barfi in ‘Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne’, and composing the famous ‘Rail Gaadi’ poem popularized by Ashok Kumar in ‘Aashirwad’. So it’s possible that audiences in 1977 would have recognized the silver-haired gent whom Asrani seeks out in ‘Chala Murari Hero Banne’. He’s only there for a minute and a half, but he gets a great exit line, which drives home just how long he’s been on the scene. Asked if he taught Sanskrit to Raj Kapoor, he replies, “I did teach it, but to Prithviraj (Raj’s father).”

Rajiv Gaur in ‘Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!’, 2008
Early on in ‘Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!,’ Rajiv Gaur’s restaurant waiter realizes that young Lucky is trying to impress his date and won’t be able to pay for the full meal he’s ordering. He recommends a plate of ‘paneer pakodas’ instead—a suggestion that’s both helpful and cutting (you don’t have to go to a restaurant to order ‘pakodas’). Gaur’s brief turn puts him in the upper echelon of memorable waiters in Hindi films, along with the bewildered hotel employee who takes Aamir Khan’s order in ‘Rangeela’ and the smiling server in ‘Chashme Buddoor’, who responds to Farooq Shaikh’s query of “Yahaan accha kya hai?” with “Mahaul accha hai.”

Bal Thackeray in ‘India 67’, 1968
Sukhdev’s documentary, commissioned to celebrate 20 years of independence, paints a complex portrait of a country still finding its feet. The film bristles with nervous energy, never more so than in the scenes featuring a Shiv Sena rally in Bombay. For a few seconds, a young, clean-shaven Bal Thackeray appears on screen, addressing a rally. The Sena was barely a year old at this point, but its aggressive outlook is already apparent in a poster that reads: “Halt encroachment on Marathi peoples’ rights or else face?”

Irrfan Khan in ‘Haider’, 2014
In Vishal Bhardwaj’s film, the father and the ghost—one and the same in ‘Hamlet’, which ‘Haider’ is an adaptation of—are split into separate characters. We encounter the father early in the film, while the ghost turns up just before the interval. As guttural bass plays on the soundtrack, an out-of-focus figure is seen against a snowy backdrop. As he gets nearer, he’s revealed to be Irrfan Khan. The actor pauses once he’s close to the camera, flips his shawl theatrically and scowls at us from behind dark glasses. It’s the big hero entry scene, reserved here for a supporting character. Even his name is jaw-droppingly theatrical: Roohdar, keeper of the spirit.

Everyone at the film premiere in ‘Kala Bazar’, 1960
As stars arrive one by one for the premiere of ‘Mother India’ at Liberty cinema in Bombay, touts offer desperate onlookers a chance to join them inside—at a special price, of course. This sequence from ‘Kala Bazar’ would have worked simply as a celeb-spotting lollapalooza, but director Vijay Anand renders it stunningly dynamic, building from the muttered offers of the ticket-sellers to the arrivals of, and frenzied crowd reactions to, Guru Dutt, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Kumkum, Sohrab Modi, Mohammad Rafi, Rajendra Kumar, Dillip Kumar, Nargis and others.

Asha Bhosle in ‘Taxi Taxie’, 1977
The most effective cameos are often those in which viewers are expected to bring their own knowledge of, and associations with, the celebrity to the viewing process. ‘Taxi Taxie’ appears to take a sly dig at the fabled sibling rivalry between Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeshkar. Jyoti (Zaheera) comes to the studio to record what she hopes will be her big break. She is distraught when she realizes Bhosle is singing lead and she’s one of the backing vocalists. She spends the first half of the song weeping, before summoning up courage and cutting in just as Bhosle is about to start the next stanza. Now it’s Jyoti singing the track, and Mangeshkar on playback. The idea of Mangeshkar interrupting her younger sister is amusing enough, but Zaheera’s fervour when she starts to sing and Bhosle’s startled expression—prolonged with a freeze frame—make this an inadvertently hilarious moment.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in ‘Bunty Aur Babli’, 2005
The item number has its own rich, crackling history; it’s not so much a subset of the cameo as a whole different thing. For the purposes of this list, we’ll include just one recent example. ‘Kajra Re’ from ‘Bunty Aur Babli’ didn’t reinvent the form, it just perfected it. Everything about the sequence—from Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s swivelling to the glorious strings on the soundtrack to Gulzar’s knack for unexpected metaphors—is catchy and glamorous and pretty much irresistible. There are more spectacular item songs (‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’) and more self-aware ones (’I Hate You (Like I Love You)’—but few are as purely fun as this.

Hrishikesh Mukherjee in ‘Biwi Aur Makan’, 1966
Though he loved including star cameos in his films, Hrishikesh Mukherjee wasn’t one for straying into the eye of the camera himself. He’s seen briefly in ‘Guddi’ with his back to us, the cinematographer addressing him as “Hrishi-da”. You can get a slightly better look at him in the ‘Rehne Ko Ghar Do’ song sequence from ‘Biwi Aur Makan’. As Mehmood and his friends wander around singing about the difficulties of finding affordable accommodation, they come across Mukherjee on the street and sing a line to him. As ‘Mint Lounge’ columnist Jai Arjun Singh points out in his book ‘The World Of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’, it’s fitting that the young men seem to address the song to the director, given that they’re asking for space in one of his “plots”.

Vijay Anand in ‘Tere Ghar Ke Samne’, 1963
For a director, Vijay Anand did a fair bit of acting, but one of his most famous appearances lasts all of 5 seconds. As Dev Anand and Nutan are dallying on the winding steps of Qutub Minar during the ‘Dil Ka Bhanwar’ sequence in ‘Tere Ghar Ke Samne’, getting just a little close, they’re interrupted by a party making its way up. It’s led by Vijay Anand, who overreacts most amusingly, gesturing unsubtly to his companions to give the lovers a wide berth (difficult on that narrow staircase), adjusting his glasses at Dev and Nutan, and covering up a giggle as he walks out of view. That an elder brother is being judged for his public romancing by his younger sibling makes this moment even funnier.

The Corkes/Hamid Sayani in ‘Taxi Driver’, 1954
In ‘Taxi Driver’, Sheila Ramani’s backing musicians in the bar number ‘Dil Se Milake Dil Pyar’ are a man on guitar, a woman on piano, a flaxen-haired boy on maracas and a dark-haired one playing the clarinet. This, as Sidharth Bhatia writes in ‘Cinema Modern: The Navketan Story’, was the Corke family, musicians and owners of the Pali Hill flat where Chetan Anand, Taxi Driver’s director, lived. Apart from the Corkes, there’s another notable guest spot: Hamid Sayani, a magician and brother of radio legend Ameen Sayani, himself a popular voice on the airwaves. He appears for a scene and does a few neat sleight-of-hand tricks as a prelude to making a move on Mala (Kalpana Kartik).

The names on the blackboard in ‘C.I.D.’, 1956
Cameos in name only. If you look behind Johnny Walker as he’s being interrogated at a police station in Raj Khosla’s ‘C.I.D.’, there’s a blackboard with a list of names in chalk next to the crimes these people have committed. You can just about make out “A. Alvi”, “P. Chakravorty” and “O.P. Nayyar”. These “criminals” were actually crew members: Pramod Chakravorty was the assistant director, O.P. Nayyar the composer and Abrar Alvi an informal script consultant.

Subodh Roy in ‘Chittagong’, 2012
Bedabrata Pain’s film tells the story of the 1930 Chittagong Uprising, in which a group of Bengali men and boys under schoolteacher Surya Sen briefly took their town back from the British. It’s told through the eyes of 14-year-old Subodh Roy (Delzad Hilwade), who joins Sen’s movement and is arrested and sent to the Andamans when it collapses. He’s released in 1939, and returns to Bengal to continue the struggle. In a moving coda, the real Roy, by then 90 and very frail, appears on screen just long enough to say, “It was the most glorious episode of my life.”

Dewan Basheswarnath Kapoor in ‘Awaara’, 1951
The judge in ‘Awaara’ is played by Dewan Basheswarnath Kapoor, father of Prithviraj Kapoor and Raj’s grandfather. It’s unusual enough to have son, father and grandfather in the same scene, but what’s even stranger is that Basheswarnath agreed to appear on screen at all. In Madhu Jain’s ‘The Kapoors: The First Family Of Indian Cinema’, there’s a story about Prithviraj telling his father he wanted to be an actor, and Kapoor Sr berating him by saying that he was going to be a ‘kanjar’ (bastard).

This was the Mint Lounge cover.

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