October 12, 2010 (Calcutta Tube) India is a very mysterious land and it is also just as varied. You have more than 100 languages and as many racial equivalents. In a land so rich it is absolutely impossible to find any chance of agreement on any single issue.
The query here is who would be crowned the best star actor in this culturally rich diversity. The names that spring to your mind are many. There is Sanjeev Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Kamal Hassan, Dilip Kumar and finally Mithun Chakraborty, not to exclude Uttam Kumar the predecessor king of Bengali cinema.
Now no one can deny they need to see how the racial question divides India. The northern Indians have never accepted either Bengali or Southern male stars, whatever the persona or talent. While Hema Malini,`Vyjanti Mala and Sharmila Tagore have ruled the box office, no one other than Mithun from regional cinema has ever made into the top three coveted male star positions, as far as box office is concerned never mind the artistic merits of Pyar Jukhta Nahin and Disco Dancer, they were super hits.
Mithun Chakraborty defies this so called bigotry as he was born of regional cinema and then despite his Bengali accent and looks, became one of the top most stars in mainstream Bollywood without having to resort to the charity or support of Yash Chopra or Ramesh Sippy.
Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan made their super hits and all the quality movies with Sippy’s or Chopra’s. In this way Mithun is a paradox and enigma, as he was labelled a poor man’s Amitabh, despite Jaya Bachchan saying in 70s that he was more talented than Amitabh Bachchan and that is on record.
Now looking at the resume no other actor has a movie like Mrigaya-The Royal Hunt, and no one ever will have the courage either in Hollywood or Bollywood to attempt that, in fact it seems to have inspired Apocalypto, it’s a tribute to Mrinal Sen, Mithun Chakraborty and Mamta Shanker, which is unique in the world of cinema, even if you disregard the three national awards he won on the basis of his talent, rather than by influencing the jury’s like Hum Tum and Black, which has become rife today, in fact national awards have become a joke in last few years, but he and Sanjeev Kumar won them when they were genuine.
Hum Tum was a second rate version of Harry Met Sally done by a second rate Sharukh Khan copycat Saif Ali Khan, who landed a national award just as Amitabh Bachchan did in Black, a copy of Miracle Worker the great movie about Helen keller from the 60s, if anyone deserves an award in black it’s the child artist who somehow managed a natural performance despite the pretentiousness which engulfed black. How this award was attained only god can answer that question or the jury.
Mithun Chakraborty has proven himself in multi-starrers like Ghulami opposite Dharmendra and Naseer Uddin Shah and in Hum Paanch too, where he was the best again. But also he has the versatility to play a romantic hero as in Prem Pratigya one of the best romantic movies on Indian screen opposite Madhuri Dixit, and that is what deserves to be called a love story, not the designer monstrosities that the Chopra’s make in the name of love.
I have yet to see Amitabh Bachchan play a romantic lead himself convincingly. In Kabhi Kabhie and Silsila all he did was frowning and brooding over lost love, in Bemisaal and Jurmana he was angry , name one love story like Aradhana or Amar Prem or Safar where any emotion of love has been ever been expressed by him convincingly in any movie.
He was the angry young man of the 70s and had comic timing and his physique suited action roles, which were very popular in the 70s and 80s, but name any great love movies and you, come up with zilch; Kabhi Kabhie belongs to Rakhee, Shashi Kapoor, Sahir and Khayyam.
There is no doubt whatever anybody says about Mithun Chakraborty’s dancing talent. He was the best and still is the best dancer Hindi screen has produced. Whether it is ethnic or disco dancing he has always been superb. Just watch him in Zeehale Muskin the song from Ghulaami or song from Disco Dancer. They are all done by him stylishly and flawlessly. Kamal Hassan can dance but Rajesh didn’t even try neither did Dilip kumar sahib, as for Amitabh Bachchan he copied the steps from Albela and Mootilal in every movie, at least he has the grace to admit it, but look at it today, Hrithik is the best now and he can do about five steps which he repeats in every movie hilariously.
Mithun chakraborty was never cast by big movie houses he had to content himself with the so called B- grade cinema, yet he made gems like Ghulaami, Prem Pratigya, Gudia, Jallad and Elaan.
His bilinguality is another asset, while no one can deny the richness of Bengali cinema and its diversity, no Hindi actor has contributed to that, but Mithun has to Hindi cinema, that’s a compliment to him and an asset for Hindi cinema.
The only other actor from India to rival him is possibly Kamal Hassan with Sadma and Ek Duje Ke Liye but his movies have never got the popular Bollywood appeal and he only appeared in a handful, unlike Mithun Chakraborty who is still working in Hindi mainstream like Elaan and Chingaari, despite Mani Ratnam and Amitabh Bachchan trying to discredit him in Guru he still managed to give the best performance in the first half. The second half is comprehensible to only people who have no clue as to how a screenplay should be written as the journalist of Madhavan and Mithun chakraborty totally disappear in the second half which was a paradox in itself, as the script seemed to indicate the movie was a battle between the immoral industrialist Guru and the honest journalists Madhavan and Mithun Chakraborty.
To glorify Abhishek Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan had to dub this incompetent actor very shabbily, in an awfully unrealistic speech from a stroke ridden man, Amitabh Bachchan didn’t even give any consideration to the fact that a man suffering from a stroke would be dysphasic or stutter or stammer, he went on his Baghban like sermonising while Mr Ratnam, the director has been left to be a laughing stock at the expense of the Bachchan’s, I wonder what Mr Ratnam’s got to say for himself as I believe Mithun Chakraborty has raised some serious accusations about his role being ripped off, which is obvious as he and Madhavan are absent from the court scenes all together, what an idiosyncrasy and how convenient for the Bachchan’s.
I feel more sorry for people like them rather than Mithun who has a rich resume with movies like Gudia which were in competition in Cannes (not a single other stars has that merit,) and Titli which again won numerous international awards world over. While Gudia and Titli might not set the Indian box office on fire, their artistic merit like Mrigya-The Royal Hunt is unquestionable.
Finally can I inform you that in 1987 a Russian magazine voted Mithun Chakraborty as one of the sexiest men on the planet, I think the only other actor is Dharmendra who was voted so by Italians in the 70s. So much for the North Indian bigotry as to Mithun as a second rate to Amitabh Bachchan, in fact I would think Mr Bachchan should take a bow to Mr Chakraborty and learn a few things from Mrigaya, Gudia and Titli rather than keep making second rate remakes of Hollywood classics like Miracle Worker and godfather as Sarkar and Black, after all it is originality which is immortal rather than even a master fake.
I hope this is not taken as a racial or linguistic comparison. I am talking of the talent of an individual rather than creed or religion, language or age.
Writer: Dr Usman Latif Khawaja