I used to wonder what makes a movie successful. Is it the presence of stars? Can’t be…. there are movies like Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai. Hot-looking leads? Then how come people gather to watch Monsoon Wedding? Don’t tell me it was for Vijay Raaz or Shefali Chhaya, coz Parveen Dabas and Vasundhara Das aren’t exactly great-looking, not by conventional standards anyway. And in that case, why do movies like Asoka fail?
Strong story/concept? Mmm… not quite. Remember Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai. Music? How about Jeans?
Well, yeah, let me come to the point now and say it out once that I think dialogues are what make or break movies.
More than anything else, it’s only when the audience identifies with a character, or with a plot, that (s)he tends to like it. Acting, mannerisms and all that can only take you so far in talkies. “K-k-k-kira-a-an” is a better indication of a psychotic lover than if the director had asked SRK to twitch his nose and dilate his pupils. And face it, mannerisms become downright irritating – Most people can only groan when they see Vikram’s shifty eyes and dilating pupils when he transforms from Ramanujan to Anniyan. But Dei Baadu became an overnight hit.
Sholay wouldn’t have been as poignant if it hadn’t been for gems like Toh tumhara naam kya hai, Basanti? and “Kuttey! Kameenay!!!”, which are parodied to this day.
Talking of Sholay, I’ve grown to obsess about the movie of late, and I’m quite surprised… the story is the last thing that would appeal to me, and I don’t think it makes a brilliant watch. I’m not awed by Gabbar… but thing is, Basanti! In kutton ke saamne mat naachna and Aadhey idhar jaao, aadhey udhar jaao, baaki mere peeche aao stay stuck in the mind for a good while. And some have this way of finding their way into everyday conversation [“How on earth do you get to know so much gossip??” ” *chuckle* Humaare jaasoos chaaron taraf hain“, or “You stood me up for lunch! Hell, I’m so starved, now I dying, pulees coming, roomie going jail, roomie chakki peesing, peesing, peesing”].
Perhaps one of the best latter-day tributes to Sholay is Sujoy Ghosh’s Jhankaar Beats. All the hit dialogues of Sholay [oh, what the heck, all the dialogues of that movie were hits in their own ways] find their way into the movie. Like Shayan Munshi says “I’m just going to commit suicide”, to which Sanjay Suri replies with “Yeh su-site kya hota hai?”. And Sanjay Suri is a crazy RD Burman fan in the movie [He and Rahul Bose refer to him as Boss(!)], and he asks his wife to guess what he’s planned to name their son; She asks the baby, “Toh tumhara naam kya hai, Rahul?”.
The movie’s also replete with discussions about Sholay. “Basanti danced to save her skin!”, maintains Rahul Bose, while Sanjay Suri disagrees… “She danced out of love for Veeru, yaar.”.
Jhankaar also has its own great dialogues. Well, not exactly great, but definitely poignant and the sort you reminisce about. Like the one where Rahul Bose is supposed to present a one-liner which he has no idea about – “Yessir…. the one liner…. here it is… Kyunki. Yeh. Mujhe. Pasand hai!”. Shayan Munshi tries a classic “Aapko pata mere daddy kaun hai?”. Rahul Bose retorts with a “Kyun, tujhe pata nahin, kya?”, and follows it up with “Listen… I hope he found out who his daddy is … And Basanti did not dance for Veeru”.
Then there’s his divorce scene where he’s asking his wife to return his audiotapes, and his absent-minded divorce lawyer instructs her to “return my client’s cellotape, please”. He later says he was very distracted as he was going through his own divorce!
Shayan Munshi’s trying to ask Riya Sen out, and is being pepped up by Sanjay Suri. Rahul Bose chips in with “Sex ke baare mein kuch mat bataana“, and then distracts him with a “Hey, look at that bald guy, doesn’t he look like our client?”. When he finally approaches her, she thinks he’s an employee of the store, and asks him about a dress, he replies with a rushed “Main us takle ke saath sex karna chahta hoon”.
Then there’s the crazy neighbor who says “It’s all about control!”, and who finally supplies the much-needed one-liner for their ad campaign – “Better safe than worry”.
Mani Ratnam movies have always been known for their dialogues. Especially Alaipayuthey, which had a good number of new-age pickup lines, and romantic rantings. Like Madhavan tells a shy Shalini, “Shakti, I don’t think you’re good-looking, I’m not falling in love with you, but I’m worried whether this might happen”. And when he goes looking for her in a remote medical camp, and finally finds her, she asks him why he took so long to turn up.
Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi had a strong script and concept, and very normal-sounding dialogues. There’s one where Kay Kay Menon says of Shiney Ahuja, “I used to wonder in college whether he was an idiot or a clown, now I know he’s both”.
Weirdly, no Hollywood dialogues come to mind immediately. I guess the comedy in those movies is more sequence-oriented. However, one from Notting Hill does strike me… Hugh Grant says to Julia Roberts, “I live in Notting Hill, you live in Beverly Hills. The whole world knows who you are, my mother has trouble remembering my name”. And also to his best friend, “My whole life is ruined because I don’t read Hello! magazine?”.
It would take an entire website to cover the multitude of awesome dialogues in Rowan Atkinson’s dark comedy series, Blackadder. Some excellent samples include:
- “Oh, sir, I’m as bored as a pacifist’s pistol”
- To Hugh Laurie in drag: “Personally, I thought you were the least convincing female impressionist since Tarzan went through Jane’s handbag and ate her lipstick, but clearly I’m in a minority.
- “Irony is just like Goldy, or Bronzy, only, it’s made of iron”.
- “The path of my life is strewn with cowpats from the Devil’s own Satanic herd!”
- “Oh, no! What a mad, blundering, incredibly handsome young nincompoop I’ve been!”
- “Baldrick, that’s the worst plan since Abraham Lincoln said to his wife, ‘I’m bored of sitting around the house, let’s catch a show’ “.
- “Well, Baldrick, I just would like to say how much I enjoyed your company and friendship, but we both know that would be an utter lie, so sod off and if I ever see you again, it will be a billion years too soon.
There’ve been many, many more movies with punch dialogues, more notable would be the innumerable Rajnikanth flicks with their hard-hitting lines like “Naan oru dhadavai sonna nooru dhadavai sonna madhiri”, but they don’t seem to have made much of an impact on me… the dialogues are too explicitly worded so as to strike a chord with the audience.
The best dialogues are delivered without much fanfare, completely catch you by surprise, yet are so in tune with the context that you either completely identify with them, or are completely amazed by their brilliance. They stick to your mind, find their way into your conversations, get quoted and misquoted again and again, and if they really do catch on, get parodied widely.
To sum up, I’ll misquote Lord Edmund Blackadder – Talkies without great dialogues are like a broken pencil – pointless.
So, tell me… What’s Your Dialogue?