What’s Your Dialogue?

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?

About wanderlust

just your average books-and-music person who wants to change the world.
This entry was posted in movies and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to What’s Your Dialogue?

  1. the Monk says:

    “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.”

    “Round up the usual suspects.”

    “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

    “Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. Now, now… Here’s looking at you kid.”

    By your definition, Casablanca has to be the greatest movie ever.


  2. sg says:

    Mine is “I love the way u write” πŸ˜‰

  3. wanderlust says:

    Now which movie is that from?

  4. sg says:


    y can’t it b original?? πŸ˜‰

  5. wanderlust says:

    you seem to be from nitk…. do i know you?

  6. sg says:

    mayb..i know u well though πŸ˜‰

  7. wanderlust says:

    oh, and how are you so sure about that?
    and I forgot to add, one of my favorites is “Anthony Kaun Hai?”

  8. Tuna Fish says:

    The whole script of madagascar:
    King Julian: “I think the ny giants r good, does anybody have a problem”

    KJ: “thats good”
    Maurice: “I do”
    KJ: “You have spoken out of turn, yr henious comment will be stricken off record”

    KJ: ” They r savage creatures from the savage future. Dint I tell abt the feet. Shhh everyone including me. no noise. oh its me! sshhh oh its me again” “wait! I have a plan. I have devised a cunning test to find whether these r savage killers”
    “WElcome! Giant bansees! Please feel free to bask in my glow!”

    Muarice ” Oh my! What big teeth u have!”
    KJ: “Shame on u maurice! Dont u see that u have insulted the freak?” “You must tell me, Who the heck are you?”

    Alex: “I say we ask these bozos where the people are”
    KJ: “Excuse me we bozos have the people ofcourse”
    A: “Hey! these bozos have the people!”
    KJ: “They r up there! Dont u like the people? Not a lively bunch though”
    A: “oh! dont u have any live one”
    KJ: “uhh no! only dead ones”

    “I like ’em. I like ’em. I like ’em more than you like ’em. You hate ’em compared to how much I like ’em”

    “aahh skipper, Do we tell them that the boats out of gas”
    “Naah , Just smile and wave boys , Just smile and way”

    and many many more…

    I also like the Ezekiel 25:17 part of pulp fiction by samuel jackson in pulp fiction followed by:
    But I saw some shit this mornin’ made me think twice. Now I’m thinkin’: it could mean you’re the evil man. And I’m the righteous man. And Mr. 9mm here, he’s the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could be you’re the righteous man and I’m the shepherd and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. I’d like that. But that shit ain’t the truth. The truth is you’re the weak. And I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m tryin’, Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard to be a shepherd.

    right now i can only think of these…

  9. Tuna Fish says:

    Atticus Finch in to kill a mockingbird: “shoot all the bluejays you want. But remember, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. They don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us”

  10. Malaveeka says:

    Alai payuthe was a real aww.

    My favorite dialogues are from ‘As Good as it Gets’. Very fun and irrelevant.

    Another favorite is ‘American Beauty’.

  11. Sin says:

    hey tuna.. how cud u miss that line
    “those ny gaints give me the heebugajeebees”

    not dialogue but “i like to move it move it.. ..”
    the lyrics of the song man!
    “i was born 6 or 8 yrs ago on the top of that tree..over there.. yea..my father was a king too just like me u know..
    in those days in madagascar.. it was’nt so commercial u know.. it was not about who’s got the latest tree..or who’s wearing the latest leaves…u know..
    or who’s got the latest fur on their back…..”

  12. Sin says:

    and yea.. i agree with u pri..dialogues make a big difference..

  13. Pavan says:

    Leia: I love you.
    Han Solo: I know.

    The greatest ad-lib ever!

  14. wanderlust says:

    More from Madagascar:
    Alex: This is the live-in-a-mud-hut, wipe-yourself-with-a-leaf kind of wild?
    King Julian: Who wipes?

    King Julian (in a gloomy voice): We’re allllll steak.
    the littlest lemur: I’m steak!! I’m steak!!

    Penguin: Hey.. pssst… monkey, can you read?
    Monkey (in a brit accent): No, I can’t… but Phil here can!

    King Julian: Hooray for the New York Pansies!

    King Julian: Yes, the Foosa. They’re always annoying us by trespassing, interrupting our parties, and ripping our limbs off.

    Melman: It was my first rectal thermometer, y’know…

    Spider everyone’s scared of: Well, Howdydo…

    King Julian: Good morning Mr. Alex. Wakey Wakey. WAKE UP MR. ALEX!! You suck your thumb?

  15. Dushy says:


    The comment section is what that makes ur post all the more vibrant.

  16. Oh I had missed this.
    Mine would be any dialogue from Full Metal Jacket.

    General: Officer, how tall are you?
    Officer: 5′ 10″, Sir.
    General: I didn’t know they stacked shit that high.

    I haven’t exactly paraphrased it, but that movie was way cool.

  17. wanderlust says:

    @The Monk:
    not “greatest”, according to me, it would be the “most appealing” flick, if its dialogues were good.
    Tarantino is merely grindhouse with good dialogues. Good Dialogues. Hence Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill are legends.
    alaipayuthey… awwww… especially the scenes where she’s not yet come and he’s waiting for her, meeting and talking to a dozen other people.
    which movie?
    feedback da.
    @spunky monkey:
    I checked out the movie on wiki/imdb…. seems psychotic!

  18. Madhu says:

    All that comes to mind now is those dialogues Hugh Grant delivers in Notting Hill… you know, when he’s posing as a journalist from The Horse and Hound and has to interview all the actors. These arent word for word, but they’re close.

    Hugh: So er… will there be any horses in your next movie?
    Julia: (looks confused)
    Hugh: (faltering) Or… Or hounds perhaps? Our readers are equally intrigued by both species.

    Hugh to a young Mischa Barton:
    So is this your first movie?

    Mischa: No, its my 22nd.

    Hugh: Oh. Ah. Yes. I see. Any favorites among the twenty two?

    Mischa: Working with Leonardo.

    Hugh: Da Vinci?

    Mischa: De Caprio. (rolls eyes)

    Hugh: Ah yes. Of course. Of course.
    And is he your favourite Italian Director?

    Hugh to bald guy who acts in the film thats having the promotion, who doesnt speak English and so has to use an interpreter:
    Did you at all relate to the character you were playing?

    Interpreter: (translates)

    Bald man: No.

    Interpreter: No.

    Hugh: (temporarily taken aback) Why?

    Interpretor: (translates)

    Bald man: (answers matter of fact-ly)

    Interpreter: Because he plays a psychopathic flesh eating robot.

    πŸ˜€ Hilarious.
    It’s all about delivery.

  19. wanderlust says:

    that’s when the dialogues can’t stand up by themselves.
    awesome sequence, wasn’t it? thanks for reminding me of it.

  20. SR says:

    Hugh Grant in “Music and lyrics” delivers dialogues to perfection

    Chris: Plants? Why do you even have plants?
    Hugh: Ah..Because from time to time women accompany me to the apartment and one of them once mentioned that plants make a woman comfortable..
    Chris: Is that true? May be if had plants I’d still be married…
    Hugh: Yes i think that was the problem not susan’s affair and raging nymphomania but your lack of vegetation…….

  21. SR says:

    Oh ! how on earth can we forget Dr House…….. Hugh laurie has a perfect comic timing…..His dialogues in House are delivered to perfection though dripping with sarcasm they are humorous all the same!!!!

  22. wanderlust says:

    I watched Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron lately, and man! it is one of the most mindblowing comedies i’ve seen ever!
    here are some real gems:
    naseeruddin shah who’s taken over the role of duryodhan in a mahabharat play, where draupadi has been replaced by a corpse… and the corpse can’t be disrobed:
    Nahi, Draupadi jaisi Sati nari ko dekhkar maine cheer haran ka idea drop kar diya hai. Jai ho, aisi Sati nari ki jai ho.
    Om puri’s playing Bhim, he says (in a thick punjabi accent)
    “Abey Oy, tu kaun hota hai bolne waala, hum bhi to Draupadi mein shareholderrr hai!”
    The character playing yudhishtir keeps saying “shaant, gadadaari bhim, shaant!”
    The character playing dushshaasan: Bhaiya, yeh aap keh rahein hai? (drastic change of tone) Abbe sale, kehde cheer harne ko.
    Om puri is bent on disrobing the corpse, so naseeruddin shah tells the character playing Arjun, “woh to gadadaari hai toh, tum dhanushdaari ho, ban ja robin hood”.
    Om puri just breaks the bow-n-arrow… the arjun character: Dhanush tod diya. Teen rupaye ka nuksaan kar diya. Main nahi karta natak watak. Bhaad mein jao tum sab
    one other villain bursts in on the scene to claim the corpse: Nalayak, adharmi, durachari, vamachari, bhrasthachari, bol sorry! Apne sasur ko nahi pehchante? Main hoon Draupadi ka baap, Dhrupad.

    and earlier in the movie:
    om puri’s mega drunk and he thinks satish kaushik’s dead body in a coffin is a busted car with a drunk driver.
    “Kaun si modddel hai? Oh ho, Sport car hai, arrey apni toh Austin gaddi hai, eh heh, old ij goldd, eh bhai?”
    then he proceeds to jack up the “car” and fix a tyre and says “pahiya thoda bada hai.. dekhiye, bonnet-tak aa gya!”
    and then, “Ek Sharabi sharabi ka kaam nahin ayega to kaun aayega?”

    even earlier, at satish kaushik’s eulogy,
    Woh kaha karte the ki Kisi desh ki unati ki pehchan agar kisi cheez se hoti hai toh woh hai gutter. Woh gutter ke liye jiye. Aur gutter ke liye mare. Marte hue unke aakhri shabd the gutter. unke smriti mein kal ek din ke liye is sheher ka har gutter bandh kiya jaayega.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s