Once more, with the same feeling

"Hello, India.' Kya haal hai yaaro'? This is Vinod and Sudhir , jumping back out of the box, which was first opened nearly 30 years back. All `ijj' well? After we were led off at the end of our cult film, with that noose around our necks, did we leave behind a cleaner, less corrupt country? Are the roads less potholed, the air less polluted, is there less poverty? Tell us everything ".

I've had long imaginary conversations with those two hapless heroes from 'Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro', and last week they were speaking to me all over again, their digitally restored selves appearing as fresh as paint in a state-of-the-art multiplex screen. Here they were, the camera-clad duo who start a studio with a spring in their steps and hope in their hearts. And their fruitless `inauguration', with a table full of snacks and cold drinks and a few precious beer bottles ( back in 1983, beer was still considered a pricey, faintly exotic drink, especially when it came to serving it in harsh daylight, not safely after dusk). And that crafty conspirator ruining their big day, leading them into having adventures which make up the bulk of Kundan Shah's classic film : 'JBDY' didn't find too many takers when it first came out, but has steadily built for itself a reputation and a slavish adoration that only seems to grow with each passing year.

I've had occasion to revisit the film several times in the intervening years. But the experience has never been less than superlative, each viewing adding to the layers that already exist. The lines are all there, each element in the frame has played out in your head, and you can safely join in without fear of missing anything. After last week's viewing, the question I've often asked myself came roaring back : why does this film, made on such a thin budget that would make a shoestring blush, which, in fact, nearly did not get made, have so much power? And so much relevance? And, more importantly, why didn't such a film get made again?

... contd.

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