Wednesday, June 16, 2004

In Bangalore but still hooked on to Rajasthan

Greetings from Bangalore! Am here for my reunion and, quite obviously, I have had loads of fun getting together with my friends and catching up with each other's lives. Many have already decided that they would no longer be associated with journalism per se in another five years from now! Not me! Anyway, here is a piece I did on a premiere of a Rajasthani film "Oji Re Deewana":

It was almost as if they were drugged on her. Anaesthetised from their daily woes, the crowd's whistles refused to die down till Neelu danced on the stage. The worn-out speakers at Minerva were belting the title track from her latest and 46th film, Oji Re Deewana. And many from the audience, which comprised largely of daily wage labourers, trooped into the aisle for a quick boogie. It was utopia in a ramshackle hall.

Some even walked up to the stage and handed over cash to her. Even babies were not spared. They kept coming in one after the other into Neelu's arms. The leading actress of Rajasthan's cinema industry, and ageing some might add, seemed their best bet for a ticket to fantasy land.

Vinod Kumar, who works at a dhaba, took an off on Friday to see Neelu's newly released film. "She fights very well on the screen and her dances are also enjoyable," said Kumar, thoroughly enjoying himself. Asked to recollect his favourite dialogue, Kumar replied, "Tu meri payr ki jooti hain". That is what Neelu had in store for Billa, a notorious screen character, in one of her films.

In one of the scenes from her latest film, Neelu stands towering and stern like a deity. Her reel husband is sobbing on his knees. But a moment later, the two hug and begin sobbing incessantly. That is why the actress, fans said, is a treat to watch on screen. She switches with ease between busting villains and weeping her heart out. Or even performing comic roles, they added.

"She embodies a true Rajasthani woman. There is no vulgarity in her films," said Waqueela, one amongst the audience. "She does bold roles and has a good hold on rural aspects of Rajasthan," said Suresh Khandal, the still photographer for the film. "She is Rajasthan's Sridevi," he added.

Decked in heavy gold and a blue sari, Neelam spent much of Friday shuttling and dancing between two halls where her film was being screened. "Artistes do not have any age," she said, rubbishing criticism that she is too old for limelight on celluloid. "I made my debut in 1982 when I was 11 years old. And with the love and blessings of my well-wishers, I am still going strong," she added.


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