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A homage to the debonair cops of Bollywood
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
The forthcoming "Khakee" has put the spotlight on several important Bollywood films that dealt seriously with the problems of the police force.
While a film like "Ganga Jumna" in the 1960s had Dilip Kumar's real-life brother Nasir Khan baying for the former's blood in khaki uniform, most cops in the earlier decades of Hindi cinema were examples of tokenism.
Until the 1970s, the token cop in a mainstream film was played either by the late character-actor Iftekhar or Jagdish Raj. They normally arrived in the last reel to extinguish the climactic fires.
Prakash Mehra's"Zanjeer" in 1973 changed the way Hindi cinema looked at cops.
In a role that was rejected by many prominent stars, including Dev Anand and Raj Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan shone as a cop. His angry frustrations and bitter efforts to nab evil forces were mapped in an unspoken torment visible in clenched jaws and bunched fists.
"Zanjeer" virtually opened the doors for cops to acquire flesh and blood in Hindi cinema.
The next significant cop was played by Shashi Kapoor in Yash Chopra's"Deewaar". Grappling with his outlawed brother Amitabh Bachchan, Kapoor's idealism gave a fecund lease to the portrayal of policemen in films.
Though every actor -- from Akshay Kumar, who says he played the cop so often in the 1990s that a khaki uniform was a permanent part of his wardrobe, to Jackie Shroff, who played the law enforcer repeatedly though a blatantly misinformed long-haired variety, to Sanjay Dutt as a comic imposter cop in "Thanedaar" to Chiranjeevi in "Pratibandh" -- tried the role, the most significant cops film after "Zanjeer" was Govind Nihalani's"Ardha Satya" that came a full 10 years later, in 1983.
Om Puri as police inspector Anant Welankar covered his uniform with stripes and his career with glory. The raging frustrations of an establishment agent who has to deal with men who don't give a damn about whom they kill, maim or mutilate in flesh or spirit was ably brought out in Puri's performance.
The theme of a cop's dream gone awry returned in E. Niwas's "Shool" where angry cop Manoj Bajpai fought corrupt politicians in Bihar and finally gunned down the whole cabinet during a parliamentary session.
Though Amitabh Bachchan went on record to praise Bajpai's performance to the skies, the film's similarities in spirit, theme and treatment to "Zanjeer" were noticed by a lot of people.
Another significant cops film of this period was Shashilal Nair's "1 2 Ka 4". Though ripped off from a Hollywood film, the film brought up some valid point on the workings of the police force, like poor pay packets and unreal working hours.
Though a flop, this is the only film where Shah Rukh Khan wore khaki alongside the regular khaki-guy Jackie Shroff.
The cops movie seems to have come of age recently. Prakash Jha's bleak "GangaaJal" in 2003 depicted the desperate fight of a police officer (Ajay Devgan) to cleanse Bihar of crime and corruption.
Devgan returns as a cop in Raj Kumar Santoshi's eagerly awaited "Khakee", though this time he isn't quite the virtuous crime buster that he was in "GangaaJal".