During the school times the first-hand experience of enacting the role of a teacher on the Teacher’s Day (5th September) was an anticipated day as on this day we got a chance to play the role of a teacher. While preparing for that day had a palpable excitement, the occasion during those school times also underlined how did the Teachers enacted their role in moulding the future of the children day in and day out. Hindi cinema has also over the course of 75 years of its journey time and again touched this unique institution and reminded the citizens of the country about the important role a teacher plays in the life of an individual!
Evolution of the character of Teacher on the silver screen has been a study in motion. It has evolved from being an idealist and non-compromising one to being a teacher with his or her human fallibilities as well. In the era of black and white cinema the teacher was an idealist character who devolved on him the job of nation building and the song from JAGRITI (1954)- aao bachchon tumhe dikhayein jhaanki underlined the reverence for a teacher. Teachers of this decade-1950-60s, generally were shown singing a song and making students learn through the song- perhaps underlining the oral tradition of our country- Ichak Dana Bichak Dana being the song filmed on Nargis in Shree 420 (1954). The idealism of nation building found manifestation through DHOOL KA PHOOL (1959) with the song Tu Hindu Banega na Musalman banega. In between there was also a John Chacha in BOOT POLISH (1954) enacted brilliantly by David who taught self-respect and honesty to street children as also to be upright.
The decade of sixties still being an era when cinema was dabbling in the process of nation building and trying to adjust to its new found Independence, so a Dilip Kumar through LEADER (1964) had the conviction to go against the parents of his students, and this underlined the exalted space that guru occupies in our Indian culture – गुरु गोबिन्द दोऊ खड़े काके लागू पाय, बलिहारी गुरु आपने गोविंद दियो बताए i.e. the god as also guru both are standing, whom should I pay obeisance first, and I bow to you O god that you underlined the status of guru even above that of the god. As a matter of fact, in the famous song from Baiju Bawra (1952), Man tadpat hari darshan ko aaj there is the lyrics – बिन गुरु ज्ञान कहाँ से पाऊँ – which underlined the importance of Guru or the teacher. In the same manner the teacher of ANUPAMA (1966), became the beacon to provide inner happiness to a girl. Rajkumar also resorted to arms for his students through BULANDI (1981).
The happy go lucky image that Nargis had projected in Shree 420, was dabbled with finesse portraying the human aspect of the teacher in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s epochal movie CHUPKE CHUPKE (1975). CHUPKE CHUPKE however has its inspiration in PROFESSOR (1962) where Shammi Kapoor had a double role and in both of the roles there is an element of infatuation and love between the teacher and the female counterparts. The idealist teacher was played with finesse and conviction by Vinod Khanna in IMTEHAN (1974) (some say inspired from TO SIR WITH LOVE), a year before CHUPKE CHUPKE but the subject was perhaps a taboo during those times- a romance in campus and an element of falsehood around a teacher a sort of insinuation on the character of a teacher, which though was falsified in the end but could have been the reason for its failure. However, the song of IMTEHAN- ruk jaana nahi tu kahi haar ke – continues to be inspiring song around a teacher. Jeetendra also got an opportunity under the baton of Gulzar to enact the role of a teacher in PARICHAY (1972), and it is one of the significant milestones in his acting career.
It is altogether a different matter that the element of sexual innuendo, a sort of first crush of a teenager for his teacher, which most of us go through was experimented for the first time on the silver screen by Raj Kapoor in MERA NAAM JOKER (1970), where a student (Rishi Kapoor) had a first brush with the naked female body (SIMI) and the first crush became the crush for him for life. Do we still not continue to have our first crush for a teacher for our lifetime?
Amitabh Bachchan is perhaps one of the few actors who has enacted quite a large number of teachers’ role on the silver screen and has enacted each of those roles with finesse starting with CHUPKE CHUPKE and it could have been owing to the fact that he has an illustrious father Harivansh Rai Bachchan who was a famous teacher of English literature. So consciously or sub-consciously when Amitabh Bachchan enacted his first role of a teacher in CHUPKE CHUPKE he actually was teaching English. Subsequently in KASME VAADE (1978) he was a teacher of humanities. The element of idealism associated with the role of teacher was resuscitated when Amitabh Bachchan again enacted the role of teacher in DESH PREMI (1982), though here he was a schoolteacher. It was through the enactment of the role of a teacher in 2000 through MOHABBATEIN that Amitabh Bachchan announced his comeback on to the silver screen with a panache and a rock-solid performance, which he took to a new level with BLACK (2005) which again flirted with the attraction of the opposite sex or infatuation which Amitabh Bachchan delivered with panache. Amitabh Bachchan revels in the role of a teacher on silver screen and he has shown it repeatedly through AARAKSHAN (2008), JHUND (2022) and also in BRAHMASTRA (2022).
The crush for a teacher which was dabbled with at the peripheries found manifestation in Dev Anand’ HUM NAUJAWAN (1985) and was taken to the levels of seduction through MASTERJI (1985) starring Rajesh Khanna and Sri Devi where Sri Devi played the role of a seductress who tried to seduce her teacher when he denied the passes made by her. Shashi Kapoor’s UTSAV (1984) delved into the element of seduction in a very sensual manner and Amjad Khan in the role of Vatsayana looking for different poses of copulation was a revelation.
Teacher as an object of desire was the launch vehicle for Anil Kapoor in WOH SAAT DIN where he was a music teacher who Padmini Kolhapuri tried to seduce, a sort of Kamdev and Rati and this aspect became a template during the era of 80s and 90s in the role of a teacher on the screen. So, Karisma Kapoor enacted the role of seductress in ANDAZ (1994) to seduce his teacher Anil Kapoor and MAIN HOON NA (2012) took it a level of imaginations about the institution of teacher which still is a rare commodity in actuality, Sushmita Sen portrayed as the seductress in the form of a teacher on the screen.
In the love stories that built up around a teacher and a student in the world of Hindi cinema the girl invariably is the daughter of the principal as it was the case in INTEHAAN or in the case of MOHABATEIN. Karan Johar deconstructed the role of a teacher and brought an element of humour associated with teacher on to the screen in a rather bold manner through KUCH KUCH HOTA HAI (1998), obviously the character portrayed by Anupam Kher being inspired by his earlier film SHOLA AUR SHABNAM (1991) where he had played the role of a teacher with a humour.
The ominous responsibility that a teacher has for the better future of his student especially a student who is dyslexic found its pinnacle of manifestation in TAARE ZAMEEN PAR (2007). But it is one of the defining motifs of Hindi cinema that whenever the character of teacher has an element of humour, it has enthralled the audience as it happened in MUNNA BHAI MBBS (2003) in the form of Bomman Irani.
As a part of this evolutionary process and the manner in which the institution of teacher has degenerated CUTTPUTLI (2022) captured it in a poignant manner underlining the fact that the parents need to interact with teenage girls more closely to find out if they are forced into some indecent act by a pervert teacher in the school and to take corrective measures against it.
But no character as a teacher committed to his student has been surpassed on the silver screen till date than a Kishore Kumar in PADOSAN (1968). It has been 54 years but a teacher of the like of a Kishore Kumar and a committed student in the form of a Sunil Dutt who did not see beyond his student has been repeated.
The teacher in the world of Hindi cinema has indeed undergone evolution from idealist to conformist, to a humourist to being at the receiving end of sexual overtures. It indeed has been a mixed bag. Even after a cinematic journey of 75 years, one still yearns for a Hindi version of SCENT OF A WOMAN and who better than a Amitabh Bachchan and a Sidharth Malhotra to enact it?