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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



IFFI 51, 16-24 January 2021, 20: Rahul Rawail retraces Hindi film history, ‘In-Conversation’, online

IFFI 51, 16-24 January 2021, 20: Rahul Rawail retraces Hindi film history, ‘In-Conversation’, online

The 1970s saw influx of new ideas, new experiments and a new genre of action films in Hindi cinema. Those were also the golden years for unconventional films and emergence of new techniques, said acclaimed film-maker Rahul Rawail, in an online ‘In-Conversation’ session on

“Film-making in 50s, 60s and 70s”, at the 51st International Film Festival of India (IFFI), as he  took the virtual delegates through a marvellous journey of the evolution of Hindi film industry over the years.

Recalling his cinematic journey, the film-maker said: “I started working in this industry from the late 60s and began my career as an assistant to the legendary Raj Kapoor. (That is where I first met him, while he was assisting Raj Kapoor, in Bobby, 1972-73). Stalwarts like K. Asif and Mehboob Khan (Mother India) made films with magnificent sets, in the 50 and 60s, after which Baburam (B.R.) Ishara’s ‘Chetna’, in the early 70s “brought about a revolution” with shootings done on location over 25-30 days, “something which was unusual in those days”.

He said that Vijay Anand’s film, the Dev-Anand starrer ‘Johnny Mera Naam’, also gave rise to a new form of action-oriented, big plot films in that period. The golden 70s, when business was growing fast, in the Hindi film-industry saw an ‘unconventional hero’, played by Amitabh Bachchan in Zanjeer. It gave birth to the image of ‘angry young man’, a newly established brand back then. Nasir Hussain’s ‘Yaadon Ki Baaraat’ (1973) which saw the rise of Salim-Javed, had a great script, says Rawail. Raj Kapoor’s ‘Bobby’ which introduced Rishi Kapoor (Rahul’s school buddy all through his schooling) and Dimple Kapadia also started a new trend. “These films were bringing in a change and adding to the whole palate of film-making”, opined Rawail. Remembering Rishi Kapoor, Rawail says, he was an under-rated actor. Another star, Jeetendra, also came in with a new appeal and new style in the world of Hindi cinema. Rawail also remembers that ‘Deewar’ – a brilliantly toned film, took Yash Chopra to great heights in that period. Yash Chopra went further with more memorable films, like Trishul.

Rawail remembers, “In those days there existed a healthy competition among the film stars. Every actor was rising above each other, but there was no rivalry”. He recalls how the three stalwarts – Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar, came across each other in a restaurant and started talking like intimate friends about the old days and each other’s films.

He narrates another interesting story of how the great Sachin Dev Burman politely said that doing music for ‘Laila Majnu’ is not for him and recommended Madan Mohan for it. The music directors, great singers and lyricists would sit together with directors, and get to know the story and also the actor, who would lip-sync, all for adding perfection to the film.

Rawail recalled another great film, L. V. Prasad’s ‘Ek Duuje Ke Liye’, where “a hero who did not speak Hindi and spoke only Tamil, and an actress who spoke only Hindi and not Tamil” did a love story.  “People were inventing and doing different kinds of works”, he says.  Audiences were also experiencing new kinds of movies. It carried on into the 80s, when more new people came in, although the old-guards were still there. The 80s saw the coming of stalwarts like Subhash Ghai and Shatrughan Sinha, among others. When Rawail made Arjun in that period, it again started a new trend of having no story, but only character. He recalls that Javed Akhtar wrote the script for ‘Arjun’, at a stretch, in 8 hours.  Rawail also made Amjad Khan, who was popular for playing villains, do a comic role. Though many people were sceptical about this decision, Rawail remembered his guru Raj Kapoor’s advice that ‘a great script would always work’ and went on with it.

At the end, Rawail said, 70s and 80s were the period when this industry grew a lot, but it is still growing.

Rahul is the son of acclaimed director H.S. Rawail, known for many hits, including Mere Mehboob.

In a candid converstaion with this writer, Rahul revealed that one short film, an amazingly platonic love story, that he had seen at IFFI 51, had inspired him to make a feature on a similar theme. Asked whether he would cast stars or newcomers in this project, he replied, "You know I love casting casting newcomers." Work on the film could begin in this year itself.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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