Bollywood's Animal Heroes...Dec 12, 2010 Shery Khetarpal
Bollywood’s Animal Heroes... No, I am not talking about Sanjeev Kumar from Jaani Dushman or Rahul Roy in Junoon or a shirtless Anil Kapoor; I am talking about real animals who outshone their films’ leading actors in their award-winning performances. Sadly, no award categories exist for these actors par excellence and their contribution to their films’ success went largely un-rewarded.
This article is a tribute to some of the best performances by animals in leading roles.
This actor is probably the only one on this list who got the recognition he deserved. His likes became the most popular pets in the middle class and upper middle class Punjabi households. Naming one’s pet after him was like a status symbol and he literally started the trend of pet-styling in India. He is none other than India’s most popular dog actor, Tuffy the Pomeranian from Sooraj Barjatya’s 1994 blockbuster, Hum Aapke Hain Koun, also starring Madhuri Dixit and Salman Khan in supporting roles.
Tuffy was not only a pet in the film but the lead character; he dressed well in fancy Nermés scarves and Golce & Dabbana sunglasses and had elaborate dance sequences picturised around him. His emotional scene where he refuses food after his mother figure, Pooja (Renuka Shahane) dies was restrained and showcased mastery over his craft. His big moment in the film is the climax where Lord Krishna himself blesses him to resolve the big crisis. Tuffy saves the day by getting two lovers together and making the film one of the biggest blockbusters in the history of Indian cinema. Check out the video.
A dog is a man’s best friend and Dobby (played to perfection by Brownie the dog) went a step further to prove that a dog is also a ghost’s best friend in this 1992 film, Maa, co-starring Jaya Prada (Mamta) and Jeetendra (Ram). Dobby is Mamta’s dog and once she marries the multi-millionaire businessman, Ram, he obviously moves in with them. He becomes godfather to their new-born son and takes care of him when Mamta dies. He talks to her ghost, breaks his enclosure and saves the little boy’s life by taking him away from the harsh ultra-violet sun rays and applying Burnol (ointment) on his burn wounds. He has many more crucial scenes in the film and shows more heroism than the film’s other lead actor, Jeetendra.
Check out the video.
Another Sooraj Barjatya film and another blockbuster hit because of the lead animal character, Maine Pyar Kiya (1989). Salman Khan practically owes his career to these actors, Kabootar (pigeon) from this film and later Tuffy from Hum Aapke Hain Koun. The film’s biggest hit song was about the Kabootar taking Suman’s (Bhagyashree) message of love to Prem (Salman).
He also highlighted the crucial message of loyalty and friendship in the film. In a scene from the film’s climax, the villain, Jeevan (Mohnish Behl) is hanging from a cliff and the Kabootar has a flashback, he is reminded of the time when Jeevan tried to kill him and Suman saved his life; he promptly attacks the villain with his sharp claws, throwing him down the cliff.
There have been many dogs and snakes who have made their mark in the industry but this Kabootar has been the only bird who has reached these heights. Only recently, another pigeon rose to fame with a film called Delhi 6; while Massakali gained immense popularity; the film sadly did not do very well.
There are times when your best isn’t enough; which is what happened with this talented actor, Naagraj aka Snake. He played the lead in Ashok Gaekwad’s 1990 film, Doodh Ka Karz with Aroona Irani playing his foster mother; but the film did average business mainly because of the other actor, Jackie Shroff who was not very convincing as a Sapera (snake charmer).
Aroona Irani’s character, Parvati is widowed after her snake-charmer husband is wrongly accused of theft and murdered by three evil Thakurs. She takes care of her new born child and the snake and breast feeds them both. Yes, I am not joking! That’s where the film’s title Doodh Ka Karz comes from; the snake repays her back by avenging her husband’s death while the human son (Jackie) runs around the trees with the enemy’s daughter Reshma, (Neelam Kothari). Compared to the other snake films where snakes take human form, this film stayed true to the actor’s original form and was maybe much ahead of its time.
While there are many other deserving animal actors, I am going to end this list with an ensemble cast. Khoon Bhari Maang’s crocodiles who chewed Rekha’s character Aarti like a chewing gum and spat her out to extract revenge from her evil second husband Sanjay (Kabir Bedi). Aarti returns the favour and feeds Sanjay to the same crocodiles in the end.
Other animal actors who carried films on their shoulders include Moti the dog in Teri Meherbaaniyan with Jackie Shroff; Bade Kaam Ka Bandar, the Monkey in Govinda starrer, Aankhen; Sunny Deol turned snake turned Sunny Deol in the flop sequel to Sridevi’s hit Nagina, Nigaahen; Haathi the elephant in Rajesh Khanna’s Haathi Mere Saathi; the horses in Amitabh Bachchan’s Mard and Rekha’s Khoon Bhari Maang again. Some other interesting appearances that got lost as the films were so bad include the talking camel in Sawan Kumar Tak’s Salma Pe Dil Aa Gaya; the animated parrot in Sooraj Barjatya’s Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon; Amitabh’s godmother, the dolphin in Ajooba and Mamta Kulkarni’s pet Cheetah who goes to college with her in Betaaj Badshah.
Watch the scene from Rajesh Khanna’s Haathi Mere Saathi
The author is a film buff like you and would love to hear what you think also. Do share your views and ideas in the comments section.