October 23 2019
The universe of 'Ready Player One', re-imagined in '70s Bollywood cinema
04 April 2018

What if Ready Player One were to be set in India, with clues from our beloved Hindi blockbusters of the Seventies?

Steven Spielberg has called it his great escape, but Ready Player One, playing in a theatre near you, doesn’t quite have the wide-eyed wonder or jolly rush that characterised Spielberg’s happy blockbusters of yore. Yes, The Shiningrecreation is inspired, that first chase with guest appearances by King Kong and T-Rex among others is exhilarating, but there is something missing. The movie, based on Ernest Cline’s eponymous 2011 novel, seems rather sanitised and it looks as if the 71-year-old Spielberg doesn’t know the tone to adopt in the present climate of gloomy doomy YA movies.

And then if you want to geek out, you could moan about the absence of the Voight-Kampff machine from Blade Runner and the sequence from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The social commentary has all been erased along with one of Wade’s smartest lines on the elections — just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic! Then there is the matter of appearance. Wade is fat (he sets that right by getting the system to track his calorie intake and exercise) and chooses to lose all body hair to save him time from haircuts and shaving. All who thought of Pink from The Wall get bonus points.

Khiladi No 1

We had our own Ready Player One in 2007 with Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om, which celebrated the Seventies in style. We have had countless tributes to earlier films, from Kareena Kapoor channelling her non-existent Helen in Don(2006) to Jacqueline Fernandez’ ‘Ek Do Teen’ in Baaghi 2. And so if James Halliday, the eccentric owner of OASIS, were to hide the keys to his kingdom in popular Hindi cinema of the Seventies, how would he go about it?

The Seventies were all about outrageous costumes, colour, jingle-jangle music from RDB and a tall, lanky, angry young man with smouldering eyes and a baritone. Prakash Mehra’s Zanjeer (1973) established Amitabh Bachchan’s Vijay Khanna as a man not to be messed around with. While Zanjeer gave a new direction to popular cinema, there was no looking back after 1975’s Deewaar. The film, directed ironically by Mr Romance himself, Yash Chopra, pitted two brothers Vijay (Bachchan) and Ravi (Shashi Kapoor) against each other. Deewaar, with its elegant structure (every scene had its darker/lighter twin), was a winner all the way.

Break down the wall

Early in the film, Vijay has a run in with the local thug, Peter, who has been collecting protection money from the dockworkers. Instead of running away and hiding, as Rahim Chacha suggests, Vijay confronts Peter. Vijay locks the warehouse where Peter and his six goons are waiting and gives the key to Peter saying he will take it from Peter when he is done with them, which he proceeds to do in high style. Halliday could hide a key in this scene and the clue to the first door can be in any of the iconic dialogues from ‘Main aaj bhi phenke hue paise nahin uthata’ to ‘Mere paas ma hain.’


The universe of 'Ready Player One', re-imagined in '70s Bollywood cinema

The Big B was on a roll in 1975; after Deewaar in January, came Sholay on August 15. The blockbuster that inspired countless movie makers, was the best example of the curry western. Ramesh Sippy’s adaptation of Seven Samuraifeatured two small-time crooks Jai (Bachchan) and Veeru (Dharmendra) hired by Thakur to get rid of a dangerous bandit, Gabbar Singh. The second key could be hidden in the scene where dacoits attack the train when Thakur is escorting Jai and Veeru. They ask Thakur to set them free so they can help him fight the bandits. The key could also be hidden in the scene where Jai and Veeru plan to rob Thakur’s safe, and Radha, his daughter-in-law, contemptuously gives them the keys saying it will be good if Thakur loses his illusions about the two. And clues can be hidden in any of the many quotable quotes from ‘Kitne Aadmi the’ and ‘Holi kab hai’ to ‘Itna sanata kyon hai.’

Love, love me do

While action movies and AB ruled the roost in the Seventies, Nasir Hussain’s bright and brilliant rom coms with rocking music by RD Burman had a devoted following. From Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973) complete with family song and the lovely Zeenat Aman stealing our hearts, to Hum Kisise Kum Naheen (1977), the films guaranteed entertainment. If Bachchan’s Angry Young Man was the face of action movies, Rishi Kapoor with his boyish charm was the eternal lover boy. In his debut film Bobby (1973), directed by his father Raj Kapoor, he sings of ‘Chabi kho jaye’, which would be the perfect place to hide the final key. And the task can be one of those cool qawwalli competitions that Hussain’s films delighted in.

At the end of the game, even if you couldn’t find the keys, you would have gone on a riotous ride with the best of the Seventies.



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