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Bollywood on Train | A Journey towards Bollywood

Updated on September 4, 2011

Thick smoke envelopes its prolonged whistle and gruff 'chooks chooks' define its baritone. Extended and expansive, it is ever accommodating and moves with swift elegance.

The train, like the show, is destined to go on. While reality may conjure a grungy and chaotic image of the train, its portrayal on celluloid has always been of the glamorous and magnificent kind.

For starters, there is Ramesh Sippy's Sholay -- an epic immortalised by its characters, dialogues, music and drama. The train plays a dynamic cameo here as well. Be it the opening shot, which sees a cop arriving at the unusually quiet Ramgarh station or the breathtaking combat sequence between Jai-Veeru and some bandits to rescue Thakur Baldev Singh on a moving train. Not to forget Anand Bakshi's little tribute with 'Tesan (Station) se gaadi jab chut jaati hai to, ek do teen ho jaati hai' picturised on a lively Veeru and Basanti.

Some like Kishore Kumar just break into a song. His rendition of Cheel cheel kauva bhi is nothing short of hilarious. In Half Ticket, he plays a broke young man who disguises himself as a bumbling, lollilop sucking kiddo to get entry in a train. There he bumps into ladylove Madhubala and so on and so forth.

Meanwhile Rishi Kapoor and Paintal do the best drag queen ever in the desi version of Some Like It Hot. Their hip swinging to Chook chook chakk chakk Bombay se Baroda tak in Rafoo Chakkar could still give J-Lo a run for her money.

The train acted as a metaphor for regret in Aap Ki Kasam, wherein a repentant Rajesh Khanna, travels in a train, passing numerous stations, heading nowhere, rueing his past decisions over the philosophical, Zindagi ke safar mein guzar jaate hain jo mukaam, woh phir nahi aate.

But before that, there was a time he eagerly chased this speedy multi-wheeler in his friend's jeep to woo the dimpled Sharmila Tagore with the winning melody, Mere sapnon ki rani kab aayegi tu. Kaka is not the only one. Dev Anand used similar strategy years ago in Jab Pyaar Kisise Hota Hai to pacify a fuming Asha Parekh. Needless to say, both the ladies, eventually, relented. And women began flocking window seats, secretly hoping to be serenaded in the same manner.

If nothing else, there's always the roof. Shah Rukh Khan's affair with trains began quite early in his career. Remember how Urmila Matondkar and her chums make life hell for the poor guy when he accidentally gets into an all-girls reserved a/c chair-car compartment?

The film was Chamatkar. And the song was Bicchoo O Bicchoo. With Dil Se.., he bounced back with attitude and Malaika Arora in tow and broke into a vivacious Chaiyya Chaiyya on nothing less than a train top. Not to be left behind Urmila followed suit to boogie woogie alongside Aftab Shivdasani, above the train in Ram Gopal Varma's Mast for a song sequence.

Then, of course there was Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. When SRK forwards his hand to catch hold of a rushing Kajol to make it into the bogie just in time. After that it was just them, Euro rail and a beautifully budding romance against the scenic Alps and more. The film's climax involved the duo to go over the run-I'll-catch-hold-of-you gesture on the railway platform yet again. It was utterly dramatic then and memorably iconic now.

Ditto for the scene in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, where Kajol and SRK share an awww-inducing moment. On realising he loves another; Kajol's Anjali packs her bags to go home. As the train starts moving, a teary-eyed SRK bids his best friend adieu, but not before she tosses her red bandhini dupatta at his girl friend (Rani Mukerji), to wish her a happy married life.

In yet another Karan Johar film, it's Rani's turn to go looking for SRK before he boards a train to Canada for good. She spots him. He ignores. But it's a Hindi film and no one ever leaves. Hence, what follows is a weepy reunion at the station.

Swades captures it best, though. SRK looks endearing, curious and amused sandwiched in a general compartment of a crowded train. Ashutosh Gowarikar's film about 'We, the people' sees him make use of almost all modes of transport -- plane, van, car, train, bus and boat.

And then there are films, which use trains as an extensive backdrop to their stories or become the story itself. Like The Burning Train, wherein an ambitious engineer dedicates his whole and soul in designing the fastest train ever -- Super Express. Only it turns out to be the Titanic of his life.

There is also Mahesh Mathai's Bhopal Express, build around the 1984 gas tragedy. The film made an attempt to relive the unfortunate accident that took an astounding number of lives leaving the nation in a state of shock.

Romance blooms in the most unlikely places. Why should a railway compartment by any exception?

Raaj Kumar understood this. In Pakeezah, he takes a good look at Meena Kumari's angelic paws and poetically utters, 'Aapke paon dekhe. Bahut haseen hain. Inhe zameen pe mat utariyega. Maile ho jaayenge'.

Or in Saathiya and Dillagi, where the hero impulsively gets into a ladies compartment, surprisingly without meeting much resistance and courts the Rani and Urmila, respectively, of his dreams.

The highly publicised duo of Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai, too, couldn't escape the lure of the train. Mani Ratnam's Guru witnesses some of their most tender moments on screen in a scruffy rail dabba.

But the train is determined. It marches forward, doesn't wait for anyone or anything. Many filmmakers have used this as a bleak metaphor to double the impact of a scene's tragedy.

A nearly dying Devdas feverishly chants the name of his beloved Paro, travelling in circles not knowing where to stop. For he knows, the day he gets down, he'll cease to exist. And so it happens.

The heartbreaking final scene of Sadma sees a helpless Kamal Haasan lose his mind while an indifferent Sridevi hops into a train. She has forgotten the man who nursed her back to normalcy. In a bitter irony, when she's finally herself again, it is Haasan's turn to break down completely. And all this time, the train is a mute spectator to one of the saddest moments on screen.

Faith lingers when Seema Biswas' character hands over a traumatised Chuiya, a child widow, to John Abraham, as he gets on the train to practise the Gandhian school of thought, in hope of a better life that she never had.

The rush of a train acts as a sinister backdrop during some of the bloodiest sequences of Vidhu Vinod Chopra's brilliantly shot, Eklavya.

Crooks and trains are synonymous with each other. Dhoom 2 and Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja saw Hrithik Roshan and Anil Kapoor break inside a train quite adventurously to indulge in the great train robbery.

The drama around trains continues with slice of life flicks like Ek Chalees Ki Local or Hollywood remakes like The Train starring Emraan Hashmi.

May the chook chook never stop.


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    • arunii profile image

      arunii 5 years ago from Delhi

      i am bollywood addict and appreciate your innovative essay on bollwood and trains. I love the DDLJ train scene at last moment which i never forget

    • profile image

      Raj 6 years ago

      Enjoyed reading this !! Awesome piece...

    • profile image

      mohammad ali 9 years ago