When Amitabh Bachchan was beaten with a stick by Bombay against Goa’s dance master: ‘I fought to learn the steps’
Amitabh Bachchan was “embarrassed” to match stages with Aruna Irani in Bombay in Goa. Considering the 1972 film was also his first attempt at song and dance, he wasn’t sure about shaking a leg with Aruna, whom he called “the dance master and magician.” But, if it weren’t for Bombay in Goa, Amitabh would never have landed in Zanjeer, which made him the ‘angry young man’ of Bollywood.
Amitabh had in 2018 written a long post on his blog about Bombay in Goa, expressing his gratitude to Mehmood for trusting him with the iconic film.
It all started with Amitabh forming a close bond with Mehmood’s brother, Anwar Ali, in saat hindustani. Amitabh once met Mehmood at Anwar’s. Mehmood, who was deeply impressed by Amitabh’s baritone, asked Anwar to send his friend for a screen test. While Amitabh bagged the role of Ravi, Aruna Irani’s on-screen love interest, Anwar played the bus driver.
“Mehmood bhai chose to do it again…he was also present if not more so in Hindi cinema…his presence in film gave him enormous star value…that was the era. For some reason he always believed in me…called me ‘Diabolical Danger’…never asked him why and how he got to that name, but he did. I was with Anwar, his younger brother in Saat Hindustani and our closeness lasts till today…I stayed with him for a long time…he stayed with me…” Amitabh wrote on his blog.
Calling Aruna an “accomplished, graceful and rhythmic” actor, Amitabh revealed in the post that he used to practice his dance moves with choreographer PL Raj, who beat him with a stick! He said: “In the evening hours, in a dilapidated and worn floor of a mill in Pune, the dance master and choreographer PL Raj (Devraj Lewis), his son the famous musician Leslie Lewis, baton in hand, me beat hell to learn the steps…rehearsing the morning shoot…knees lacerated, bleeding, tied them with a handkerchief to prevent further damage and didn’t tell the crew for fear of being kicked out of the film, continuing and trying to deliver.
It was one of the fight sequences from Bombay to Goa that caught the attention of the writing duo Salim Javed. He further revealed that since he was chewing gum throughout the fight, it became an “indicator that I would be the right choice for Zanjeer!” Amitabh thanked chewing gum!
Bombay to Goa revolves around Aruna Irani’s character, Mala, who runs away from home to become a film actress. Unaware that the two men helping her – Sharma and Verma – are actually planning to kill her and run off with all her money, she meets Ravi while traveling by bus. What happens on the bus and how its passengers from all over India bond is what the feel-good artist is about.
Reminiscing about her popular song “Dekha Na Haye Re”, Amitabh shared that it was shot with a rear projection, as making the film was a challenge on a moving bus, and so the team chose a studio. As a newcomer, he received lots of encouragement from the cast, which also included Shatrughan Sinha, Keshto Mukherjee, Nazir Hussain, Manmohan, Mukri, Lalita Pawar and others.
According to Amitabh, “The whole cast stood close to the camera frame and shouted encouragement at me. What a show and what a moment… such camaraderie and strength. Mehmood bhai pushes me to dance and give it my all. After each taken, I asked my boy to feed me “mosambi juice”, gallons!!”
Bombay to Goa was co-directed by S. Ramanathan and Mehmood and had music by RD Burman. Amitabh wanted such stories about movies of yesteryear to be archived. “There is so much history that needs to be preserved for posterity, here in Mumbai but also in other places,” wrote Amitabh Bachchan.
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