The genre of Comedy has travelled a long journey in the history of Bollywood, with movies like Padosan, Bawarchi, Chupke Chupke, Khoobsurat to Andaz Apna Apna, Badhai Ho, Dream Girl and many more. From Kishore Kumar singing Ek chatur naari to Ayushmann Khurrana dealing with his mother’s pregnancy, comedy movies with good content have always made the audience rush to the theatres. Comedy is the most entertaining yet the most difficult genre to attempt.
Whenever the list of the best comic screenwriters in India will be made, it will not be possible to complete the list without mentioning Priyadarshan in it. Priyadarshan has been working for 40 years in Indian Cinema as a director and screenwriter. He has directed over 90 films in 4 languages, namely, Malayalam, Tamil, Hindi & Telugu. His cinema has a vast variety of thrillers, art films, films on social issues and comedies being the reason why he is said to be the king of all genres.
Being one of the greatest filmmakers of regional Indian Cinema, Priyadarshan is a well-known brand for his commercial comedy films in Bollywood. It all started with Hera Pheri, a Hindi adaption of a Malayalam film 'Ramji Rao Speaking'. After the massive success of the film, the writer-director finally found his spot in Bollywood. He gave birth to a new kind of comedy to Bollywood, which was typical Priyadarshan’s comedy. In this genre, he made movies like Hulchul, Hungama, Garam Masala, Bhagam Bhag, Bhool Bhulaiya, Chupke Chupke, Dhol and Khatta Mitha. Priyadarshan is one of the few Indian Filmmakers who is consistent with his content and success of his films. In this blog, let us try to figure out the magician’s trick, and how his spells have the same charm on his Indian audience every time.
Type of comedy
Most of the Priyadarshan's comedies are humour in poverty. His screenplay has a deep impression of Chaplin's Cinema. His humour is also inspired by slapsticks like Mr Bean and Tom and Jerry. Priyadarshan strictly believes that the core of any comedy is in its situation and that dialogues and characters are cherries on the cake.
The type of comedy he tries to create is called slapstick comedy. Slapstick is a type of physical comedy characterized by broad humour, absurd situations, and vigorous usually violent action. The fun for their audiences was not in watching innovative narratives or well-developed characters but in seeing how a slick performance in an unusual situation could manipulate the standard components of farce.
Elements in Priyadarshan’s comedy:
Characters get into trouble and sticky situation. They get violent without an actual cause, for instance, Raju (Akshay Kumar) in Hera Pheri gets into a fight with Shyam (Sunil Shetty) and Babu Rao (Paresh Rawal), screaming "Aae khopdi tod saale ka" Shyam tries to hit Raju with a 'lota', but it accidentally hits Baburao. Well, you might have also seen Rajpal Yadav facing the impact of such illogical actions and making the audience laugh with his reactions in may Priyadarshan movies like Dhol, Chupke Chupke, Khatta Mitha.
It need not be violent every time it can be something as silly as Baburao (Paresh Rawal) losing his dhoti in front of Anuradha (Tabu) or an accident like Baj (Rajpal Yadav) in Malamal Weekly sitting on the cycle without a seat. Such random unexpected action comes like a surprise package to the audience.
You gotta be kidding me situations.
He keeps getting his characters into sticky and troublesome situations in one after the other scenes. These scenes come out with all-new situations and keep the pace of the film moving. Every scene has its setup where the character gets into an event, a rising action and a resolution were he overcomes it and gets into a new setup in the very next scene. Priyadarshan creates a chain of such scenes of rising and falling action. Such narrative keeps the pace of the film and creates an atmosphere of confusion and excitement among the audience.
Every movie has a classic Priyadarshan climax scene that had the entire cast embroiled in a rambunctious rumble. It’s a classic Priyadarshan joint, replete with exaggerated tomfoolery, a generous dose of confusion, and affable protagonists; the sort of film that you find yourself warming up to, without really intending to. It can be a tsunami in Hotel Pan Pacific like in De Dana Dan or everyone running after the mangal sutra near Shadi ka mandap in Hulchal or an electric shock chain reaction in Hungama, but that is just one of the ingredient in the recipe. Right!
Shot Division and Editing
The director-writer not only rely on his script to make his audience laugh, but he also uses his other tools like editing or camera tricks to crack the humour. A sudden cut or a jump into a new shot or either into a new scene can generate humour or by opening a new scene with a close shot and revealing its suspense by pulling out the camera to create a sense of confusion and humour among the audience. Priyadarshan often uses it so effortlessly that it succeeds to make the audience laugh out loud.
Priyadarshan has created some of the most iconic movie characters ever in the history of Indian Cinema. His designed characters are no hero of the story that controls the narrative with their actions, on the other hand, they get controlled and get affected by the supporting characters and situations. His characters keep getting into unlike events or dragged out of their comfort zone into trouble due to there short-sightedness, greed, envy, affection.
In most of his screenplay, the protagonist is financially broke and is desperately chasing for the money like Nitin Banker and Ram Mishra (Akshay Kumar and Sunil Shetty) of De Dana Dan or Goutam, Pankaj, Sameer, and Maru (Kunal Khemu, Sharman Joshi, Tushar Kapoor and Rampal Yadav) of Dhol or Raju, Shyam and Baburao (Akshay Kumar, Sunil Shetty and Parvesh Rawal) from Hera Pheri.
Unlike other writers who try to dig deep into developing the character of the protagonist of their screenplay, the supporting characters are the most loved characters by Priyadarshan. Raju might be the protagonist of the film, but he is incomplete without Shyam and Baburao. His supporting characters propel the story. His screenplay demands a big cast because the screenplay has many supporting characters and interconnected subplots.
Actors like Asrani, Neeraj Vora, Paresh Rawal, Rajpal Yadav, Johnny Lever who usually play the supporting characters in his films will never let the entertainment meter go down. It is these characters who add life to his films. These characters are evergreen and iconic. They take the responsibility of entertainment and thrusting the narrative on their shoulders.
Looking into Priyadarshan’s filmography, it seems like he has created a folder of meme content way before the social media culture took place. He does not get into writing smart jokes, his punchlines are usually sarcasm or satire, but when mingled with the situation and timing they can create a burst of laughter in theatres.
The sheer recall value of gags, dialogues, and moments that found the pulse of middle-class comedy in his films is what sets them apart. One need not look further than Hera Pheri for proof of his impact on pop-culture. He usually creates situations for humour, but these small
doses of punchlines keep tickling the audience. They are short and catchy like a punch which hits hard and one never see them coming because of Yahi Priyadarshan ka style hai.
Getting on the nerves
Priyadarshan films have a deep impact on the middle-class society, which is the major population of our country. The protagonist in his screenplays is no hero, living larger than life. They are very usual people caught into an unusual situation. His characters, financially crushed, face problems like getting a job, paying rent, getting off loans, just like any other middle-class person. It is a strong bond of relatability and empathy which the audience develops with these characters. Its characters like Shyam, Baburao, Raju, Bandiya, Gautam, Pankaj, Sameer, Maru and many more which a middle-class person encounters daily.
Priyadarshan invests in writing human stories. The significant theme of any of his screenplay is greed, love, envy, friendship which are basic human emotions. In De Dana Dan, the major plot was greed where everyone was running after money. It did not have an antagonist other than the greed of every character.
Hera Pheri hit theatres when Bollywood was going through the crisis of comedy. Priyadarshan took out the audience from David Dhawan-Govinda’s comedy and introduced them to a new type of comedy. Priyadarshan got the nerve of the audience then and still understands the need for entertainment and expectation of the audience from his film, making him one of the best comic filmmakers of our time.
"When people tell me that my films make them smile, I feel like I'm doing a social service by making these light-hearted comedy movies. So I don't feel bad about being famous for comedies. Maybe people won't take me as a great director but I feel the most difficult thing to do is to make people laugh." - Priyadarshan Nair
Do you remember watching some of these films on TV as a child? What scenes, dialogues or situations do you remember from these Priyadarshan movies? Let us know in the comment section!
Art by: Naveen Yadav