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On Raj Babbar’s Birthday(June 23), His 5 finest films

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On Raj Babbar’s Birthday(June 23), His 5 finest films 5

1.   Insaaf Ka  Tarazu(1980): B R  Chopra  brazenly lifted  scene  after  scene  from Lamon  Johnson’s  Lipstick where real-life sisters Margaux and Hamiel Hemmingway played rape  survivors  violated by the same man. Raj Babbar who played the rapist  in the plagiarized  Hindi  version,  confessed  he was  appalled  by  what he had to do.  “In real life I can’t even  raise  my voice at a woman. Meri toh bolti bandd ho jaati hai. Here I was telling Zeenat Aman and Padmini Kolhapure to do  the most unspeakable  things.B R Chopra Saab was my mentor. I  agreed and  I became typecast in negative roles for a while.I was new to such attention  and to the film industry. Insaaf Ka Tarazu was  my first  film.And I played the rapist! Women’s organizations pounced on me  condemning my presence  in the film as  being derogatory to women.You must remember this was way back in the 1980s when concept of women’ empowerment and  feminism were just emerging in the media. The aggression regarding women’s  rights was new and hotblooded and  I  had to take the  full brunt of  it. It took one brave and honourable  judge to put an end to the attack on Insaaf Ka Tarazu.The matter went to Justice Bhagwati who stood  by the  film. He was  a friend of the  film’s producer-director B R Chopra and  Justice  Bhagwati agreed to see Insaaf Ka  Tarazu.I wonder what would’ve happened to our film  if he had not agreed  to see  the  film!  When he  saw the film he recommended  it strongly as a statement against rape. He wrote a letter supporting the  film.That’s why we were able to release  our film.”

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2. Prem Geet(1981): A  tragic  love  story about  a poet and  a dancer  who dances her way to  her death while the poet croons  songs  of  love to her. Raj Babbar played  the  poet and  got to sing  Jagjit  Singh’s  immortal  Hothon se  chu lo tum mera geet amar kar do. Recalls Raj, “Prem Geet was a hit. It brought me  popularity in a positive role. But the song Hothon se chu lo has outlived the  film. Even today  it  is hummed  by  music  lovers.” The film made Babbar and Anita Raj a force to reckon with. They co-starred in  another film Dulha Bikta Hai. The  anti-dowry message was a hit in Bihar mainly because   the film got  a tax exemption in the State.

3.  Nikaah(1982): Poet again!  Raj Babbar played a shayar luckily not a badnaam one.  “By this time the negative image of Insaaf ka Tarazu  was long erased,” says Babbar. He  played Haidar in love with Nilufer(Salma Agha)  although she was engaged to marry Wasim(Deepak parasher). Babbar  got to sing Beete huey lamhon ki kasak and Dil ki arzoon tthi koi  dilruba miley.  Babbar owes a  special debt to  B R Chopra who gave   him the  best roles and  biggest hits.

4. Waaris (1988): Ranging from the atrocious Tajurba  in  1981 to her death  in  1986  Raj Babbar  did  approximately 8  films with his  wife  Smita  Patil. Among them  Waaris released posthumously  is  the only one worth mentioning.  A feral  tale of  a woman fighting fiercely for her land, it had  Smita Patil  excelling as Paro  in her  swan song.  Raj Babbar quietly took the  backseat as  her lover  Bhinder. He has  still not brought  himself  to watch this  film. “It reminds  me of my loss,” he  says softly.

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5.  Libaas(1988):  Raj Babbar  and Naseruddin Shah  in love with  Shabana Azmi  in  a film set  in Mumbai’s theatre world. What  happened to it? In spite  of  Gulzar’s  unmissable stamp on the  film Libaas  never got released. Raj Babbar counts it among his  best most neglected  works. It  is. R D Burman’s songs  Seeli hawa choo gayi and Khamosh sa afsana  are popular  to this  day, though the  film was  never released.

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