Dada Kondke’s constant heroine Usha Chavan was subjected to a torrent of lewd songs and dance movements in which ‘lena’ and ‘dena’ occurred prominently.
By all standards Dada Kondke who would have been 90 on August 8 had he lived, was the king of kinky comedy, the master of cheap innuendos and no doubt a pro at eliciting laughter of out of crudity.
Had he been alive today there would have been a hundred FIRs in his name from Mahila Mandals and the moral police accusing him of “outraging women’s modesty” and what have you. To take an example, in his first hit Marathi film songadya, the protagonist gets so excited during a stage performance of Mahabharat that he jumps on stage to “rescue” Draupadi (Usha Chavan). The scene would be considered monstrously problematic in today’s political climate.
But all Dada Kondke (real name Krishna Kondke) wanted to do was make people laugh. He lost almost his entire family when he was very young. Young Krishna had two choices. He could either cry for the rest of his life or alchemize his grief into a gauntlet of giggles. Kondke chose the latter.
In his teen years, Kondke confessed to being his rough neighbourhood’s Lancelot always there to protect and avenge any sign of disrespect shown to girls in the locality. Ironically his films did exactly the opposite. His constant heroine Usha Chavan was subjected to a torrent of lewd songs and dance movements in which ‘lena‘and’dena‘ occurred prominently. Accompanied by major pelvic thrusts, of course.
But the masses loved him. Families would flock to his residence from distant villages to meet him, recite their favorite dialogues from his films and get a picture. Kondke would oblige each and every one.
“Be nice to your audience. They are God,” he said.
To Dada Kondke goes the credit for bringing the sex comedy to Indian cinema. Actors were keen to work with him but were embarrassed to be associated with his cinema. One of the actors whom I approached for his thoughts on Kondke, demurred. “Arrey, that was not something I would like to talk about. His films are not to be discussed openly.”
His ribald comedy, laced with cringe-worthy double entendre, was a huge hit in Marathi, the breakthrough film being songadya in 1971. Followed Marathi hits like Pandu Hawaldar and Ram Ram Gangaram, and Kondke grew ambitious. He wanted to be a pan-India star. But his attempts in Hindi cinema with horrific double-meaning titles like Aage Ki Soch and Andheri Raat Mein Diya Tere Haath Mein got him nowhere.
Neither did his political ambitions take him very far. Through his association with the Shiv Sena, Dada Kondke dreamed of becoming the Chief Minister of Maharashtra someday.
If only wishes were horses and horsing around.
Veteran actor Raza Murad who worked with Dada Kondke in the Hindi sex comedy Aage Ki Soch says, “Dada Kondke had become a brand by himself as an actor and a film-maker. His brand of double-meaning titles and dialogue got connected with the masses very well. His movies without big star casts became big hits as his name was enough to pull the crowds at the ticket window.He always played a simpleton like Raj Kapoor in his movies. There was a certain amount of innocence in his characters, which made him a man of the masses.”
As for his notoriety as a lowbrow entertainer, Raza Murad defends Kondke, “His double meaning comedy was thoroughly enjoyed by the jampacked audiences in theatres. He made back-to-back moneyspinner hits throughout his life. His unique chaddi naada (striped underpants ) dressing sense and typical rustic dialogue delivery made him very unique. I had the privilege of working with him in his home production Aagey Ki Soch under his direction. I found him to be a warmhearted simple human being on the sets. Dada Kondke was one of his own kind as a filmmaker. He is still irreplaceable and would always be missed by lowbrow entertainment-seeking audiences.”
Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.
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