The Tapori encounters the cop in Amar Akbar Anthony:
In this sequence which almost invents the figure of the Tapori in Hindi cinema, Inspector Amar confronts Anthony Gonsalves. This scene is a predecessor to Aamir Khan's encounter with the police in Rangeela. A small time crook surviving on the fringes of legality encountering a figure of authority.
In Amar, Akbar, Anthony', Anthony is a Christian who speaks 'Bambayya', a language which is markedly different from urdu or Hindi that exemplifies the Hindi film. Film director Aziz Mirza describes the tapori as a highly urban phenomena whose combined projection of cynicism and innocence makes the character attractive to audiences, thereby leading to its emergence as an established genre in recent years. Mirza says:
Tapori term by itself is urban and tapori is a character you can only get in Mumbai
beacause the very nature of the city, its cosmopolitanism makes the tapori use a
language of his own, which is very Bambaiyya. Mumbai is the only city besides New York, where you can get so many people of different cultures, different races from all areas of India who live together. So Mumbai has developed a language of its own and the tapori is street smart.
In films which deal represent the Tapori, the question of language, humour and performance become critical sites through which issues of dignity and survival are negotiated. Another critical moment in the film is the reference to the uniform of the policeman as the marker of authority and soverign power. This idea of the emblems of sovereignty is taken to its logical extension in a film called Vardi (Umesh mehra) which almost fetishes the uniform. A recent film by E Nivas "My Name is Anthony Gonsalves" is taken form the famous song in Amar Akbar Anthony in which Amitabh Bachan emerges from an easter egg. For an interesting contrast to the idea of the Christian/ Goan/ Anglo Indian in Hindi cinema, see Saeed Mirza's Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyu hota Hai.
Other films which deal with the theme of Christian identity include Julie, Trikaal,
The figure of the Tapori has a long history in Hindi cinema. From Anthony Gonsalves in Amar Akbar Anthony to Munna in Rangeela, the Tapori has always been associated with the idea of the street.
Arguing that cinema constitutes the hidden archive of the Indian modern, Ranjani Mazumdar attempts to distinguish the cinematic experience of modernity in India from the experience that scholars like Benjamin and Simmel have provided. If the Benjaminesque experience of the city was marked by a trope of spectral figures like the flaneur, the collector and the cinematic experience of the city was in the form of terror (film noir), anxiety (science fiction), in India, the city and particularly the street becomes a simultaneous site of community and crime, dance and violence, madness and freedom, death and renewal. The street which could be the footpath in Bombay cinema is a part of village community, part of cosmopolitan city street, a symbolic organizer of a set of contradictory impulses that generate an intense performance.
Various characteristics of some of the urbanites that we have encountered thus far, the fan, the trickster, the slum dweller, merge in the figure of the tapori. The tapori for Ranjani is a particular Mumbai figure, a male persona who is part time street hood and part time social conscience of the neighborhood. A stylized figure representing the streets of Mumbai, the "tapori has primarily been a cinematic invention. He stands at the intersection of morality and evil, between the legal and the illegal, between the world
of work and those without work. His strength lies in his ability to organize the
various tensions produced by the urban experience in India. Sometimes dabbling
in petty crime, the tapori's personality is invested with an integrity from which he emerges as the protector of a certain moral code"
Extract from Ranjani Mazumdar, Figure of the Tapori: Language, gesture and the cinematic city, Economic and political weekly, December 29, 20001, pp. 4972-4880.
In 'Rangeela', certain encounters are planned within the narrative that will enable such a performance. These encounters serve to create a conflictual space within the street where the most ordinary and routine aspects of life sometimes turn into a political performance, like a street theatre where the actor enters into a dialogue with his/her audience. These encounters produce bitingly sharp, sarcastic dialogues that are meant to convey both the tapori's agency as well as his live relationship to the 'public' in the street. Writing on the modernism of writers like Baudelaire and Dostoevsky, Marshal
Berman has suggested that both writers created a form where "everyday encounters in the city street" assume an intensity to "express fundamental possibilities and pitfalls, allures and impasses of modern life" (1988:229). While such encounters are common in Hindi films, the tapori's everyday encounters are presented like a theatrical event, where the tapori's relationship to the crowd or the 'public' is usually fore grounded through his performance. Munna is first introduced in 'Rangeela' as a black marketeer of film tickets at a sold out show. The sequence begins with a low angle shot of a film poster starring a well known actor. Munna enters theframe wearing a hat, smoking a cigarette in an exaggeratedly relaxed style. He pause in front of the poster for a second and then moves away as the shot changes to reveal the crowd of people waiting outside the movie theatre. Munna's first entry in the film using a film hoarding as a backdrop again draws attention to the specifically cinematic iconicity of the tapori. In the next shot we see Munna softly muttering'Dus Ka Tees' (Rs 30 for a Rs 10 ticket) as he swaggers through the crowd. Munna is trying to sell tickets. Munna also has a friend (Pakhiya) who does the same thing.
The dialogue, mise en scene and the performativity within this sequence requires some detailed analysis for it introduces the idea of the casual encounter acquiring a larger than life, sometimes political dimension. Munna saunters through the crowd with a marked swagger, cigarette in hand and a confident persona. His ticket sale to a man is laced with one liners, cocky comments and underlying humour. Next Munna turns to face a policeman. Munna tries to retreat, but the policeman calls him back. The policeman questions Munna about his illegal ticket sales but Munna denies everything. The cop starts searching Munna who removes the tickets from his rolled shirt sleeve and tucks it into the fold of the cops cap. Throughout the search Munna performs loudly for the public. The dialogues are significant here:
arey yeh dekho bhaiyo, Bombay mein danga phased karanewaale ko chor dete hain, share bazaar meing karoro ka dafla huva, kisi ko pakda kya, nahiu pakda, par apun, seeda saada aadmi picture delhne ko aaya, apoon ko pakarta hain, pakdo, tumhara raj hai, kuch mila kya, nahin na, phokot to public ke saamne apna izzat ka phulta banaya na
Hey brothers look! The perpetrators of the Mumbai riots were never convicted. The share bazaar scam saw the embezzlement of millions of rupees. But did they arrest anybody? And me, a simple man who comes to see a film, is harassed! Its your rule anyway&what will happen to this country yaar! (Laughs)
This encounter reveals the centrality of performance in the sequence. Munna's loud loafer-like clothes are contrasted with the police constable's uniform. The appeal to the public is made through references to well known incidents like the Mumbai riots of 1992-93 and the share market conspiracy of 1991-92. By contrasting Munna's petty crime with the larger world of intrigue violence and corruption invoked in the dialogue with the public, a certain character development is made. Munna's style, performance and posture are presented as a critical strategy, while at the same time introducing his charm to the audience.
The Tapori in the court room:
The opening scene of Ghulam sees Aamir donning the role of the Tapori again, and finds himself in the courtroom for having hit a policeman. Mita Vashisht plays the earnest conscientious lawyer pleading the case for Siddarth, arguing that it is his circumstances that leads him to engaging in acts of violence and criminality. While she is making his case, Siddarth steals her money from her purse.
The figure of the Tapori navigates the filmic landscape in a similar manner to the various urban figures that inhabits the world of Walter Benjamin, preferring the freedom of the streets to the high rise apartments. In a song that immediately follows this scene, Siddarth and his gang of loafers saunter through the malls and shopping complexes of Bombay, mocking and mimicking the lifestyles of the rich. It is interesting to compare and contrast the world of the angry young man epitomized by Amitabh Bachan and the world of the Tapori, since they both exemplify the same social worlds of homelessness, exclusions and humiliation. While the angry young man turns his anger towards the city, claiming it through violence, for the Tapori the city and the street emerges as more playful sites in which the fragile world of humiliation is countered by performance. Michel de Certeau states that "gestures are the true archives of the city", and in that sense the world of the Tapori is marked by an excess of performativity.
From language to his dress sense to the exaggerated gait, the tapori claims his space in the city through an assertion of the body, and its occupation of space. The scene also highlights the contradiction and the tension between social accounts of piety and the subjectivity of the tapori. The social discourse about the poor ( particularly NGO discourse) is marked by an engagement with the poor, primarily through discursive categories of class and caste. The Tapori mocks both the world of the law, as well as the pious world of the NGO activist lawyer, refusing to be framed completely by the law or by homage.