My family and other animals

My family and other animals

Over the years, some cool creatures have stolen the limelight from human actors in Hindi films

By Khalid Mohamed

Published: Fri 26 Jun 2015, 3:57 PM

Last updated: Fri 10 Jul 2015, 10:27 AM

Pluto Mehra, the star bullmastiff of Dil Dhadakne Do

Pluto Mehra, the star bullmastiff of Dil Dhadakne Do

Curiouser and curiouser: the extravagantly publicised bullmastiff Pluto Mehra, of Dil Dhadakne Do, has now been accorded a Twitter account. The morose dog, who stole the show &as “the only sane member” of the dysfunctional Mehra family on a luxury cruise, has been posting selfies (go figure!) and pearls of wisdom online.

Director Zoya Akhtar waxed &eloquent about the canine in interviews, soon after the film was declared one of the coolest hits of the year, so far. It has also been disclosed that the dog was, at one point, to be called Plato in the script. However, Akhtar said that since many in the audience wouldn’t get the reference to the Greek philosopher, Pluto it was. More news: the wonder dog has returned with his coach, and presumably owner, to the cooler climes of London.

The real-life name of Pluto is yet to be announced though. Will that be at a splashy event someday soon? Will Aamir Khan be felicitated and awarded for lending Pluto his voice? After all, publicity has to be staggered, to fuel public interest. Reportedly, a spiralling number of bullmastiffs are in demand now as pets in India — exact statistics unknown. For sure, the stats cannot be anywhere close to the mega-popularity of pet pugs, following a massively &popular ad campaign by a cellphone company in the early 00s.

Some of those who stayed on till the end credits of DDD did notice the name of the make-up artiste of one Fu Tu (or was it Tu Fu?). Who’s that? The mystery thickens.

PUP PATROL: (top to bottom) Tuffy in Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, Entertainment in It’s Entertainment and Moti in the 1972 film Annadata

PUP PATROL: (top to bottom) Tuffy in Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!, Entertainment in It’s Entertainment and Moti in the 1972 film Annadata

However, Pluto isn’t the first dog to achieve celebrity status in Hindi-language cinema. There was a time when dogs, and even chimpanzees, elephants and horses with uncanny skills were a rage in B-town movies, right from the black-and-white era.

And there has been no bigger star than chimpanzee Zippy, who was imported from the US to pep up the swashbuckling movie Insaniyat (1955). Indeed, an information-packed article on the Internet by researcher and screenwriter Rajesh Devraj points out that producer-director SS Vasan felt there wasn’t sufficient entertainment value in the film, despite Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand crossing swords, the first and last time the two legendary actors shared screen space.

The film just didn’t have a USP. A studio technician suggested an animal star. So, Zippy was flown into Chennai, where the film was shot, with his coach and team. Way back in the ’50s, the chimpanzee is believed to have earned US $55,000 a month, thanks to regular engagements on TV shows, and at night clubs and exclusive events hosted by gazillionaires at hotpsots in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

The diminutive chimp, adept at playing the piano, roller-skating, and typewriting, besides other feats, was assigned not one but two song &sequences — Beta Bada Hoga and Main Hoon Bandar Shaher Ka — which &continue to be popular on YouTube today. Neither Dilip Kumar nor Dev Anand were amused. Indeed, when I’d once brought up the topic of Insaniyat with the usually affable Dev Anand, he said morosely, “That’s one experience I’d rather forget.” He was also miffed that he was compelled to wear a wispy fake moustache.

Yet another chimpanzee, Pedro, played the simian buddy of Tarzan’s &Indian avatar — in Homi Wadia’s Zimbo (1958). An instant hit with the kids, Pedro the Human Chimpanzee — also nicknamed the Ape Bomb — spawned a series of sequels. However, the original Pedro didn’t feature in the sequels. His lookalikes did. And when one of them passed away at an advanced age, Wadia’s actress wife, the feisty Nadia of Hunterwali, went into mourning.

Elephants of Haathi Mere Saathi

Elephants of Haathi Mere Saathi

Mushtaque the Wonder Horse fetched up with his fleet-footed stunts in quite a few B-grade stunt movies of yore. Moti, the dog with extra-sensory perception, identified the murderous vill-ain Ranjit in court, saving Rajesh Khanna from the gallows, in Sachaa Jhutha. Brownie, a lean dog, wreaked revenge for his slain master Jackie Shroff in Teri Meherbaniyan. And Ballu the Eagle flapped away on the shoulders of Amitabh Bachchan to serve as the mascot of Coolie.

India’s answer to Walt Disney, Sandow MMA Chinnappa Devar, and his brand of child-friendly films, produced the delightful Haathi Mere Saathi, extolling the loyal instincts of elephants for their masters, starring Rajesh Khanna and Tanuja. Subsequently, Devar also reduced Shashi Kapoor-Raakhee (in Jaanwar Aur Insaan) and Shatrughan Sinha-Jaya Bhaduri (Gaai Aur Gori) to portraying amazed bystanders, while the animals were the ‘real’ stars.

Ah, Zippy, Pedro and company needed no Twitter accounts. They just did their jobs, but are still cherished and &live on in Bollywood archives. Sans publicity campaigns.

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