Article Hindi

40 years of Satte Pe Satta: Amitabh Bachchan headlines the funny family entertainer

A remake of the Hollywood musical Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954), the Raj N Sippy film featured the actor in a double role with an unforgettable soundtrack by RD Burman.

Sonal Pandya

The year 1982 was a busy one for Amitabh Bachchan. He had six releases that year, including Shakti, Khud-daar, Namak Halaal, Desh Premee and Bemisal. This was also the year he had his infamous accident on the sets of Coolie (1983). The year before had been busier with Yaarana, Barsaat Ki Ek Raat, Naseeb, Lawaaris, Silsila and Kaalia, not to mention a few cameo appearances.

For the ‘Angry Young Man’ who burst into superstardom with Zanjeer (1973), this period marked the height of his success. During this time, he starred in several hits that showcased his talents, with double and even triple roles that allowed the actor to showcase his range. For Raj N Sippy’s Satte Pe Satta (1982), he led the family entertainer as the volatile but lovable head of the Anand family with six unruly brothers to manage.

A remake of the Hollywood musical Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954), the Hindi film added an extra masala element to the film — a double role for Bachchan; apart from head of the family Ravi, he played the criminal Babu who is tasked with killing a wealthy heiress Seema (Ranjeeta Kaur).

Ravi is transformed into a happy family man after he meets the nurse Indu (Hema Malini) who brings order to the Anand household. The brothers are conveniently named after the days of the week. There is Som (Sudhir), Mangal (Shakti Kapoor), Budh (Paintal), Guru (Kanwaljit Singh), Shukra (Vikram Sahu) and the youngest Shani aka Sunny (Sachin Pilgaonkar).

After the arrival of Indu in their lives, the six younger brothers chance upon Seema’s friends, played by Aradhana, Prema Narayan, Madhu Malhotra, Asha Sachdev, Nazneen and Rajni Sharma. They look after the heiress who is unable to walk. Seema is about to inherit a large sum of money after her 21st birthday and her scheming uncle Ranjit Singh (Amjad Khan) wants to capture it all.

Ranjit sets Babu up in the unsuspecting Anand family, abducting Ravi and sending the hitman, a lookalike, to take his place. But even the hardened criminal is undone by good old-fashioned love and family togetherness (and a good RD Burman song)!

The appeal of Satte Pe Satta lies in its balance of humour and drama. Writers Satish Bhatnagar, Jyoti Swaroop and Kader Khan made the film memorable by creating flawed but redeemable characters. It sticks to the Hollywood template, even for the songs, only deviating with the angle of Seema and her uncle Ranjit. Writer-turned-actor Kader Khan also serves as narrator in the film.

Kader Khan’s dialogues had several gems, from the fiery initial interactions between Indu and Ravi, to the playful sibling banter and, eventually, that terrific drunken scene between Bachchan and Amjad Khan.

Bachchan ad-libbed the scene with Amjad, and Kader Khan’s simple line of ‘Daaru peene se liver kharab hota hai [Alcohol ruins the liver]’ was elevated by both actors riffing in the scene. The actors’ first take remained in; one can even hear the camera sound in the background.

Meanwhile, the female lead, Hema Malini, was juggling two films when she was pregnant with her first child Esha, this production and Razia Sultan (1983). In the song, ‘Pariyon Ka Mela Hai’, she can be seen along the sidelines, covered in a light shawl.

“When Raj Sippy approached me for Satte Pe Satta, I had to tell him the truth. He did not mind working with me because he felt the extra weight went well with the character. The seven heroes, including Amitabh Bachchan, were protective of me on the sets,” the actress told Bhawana Somaaya in Hema Malini: The Authorized Biography.

Indu’s character starts off promisingly as she shows Ravi his place in their first meeting, but eventually she gives up her city life and career to marry him. The six brothers played by Sudhir, Shakti Kapoor, Paintal, Kanwaljit Singh, Vikram Sahu and Sachin all have distinct personalities, almost like the seven dwarves of another famous tale.

Music composer RD Burman, working with Gulshan Bawra, created six wonderful situational songs, the picturization of which borrowed a lot from the Hollywood hit.

One of the songs, 'Zindagi Milke Bitayenge', introducing the Anand family, is said to have been inspired by Paul Anka's 'The Longest Day'. But the other numbers, from 'Dukki Pe Dukki Ho' to 'Mausam Mastana' and 'Pariyon Ka Mela Hai' were all melodious foot-tappers.

Burman also found a unique way to create the ominous theme for the villain Babu — by getting the singer Annette Pinto to gargle near the microphone! Lyricist Gulshan Bawra also got a chance to chip in as a singer with Kishore Kumar, Bhupinder Singh, Sapan Chakraborty and RD Burman on the fantastic ‘Pyar Hamen Kis Mod Pe’, which changes tonality from sorrowful to upbeat midway. Then there is the romantic number ‘Dilbar Mere’ in which Ravi finally wins over Indu.

To play Babu, Bachchan had to sport a few grey hairs and blue contact lenses that gave the actor a lot of grief, and red eyes, at the time.

Bachchan also had a special connection to the film. The house where the film was shot ended up becoming his family home, Jalsa, after all. It was owned by producer NC Sippy at the time and called Mansa.

The Hollywood film was originally remade in Hindi as Kitna Badal Gaya Insaan (1957) with IS Johar, Nalini Jaywant and Ajit, Sachin also eventually directed a Marathi version titled Amhi Satpute (2008).