Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams - who embodied the titular role of 'Mrs Doubtfire' with such ease that it was tough for the cinema audience to separate the actor from the character he was playing - was found dead on Monday at his home in Northern California. Whether it was the ease with which he brought sensitivity to his onscreen portrayals, or the perfection with which he switched from comedy to drama, carving a niche for himself in Hollywood Williams' talent made him the one of Hollywood's funniest and most versatile actors. Ask anyone who has grown up watching his films, and they will tell you how Williams' quotes from his popular films stuck.
Such has been the impact of Williams that even Bollywood has drawn inspiration from his films. Remember the Kamal Haasan-starrer 'Chachi 420'? The Bollywood blockbuster, a desi version of Robin's film 'Mrs Doubtfire', earned huge praise much like its Hollywood counterpart. Haasan wore heavy make-up, foam breasts and shaved his legs to fit into a role originally made legendary by Williams.
'Mrs Doubtfire' was a gratifying family classic which featured Williams as an actor and a man who disguises himself as a nanny to stay close to his children after a court gave his wife custody of their three minor children after a bitter divorce. The film was a laugh riot because Williams never failed to amuse his fans. He proved his talent by darting in and out of two different characters and voices. And since Williams' acting was believable and entertaining, bagging his third and final best actor at Golden Globes wasn't unexpected. Interestingly, the desi version 'Chachi 420' was a hit as well and Haasan picked up several prestigious awards for experimenting with his look and getting into the skin of 'Chachi' quite literally!
If 'Mrs Doutfire' (1993) became one of his popular family comedy films, 'Patch Adams' (1998) reinforced his reputation as a comedy genius. In 'Patch Adams', the actor stands on a cliff and asks God to explain why "man suffers enormous amounts of pain," and then feels he wasn't worth it. 'Patch Adams' heavily inspired Rajkumar Hirani's film Munna Bhai MBBS (2003). Like in 'Patch Adams', the protagonist in 'Munnabhai MBBS', connects to his patients, often taking an interest in their personal lives to cure them through laughter and love.
Sanjay Dutt plays a gangster masquerading as a doctor to seek revenge on a senior doctor who insulted his father but finds his calling in his ability to comfort patients with his compassionate nature. Even though the school laid more stress on mechanical, Cartesian, impersonal, and bureaucratic relationships between doctors and patients, Munna sticks to his empathetic ways to cure patients.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra had quite vehemently refused to accept any resemblance with the Hollywood film. In one of his interviews the filmmaker went to say that his film was far superior than Williams starrer and that he hadn't watched the Hollywood flick till the release of his film. But is that enough to say his films didn't leave an impact on Indian filmmakers? No. Had Robin not played funny, heartbreaking and sweet in 'Mrs Doubtfire' and 'Patch Adams', Bollywood filmmakers wouldn't have thought of remaking his films in Hindi and scores of Hindi-speaking cine-goers wouldn't have got the opportunity to watch the desi version of 'Mrs Doubtfire' and 'Patch Adam'.
As we all mourn Williams' death and his neighbours remember him as a 'funny man' who'd joke with children, we can't thank him enough for using films and TV to show his incredible range as an actor and impart lessons on love and life.