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Reviews

Chaitali
(1975)

A lost-in-oblivion social-family-drama centered on delinquency by Hrishikesh Mukherjee
This is a mid 1970s movie starring Dharmendra and Saira banu in lead roles, and directed by none other than Hrishikesh Mukherjee, a man who helmed arguably some of the best Hindi movies made ever. There is another great matter of prestige attached to this feature, that of it being a Bimal Roy production, albeit posthumous. Bimal Roy, who himself arguably made some of the best Hindi movies ever, is also seen by many as the precursor to Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who he mentored along with a man called Sampoorn Singh Kalra, better known as Gulzar. So it will be fair to say that 'Chaitali', as a movie, boasts of some enviable pedigree. And yet, it is one of those criminally under-seen movies, reflected in just a handful of ratings it has garnered on IMDb (less than 20 on last count). It might have been a commercial failure at that time, but does it deserve the obscurity that it is shrouded in today? For sure not, as though the film is not faultless, it is still a reasonably engaging dramatic feature that makes a social comment on delinquency, forgiveness, and redemption.

Adapted from a Bengali short story of the same name, Chaitali inhabits a world that is much different from the general Hrishikesh Mukherjee fold, where most of his movies stayed away from depicting the darker strata of our social order. The narrative is centered on Chaitali (Saira Banu in the title role), a woman who has been forced by her circumstances and her unfortunate upbringing to occupy a space that constantly haunts her, but from which she not being able to escape. Creating a stark contrast, her life merges with a more typical Hrishikesh Mukherjee middle-class urban household, full of family values and righteousness. The first few minutes of the movie establish this moral rectitude and bonhomie of this family, headed by a kind matriarch, and assisted by that ever cheerful and passionately loyal servant (Asit Sen yet again). The tone and tenor of the film then changes considerably when Chaitali enters the household, guiltily taking advantage of goodness of the elderly matron, with the intention of swindling some money. All this while, the younger son of the family Manish, (Dharmendra in a mostly subdued role) is aware of the reality of the woman, but takes pity on her circumstances, apart from developing a soft corner for her. The drama later shifts to a religious sanctuary on the hills, where Chaitali shares her life story honestly with Manish, who gets utterly shaken by the grimy details of her upbringing, which include a criminally inclined father on the run, a brothel, many lecherous eyes eager to pounce on her adolescence, and a suitor (played uninhibitedly by Asrani) who is both a danger and a comfort to her in the murky vicinities of her life.

Throughout the story and its dramatic last act (the best executed from all in my view), Chaitali comes across as a highly complex character, both repulsed by and dependent on crime and delinquency. And this confusion, somehow, gets reflected in the treatment of the film, with its highly uneven tone oscillating between glimmers of hope and pits of hopelessness. Dharmendra's part is under-cooked and not well defined, with neither his motivations, nor his intentions, and nor his beliefs, coming out on screen clearly. This in some ways gets evened out by strong subsidiary characters- chiefly the lawyer elder brother (who gets a lot to do in the last act) and his wife (Bindu in a meaty part, but hamming it up completely).

The music of the film, much like the film itself, is not popular at all. There are just three songs, and seen in isolation, two of them are pleasant enough. But none add to the movie in any which way; this lack of memorable tunes another reason for the oblivion the film finds itself today.

Kudrat
(1981)

Excellent suspense-mystery-reincarnation-drama movie that boasts of some remarkable sequences and some memorable songs
The finest film-makers have, at times, taken the most mundane of stories and have presented them in such a novel manner that they have left the audiences spellbound. They have proved that though the plots may be limited, the possibilities are endless. And this is what essentially Chetan Anand did in his 1981 feature Kudrat starring Rajesh Khanna, Hema Malini, Vinod Khanna, Raajkumar, and Priya Rajvansh in principal roles.

Kudrat is Chetan Anand's intricate version of Madhumati set entirely in the serene locales of Shimla. It begins with Chandramukhi (Hema Malini) and her family returning to the place of her birth, Shimla, after twenty years. Even though the twenty years haven't seen the twenty something Chandramukhi return to Shimla, she starts finding a lot of things about the city very familiar. Just two days into their stay, she meets Dr. Naresh Gupta (Vinod Khanna), a family friend, and they start dating all over the city. Just when things look like they couldn't go any better, Chandramukhi runs into Mohan Kapoor, a city advocate who has the city's richest man Choudhary Janak Singh (Rajkumar) for his guardian. Although Mohan Kapoor is a stranger to her, she feels a quaint pull towards him, as if they had been romantically involved at some point in their lives. For his part, even Mohan seems a bit perturbed when Chandramukhi is around him, despite having Choudhary Janak Singh's daughter and his fiancée Karuna (Priya Rajvansh) with him.

Over the next few days, Chandramukhi starts getting flashes of her past life triggered by her visiting the places she used to visit with Madho (Rajesh Khanna) in her previous birth. Not only this, she starts getting nightmares that leave her feeling utterly depressed and scared. To help her, Naresh, also a psychiatrist, decides to do a past life regression on her and through it he discovers that what Chandramukhi was claiming was absolutely the truth. She and Mohan Kapoor had been lovers in their past lives and had lived in the very city in which they were present at that point of time. He relays all this to Mohan Kapoor who refuses to believe the story. But soon, even he starts getting convinced about Chandramukhi's claim. In fact, she makes him recall something more sinister. He and Paro (Chandramukhi in her previous birth) had been separated in their past lives because of a terrible crime. Paro had been raped and killed by an otherwise honorable man who turns out to be none other than Choudhary Janak Singh. What follows next is a riveting courtroom drama in which Mohan Kapoor accuses the most reputable man in Shimla (and also his beloved guardian) of a crime that he had committed twenty years ago. What adds more drama to the proceedings is that the man is defended by none other than his own daughter Karuna, who refuses to believe that her father could commit such a ghastly act.

Chetan Anand laces the screenplay with some brilliant sequences that are truly one of their kinds in Hindi cinema. The past life of the two actors is set in the pre-independence era when Shimla was the summer capital for the Britishers. The past-life regression is done very authentically and the way it has been shot is way ahead of its times. The entire court-room battle and the superb culmination are captivating, and in fact haunt you till much later after finishing the movie. Also, the scene of the crime and the subsequent few minutes, are shot in a style that is not usual for the Hindi cinema. The inherent drama in the script is accentuated by superbly designed situations and some wonderful dialogues. The performances by all the actors complement the brilliantly written screenplay. Hema Malini has the most complex role of all and she does well while looking absolutely gorgeous throughout the movie. Vinod Khanna and Rajesh Khanna are able, while Rajkumar is his usual flair and glory. Priya Rajvansh looks a misfit in the cast as despite the tons of make-up she looks far from the young lady she plays (But then she and Chetan Anand were romantically linked and he used to cast her in all his movies). Even Aruna Irani has a critical role which she performs well.

The entire feel of the movie is of melancholy and suspense. The setting is akin to an old English mystery drama- and rightly so for Shimla is indeed a Victorian town in many ways. What adds to the whole atmospherics is a wonderful tune by RD Burman, who is at his best in the movie. The tune which forms the song 'Humein Tumse Pyaar Kitna' comes more than once in the film and complements the soul of the story wonderfully well. The other memorable song in the enterprise is 'Tune O Rangeele' which is like a beautiful show-reel of both Shimla's beauty and Paro and Madho's romance. The other songs too are good, though not as fondly recalled.

Parting Note: Kudrat is an excellent suspense-mystery-reincarnation-drama movie that boasts of some remarkable sequences and some memorable songs. Although its story seems to be a homage to Madhumati, it has its own uniqueness and own charm which is a result of the brilliant screenplay and direction by Chetan Anand.

For more such write-ups on lesser talked about Hindi movies, visit moviesandnomore.blogspot.in

Aranyaka
(1994)

The most disgusting movie ever made
This film is a glaring example of all that has been wrong with the Hindi 'art-cinema' movement. In an effort to shock and being different, this movie crosses all limits of decency and ends up as a SICK and DISGUSTING watch.A section of the festival circuit intelligentsia might see metaphors and visceral social commentary in this depraved tale, but in my view they would just need to get their minds checked. And fast. No one in their right mind could have even thought of making a movie on this story. Had anyone bought a ticket to this, they would have bought a ticket to hell. Film-makers should understand that their privilege comes with a responsibility too.

Do yourself a favor. Stay away. As much away as possible.

Tumko Na Bhool Paayenge
(2002)

Much better than the 'Masala' blockbusters of today
This movie came out when Salman Khan was in the news for all the wrong reasons- Aishwarya Rai break-up, the alleged hit-and-run case etc. In retrospect, all that must have contributed to its dismal performance at the ticket windows, for as a film, Tumko Na Bhool Paayenge, is a quite solid commercial potboiler. It has a good story to tell, some great songs, good looking actresses, and a lead actor in decent form. Inspired (though not copied) from a Hollywood flick, the movie even flirts with that much abused domain of the Mumbai underbelly, a trick that always tends to bring in critical acclaim. Had the first half been tighter and had the Jhonny Lever comic track done away with, the movie could have been at a different level altogether, competing with the best action thrillers of the Hindi film industry. In any case, even in its present form, TNBP is quite an entertaining watch.

Tip: Just fast forward the initial bits and 2-3 songs. Though don't dare miss anything once Salman Khan moves back to the city to unravel his past.

Palkon Ki Chhaon Mein
(1977)

A lost Gulzar film
Five minutes into the movie, and you can make out it is a Gulzar film. This Rajesh Khanna and Hema Malini film is though not directed by the maestro himself, but by Meraj, who was an assistant to the man in most his earlier directorial ventures. But everything- be it the dialogues or the treatment, or even the look given to the lead actors- looks straight out of the Gulzar school of film-making. That he has written the screenplay is just a part of this happy occurrence.

The story is set in a village, very much like the Jeetendra- Hema Malini starrer Khushboo that came just two years or so before this movie. But this time, instead of Jeetendra, the moustache is donned by (the then on the wane) superstar, who gets to play a meaty author (read Gulzar)- backed role. Ravi (Rajesh Khanna) is a city bred educated but unemployed youngster, who doesn't lose his sense of humor and wit despite his many failures to secure a decent employment. A chance encounter leads him to the job of a dakiya (postman) in a nearby village, which he gladly accepts. In the village he soon gets around to doing his job with much sincerity and dedication. Within no time gets acquainted with most of the village folk- each of who have their own story to tell. These include a senile old lady who awaits the return of her son, a young widow who has lost her husband in the war- but has not lost the zest for living, and a young lady named Mohini (Hema Malini) who to Ravi's pleasant surprise appears more than willing to strike a companionship. Soon Ravi and Mohini start meeting everyday and Ravi falls in love with her, completely oblivious to the fact that she has very little interest in him- the person, and most of her attention is reserved for Ravi- the postman. This is because Mohini expects a letter from her lover, an army-man, to reach her. Ravi's pleasing ways and respectful manners lead her to confide in him her relationship with this soldier (Jeetendra in a guest appearance). This love story of hers completely shatters Ravi's heart, who had genuinely felt that Mohini's affections were a result of them drawing closer to one another with each passing day. But consoling himself, Ravi decides to go the city and look for this soldier who had not written to Mohini despite his many promises. When he returns, the news arrives that Mohini's beloved is no more and has lost his life in the war. It then becomes his responsibility, being a postman, to break this news to Mohini…

Not unlike Khushboo, this story too looks like a chapter out of Malgudi Days with all its simple and unhurried appeal. The drama in the story is somewhat based on the fact that in those days very few village people could read and write their own letters- and the responsibility of the same then rested upon the village postman- who thus became an essential part of their lives. In that sense the village postman acted like a 'social glue', being a common element in all the villagers' lives. Here the song 'Dakiya Daak Laya' reflects on pretty much the same sentiment. While the postman drama is the backdrop, the innocent love-story with all its uncertainty and apprehensions, is the motif in the movie. Ravi's one sided love, and his expression of the same through his sketches (that are revealed at the end), is quite endearing. The most unique thing about the movie however, is that despite all its underlying tension; it retains a light-hearted spirit on the surface. There are many instances of humor, though like in all other Gulzar movies, they are quite understated. But quite unlike most of his films, the music score here is not too memorable with two of the songs being quite situational, and a forced nautanki dance number (picturised on Rekha) not being as fun as it should have.

Rajesh Khanna puts in an earnest act, and quite underplays his character for most parts. It is easy to make out that he was a very fine actor, and thus his fall from fame appears more baffling (though perhaps that had more to do with his off-screen issues). Hema Malini is effective, though it looks like she walked down straight from the sets to Khushboo to this movie. The supporting cast doesn't have much to do here with Farida Jalal (another Khushboo connection), Asrani, Amjad Khan, and Master Raju being the most popular ones from the ensemble.

Parting Note: This movie is a sweet love-story that deserves a watch by all those who like such village themes. And when you add the fact that it is almost a lost Gulzar film, it becomes a must watch for his fans.

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Kanoon
(1960)

A remarkably gripping tale that debates Capital Punishment
Capital Punishment has a marked prominence in the annals of all recorded history. There has been no civilization where this form of punishment has not been practiced. Be it the Greeks, or the Romans, or the Chinese- all had strict stipulations on human execution as a part of their code of law. Even major religions like Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism have permitted capital punishment for certain offenses. But despite all this, there has always been a serious debate on whether human execution is justified. It has always been argued whether justice is always just; most certainly there have been many recorded instances where apparently innocent have been executed. BR Chopra's 1960 movie Kanoon essentially debates and discusses this very pertinent issue of whether a human has got the right to take the life of another human, even if it is a means of enforcing punishment. Starring Ashok Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, and Nanda in principal roles along with some splendid lesser known actors essaying crucial roles, Kanoon is a resounding statement on the fallacies of human court of justice and on the inadequacies of the written law.

Kanoon is completely a director's film. It is an explosive subject and each and every scene shows the kind of efforts that would have gone in writing it. The dialogues are emphatic, the silences even more so. Most of the movies have one or two memorable scenes, but this one boasts of a series of such spectacular scenes that create a tremendous impact- right from the first scene, to the culmination of the drama. If one has to choose the most dramatic scenes, surprisingly a lot of them also come outside the court of law- behind the scenes of all the true drama. My vote would go to the interactions between the father and son in law post the murder, when Badri Prasad finds Kailash peeping into his private diary. Also the dialogue between the accused thief and his defendant Kailash is remarkably handled. There is also a superbly done slight side track when Meena starts suspecting Kailash of the murder, having absolutely just reasons for doing so. This delicate interplay of emotions between the protagonists is a delight to watch. The highpoint, though, as expected is the jaw-dropping climax, complete with the tense buildup and replete with an efficient disrobing of facts post the suspense is revealed.

The actors do more than a fine job, and show great dexterity despite the help they receive from the remarkable written material. I haven't seen much of Rajendra Kumar, but still can safely assume that this would be one of his best performances (most of the others I believe are in the sappy romantic space where he excelled and thus got knighted as the Jubilee Kumar). Ashok Kumar is truly amazing in his highly sinuous role. His effortless ease is hard to miss. Meena is slightly more than a typical Hindi movie heroine and gets good scope to leave a mark. There are no songs in the narrative, though it does boast of a finely choreographed ballet dance performance that blends seamlessly with the story.

Parting Note: Kanoon is simply a MUST WATCH for the people who love their court-room dramas, and also for those who like watching thrillers (though this is not a thriller in the conventional sense). What elevates it from being just an excellent film is its thought, and its purpose which it conveys in the most effective manner possible- through the route of a highly entertaining story.

moviesandnomore.blogspot.in

Satyakam
(1969)

Satyakaam is a comment on the society in the form of a biopic of a fictional character
Many great men have exhorted the importance of following the path of truth, however arduous, in amazingly simple words (almost nonchalantly in many cases). Our holy relics, our Upanishads, and our two most significant historical texts- the Ramayana and the Mahabharata- too have averred vehemently that there is nothing greater than reveling in the knowledge and the spreading of truth. Hrishikesh Mukherjee, in his 1969 feature Satyakaam, pays homage to these thoughts by means of depicting the journey of a man who never wavers from this formidable path of truth.

Hrishikesh Mukherjee chooses a very complex subject and treats it in an unconventional manner. The movie is definitely a critique on our society and how we tend to ignore a lot of things while leading our lives. Through the ordeals of Satyapriya he makes a defining statement on how difficult it is for an honest man to live with his head high in today's materialistic and insensitive set-up. But at the same time through the dissonance and irritability of Satyapriya, he makes the point that it is futile to stop appreciating the life around us by becoming a cynic and seeing the worst in each and every thing. By the end of his life, Satyapriya becomes so obsessed by his ideals that he even started ignoring the interests of his own family. In a way God decided to end his trials and tribulations by giving him the lung cancer, after having given him enough time to fall in love with life. So Satyapriya can be seen as both a loser and as a winner. In my view he was more of a loser than winner, but I am sure people will form quite diverse impressions if they decide to watch this movie.

Because of my above view, I see don't see this movie as a perfect film. Although the narrative and story as such is unique and the intentions are definitely quite honest, I didn't like Satyapriya's character and was left disappointed by him- and it was his story. Of course it was how Hrishikesh Mukherjee must have intended it to be, but because of the way the story was treated, the movie failed to either inspire or educate or educate. It is lengthy and has many unnecessary sequences that don't really add up to the central theme. Also, Satyasharan's (Ashok Kumar) character is shown as caught between his Dharma and his traditions. He is neither here nor there- and so is the film in its entirety. The performances by the lead cast otherwise are indeed praiseworthy- Dharmendra especially more because he was Satyapriya- and he was the entire film.

Parting Note: More than a film, Satyakaam is a comment on the society in the form of a biopic of a fictional character. It is most certainly an important film and showcases the range of Hrishikesh Mukherjee as a director. But overall the film is not the classic that it promises it to be.

moviesandnomore.blogspot.in

Party
(1984)

Indulgent cinema at its most brilliant
Govind Nihalani's Party, based on a play by noted Marathi playwright Mahesh Elkunchwar, is indulgent cinema at its most brilliant. This irreverent indulgence however can be mostly attributed to the playwright, for it is set in the world of elitist art and theatre and there are long ramblings about the responsibility of art and its connections to politics. And thus, this is one of those rare Hindi movies that give the impression of being entirely written on paper before any of their shots were canned. It is the quintessential theatrical cinema, minus all its negative connotations. It is hard to remember any other such movie where long visceral monologues were the fodder for most of the narrative.

The movie is set entirely in one long party where the most elite and distinguished theatre personalities and journalists gather to celebrate the success of one of their own. This constrained time-frame and space builds up tremendous tension in the exchanges of many of the characters. But before the party is set in motion, the main characters get introduced one by one through a series of poignant scenes. A veteran insecure writer who is becoming stricken by the shallowness of his work, and his alcoholic and lonely girlfriend of ten years who craves for his attention; a bespectacled, fiercely independent, female journalist who is an open supporter of Maoists; an upcoming and hugely talented playwright who is grappling with the lack of purpose in his writing; a middle aged socialite who is throwing the party to celebrate her writer friend's recent award, and her daughter who is a single mother waiting for the return of her lover, a talented young writer himself, who has gone to support and fight with the adivasis in the jungles of Andhra; a middle aged theatre star actor who has lost his own identity in the maze of iconic characters that he has lived and breathed. The troubles and emotions of all these characters collide and implode while they party and the wine flows…

Apart from these main characters under the spotlight, there are many other interesting peripheral characters that act as the director's tool to make a comment on the moral depravity that is quite rampant in such high-society circles. The shallowness and superficiality that infests such people who are nothing but troubled souls from inside, quite unable to fight their own demons, is brought out remarkably through a series of exchanges that are quite intriguing to witness. And witness is what a stolid, sober, and quiet family friend of the rich hostess of the party does- Amrish Puri, once again after Aakrosh, in a role that is not quite connected to the main happenings in the narrative, but still is a vital and significant vehicle to channelize the director's vision. He is the assured presence which is so unlike the rest of the people in the party, and yet in some ways as artificial as everyone else, for he chooses to take a back seat and let the show go on, despite his many reservations with a lot that happens during the course of the night. In some ways his character symbolizes a lot of people in our society who are dissatisfied and unhappy with the social happenings, but remain on the surface shielding themselves from the gaze of the dirty maze.

The political backdrop of the proceedings adds an intriguing dimension to all discussions between the lead characters. The growing social unrest in some corners of the country, and how some people some people pretend to be affected by it all is brought out wonderfully well through some dramatic exchanges. This backdrop also gives an opportunity to the makers to debate and discuss an issue that evidently is of great importance to them- the intertwining of art and politics and can both be really kept separate from one another. The last half an hour or so is devoted exclusively to this debate, and the rest of the things are relegated to the background. This change of texture is not exactly sudden, but is still quite stark. To many it may come across as too quirky, but it is nothing but an honest expression of an artist's most personal thoughts and conflicts...

Some of the leading theatre personalities of that time make up the ensemble cast; however the two champions of parallel cinema of that time- Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri are given very small but significant cameos to play. All the actors do a seemingly fabulous job, but it has to be said that hardly anyone of them has been made to transcend his or her comfort zone. The written material is so strong and emphatic, and the treatment is so very much like a theatre play, that these veterans of the stage would have hardly found it very challenging.

Parting Note: Party is one of Govind Nihalani's finest works, if not the finest. However it is hard to infer how much of its finesse can be attributed to him, and how much of it is the brilliance of the playwright who has written the play. It is certainly a much watch for all those who like watching unconventional cinema.

moviesandnomore.blogspot.in

Yaadein
(1964)

An extraordinary experiment with an ordinary impact
Almost fifty years ago, with this movie, Sunil Dutt attempted something remarkably innovative and courageous… a hundred minute feature starring no one else but himself!

Vanity is undesirable. But no one can deny that some of the greatest artists been some of the most vainglorious people of their time. Be it painters or actors, politicians or writers. If the vanity was not in their words, it was in their works. If it was not in their works, it was in their actions. In some ways a Mahatma Gandhi walking semi-naked, with just a loincloth on, into the viceroy's office was a blasphemously vain thing to do!

So, is humility overrated?

Cinema, being a visual medium, is a breeding ground for narcissism. Some people, the privileged lot blessed by above average looks, express the very emotion by being very finicky about their physicality. Some others take the other route, of being much in love with their craft- and in the process many of them end of pushing the envelope. 'Yaadein' is one such example where an artist's indulgence with himself and his craft has produced an extremely unique and personal piece of work. More than a movie, it is a statement that there is no limit to creativity and that the possibilities are indeed infinite.

But all said and done cinema is a medium to entertain, most would say. But a few would add that it is also a medium to express. However, the two things are seldom separate as more innovative the expression, more is the probability of it also being entertaining. So is 'Yaadein' entertaining? Depends on what your cup of tea is. For those who can appreciate experiments for how much out from the box they are, will certainly relish watching the movie, despite its excruciatingly slow pace. Also, there is another set of people (a big one at that) who might identify with a lot of things Sunil Dutt does in the movie- people who are married and especially ones who have been that for a while. But those who look for a story (a majority I presume) would be disappointed (that is if they manage to complete the film- my guess is they won't! I just about managed myself).

The film has a young Sunil Dutt coming home after work and discovering that his wife has walked out of his life- taking with her their two kids and leaving behind a note… and lifetime of memories. As the night progresses the man starts reminiscing of the past and transforms from being an angry and vengeful husband to a helpless and hopeless romantic, longing for his wife and kids. In the process his soliloquy is what keeps the audience company. Instead of using other actors, Sunil Dutt uses sounds, dialogues, shadows, puppets, balloons, and what not- to create the scenes. To an ardent movie lover, this very compromise and how it is executed would be worth the hundred minutes of the run-time.

Once I was done watching the film, a question just came to my mind intuitively. How does Sanjay Dutt feel when he watches this film of his parents? It is like reading a personal diary for it contains so many moments that seem to come straight out of Sunil Dutt and Nargis Dutt's lives. Today both of them are no more, but their work would remain forever for the benefit of their posterity (and the fans). Truly, cinema (or art in general) is one sure way created by mere mortals to achieve immortality.

For my views on more such lesser known movies from the world of Hindi cinema, do check moviesandnomore.blogspot.in

Gharaonda
(1977)

A Shyam Benegal film disguised as a Rajshri one!
The star-cast and IMDb summary of this Bhimsain Khurana film gave an impression of it being a film in the mould of 'Chhoti si Baat' or 'Rajnigandha'. After all, one can hardly expect an Amol Palekar or a Zarina Wahab to star in a movie that is not a feel-good entertainer. But 'Gharonda' is hardly that Basu Chatterjee or a Rajshri movie from the 1970s that would leave you smiling and cause you to drift away in a simple and endearing world where everyone is good at heart and there are hardly any vices. It surely tells a story of two working-class people living in an urban city (much like Chhoti si Baat and Rajnigandha), but here the tone and tenor is drastically different. The world out here is the big and bad one where people aren't always sweet and don't always have the best of intentions. They are insecure yet ambitious, apprehensive yet ruthless. They hardly think beyond their own interests and seldom give a damn about the lives of others. The film tells the story of two people in love who dream to have their own house in the concrete jungle of Mumbai, daring to take on all the challenges that the city throws on them. How their lives take a drastic turn post this, is what the film is all about.

Gharonda is more like a Shyam Benegal or a Govind Nihalani film in its treatment. Emphasizing on the dark human desires and talking about people going through their most troubled times, the movie is a dark and pessimistic take on human emotions and their worth (or worthlessness) in a big modern city like Bombay. Amol Palekar and Zarina Wahab play office colleagues who fall in love and decide to marry. But before taking the marital plunge, they decide to own a flat of their own for which Amol is forced to take a loan. But in a rather cruel twist of fate, the builder with whom they book a flat turns out to be a swindler. Not able to accept this big monetary loss, Amol's room-mate, who had also booked a flat with the same builder, commits suicide. Amol completely breaks down but not before making an indecent proposal to Zarina that literally breaks her heart. Accepting defeat at the hands of the heartless society, Amol asks Zarina to marry their elderly boss (Shreeram Lagoo) who had shown interest in her on more than once occasion. He tells her that their boss couldn't be expected to live for more than a few months at best, and after his death they could get together again and live comfortably off the old man's wealth. Outraged at this suggestion, Zarina breaks all ties with him. But owing to her unstable financial condition and her wish to fulfill her younger brother's ambitions of studying abroad, she decides to honor her boss's proposal to her and marries him. However, she accepts her husband wholeheartedly and makes all the efforts to have him hale and hearty again. Meanwhile, devastated by this betrayal, Amol loses all interest in life and becomes a recluse…

There are a lot of elements in this film that are unconventional. Amol is shown to be living in a shady men's hostel where one of room-mates has regular tete-e-tete with prostitutes. Even Amol brings Zarina to his room for the first time with not so noble intentions. The old man's pursuit of a young Zarina (almost his daughter's age) is again not something which is regular. Amol's dissonance with the world and his complete disregard for his own self post Zarina's marriage, again is something which is not worthy of a Hindi movie hero. He becomes an urban version of Devdas, and there is also a mention of his involvement with prostitutes. Zarina's comfort level with her much senior husband is again dramatic, and quite uncomfortable. She becomes his trophy wife without any complaints and accepts him with all his deficiencies. More than a wife, she becomes his nurse, his householder, and his closest friend. Thus all the characters in the story have shades of grey, which is truly unique for a movie of its time and age. The songs of the film are quite unlike the rest of the narrative. They are given an easy treatment and are sans any dramatic or visceral connotations. In fact if seen in isolation, they would give a completely different impression about the movie. 'Do Deewane Sheher Mein' is the memorable song from the album, one for which Gulzar won many accolades. As far as the performances go, Amol Palekar attempts a completely different role and although he does well, it is difficult to accept him this pessimistic and discontent avatar. Zarina Wahab too is not very convincing in the complex role and it easy to see why she didn't become a very popular actress of that time. A Shabana Azmi instead of her could have added a completely different texture to the performance with her penchant for such complicated characters. Similarly a Shreeram Lagoo hasn't got that imposing aura that his character needed. One feels that a Sanjeev Kumar or an Amjad Khan could have taken the film to an altogether different level.

Parting Note: Gharonda is a semi-Shyam Benegal film with a Rajshri cast- It has a powerful narrative that could have been well served by likes of Naseeruddin Shah, Sanjeev Kumar, and Shabana Azmi. The film tells a novel story and is given a realistic treatment. However because of its weak casting it fails to create a great impact and ends up being good film, but hardly a must watch one.

For more such reviews on lesser known Hindi films, please visit moviesandnomore.blogspot.in

Buddha Mil Gaya
(1971)

Buddha Mil Gaya is the closest Hrishikesh Mukherjee gets to the Salim Javed brand of entertainment.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Salim-Javed never collaborated on a movie. In the 1970s, these were two institutions of the Hindi film industry that operated in different spaces altogether- and yet were able to enthrall the same audience with their distinct approaches to telling a story on screen. Both were prolific, and both were big brands. At the start of the decade Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed Buddha Mil Gaya', comedy- thriller that is funnier than most out and out comedies of that time, and also has more thrills than most out and out thrillers of the period. And the striking thing about the movie is its almost 'Salim-Javed'ian plot treated by Mukherjee in his own trademark manner. Also, it is one of those rare non-art-house Hindi movies in which the hero of the show is an old man- essayed by the inimitable Om Prakash. And what makes it more unique is that the old man here is not shown as frail or dependent on someone. The man here fights his own battles and takes everything head on, while not losing his sense of humor even for a moment. This elderly fellow is younger than most youngsters at heart- he is quick, he is nimble, he is charming, and he is brave. And he is remarkably entertaining.

The movie stars Deven Verma and Navin Nischal as slackers who do a bit of photography to earn their daily bread. Tenants to a kind yet fiery old lady and her granddaughter, the two guys are forever hard pressed for money. Then one day they see an advertisement announcing for a missing old man to report himself to his corporate partners in the next fifteen days, or else be at the risk of losing all his money to them. The two of them wish to catch hold of this old fellow and apprise him of this news. They think that this might lead them to a handsome sum of money. In a happy coincidence they spot the old man in one of the photographs they had clicked a few days back and very soon run into him at the same place where they clicked it. They request the man to accompany them to their home, and the man agrees because of a personal reason. The two however are unaware that this old fellow is on a grave mission to rest the ghosts of his past. Within no time they too get well and truly embroiled in the dangerous game of the old fellow. What follows next and what shape does the old man's mission take, is what the movie is all about.

There are slight cinematic liberties that Mukherjee takes in the movie, especially in the first half. But all in all he has a taut script at hand which he executes with great dexterity on screen. It looks like the making of the film was a joyride and that fun and frolic gets reflected in the way the characters perform. The humor in the film is clean and sans any innuendos (as you expect with any Hrishikesh Mukherjee film), and it is remarkable the way the director derives genuine laughs in the most simple and innocuous of situations. The two heroines opposite Deven and Navin are Aruna Irani and Archana (a new face in her only Hindi movie). The exchanges between the two couples are most deftly designed and it is ensured that none of it is the run of the mill stiff.

When the old man enters their lives and Deven and Navin get involved in his affairs- the two of them form a pair not far off from the Amar-Prem Jodi from Andaaz Apna Apna- two not-so-smart people led by the slightly less duffer but vastly more articulate fellow on the trail of something intricate. Both the actors do a fine job, more so Deven Verma who lights up the scenes with his flair for comedy. However, the life and soul of the film is the performance of Om Prakash. He is effervescent on screen and completely owns the second half of the story. The way he expresses himself in the 'thumri' he teaches Archana is simply amazing. It is pretty evident the man knew that he would never get many such opportunities to play such a flamboyant character- and thus makes the most of it. The story and the intentions of his characters in the film are kept as suspense till the last few minutes, and this adds an additional dimension of intrigue to the narrative.

The music by RD Burman is superb- two of the songs are quite popular. 'Raat Kali Ek Khwab Mein Aayi' is one of the timeless romantic numbers created by the maestro. There is also one slightly weird comic dance number with Om Prakash as the center of the attraction that comes towards the end of the film and works well in the context of the narrative.

To read my views on more such lesser known Hindi films, please visit moviesandnomore.blogspot.in

Anamika
(1973)

Intelligent Popcorn cinema with great songs- Super fun!
After watching this Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri starrer from the early 70s, I was really surprised why this movie is not talked about more often. It is a light-hearted suspense drama, with some crackling romantic moments between the lead pair and some wonderful songs. Now this may sound like one of those movies that attempt a mishmash of all genres in the garb of producing an entertaining product, but this one has a core strong story too that holds everything together. And if I may add, it is one of the most entertaining movies I have seen from the 1970s.

Devendra (Sanjeev Kumar in a role far off from what he was more renowned for) plays a famous writer, who incidentally is a misogynist, and an unabashed one at that. He lives with his uncle (AK Hangal), his niece, and a secretary Hanuman (Asrani in a typical comic role). One night, while they all are returning from a press conference, they spot a woman (Jaya Bhaduri) being thrown off from a car on a deserted road near their home. They rush forward to help, and discover that the woman had gone unconscious. On the insistence of his Uncle, Devendra takes her to their place. The next morning, when the woman gains consciousness, she starts behaving oddly and to everyone's utter surprise, claims to be Devendra's wife. The family doctor is called for and he tells them that the woman has sustained some internal injuries and needs to be taken care of for fast recovery. Against his will, and again on his Uncle's insistence, Devendra agrees to let her stay at their home, on the condition that he would not play-act to be her husband. But things begin to change when he starts falling in love with the simplicity, charm, and devotedness of this woman (who they start referring to as Anamika). What happens next and how Devendra gets embroiled in a potentially dangerous turn of events that threaten to play with life and his composure, is what the movie is all about.

The movie has many elements that are associated with most commercial movies of that time. It has a clichéd comic track featuring Asrani, but the guy makes it work by his sheer capacity to embrace buffoonery. It has a seduction number (which is far from seduction and is actually a very cute romantic song), a Helen dance number (a signatory RD Burman offering), an evil villain lusting after the lead heroine, and a quintessential AK Hangal performance. The movie even gives Sanjeev Kumar the opportunity to do some action and beat up some goons (the only time the man looks awkward on screen). But despite all this, it is a highly entertaining enterprise that is lent solidarity by the sincerity and calm presence of its lead actors. They are aided in their endeavor by some fine dialogues and some crisp writing, not to mention the tight pace maintained by the director (Raghunath Jalani) over the sequence of events. The one thing he could have changed (or rather done away completely with), are the last five minutes of the film. But despite that 'Anamika' has a runtime of just over 120 minutes.

This movie is an example of how two fine actors can take a good story to a different level altogether. The brilliance of Sanjeev Kumar gets reflected in many scenes, which he handles with the dexterity and command that very few actors of time could have managed without appearing theatrical. The sequences when he falls in love with Anamika are a sheer delight to watch. Jaya Bhaduri gets a meaty role and does full justice to it. Again very few actresses from that time could have done what she has done in this movie convincingly (in fact no one in my opinion). The movie is embellished with some beautiful music by RD Burman, which is given full justice by making the songs a seamless part of the narrative and not mere add-ons (except the Helen number, and understandably so). The songs "Bahon mein Chale aao' and 'Meri Bheegi Bheegi si' deserve special mention.

Parting Note: The movie is a highly enjoyable watch, and I guess can be categorized as 'intelligent-popcorn cinema' (if people don't find it an 'Oxymoron'ish phrasing).

Lekin...
(1990)

For those who don't mind a slow pacing to their movies, and can digest a theme involving supernatural elements, Lekin is a very good watch.
"Yaara Sili Sili Virah Ki Raat Ka Jalna"

'Lekin' is a movie best remembered for this timeless song by Lata Mangeshkar. Directed by Gulzar and produced by the nightingale of Bollywood herself (along with her Brother Hridyanath Mangeshkar, who also takes up the responsibility of composing music for the film), Lekin is the most 'hatke' theme attempted by Gulzar in his long and illustrious directorial career. It is a story that is mythical, rustic, and open to interpretations- like so many of the folktales that can be heard in villages abode to old monuments that act as a bridge between the past and the present. Starring Vinod Khanna and Dimple Kapadia in principal roles, Lekin is a story seeped in the culture of the most mystical part of our nation- Rajasthan.

Samir (Vinod Khanna) is sent to a non-descript village in Rajasthan to evaluate and classify the possessions of an old palace that was once owned by the king of that region, and the doors to which have not been opened since the past few decades. On the way he has a strange encounter with a gypsy woman (Dimple Kapadia). Not thinking too much about it, he reaches his destination where he discovers that his old friend Siddique (Amjad Khan) is now a collector. The very next day he starts his job in the old palace, but things take a strange turn when he meets the gypsy woman once again. Soon, a lot of things start happening thick and fast around Samir, of which he cannot make any sense at all. How Samir gets embroiled in the age old forgotten tale of the sandy ruins, and how his life gets hijacked by an apparition from the past, is what the movie is all about.

The movie is different not only in terms of its story, but also in terms of the way Gulzar has treated it. He very beautifully captures the mood of the 'lands of kings', and adds a stamp of authenticity in each and every frame of the narrative. He creates a world that sucks you into it, and involves just like a very well written and intriguing bit of poetry. There is suspense, but it is not hurried. Everything is languid, and each and every bit of the puzzle unfolds patiently. It appears that Gulzar wants the viewers to feel the restiveness, the confusion, and the curiosity that is haunting Samir. Also, in terms of its theme, Gulzar chooses a story could well have been converted into a tacky Ramsey affair, in the hands of a lesser and a more commercially inclined man. But Gulzar not only tells a story, he also raises a lot of questions about the paranormal, and the supernatural. Of course, the viewers are left to form their own interpretations through the course of the story, and also at the end of it all. It may all seem implausible, as it does to the protagonist initially, but then suddenly it may start making sense. Or rather, you would stop caring about its plausibility, and would just start to go with the flow of the proceedings (that is what happened with me). The only glitch is that this flow gets a little too slow in the middle of the movie- and that has led to it becoming a lengthy feature at around 160 min.

There are a lot of important characters in the story played by well known names of that time including Alok Nath and Vijayendra Ghatge. Hema Malini chips in with a very important cameo appearance. And like in most Gulzar movies, the music plays an additional character, one which often assumes more command and respect than the mere mortals on screen. That said, even the mortals aren't far behind in this feature, for both Vinod Khanna and Dimple Kapadia do a fabulous job. Dimple Kapadia looks ethereal, and talks more through her eyes than through her words. Amjad Khan (highly obese at the fag-end of his career) is efficient as the hero's best friend and confidante- and so is the actress who plays his wife.

For my views on more such lesser talked about Hindi movies, do check out moviesandnomore.blogspot.in

Kitaab
(1977)

Must watch movie on child psychology- Gulzar's finest!!
As adults or as grown-ups, people feel that their childhood was the golden period of their lives. More often than not you would find people reminiscing and thinking about all the fun they used to have in school, and all the fun that they could have-but didn't have. All this is fine, but ask a kid whether he feels that he is happy with the world around him, and the way his life is going on- more often or not you would not get an answer in the affirmative. A child's world is a really complex one, where each problem is like a stone thrown from the top of a hill. To the child at the bottom of the hill, it is a stone that is moving down with great thrust, threatening to hurt him and damage his life. On the other hand, to the adults at the top, the stone is nothing but a casual flick of the wrist- something innocuous, and something that does not deserve much attention. Adults really will never understand the plights of their kids, or rather will refuse to understand them, and rightly so- for they know that these silly issues would pass sooner than later, and the kid will realize his folly at giving it too much undue importance. But what they don't realize is that it is this very time when a child is most vulnerable, and any casual handling of the winds that- as per him- threaten to storm his life, may lead to deep effects on his psyche that may not wear off even when he grows up.

Gulzar's 'Kitaab' is an exceptional reconstruction of a child's mind. It is a movie that is so thoughtful and so precise, that it seems like Gulzar had put himself in a child's mind to construct this story (or rather he might have taken some autobiographical references). It is story of a boy grappling with the world around him, and struggling to make sense of the things that happen and don't happen around him, in a manner that seems far off from what he thinks is logical. Babla (Master Raju in an unusual lead role for a Hindi movie) lives in Delhi with his elder sister (Vidya Sinha) and her husband (Uttam Kumar). He has been sent to the city that is far away from his hometown, by his mother, with the aim of giving him better education and a better environment to live in and blossom. A twelve year old righteous kid, Babla, who likes reading and writing more than the subjects he is asked to tackle in his school, is confused by the world around him. He fails to absorb the fact that the world expects children to get educated so that they can lead a respected life once they grow up and face the 'real world'. To him the street-side 'madari' kid seems to be in a better position for he is not made to attend school. To add to his confusion, he cannot understand why his mother has sent him away from her, and why his sister does not seem to have enough time for him. With the course of time he develops a stronger bond with his sister's husband who seems to care for him a lot more than even his sister. On the schooling front, he is frustrated by the constant stream of letters that the school keeps sending to his home, asking his guardians to reprimand him for the naughty deeds he never commits, but always gets blamed for by the teachers. His only respite from the worldly troubles is his best friend 'Paplu' with whom he enjoys the simple pleasures of life.

But then all the things things bottle up inside his head and he runs away from his home and city, aiming to go back to his mother and his village, away from all the troubles and all the people who did not seem to understand how he felt. Kitaab is the story of his journey, and how he evolves and grows up within a span of two days. Gulzar presents the story in an innovative back and forth manner; setting it in the present and going back through flashbacks triggered by the things Babla observes during his journey. As with every Gulzar movie, there are some delightful songs (though not very well known), but very relevant to everything that the master was trying to say through this film. To talk about performances, Master Raju brings alive Babla on screen, and it won't be an understatement to say that his performance is one of the best ones ever in Hindi cinema. The rest of the cast is efficient; Uttam Kumar deserves special mention for pitching in with a heartwarming and earnest act as Babla's guardian, and the kid who plays Babla's best friend Paplu too does a great job (so does everyone actually).

I can go on rambling about this movie, but instead of I will conclude with why everyone must watch this film- · You would have never such a thoughtful and sensitive tale on child psychology · This is Gulzar's best work by far (There are a few movies of his I am yet to see- but it would be tough to surpass this gem) · It will definitely lead you to remember some of the times spent in school · It will help you emerge (hopefully) as somewhat better human beings by the time the movie end- better parents (present and prospective) for sure

· It is one of the best movies to have come out of Hindi cinema- a true classic, and sadly a very lesser known one…

PS: If you thought 'Udaan' was good (which it was admittedly), just watch this one!!

Ek Pal
(1986)

A disappointing overtly feminist film written by Gulzar!
Before watching this movie I had never been disappointed by a film written/directed by Gulzar. Even in his least good ones, there are some moments that are striking. This movie boasts of a stellar cast- Shabana, Naseer, and Farookh- the three stalwarts of the parallel (semi- commercial) Hindi cinema; and despite that end up as a very less than satisfactory watch.

The story is set in the North-East- which is refreshing- as very few of our movies have had that area as the backdrop. Farookh Sheikh plays a confident and charming young man who doesn't take long to woo a naive and nebulous Shabana. Some usual sequences follow and Shabana realizes that Farookh doesn't really care for her as much as she cares for him. He goes abroad for higher studies. Shabana is married off to an equally confident (but slightly less effervescent) young man- Naseer- who is also a family friend.

What follows is very uninspired- Naseer is a very busy man- and doesn't seem to spend enough time with his wife. Shabana starts drinking regularly to kill time and fill the void in her marriage life. Soon Naseer has to leave town for some official work and Farookh returns.

The story is a typical love triangle narrated from the point of view of the woman. No wonder... for a female director is at the helm of the proceedings. So she makes all points in favor of women empowerment. Her lead character is a liberated lady who doesn't fret about drinking in front of his husband. She even goes to to have an affair. The ending too, can be applauded by feminists (most probably would have)- but is far from practical.

Contrast can be drawn between this movie and one of Shabana Azmi's earliest works Ankur (directed by Shyam Benegal). In some ways this is an urbanized and modern version of that film- though in now ways as appealing and enchanting.

Not worth the time- most disappointing- if you wish to watch the same actors than don't look much beyond Sparsh, Khandar, or Masoom.

Khushboo
(1975)

Could have been a delightful Malgudi Days tale
I was thrilled when I saw Gulzar's 'Khushboo' unfolding in a manner similar to the RK Narayan's classic fable based on the lives of people in a fictional village.

Starring Jeetendra and Hema Malini in lead roles, Khushboo is based on a story by Saratchandra Chatterjee (The man who also wrote Devdas). Kusum (essayed by Hema Malini) looks after a wealthy old lady who lives all alone in the village. This lady falls sick and Dr. Brindavan (Jeetendra in a role and look similar to his earlier film with Gulzar-Parichay) is summoned from a nearby village to tend to her. Kusum soon realizes that Dr. Brindavan is none other but the guy who she was engaged to marry as a kid. Their alliance had been fixed when they were very young, but it could not materialize due to certain misunderstandings. Subsequently, she and her mother had been unceremoniously disowned by Brindavan's family- and while he and his family move on in life- Kusum remains still stuck in the past. She still considers herself married to Brindavan and refuses to marry anybody else.

Soon Kusum learns that Brindavan is married and even has a four year old son Charan. When Dr. Brindavan recognizes her and learns about how she still considers him her husband, he starts to feel a little guilty- but at the same time she gains a lot of respect in his eyes. He decides to marry Kusum (his first wife being no more) and solemnize the possessiveness she felt for him, but due to certain misunderstandings it does not happen. At the same time a beautiful bond develops between his son Charan, and Kusum. Charan also becomes very close to Kusum's brother (played by Asrani).

The story takes a turn when Dr. Brindavan's village gets hit by the epidemic of Plague. Many people die, including some of his near and dear ones- his highly efficient and respectful compounder Birju being one of the victims. As many people start leaving the village out of fear- there remains no option for Brindavan to leave Charan with Kusum at her home. He too starts living there on her behest, though most of the time he remains away tending to the victims of the epidemic.

Gulzar treats his stories with a lot of love and affection. I am yet to see many of his works, but I can bet that this would rate as one of his finest efforts ever. He is perhaps the most perfect writer/poet who has graced Hindi Cinema- I won't exhaust my eulogies for him as, as I mentioned I am yet to see many of his works and hopefully write about. Hema Malini delivers surely one of her best performance ever, and Jeetendra is equally sincere and effective. The supporting cast, that includes the likes of Farida Jalal and Asrani, too leaves a mark with their earnest performances. Special mention must be given to Master Raju (who plays Charan) who simply lights up the screen whenever he appears and is most definitely the best child artist ever in Hindi Cinema.

This movie also boasts of memorable music by RD Burman. Each and every song is a gem and may be a part of the playlists of old Hindi film music lovers- 'Bechara Dil Kya Kare', 'Oh Maajhi re' being two of the most popular ones.

For my views on more such lesser known movies from the world of Hindi cinema, do check moviesandnomore.blogspot.in

Paheli
(1977)

When I saw this little gem of a movie from Rajshri- Paheli, I got so much sucked into its world that I found it very hard to get back to my world.
Paheli is a sweet story of a city boy visiting his grandmother in his ancestral village and a village girl who becomes his companion there. The movie has no big known names and was the launch vehicle for all its young actors including Arun Govil. Montu (Biswajeet) has just completed his school and decides to visit his grandmother in their village in his summer vacations along with some friends. There, he meets Gauri, an exuberant and full of life village girl who initially teases him a lot for his city ways and then strikes a great companionship with him. Montu's friends find it difficult to adjust to the village life despite the love and affection thrown at them from all quarters and leave for the city after two days. Montu stays behind and falls in love with the village and its people. He and Gauri spend some great and joyous time together- exploring the vistas and everything else the village had to offer. They run around, they fight, they argue, and they learn from each other. Theirs is the sweetest age of first love, and the movie revels in their joys of discovering it without actually realizing it.

Finally the time comes for Montu to leave the village and return to the city where he has to enroll in a college. He makes a promise to both his grandmother and Gauri that he would return to the village in his next summer vacations one year later. That one year passes rather quickly and he hurries back to the village, only to realize that many things have changed in the one year that has gone by, including Gauri who has started behaving rather weirdly in his company. Montu cannot make any sense of this frustrating paheli (puzzle/riddle) that he had to contend with. He wants Gauri to be the same way as she was one year back, but cannot realize a simple truth that was staring at them from all quarters- The simple truth that she and he were grown up people now. But everything gets sorted out at the end of course.

The movie is a delightful take on adolescent love. It smells of and exudes our Indian values and culture- the values that getting somewhat diluted in the current times. It is like an experience and transported me to a different world altogether- a world that is peaceful and compassionate. But most of all it introduced me to Gauri- a character that I absolutely loved. Nameeta Chandra, the girl who plays Gauri, does a great job of it and is truly the life and soul of the movie. After watching this movie, I did quite a search on her and realized that she almost disappeared after doing this movie (she did a devotional movie Ganga Dham with Arun Govil and a bit appearance in a Masala potboiler in the late 1980s- that's it). It is unfortunate as I found her enthralling and would have loved to see more of her. I guess I will have to make do with watching bits and pieces of Paheli every now and then. It is truly an unknown gem by Rajshri, and it's quite strange that there are not many reactions on the movie online. Though many people have commented really fondly about this movie and Nameeta on its YouTube songs links. So I guess I have not really gone mad!

I have written about more such lesser known Hindi movies on moviesandnomore.blogspot.in

Sparsh
(1980)

Sparsh is a happy movie about life and learning to cope with its losses.
The subject of disability on celluloid has its share of fans but I am certainly not one amongst them. I, for one, could not comprehend Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 'Black' and found it quite tedious to sit through. His 'Guzaarish' was no masterpiece for me either. So when I decided to watch Sai Paranjpai's 'Sparsh', I was a little apprehensive despite being a great fan of her other noted works- 'Katha' and 'Chashme Buddoor'. It stars Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi- two of the most celebrated actors in Hindi cinema- and after you finish viewing this little gem- you would have no doubts remaining as to why these two are so highly rated. Naseeruddin Shah plays Anirudh, a blind man, who runs an institute for blind children. Shabhana Azmi plays Kavita, a widow, who has not recovered from the death of her husband even three years hence.

Anirudh is shown to be self-reliant man who scorns at any efforts made to help him lead his life. He hates it when blind people are referred to as 'Bechaaras'. His is a really strong persona that commands respect from his students and staff alike. One, however, wonders whether this show of strength and courage an effort made by him to conceal the pain and incompleteness he feels within himself. Kavita on the other hand makes no attempt to hide her dolefulness and lack of purpose in life. She spends all her time in singing and gardening.

The story starts off really slowly with hardly any movement in the first twenty minutes. However things pick up considerably when Kavita joins Anirudh's institute as a mentor, guide, and friend to the children. They warm up to her immediately and start reveling in her presence. Even she is thrilled to receive so much love and respect from them. She starts coming to the institute on a regular basis and starts devoting her entire time and energies completely to the happiness and benefit of the children. She tells them stories, helps them prepare for dramas, but more than all this, she gives them the motherly love they were devoid of earlier. Meanwhile, the bond between Kavita and Anirudh starts getting stronger with each passing day. Regular meeting and interactions slowly gets translated into mutual liking. So much so that after some time they realize that they both need each other in their lives and decide to get married. However complications arise in the form of Anirudh's self doubts that get elevated by a few stray remarks made by his acquaintances. He starts to feel that Kavita is making a sacrifice by marrying him and is forcing herself into lifelong misery and compromise.

The running of the blind school is shown remarkably well. It looks like considerable research went into the whole thing and the results are just amazing. All the kids perform naturally, so much so that one is forced to wonder whether they were actually blind or just acting. There is one kid 'Paploo' who stands out, and incidentally he is the only kid in the school with the gift of sight. There is a small track about him feeling jealous of the blind kids as they managed get more attention from their aunty Kavita. There are a lot of moments between the kids and Kavita that are so endearing that you can't help smiling. The drama between Anirudh and Kavita too is very engaging. Same is the case with the interactions between Anirudh and his sighted assistant to whom acts as a 'love guru' (borrowing a modern lingo).

The strength of this movie lies in its dialogues. Unlike many other movies from the 1970s and 80s that looked like they were made without prior written material, this one looks like it was made after meticulous planning. The story is set in the suburbs of South Delhi- and even the locations are devoid of any misery or darkness just like the content. The music is soothing and works well for the film, however it boasts of no songs that are popular even today.

Parting note- Sparsh is a happy movie about life and learning to cope with its losses. Never once is a kid shown crying over his lack of sight, or feeling depressed about it. And that, for me, is film's greatest victory. Sai Paranjpye more than deserves all the plaudits she got for making this, so did Naseeruddin Shah (who got the National Award) and Shabana Azmi. Sanjay Leela Bhansali needs to take a cue from this movie and reflect on how he could have treated his earlier movies better.

For my views on more such lesser known movies from the world of Hindi cinema, please check out moviesandnomore. blogspot. com

Katha
(1983)

It is a light-hearted comedy with a simple narrative that shows the daily hustles and bustles of a Mumbai 'chawl'
This 1983 Naseeruddin Shah- Deepti Naval- Farookh Sheikh starer is a take on the popular children's tale- 'The Hare and the Tortoise'. It is a light-hearted comedy with a simple narrative that shows the daily hustles and bustles of a Mumbai 'chawl', and how the life of the simple- helpful-naive-idealistic Rajaram (Naseeruddin Shah as the Tortoise) changes when the confident-clever-manipulative-complacent Bashu (Farookh Shiekh as the Hare) re-enters his life. The sequence of events brings out a stark contrast between the two characters and how they approach each and every situation and life in general. Very subtly the film also paints a comparative picture between the 'high society' and the 'chawl class people'. The unity that binds the 'chawl' people and the way they enjoy simple joys of life is shown in a very adept manner. Although this is an ensemble cast film, there are almost no sub-plots or distractions and the movie sticks to its core idea. The end is beautifully done and is really thought provoking. The old story has it that the tortoise always wins. But in today's times, as a character rightly sums up- 'yeh jeet bi koi jeet Hui?'

A very little known classic by Sai Paranjpaye movie- this certainly deserves a watch. No big budget- no foreign locales- no big stars- no popular songs- no thrills and action- just a simple engaging story that will make you smile a lot. Farookh Shiekh plays the brat really well and Naseer excels as the simpleton. In a way this a role reversal of sorts as Farookh Sheikh was known to play simple sad characters and Naseer would be thought of as more suitable for what his anti-thesis in the movie is.

For my views on more such lesser known movies from the world of Hindi cinema, do check moviesandnomore. blogspot. com

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