Raaste Ka Patthar (1972)

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This was a pretty good movie until the last half hour, when a different bad film was tacked onto it. Such is life. At least the bad one was only half an hour long. Until then, I was enjoying an interesting story with eye-searing ’70s style and the yummy goodness of young Amitabh, Shatrughan Sinha and our homegirl, Laxmi Chhaya. She got third billing after those two, and although strictly speaking she wasn’t the heroine, she had a central role and she was fantastic. Why was she not a star, why? Sigh.

The makers of Life…In A Metro apparently saw this film at some point, because one of the story threads in that was lifted from this (either that, or lending your boss the key to your apartment so he can cheat on his wife is a common practice in India—please say it isn’t so!).

Jai Shankar Rai (Amitabh Bachchan) and his friend Arun Thakur have different viewpoints on how to get on in life. Jai has a low-level job at an advertising agency owned by Ranjeet Choudhary (Prem Chopra) and he’s willing to put up with a lot for a promotion. Arun is an unemployed writer who refuses to compromise on his principles or his art, even when Jai tries to get him a job with the head of the copywriting department, Mr. Kapoor (Satyendra Kapoor).

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Jai is more practical, and  in his bid to get ahead at work he allows his superiors in the office to use his flat as an assignation place in the evenings. This results in him getting very little sleep since whoever is there usually doesn’t depart until late—and it also grosses him out.

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One morning Jai sees a girl being thrown out onto the streets by her aunt and uncle, and takes pity on her. Her name is Neeta (Neeta Khayani) and she’s alone in the city with no job. He takes her to his friend Shobha and asks her to give Neeta a place to stay, and at work asks Choudhary if he would audition Neeta for an upcoming “Dream Girl” campaign. Choudhary agrees, but it’s the only good thing that happens at work for Jai all day.

Two of his superiors, Dinesh (Kishan Mehta) and Govardhan (Asit Sen), and an important client by the name of Ramesh (Sudhir) all want to borrow his flat that same evening.

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Looks like another long evening spent trying to catch forty winks on the pavement outside for poor Jai. He goes to see his friend Arun. Arun is married to Tannu (Laxmi Chhaya). Since he doesn’t bring in any income, she goes out in the evenings to “dance” for a living. He doesn’t like it, but they need the money she earns. She seems somewhat bitter and hardened, and it’s not difficult to guess why.

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For all his proclamations of love, Arun lets her walk out the door every evening to spend long hours under the leering glances of other men.

On this particular evening, she is meeting Ramesh at Jai’s flat, where they perform one of the weirdest songs I’ve ever seen, “Main Sharaab Bechti Hoon.” At one point Laxmi looks like she’s barely stopping herself from raking her fingernails down Sudhir’s cheek, then she beats him with a bouquet of flowers. Their dance movements are aggressive and incredibly spastic (think “Jaan Pehchaan Ho” on acid), but it’s a very cheerless song at heart.

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I must mention here that the entire film is a Festival of Bad Fashion, but Satyendra Kapoor’s outfits take the cake. They are truly hideous.

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Jai brings Neeta in for her audition with Choudhary. Neeta is a little overwhelmed by the sleazebags in the agency because she is a good innocent girl. But Choudhary has taken a liking to her, and he sets out to win her trust and her love by masking his true self. When Ramesh makes advances on her, Choudhary takes him aside and tells him to back off.

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Assuming that Choudhary is only trying to protect her, Neeta is grateful to him. Meanwhile Jai is so tired that he’s resorted to taking naps at work, and he’s also come down with a bad cold (from being outside at night so much).

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Time for another Laxmi Chhaya number, and it is completely crackers too.

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It involves whips and a hapless tribal guy chained to a stake and then stabbed to death. Very strange indeed.

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Poor unwell Jai is stunned by it too.

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Anyway, as Jai and Neeta spend more time together at the office, Jai falls in love with her. But Neeta has succumbed to Choudhary’s charms, not knowing that he’s married, and Choudhary begins to borrow the key to Jai’s flat after giving him a promotion at work. He also gives Neeta an engagement ring, although he makes her promise to keep it a secret.

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What will happen when Jai finds out why Choudhary is using his apartment? What will happen to Neeta when she discovers the truth about Choudhary? Will Jai take a stand for the sake of his love, or is his job more important? And what about Arun and Tannu? Can Arun continue to tolerate Tannu’s way of earning money? More importantly, can Tannu stand it (her songs have a very dark subtext!)?

As I said, most of this film was quite interesting and nicely done. Jai’s dilemma was handled with humor and sensitivity, and that of Arun and Tannu with a sense of tragic inevitability. And I love Laxmikant Pyarelal’s music in this. The end fell apart for me in the last half hour when it became grimly over-the-top and lost any semblance of nuance or charm, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

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37 Comments to “Raaste Ka Patthar (1972)”

  1. Such a gem- Laxmi’s songs sound almost scary, but I have a crying need to see all of satyen’s fashions :D delightful!

  2. Even IN the 70s I would have been mortified to have to wear those outfits he had :-P Fugly!!! He kept reminding me of Madan Puri for some reason (the glasses?)…

  3. this looks great! and laxmi as the heroine, her eyeliner in the second song looks copy-worthy! and my favorite sudhir is therE!!!! HE looks smoking in anything, but he can’t beat ranjeet!

  4. You know, Rum, Sudhir WAS smoking in this. I thought that too. (But still not as hot as Ranjeet.) He and Laxmi had great chemistry in their song together, and her eye makeup in that second song was to DIE for. She is a total babe.

  5. that sounds like a remake of some hollywood movie, which I can’t recall.

    I agree with you memsaab, I also never understood why Laxmi never got ehr due chance. She had screen presence for twenty heroines and some left over.

    I thought you would be reviewing Dharrma, after last nite.

  6. LOL, I will be; I only got through half of it though, will finish it tonight I hope.

  7. If I was Satyen I’d “feel pukish” having to wear that outfit too! :-)

  8. Actually the girl was feeling “pukish” ostensibly at the idea of a soft drink, but more likely at the thought of going out for a drink without someone dressed like him :-)

  9. Wow, Satyendra Kapoor’s shirt collar looks positively lethal in that one pic!

    I’m pretty sure that the Hollywood movie Harvey is thinking of is Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, which this sounds like it hews to pretty closely in some aspects. Perhaps the makers of Life… In A Metro saw that one too.

  10. Of course! I should have known that something as sleazy as lending out one’s apartment to unfaithful men in order to get ahead in the workplace originated in Hollywood!

  11. Memsaab, I think both this film and Life…in a Metro may have borrowed plot elements from Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960). In Wilder’s film, a low-level employee of an ad agency lends his apartment to the firm’s executives for their extramarital trysts (and has to spend his own nights on the streets huddled against the cold). Should you be interested, you can read a fuller plot summary at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Apartment. Wilder’s film, with Jack Lemmon, the young Shirley Maclaine, and Fred MacMurray in an unsympathetic role, is definitely worth seeing (and I think you’ll find several parallels with Raaste Ka Patthar).

  12. Memsaab, this actually happened to a friend of mine – her husband allowed his friend to use their house for an assignment with someone during the day, and my friend agonized for days over whether she should tell the guy’s wife about it, since they were all friends. I have no idea if she ever did, but I remember being grossed out over it. She was so angry about it that I don’t think her husband even thought about doing it again, because she would have walked out on him, if he had! I had no idea it was from a movie, or that it had come in a Bollywood movie, too.

  13. Whoops–it looks like while I was composing my previous comment, Todd noticed the connection to The Apartment too. As he notes, the parallels are pretty direct.

  14. Where on earth do they get hold of tribals in the middle of Bombay?! And is Laxmi Chhaya’s headdress actually made of yellow and red feathers? This I gotta see – only the songs, I think; I’m not so sure about the movie…

  15. OMG what is Amitabh doing in this? From his hairstyle, it doesnt even look like his pre-stardom days’ movie. And how is Big B’s leading lady? I cant recall seeing her anywhere, before.

  16. The Apartment (Billy Wilder) mentioned above is somehow always billed as a comic movie, possibly because of the Jack Lemmon/Billy Wilder combination.
    But I found it a really sad and disturbing movie to watch, it was good too but I could not see anything humorous about the going-ons at all.
    I don’t know if BW had planned it to be comic movie, or it was something that was added by the publicity people.
    It is a must-watch at least once, Jack and Shirley are just superb.

  17. “Of course! I should have known that something as sleazy as lending out one’s apartment to unfaithful men in order to get ahead in the workplace originated in Hollywood!”

    memsaab: I think they would do it in india as well, but they won’t talk openly about it, till somebody else starts talking, and then everybod ywill shake heads and agree that it is to be blamed on the decadent western influence.

    dustedoff: There are many tribals living in Bombay city as well as in the outskirts. Only thing is that they don’t wear feathers and that is why you don’t notice them. Many of the householdworkers come form tribal communities. And if you go to Borivali National Park, you will see lots of tribals settlements there.

    Bawa: It is Billy Wilders artistic ability to show tragic situations in comical light and at the same time make you aware of the situation. It is like pointing a finger at somebody and laughing and then you suddenly realise that the hidden three fingers are pointing at you. Take for e.g., Irma la douce or The Seven Year Itch.

  18. Pessimisissimo (that is hard to type out): It never hurts to have verification :-) And thanks for the other info on the film, I don’t think I ever saw it.

    Lalitha: I’m sure it does happen fairly often. Some human behavior is universal!

    dustedoff: Well, it was a show in a nightclub so…costumes. :-)

    bollyviewer: It was a pretty good film until it fell apart at the end. Amitabh was quite funny in places. It is his pre-stardom phase still, although it was soon to change. And the heroine Neeta was played by someone named Neeta Khayani, whom I have never seen or heard of before, but she was really quite lovely (although her character was really gullible, which always annoys me).

    bawa: I haven’t seen it, and since I’ve seen the Hindi remake I probably don’t need to!

    harvey: Yes, I agree (see my comment to Lalitha above) :-)

  19. memsaab: oh, okay… that makes sense.

    harvey: yes, I do know that Mumbai has its fair share of tribal settlements. My point (which I guess I should’ve stated more explicitly) was that you wouldn’t find them dressed like that… but if it’s a nightclub, and people just pretending to be tribal dancers, then I guess it fits! ;-)

  20. Harvey: The Seven Year Itch and Irma la Douce were funny and intelligent (also the Hindi remake of the latter Manoranjan) but in the case of The Apartment the humour, however intelligent or ironic it was meant to be, was lost on me. As BW is such a brilliant director, maybe he wasn’t intending to make a funny film at all: maybe people laughed cos thats what you are supposed to do in a BW film.

    I found the situations JL lands up in as very anguishing and serious. BTW, I don’t mean to say I didn’t like it, it just wasn’t comic.

    I love his Some Like it Hot: now thats comic!
    memsaab: question for you: there hasn’t been a Hindi take on that one, has there?

  21. Not that I know of, but I haven’t even come close to tapping the huge vast reservoir that is Hindi cinema history :-) Some Like It Hot and The Seven Year Itch are just hilarious. And I loved Manoranjan although I haven’t seen Irma La Douce…

  22. bawa, I think Rishi-Neetu starrer Rafoo Chakkar had borrowed heavily from Some Like It Hot – but it wasnt a complete remake.

  23. I have not seen this but…. EEE! Laxmi Chhaya! I suppose it was the curse of the dancing girl to never be the heroine and always (at best) her best friend and (usually) her worst and most vampish enemy.

  24. Ooh! Rafoo Chakkar looks like oodles of fun! Must find it.

    Laxmi deserved better than being relegated to vamp for sure :-)

  25. So all of this movie except the last half hour is awesome..and all of Saazish except the last half hour is awful. I think it’s time Satyendra Kapoor’s shirt collars met Dharmendra’s booty shorts.

  26. Keith, that is a plan so cunning if it had a tail it would be called a weasel. Although I would not characterize this film as being nearly as good as Dharmendra in his chaddis. It’s good, but not that good.

  27. Isn’t Satyendra Kapoor’s name written like: Satyendra Kappu or some similar way without a ‘r’ at the end?
    correct me if I am wrong.

  28. Like most Hindi film actors and actresses it’s spelled about a gazillion different ways. I usually follow (for no good reason except it suits me and is easier than trying to keep up myself) imdb’s spelling.

  29. Yikes, that’s an absurd amount of spellings for just one actor! I usually refer to him as Satyen Kappu, because honestly I can’t recall him ever being billed as anything else. Then again I don’t always pay attention to the opening credits! Was he billed as Satyendra Kapoor here?

  30. This sounds crazy! But judging from your review, crazy in a good way–I’ll add to my list.

    Whoa, Laxmi sounds like one chica you wouldn’t wanna mess with! If the bouquet of flowers don’t do the trick, its on to whips and knives!?!

  31. The song with Sudhir and Laxmi is awesome – it’s what put Sudhir on my radar screen.

    And you really should watch Rafoo Chakkar!

  32. Rafoo Chakkar songs were quite famous – always blaring from Radio Vividh Bharati from every paan shop in cities

  33. It also sounds a bit like Shahrukh khan’s movie ‘Yes Boss’. Atleast the dilemma that the protagonists face — Love or money!! Just my 2 cents.

  34. memsaab can u pls tell dat how many songs do laxmi hv in dis film….???da 1st 1 is Main Sharab Bechti Hoon, sung by Asha Bhosle…n wat r da othr songs….???pls infrm me…n if u can so writ da singers name also…pls..

  35. Yes, inspired by The Apartment and I agree with Bawa, there was nothing comic about that movie either. Shirley McLaine’s suicide attempt comes to mind. I was glad love won, in the end, the only redeeming plot element. As for RkP, despite knowing that Shotgun’s character was likely to prove unstable, I was taken aback by whatever ensued. The rivalry between AB and SS was given a lot of press time (I’m remembering Star `n’ Style articles, this movie was mentioned, I’m also thinking Kala Patthar and Dostana.)

  36. Yes boss also had similar story, neeta khayani’s dialoges were dubbed by dubbing artist.

  37. Who was Neeta Khayani? She is billed as “Introducing Neeta Khayani” but does not seem to have acted in any other film since. A Google search reveals nothing. Anyone know what the hell happened to her?

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