Mrs. Beige has been staying with me for a few days and bless her, she always enjoys watching a Hindi movie. (Well, not always.) We watched Seeta Aur Geeta the other night and at the end she pronounced it “Shakespearean” which I realized was bilkul correct. That made me think of this film, a marvellous adaptation by Gulzar of the Bard’s “Comedy of Errors” which I’ve owned for a long time but never watched all the way through. It, too, features twins who are mistaken for each other (in this case two sets of them) with hilarious consequences. The performances are deftly handled, and the script witty and well-paced (I could have done without most of the songs though).
First of all, thank you to Robert for converting his vhs tape of this film to a dvd for me. It is one more enigma of Indian cinema that this isn’t readily available on a dvd with subtitles: it was produced by and starred Shekhar Kapur (of Mr. India, Bandit Queen and Elizabeth fame) along with his girlfriend at the time Shabana Azmi (obviously a renowned actress herself), and is directed by Ketan Anand, son of Chetan. Although it isn’t entirely successful, it is an interesting film. It’s a story about a little boy who grows up longing to be rid of the strictures which his father (Utpal Dutt in some truly hideous wigs) has imposed on him, and what happens when he does break free. Had it been as sensitively handled all the way through as it is for the first hour or so, it would have been much better; but it devolves into jarring crowd-pandering antics and leaves the psychological issues unexplored and glibly resolved.
One of my major philosophies in life is that non-human animals are better people than humans can ever hope to be. I am a complete sucker for films which reflect this belief back at me, especially when I don’t have to see any animals suffering in the process—the sight of animals suffering at the hands of man is something I truly find unbearable. I dislike circuses, and am ambivalent about zoos (at their best they facilitate the survival of species that we are trying our level best to eradicate, at worst they are giant cages filled with bored and distressed animals). So when this National Award-winning children’s film (as rare a thing in Indian cinema as the albino elephant it features) came to my attention I was *cautiously* excited.
Though this is only available (to my knowledge) without subtitles, I figured since my current blog header features images of Shashi and Bindu from the film I ought to watch it. And it’s pretty entertaining, maybe even more so if you don’t know what’s going on. I don’t need subtitles to know that there is a lot of patriotic fervor and anti-smuggling-corruption-greed preaching in the story, but there are lots of subplots woven together too and without subtitles I have no idea if the subsequent story fabric is a sturdy khadi or fraying and full of large holes; I don’t care, either. Shashi is beginning to show his age (well, so am I) but he is still worthy eye-candy (see above), and Rekha is at her delightfully plump and imperious best. A huge cast of character actors—many of whom I need help identifying—are decked out in dizzying full-on seventies fashions, bad wigs, and huge sideburns, all in aesthetic competition with the beautiful Rajasthan desert.
I normally would not bother writing about this film since Beth and the PPCC have already covered it in their usual stellar and thorough fashion. But they mostly liked this, and I hated it. Part of the reason is that it was *almost* good. It should have been, could have been! It had a great cast and good songs! But even the goodness of Shashi+Amitabh is not adequate compensation for being smashed over the head with a sermon that I disagree with, especially when it’s done largely to compensate for the lack of a real script (by Salim-Javed, no less). “Clutch your [Bible, Quran, Gita, other] and trust in your blind faith!” it trumpets. Just the kind of pablum that a world overrun with corruption, greed and poverty needs, right?
OMG! One of the sweetest films ever. Even without the misleading puppy on the title screen—is he peeing on the striped bellbottoms?—you really don’t need a puppy when Farooq Shaikh and Utpal Dutt are in the movie. Big melting brown eyes everywhere. Not to mention Hrishikesh Mukherjee directing!
Throw in beautiful Deepti Naval and funny Saeed Jaffrey, and a cute story with passable non-disco Bappi Lahiri songs and you’ve got at least as much entertainment as a lap full of puppies—and the same gooey warm fuzzy feeling too.