Chashme Buddoor (1981): Sai Paranjpye’s achingly sweet rom-com harks back to that era of innocence when college students chased girls all across town hoping to get them to agree to a coffee or a movie. Sex, if at all, was never discussed. The gently clever plot of Sai’s film could be divided into three movements. In the first movement Rakesh Bedi and Ravi Baswani playing despicably deceptive pals to the relatively sober Farooq Shaikh, cook up an elaborate fantasy romance with the girl next door Deepti Naval. In the second movement, the devilish duo tries to mess up Shaikh’s romance with Deepti. And in the third and final movement, Bedi and Baswani desperately try to reconcile the lovers. The narrative is strewn with a warm bonhomie that suggests a sense of equilibrium in the universe even when human intentions are far from legitimate or sensible. What works wonderfully for Sai Paranjpye’s game-plan are the credible actors, each embracing his or her character with the conviction of permanent ownership.
Farooq and Deepti are as convincing as a couple as any two strangers who decide to forge a relationship probably because they haven’t met too many potential soul-mates to choose from. Baswani and Bedi’s roguishness bolsters the plot’s action forward into a logical finale. Incredibly the Farooq-Baswani-Bedi trio smokes all through the film. There is hardly a frame where one or all three are not seen puffing away at the cancer stick. Perhaps this is a sign of those relatively innocent times when youngsters smoked because they thought they looked cool doing so. While most of the episodes still hold up with edifying momentum some of what seemed cleverly innovative 30 years now seems only to be self-indulgent. There’s an elaborate song in a park where Farooq and Deepti wonder how couples in films manage to sing loudly in public places. Then they proceed to do the same to the accompaniment of sniggers from onlookers. Offbeat or middle-of-the-road filmmakers always demonstrated discomfort with conventions of mainstream cinema. Were they just genuinely disdainful of the potboiler or cloaking in snobbery their inability to cope with conventional ingredients? In Chashme Buddoor Sai Paranjpye ably straddles the two worlds of a superior intellectual projection of cinematic conventions and mass entertainment. See the film for its cute and still-fresh take on love and courtship.
And yes, there is a cameo by the Big B and Rekha where he courts the girl by pretending to have found her handkerchief. This was the 1980s. No one could escape the Bachchan trap. Not even Sai Paranjpye who made the art of ladki patana look decent. Even when the protagonists used cheesy pickup lines they were never offensive. Those were innocent times. A waiter is shown to become privy to Farooq’s courtship with Deepti. It’s the waiter who announces interval in the film. Characters in this film are allowed to be clever even at the cost of crossing the camera range. It’s a world of cerebral satire where lovers avoid being filmy but don’t mind if their togetherness suggests an affinity with screen couples who woo one another with songs and poetry. Chashme Baddoor is a world free of pain. Though the characters inhabit the middle-income group they are untouched by suffering. No one dies in Chashme Baddoor. Not even while laughing. There is no ‘LOL’ moment in Sai’s scheme of humour. We smile because the sound of loud laughter doesn’t suit this film’s purposes. Easy does it.
Jolly LLB (2013): It’s not often that a film manages to hit us in the solar plexus with a statement on an epidemic social disease, and yet succeeds in telling a story so engaging you want to jump out of your seat and applaud the enterprising spirit that surges through the veins of this equipoised saga of the judge, the judged and the damned. What ails the legal system in our country? We could go on and on about that one, and still not be anywhere close to solving the conundrum of legalese. Subhash Kapoor’s brilliantly scripted film seeks to examine the loopholes in the legal system through which the rich and the privileged manage to go scot-free after committing terrible crimes. In this case, it’s a young tycoon mowing down six pavement dwellers in his fancy car in the dead of the night. Sounds familiar? Jolly LLB grabs the headlines about a rich spoilt kid from a privileged family involved in a hit and run case and turns it into a rollercoaster ride that takes us into the courtroom to witness the young struggling lawyer from Meerut Jolly (Arshad Warsi) take on the mighty attorney Rajpal (Boman Irani). It is the classic David & Goliath tale with so many enticing twists and turns that by the end of it you want to kiss the hand that wrote this script. Every role, big or small, is written with so much care and enacted with so much affection that you can’t help feeling a sense of pride for the plethora of acting talent we have in our cinema. Characters invariably played by accomplished actors keep popping up right till the end as though life in films could throw forward surprises denied in real life to us.
Writer-director Subhash Kapoor makes the drab and the dull reality of Indian life come alive with his vivacious humour and savage digs at the games the rich play to vanquish their adversaries. Kapoor proves in his post-debut film that Phans Gaya Re Osama was no flash in the pan. In Jolly LLB he displays a much tighter grip over his narrative graph. The solid sturdy screenplay throws forward surprises and shocks as layer after layer of corruption and compromise are peeled off leaving behind the raw hurting wounds of betrayal and hurt. Though Jolly wins his case at the end, his story left me deeply saddened. Is this the India that our forefathers fought to free for our future generations, where a hotshot ruthlessly immoral lawyer smirks in the courtroom, “Now if people sleep on the pavements there is a risk of them being killed?” Right, Sir. In any case the poor don’t really deserve to live, do they?
In a sequence that comes as one of many radical turning points in the plot, Arshad stops on the pavement to take a pee. A man pleads, “Could you urinate somewhere else? My family sleeps here?” Such moments of gut-wrenching heartbreaking poignancy cut through the cynical space that this sharp witty and provocative courtroom drama occupies. If life and art were entirely fair Arshad Warsi would be one of the biggest stars in our film industry. As a petty lawyer whose conscience undergoes a rousing awakening Arshad once again gives a superlative performance creating a compelling graph for his small-town lawyer’s overreaching character. As for Boman Irani, this actor’s brilliance has no full stops. Here as the mean manipulative lawyer Boman creates a snarling evil and a contempt for human value through the narrowing of the eye or curling of the lip. But my favourite performance comes from Saurav Shukla.As a seemingly indolent sloppy slob of a judge who comes into his own as the case progresses Saurav Shukla serves up the film’s biggest lesson: never undermine the moral strength of a seemingly desensitized Indian. Jolly LLB is a film of myriad virtues. Legal proceedings would never be the same again. This is the kinkiest, craziest, most artful and thought-provoking courtroom comedy-drama in years with impeccable performances by the ever-dependable Boman, Saurav and the grossly underrated Warsi. An inspirational drama told with a flair for the comic and the ironic, this is a film that never falls short of heart and guts. Jolly good, Mr Subhash Kapoor.
Image Source: youtube/neelabhlakhmani/t-series/asingh, imdb, pinterest
Image Source: youtube/neelabhlakhmani/t-series/asingh, imdb, pinterest
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