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Thursday, 6 May 2010

Rules of the game (Chhoti si Baat)

Love's playing truant in your life? Seek Colonel Julius Nagendranath Wilfred Singh's advice. But, for that you have to watch Basu Chatterjee's Chhoti si Baat. And, after you've done that, I'm sure, you'll watch it again. Such is the delight of this 1975 roller-coaster romantic comedy.
The best part of this sweet film is its resemblance to every day life. Arun's story could have been the story of any man travelling with you in the bus, or train. You wouldn't even know what's in that man's mind. It's the same case with Arun (superbly subtle Amol Palekar). When he fancies himself to be like Dharmendra, and imagines wooing Prabha with Jaaneman jaaneman, he is just like us. Don't we sometimes step into the shoes and travel a zilion miles in dreamland imagining ourselves to be a celluloid diva spending tender moments with a dashing hero!!! Well, I do...

Arun is a mousy little character. Shy, timid, awkward and naive, he fails to stand up to his convictions and lets all and sundry walk over him. One day he spots Prabha (Vidya Sinha is fresh and attractive) in the bus, he is instantly besotted. But alas, he is no dashing dandy to sweep his princess off her feet. He is hesitant to approach her and fears whether Prabha would reciprocate his feelings. Prabha senses his affections and secretly relishes his discomfort while waiting for him to make the first move...
The worst part is that Arun has competition; the irritating Nagesh (a superlatively funny Asrani). Nagesh steals his thunder all the time. This chap threatens to snatch Arun's Prabha with his self-assertion, gregrarious temperament and over confidence. And it's high time that Arun runs for the form of Colonel Singh (the less said about Ashok Kumar's mindblowing performance, the better), a love guru of sorts. What follows is a series of fun incidents that are too good to be divulged...
Arun returns from his training with a confident swagger and new-found self esteem. And we say a loud hurrah every time he shows Nagesh down!!!
There is a scene where Arun makes Nagesh wait for a long time before going out with him to play table tennis. It's outrageously funny!! Nagesh stands there in the heat while Arun bides time reading magazines and waiting near the door!!!
There is another gem...the restaurant scene!!! Nagesh's exasperation is rib-tickling. He is crazily ravenous but is restricted from wolving down the delectable Chinese fare by a pair of chopsticks!!! And after eating almost nothing Arun and Prabha leave him to cough up the bill!!! Wicked but funny!!!
There are some conspicuous but significant props that make Arun's journey of love and fulfilment more exciting. For instance, the motorbike!!! What a dupe!!! Then there's the paan and the saree!!! The chess game!! Those who've watched this classic know what I'm hinting at. For other's, you still don't know what you are missing!!
Asrani is such a mean man here...harmless though. For, he himself needs help!!! He is boastful, smooth and a nosey parker. But he meets his match in the metamorphosed Arun!! And it's a nail-biting finish to the game.
The referee is one wizard. Colonel Singh is one endearingly smart man. He monitors the youngsters' every move and knows exactly what to anticipate. He trains Arun dexterously, preparing him for every situation!!! I feel, he is the actual hero of this comedy. Dadamoni rocks!!!
Chhoti si Baat is a deadly cocktail! It packs in humour, fun, drama, emotions, love and feet-tapping music (a pretty good job by Salil Chowdhury). But what wins hands down is the triumph of a common man...and his minute but meaningful aspirations!!!


  1. Sharmi this is one of my all-time favourites! As teenager I tried to pick up some of the tricks of the colonel myself! You could say I saw myself as Arun:) I'm sure whoever reads it will be very tempted to go and rent the cd:) Your excitement comes through in the writing. Good work:)

  2. Thank you Abhi...I'm sure one day you will meet your very own Prabha!!! Just follow the Colonel's rules of the game!!!

  3. I bet, he will.
    He's a big player with a sound technique.
    The post, by the way, rocks.
    Your observation of the props is excellent.
    Keep up the good work.

  4. Let's hope light shines forth in this player's life...Thank you, by the way, for the appreciation :)

  5. I love this movie - it's one of my altime faves - and it resonates a lot with me. In the scene where arun watches the girl of his dreams, I'm not sure but I think the camera shows the lady's hand bag and the confident way she carries it. I LOVE that table tennis scene you mention - it is hilarious! I think there's something to do with poached egg in that scene. The best thing I like about the movie is the total contrast of imagination to reality - it's done so funnily! I also like the confident scene I think at aurn's office, with the gatekeeper, the way he greets him in the morning. Smooth way of showing the transformation. And yes, Dadamoni rocks! and "minute but meaningful aspirations" is a lovely way to end a lovely post. Makes me wanna rush back to watch it again!

  6. Priyanka thanks a ton!!! If you liked this film you will also like moodlifters such as Chashme Buddoor and Kisi se na kehna!!! Watch them and laugh away!!! They are so heartwarming...something that current films don't do... :)

  7. the music of this movie just melts your heart, doesnt it?! the best part about classic comedies is that they always had the best of music, sometimes even better than the love stories.

  8. @Cancerian: Yes, the music's refreshing!! But I love the simplicity of the's infectious. Thanks for the comment :)

  9. It is my favourite movie of all time. And not only the soundtrack, but I also love the background music of the film, whether the music playing when Arun is catching sight of Prabha surreptiously, or in the very end when the married couple reach Colonel's place for his blessings.

  10. @Parvez: yes it's the simplicity of everything over here that's so charming!