Blogadda Who are you reading today?

Visit to discover Indian blogs

Thursday, 24 June 2010

It's a wonderful life (Khatta Meetha)

Priyadarshan is making a film called Khatta Meetha. Wonder whether it will be able to recreate the fun and warmth of the original Khatta Meetha, Basu Chatterjee's comedy about a bunch of Parsis living in Mumbai.
Well, not really a comedy. This 1978 classic is a slice of life. Peppered with a melange of emotions, this family drama is a complete joyride. You laugh with the characters, sing with them, dance with them and cry with them. Such is the strength of this sweet saga...
At the outset we are introduced to three Parsi families.
Homi Mistry is a widower with four sons, Fali, Jal, Rusi and Pilu. Nargis Sethna is a widow with three children, Feroze, Frenny and Fardoon. And, lastly you have Dara and his mollycoddling mother. Mistry and Dara work in the same factory where the former's dear friend, Soli Bhai, works, too. Soli Bhai is of the opinion that Mistry should marry again. At sixty, that sounds a ridicilous proposition! But, not when you see the plight of Mistry at home. He has to single-handedly run the household. From washing clothes and cooking meals to taking care of all the niggling household chores, Mistry is caught up in work all the time. Not that he minds it. He loves his sons dearly. He is never angry with Fali for incessantly borrowing money to repair his decrepit bus. He is patient towards Jal's aspirations of becoming a musician. Mistry has medical tips all ready when Rusi is hit by a ball during a cricket match (this scene is hilarious) and he is indulgent towards the tiny Pilu.
Only when he realises that the chores are getting too much for him does he relent to meet Nargis, Soli's neighbour. Soli brings to Mistry the alliance as he cares for Nargis, who also needs a man at home to take care of her and her children. Even though Nargis brushes away the idea all the time, she too is tired of the burden of these tedious chores. On top of that she is financially strained. She has to give weekly allowances to her two college-going sons, Feroze and Fardoon. Feroze is in love with a rich girl called Zarine. Not very focused about his career, he is one of the many concerns that are eating into Nargis's mind. Fardoon is hardly bothered about anything except picking up fights with his peers. But, Nargis is distraught over Frenny, her 28-year-old obese daughter who is spending her days in utter frustration. Frenny has lost all hope of getting married and loses her cool whenever there is talk about her increasing age.
So, ultimately Nargis and Mistry meet. And, sparks fly. And, the marriage happens. And, the fun begins. Mistry, with his bundle, shifts to Nargis's bungalow. What ensues is a chaotic yet hilarious series of incidents. Mistry's sons are not ready to accept Nargis's children as their siblings and vice-versa. There are tiffs at every level, whether on the dinner table, in the bathroon queue, with a slice of cucumber or regarding sharing rooms. Obviously, you don't expect such grown-ups to behave in such a loony fashion. But, they do that exactly. But, instead of being angry with them, you laugh at their idiosyncracies, waiting for the creases to iron out and the bonds to strengthen once again...
There is a hilarious scene (well, there are many in fact) where Feroze and Fardoon fight with Fali, Jal and Rusi early in the morning because Rusi has woken everyone up with his funny sounds while exercising. Rusi projects himself to be a brave sportsperson. But what turns out incidentally is that he is a chicken who is all big talk and no show!!!
Then there is the scene where Frenny freaks out when tiny Pilu is changing his clothes in her room. She shrieks out to her mother while the tiny boy keeps irritating her with his cheeky grin!!
The dinner table cold war is particularly engaging. Feroze and Fardoon show off their superiority while Mistry and Nargis are busy cooling frayed nerves and tempers with their patient and calm approach...
Hell breaks loose, alright, but when it comes to difficulties, this family stands like a sturdy pillar.
For instance, they all bid Frenny adieu with love and pomp when she is at last married to Dara. Frenny hugs Mistry tight and says, "Daddy, tum bahut achhey ho." You will definitely find yourself choking at these poignant moments. And, believe me, there are plenty...
It's the magic of laughter that heals all wounds. Smile when times are adverse. Keep loving no matter what. Stand by each other when stormy winds blow. Laugh to ease tension. Don't nurse anger or hatred. Chatterjee, with his simple family saga, drives home these serious points. But, his approach is fluid, not discoursive. As the family laughs, cries and is joyous again, you pick up these lessons on the way...
I'm not a big fan of Rajesh Roshan as a music director. But, in Khatta Meetha, he composed some very nice tracks. For instance, Thoda hain thode ki is very melodious. The lyrics are simple but insightful. Yeh jeena hain angoor ka dana reflects the mood of the film in a wonderful way. Mummy o mummy is funny yes, but it also reflects the frustration of a man of marriageable age bogged down by a hyper-obsessive mother. Deven Verma plays Dara perfectly. In fact, in the scene where he goes to meet Frenny, and slyly catches her hand, you can feel his ecstacy at his impending marriage. You can feel the vives between this real-life couple). Frenny could not have been played by anyone other than Preeti Ganguly (I always felt she had a gorgeous face). Crazily obese and shrieking at the drop of a hat, her state is both funny and sad at times.
Rakesh Roshan (Feroze) is pretty good as the lover boy who rises to the occasion and fulfils his responsibilities when the times arises. Bindiya Goswami is pretty as Zarine and quite okay.
In fact, I feel every character in this film deserves a mention. All of them are so good. David as Soli Bhai is loving, Ranjit Chowdhry as Rusi is awesome (looks lost all the time as per his character) and Master Raju as Pilu is very cute. I found Vimal Sahu very attractive as Fardoon. Sporting smart tees and shorts most of the time, there is a ruggedness about him that grabs attention.
Though the script is the real hero, special points must go to Ashok Kumar for playing Mistry so impeccably. He is amiable, his husky voice is always cheerful. Kumar proves that Khatta Meetha would have been so empty without him. He is marvellously effortless here.
Now, for my favourite. Pearl Padamsee. In her debut movie role, she simply sparkles. Her persona is as bright as her twinkling peepers. This diminutive actor really made it look like a cakewalk with her smart one-liners, her emotive face and her briliant smile. Note the scene where she meets Mistry for the first time. Her forehead breaking into sweat, she almost chokes on her tea due to nervousness. In the next instant she giggles and confesses, "Maaf karna, mujhey zara zyaada hasi aati hain..." I find her so adorable. In fact, it's quite strange that she hardly has any scene with Ranjit Chowdhry, her real-life son!!
Padamsee, with her efferverscence, shows how easy it is to brush away all sorrows with a smile. Perhaps, it is this trick of hers that makes the life of the Mistrys so refreshingly sweet and sour...


  1. Though i am not too familiar to the Parsi way of life, the film, borrowing your words, is a 'classic slice of life' of Bombay of the Seventies.
    Wonderful sepia-tinted post, full of nostalgia!

  2. @Netdhaba: Thank you for the comment. Now you mustest see this adorable film, it's brilliant :)

  3. I saw this film ages ago, as a kid in fact, and remember being a bit disappointed in it. My father had told us that it was a hilarious comedy and I'm afraid that it didn't seem even slightly funny to us kids! Guess I should check it out now, because I love Basu Chatterji's films and I adore Yours, Mine And Ours - the Henry Fonda-Lucille Ball comedy that this was based on.

  4. @Bollyviewer: Yes, I guess you can see it again. Probably you will like it this time. For, it is not just a comedy but portrays so many nuances of life itself.
    I have not seen the original Yours, Mine and Ours. But, I have seen the Dennis Quaid-Renee Russo remake. And, I found that one nice too. Try watching this film again and tell me how you liked it. Thanks for the comment :)

  5. I have seen this film only in bits and pieces on tv. Now after reading ur review I feel like I've been missing out on something. Gotta get hold of the dvd soon.
    Love the songs!

  6. @Sunheriyaadein: Yes yes, it's a film that will make you smile. A lovely lovely rollercoaster ride with these simple but sweet Parsi characters. Pearl Padamsee, Ashok Kumar, Ranjit Choudhry and Preeti Ganguly are great. A must watch :)