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Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Simply sweet (Chitchor)

If Sooraj Barjatya were to heed his grandfather's principles, Main Prem ki Diwani Hoon would not have happened. And, we would have been saved from the onslaught of poor performances, bad characterisation and shoddy execution. For, this remake of Chitchor, Basu Chatterjee's adorable romance, lacks simplicity, an ingredient that made the 1976 classic so memorable. Tarachand Barjayta, with a penchant for setting his non-convulated social dramas in small towns and villages, made sure that his films stole your heart. And, Chitchor did that...
Reflecting the innocence of commoners living in small towns (as well as their trials, tribulations, joys and sorrows), Chatterjee centred this triangular love story on simple people's dreams, aspirations and hopes. Chitchor is a story that can happen in any household in a small town in India. It throws light upon a father's concern regarding the marriage of his daughter, a mother's tact in getting a well-off son-in-law, a village belle's innocence and charm and most importantly, the understated exchange of emotions between two lovers. This beautiful story gets a different dimension altogether with Ravindra Jain's music. A smell of the soil emanates from those heartwarming numbers. Jain, the blind composer, imparts a distinctive flavour to these tracks, something that he retained in all his later films. And, I love that quality. Call it a rustic feel, or the sheer play of classical notes blended into soft hummable songs, Jain's music is devoid of the loud cacophony of electronic beats that cloud the so-called music of today. So, when you hear Yesudas crooning Gori tera gaon bara pyaara, you are instantly transported to the peaceful environs of the village. When Vinod sings Jab deep jaley aana with Geeta by his side, the notes play magic with your senses. A thoroughly romantic song, Jain's lyrics equate love with the pleasures of music, an art that aught to be worshipped. Like love, which is worship in itself...
Pitamber Chaudhri (AK Hangal), an old school master living in Madhupur, (Vivaah, Sooraj Barjatya's last superhit venture, is set in Madhupur, too) is looking for a suitable groom for his younger daughter, Geeta. Played brilliantly by Zarina Wahab, Geeta is not much of a looker, but will captivate with her spontaneity, innocence and childish ebullience. One day Chadhri receives a letter from Meera, his elder daughter, who is married in Mumbai. She writes that one of her relatives, a well-to-do engineer, would soon go to Madhupur for work. She suggests that this allaince would be great for Geeta, so, the prospective groom should be welcomed and treated well. On hearing the news, Chaudhri and his wife (a natural Dina Pathak), erupt with joy. The next day, the old man goes to the station to receive the engineer, who turns out to be Vinod (Amol Palekar). His living arrangements are made in a nearby government bungalow. Chaudhri's wife treat him with homemade food and Geeta is encouraged to go the bungalow everyday to give flowers to Vinod. Initially shy, Geeta slowly takes a liking to Vinod, who promises to teach her music. Even her neighbour, Deepu (Master Raju), likes Vinod immensely.
Just when Chadhri and his wife are satisfied with the proceedings, Meera informs them that the engineer who was supposed to come to Madhupur, would do so only after some days. This enrages the elderly couple as they think Vinod to be an imposter. But, it so happens that Vinod is just a subordinate of Sunil (a very handsome Vijayendra Ghatge), the engineer in question. Geeta's parents instantly cosy up to Sunil and ignore Vinod purposely. Geeta is asked to avoid Vinod. Geeta is in turmoil as she is already in love with Vinod. The rest of the film shows how true love triumphs over all.
Palekar, a top choice for directors those days, to portray the middle-class man, emotes too well. He looks very Vinod, gells well with the Chaudhri family and warms up to their hospitality. Even when he is shunned by the family later, he does not grudge it, thinking that they must be too busy now taking care of his boss. His love for Geeta is subtle but sure. He has fallen in love with her not because she is a pretty princess. It is her innocence and simplicity, her pure nature that has him besotted. When he sings Tu jo mere sur mein, he is projecting the passion in his heart for Geeta (much to the discomfiture of Chaudhri and his wife). This song is my favourite in the film. Yesudas and Hemlata simply play havoc with my senses with the harmonious crest and the trough of the classical notes.
In the scene where Vinod gets to know that Sunil wants to marry Geeta, Palekar's expressions are fantastic. He quickly camouflages his hurt emotions with exuberant greetings and congratulations. His life is changed. This is not the same man who began the picnic with the frothy Aaj se pehle, aaj se zyaada... Don't see this flash of ingenuity in Hrithik Roshan!!!!
Now to the girl, over whom two hearts are stuck. Zarina Wahab is absolutely the village belle. Devoid of flashy clothes and modern looks, she is the quintessential simpleton, speaking a thousand words with her expressive eyes. It's commendable how Chatterjee didn't fall into the trap of glamour when he depicted Geeta, a girl totally unaware of fashion. Her oily hair tied into a neat plait or bun, she is the demure damsel in her plain sarees worn at least two inches above her ankles. She initially giggles when she sees Vinod singing, but it is this music that brings her close to her man. Facing opposition from her parents regarding Vinod, her eyes mirror the storm in her heart. She is in a dilemma as to whether she should obey her parents or answer the call of her heart and be faithful to her true love. You can sense her trauma when her mother insults Vinod when Sunil is already in the picture... Even though you might question the choice of Wahab for Geeta, it's only after you see her effortless performance that you realise that the focus is on her personality and not on her looks!!! In that Chatterjee chose the right gal...
Kareena Kapoor plays Geeta's role in the remake. But, she loses the plot from scene one itself. Overacting, lousy expressions and overt melodrama by the actor kills the film. This, after she was heard saying in an interview that Sanjana is the most difficult part that any lead actress has played so far!!! Without sounding judgemental, I feel, this Sanjana was a horrendous Geeta!
The tweaks employed by Sooraj Barjatya for his remake further botched up his direction. The new film looks extravagant, with opulent settings and costly locales. The songs are plain bad and lengthwise, the film is tedious. Both Roshan and Abhishek Bachchan (playing Sunil here) are called Prem (a favourite name for the young Barjatya) but their relationship goes beyond just work. They are hardly as good as the original Vinod and Sunil...
Here's a trick that could work the next time when Sooraj is paying a tribute to Tarachand, the grand old Barjatya... Keep it simple, it's a sureshot way to steal hearts...


  1. Despite of being a a die hard Kareena Kapoor admirer, i have to say i agree with you completely. But i blame it partly on the director. He wasted her completely. She could have done much better. Kareena is not the most talented actor around but no denying she is drop dead gorgeous and breathtakingly resplendent and that is what makes her sell more often than not.

  2. @Ayesha: Oh last you agreed that she was really bad in the film...Yaayyyy mission accomplished!!! On her looks, we will have to talk though!!! :)

  3. I began watching Main Prem ki Diwani Hoon a couple of years back when it was being shown on TV, but gave it up after a while - just couldn't summon up a liking for it! But Chitchor: oh, such a sweet movie, and so easy to believe, so understated. And such fabulous music. Lovely. :-)

  4. Chitchor was a beautiful fim and I loved the comparison you have drawn between that and Main Prem... You make the classics come alive once again!

  5. @Dustedoff: Chitchor just steals your heart with its simple story and fluid execution. I love the setting of the film, rustic small town but so peaceful and pretty. I think Amol Palekar simply exelled in these roles. And Wahab was such a pleasant surprise. No wonder she was such a favourite with the Barjatyas. As I write this I'm humming tu jo mere sur mein...The music is so so lovely!!! Hats off to Ravindra Jain!!!

  6. @Aditi: Thanks Aditi for the comment. Another favourite of mine from Basu Chatterjee's stable is Khatta Meetha. I'm glad you like the writeup. Wach out for the next one :)

  7. @Sharmi: Wonderful post, again. Why don't they make these simple yet heart-warming films now?

  8. @Netdhaba: I think the sensibilities have changed. Now, you can't have simpletons sharing innocent love in a small town. Gone are the lovely songs and such wonderful actors. There's just nudity and crassness everywhere. Very sad. The current filmmakers should try making films like these and watch the audience simply lap it up :)

  9. Hey Sharmi,
    You are one prolific writer, three days I was away and I come back to see your blog overflowing with new posts:)
    I had no idea that Sooraj Barjatya's unwatchable flick was a remake. I agree he shouldn't have tried this because he didn't have Amol Palekar and Zarina Wahab, an actress who didn't get her due. I think she was on a par with Shabana and Smita.
    And he didn't have Yesudas singing jab deep jaley and gori tera gaon...:)

  10. @Abhi: Yes you are right. The young Barjatya should have steered clear of this one ! I think Zarina Wahab did play some very interesting roles like in Sitara and this one. I also remember a film of hers where she was the face of Zeenat Aman after the latter had a cosmetic surgery on her face in a film (Mithun was the hero). That role was very unique. Her latest role in MNIK was very strong. Though she was not much of a looker in her youth, now she looks very good. Her eyes are so expressive!
    Amol Palekar is of course one of the best things about this film.
    How come you forgot Mere sur mein? Awesome music by Ravindra Jain!!! I'm still waiting for that Professor point ;)

  11. Ah the good professor:) but of course right away!

  12. @Abhi: Yaaayyyy...I'll watch out for it :)

  13. I love this film and as you pointed out - it's the simplicity and music of course that stole my heart away. My dad was very fond of it's songs, he had this cassette - Chitchor on Side A and Saawan Ko Aane Do on side B. And I totally love all the songs from both these movies.
    I saw Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon first...the only reason I could sit through it was - I watched it during my holidays when I had gone home from hostel. Couldn't watch anything much in Hindi in hostel, so the first few days of the holidays, I would watch anything and everything on tv.
    Then later on I bought the dvd of Chitchor and saw it, I was totally floored. I saw this and Nadiya Ke Paar back to back and I was in awe....both were set in small towns, revolved around common people and made the story so convincing unlike their glamourous remakes. Hum Aapke Hai Kaun was still better but Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon was a total disaster!

  14. @Sunheriyaadein: All these small sweet films are so wonderful to watch. You instantly sympathise with the characters and believe in them. Something that their stupid remakes can never do. Yes, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun was good. I like Vivaah too (simply because it is again set in a small town and is very old-fashioned).
    Saawan ko aane do? Which is that? Who are the actors? Tell me more about this. Is it worth watching? Also Nadiya Ke Par? I need to know about this too. :)

  15. Nadiya Ke Paar stars Sachin and Sadhna Singh in the lead role. It's the original of Hum Aapke Hai Kaun. Again, set in a small you said, we connect more easily to character and feel for and with them. It has lovely songs - check out kaun disha mein leke chala re, saanchi kahe toe aawan se hamra. It's such a sweet film. Do watch it.
    Saawan Ko Aane Do has Arun Govil (Ram of Ramnanda Sagar's Ramayan) and Zarina Wahab. It's also a Rajshree film, produced by Tarachandji. Story is not that khaas but it has such lovely songs - each with a rustic feel to it.

  16. @Sunheriyaadein: Hum Aapke hain kaun's original? Sounds interesting...Have to check that one out (Did Sooraj Barjatya then do anything original at all?!?! Ha ha)
    Oh yes, this Saawan ko Aane Do I did start watching but since it was too late I went to sleep. Have to see this one too then. Just for Zarina Wahab and the songs. Thanks a ton :)

  17. I agree with you. Chitchor was a delight to watch. No glamor, no extravagant dreams and dances but amazingly realistic yet powerful story.
    Makes me feel a bit nostalgic. It's also sad that such simple stories, plain sets, plain actors are becoming out of fashion.