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Thursday, 8 July 2010

Football frenzy (Dhanni Meye)

What happened??? Where was Germany's beautiful game??? Where did their famed counter-attack disappear??? They were completely outrun, outnumbered and outplayed by Spain!! I'm shell shocked, I'm upset. And, I'm angry at Paul, the psychic octopus! He had predicted that Spain would defeat the mighty Germans in the semi-final. Why God why???
Under the weather and nursing great pain, I chose to watch Dhanni Meye, Arabindo Mukherjee's funny tale on football. Right choice, I thought. This game is indeed the flavour of the season. And right, it was. For, after the film I'm feeling better. Much much better.
Packed with hilarious incidents this 1971 Bengali film (yes, I'm writing on one for the first time!) is a frothy romantic comedy with football as its crux.
Bengalis love their football and can draw daggers at anyone anytime for the sake of the game! But, all the hoopla is over, no not a world cup qualifier or a prestigious tournament game. It is ordinary club football, at the local level. How important then can a small club match be? For Bogola and his elder brother, it means everything. Their pride and honour rests on one puny match!!! The world might end, but the shield has to come home. Forget eating, forget sleeping, just go kick some ball, says Bogola's brother! And Bogola follows suit with his gang of players to Harbhanga, a village in Bengal, where a bunch of wierd characters also live, and die, for football and the shield of glory!!!
Uttam Kumar plays Kali Dutta, a well-to-do businessman. He is amicable and loving. Though prone to losing his temper at the drop of a hat, he dotes on his wife, played by the inimitable Sabitri Chatterjee, and his brother Bogola, played by Partha Mukherjee. Bogola plays football for Sarbamangala Club, whose president is Dutta. This football club is supposed to play a match against Harbhanga club and Bogola and his teammates are practicing for it. They go to Harbhanga, but, Dutta is not able to accompany them for some reason. When the boys reach Harbhanga, they face one crazy situation after another. The village tomboy, Monosha, puts frogs inside Bogola's socks, the boys are duped into consuming alcohol so that they feel too sluggish to practice and so on. All because Gobordhan Chowdhury (Jahar Ray), the president of Harbhanga club won't have the Manchester Shield (named after his father, Manchester Chowdhury) leaving home!!! And, why was he called Manchester? I haven't the dimmest idea! So, the battle ensues. Bogola and the boys pull up their socks to vanquish their opponents...
Monosha is an orphan. Chowdhury is her maternal uncle and Anubha Gupta (Rabi Ghosh's wife) is his wife. Given her carefree ways and her defiant personality, she is ill-treated by her guardians all the time. The uncle is also on the lookout of a suitable man to marry off Monosha. And, that boy turns out to be Bogola!!! The run-up to the marriage is absolutely comical. Bogola has to be literally carried to the mandap. He is being forced into matrimony and he behaves like a little kid saying that his brother is going to beat him up for this. In the ruckus, the priest (Rabi Ghosh, whose full name was Rabi Ghosh Dastidar, happens to be my uncle-in-law) bungles and recites funeral slokas! It's utter pandemonium out there...
So, though Bogola and the boys manage a thumping victory (12-0), Chowdhury doesn't give the Manchester Shield away. He sees off his niece. And that, Dutta won't like...
Especially when he has been fixing Bogola's marriage with Lily! Watch out what happens in this uproarious film, a wonderful culmination of romance and comedy. With ribtickling one-liners and thorough midsummer madness.
Uttam Kumar, the biggest star of Bengali cinema, is a natural. And so is Sabitri Chatterjee. Watch out for their sweet bickerings over vegetables, football and Bogola. Awesome. There is a scene where Dutta is dreaming about the Manchester Shield. As expected, he kicks in the air and it lands on his wife lying beside him. The wife cries out loud and says, "O ma go, tumi ki amay mere phelbey. Chuloy jaak tomader phootball... (Will you kill me this way. Let your football go to hell..." God, it's so so funny!!!
Then there is the altercation between Dutta and Lily's parents, a couple obsessed with cricket. Lily's mother rubbishes Bogola saying that she does not like his name. Incensed, Dutta says, "Apnar meyer naam tio kemon ekta Lily biscuit moton! (Your daughter's name reminds me of some Lily biscuit!)" The film is replete with such irreverant fun.
Jaya Bhaduri plays Monosha. And she is really good. It's really pleasing seeing her metamorphose from a bratty tomboy to a responsible wife and sister-in-law. In one instance she cries and tells her sister-in-law Sabitri that since she is an orphan, no one considered her opinion before marrying her off. That part is poignant. It reflects the plight of most young girls in our country. Seen as a commodity, they are supposed to marry the person their parents chose. Irrespective of whether they are willing or not. But here, matters are soon resolved because Monosha and Bogola love each other.
Yes, sweet romance blooms between the two. In E betha ki je betha, (beautiful rendition by Hemant Kumar), we can feel the sweet pain of love, as Monosha takes an ointment to Bogola (who is minorly injured after the match). Lovely score by Nachiketa Ghosh.There is harmless tension between the two during the match. Monosha throws a cowdung cake garland at Bogola for being a no-show in the first half. But, soon she has to eat humble pie when Bogola pummels Harbhanga club with 12 goals... There is another lovely romantic number Radhe mone ta rekhe eli bol. But my favourite is Arati Mukherjee's Ja ja behaya pakhi jana, picturised on the ebullient Bhaduri.
The best song, and a testimony to the joie de vivre associated with Bengalis and their love for football, is Shob khelar shera Bangalir tumi football. Manna Dey's voice puts in ample energy in this fun song, picturised on Bogola and his teammates as they are going to Harbhanga in a train. Every Bengali knows this song by heart, I'm sure...
This charming film is bolstered by the fantabulous supporting cast. Chowdhury and his idiosyncracies, Sukhen Das and his non-stop background commentary, Rabi Ghosh and his stammer and of course, funnyfaced Kamakhha mama with his oversized hearing aid. You have to see this lot to believe it!
Rabi Ghosh is excrutiatingly funny as the stammering village priest, Bhattacharjee Moshai, who sulks all the time. And when he doubles as the match referee, hell breaks lose! Gosh! I was literally falling off my sofa during the Ghosh-Ray scenes...
I've buried the past. In the final I'm supporting Holland. And yes, as I've said before, I'm feeling much better now. Courtesy Dhanni Meye...

10 comments:

  1. Wonderful that you have started writing about regional films.
    This one is, as you say, a laugh riot, but enveloped in the essence of rural Bengal, much like Bimal Roy's Parakh.
    Uttam Kumar acts his age, and dazzles, unlike in Amanush in Hindi!
    The ever-relevant rural-urban conflict subtly undercuts the film.
    Could Hrishikesh Mukherjee or Roy have pulled off its Hindi version?
    PS: Please don't back Holland. Paul the octo, has put his money, sorry mussels, on Spain!

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  2. @Netdhaba: I know what Paul predicted. But I'm nursing immense pain and on principle I am not going to support Spain :( But well, I will think about it ;)
    I think Mukherjee could pull it off (Roy would be a tad more serious, though he did a fabulous job in Parakh) but the fun lies in the rural simplicity. Where would he get that? And of course the riotous one-liners and Rabi Ghosh! No mister, none of that fun would be there in Hindi remakes, I'm sure.
    Thanks for the comment :)

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  3. Very well-written. This is actually a laugh riot with some superb performances. I totally agree with Dwaipayan that Uttam Kumar played his part well in Dhanni Meye unlike in Amanush where he was looking aged, wasn't too comfortable with Hindi and was basically a misfit. However, Mithunda once claimed that Amanush is still considered a cult movie; no comments about this comment!! And, of course Rabi Ghosh and Jahar Ray are incomparable as far as comic timing is concerned.
    Btw, I'm supporting Holland in the final too but I have an eerie feeling that Spain will win...let's hope for a gr8 match

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  4. @Swarnava: Thank You Dada. At last I've written about a Bengali film. Hope to do more of this. Yes, I shudder to think of Amanush. The other day i saw a song of Chhoti si Mulaqat where Uttam Kumar was dancing. Eeeeepppppssss. Ludicrous. Also, he was just not good with Hindi :(
    Yes, lets hope for a gr8 match. :)

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  5. Am putting this on my must-get-hold-of list! Sounds hilarious. :-)

    Oh, by the way: was the song from Chhoti Si Mulaqat that you saw, the title song? I know what you mean. Uttam Kumar dancing made me cringe!

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  6. Yay! for more Netherlands fans. Together we can will Spain into losing!!! ;D

    I am sooooo glad you decided to review a Bengali film. Ever since I discovered Uttam-Suchitra films, I've never been quite so satisfied with my favorite Hindi films! But it is very hard to find information about old Bengali films, so I never know what to buy. This one goes on my next DVD buying spree (it is subtitled, I hope).

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  7. @Dustedoff: Yes, yes, don't miss this one. Impeccable comic timing displayed by all the actors and crazy one-liners. Awesome it is. You will be giggling away I tell you :) Just watch out for Jahar Ray and Rabi Ghosh. Absolute scene stealers!!! And Uttam Kumar is just superb!
    Yes, it was the title track. Uttam Kumar dancing, a ghastly sight. I'm sure I'll never see that film ;)

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  8. @Bollyviewer: Let's all do some psychic mumbo jumbo so that Holland wins ;) Let's outwit Paul!!
    Since, I'm getting a favourable response, I'll make sure I review Bengali films more often. Yes, it's difficult to get info about Bengali films. Whenever I go to Kolkata I get a huge lot of them. I have quite a few Uttam-Suchitra films, the famous ones. Slowly I will tell you about them. And, please feel free to ask whatever you want to know.
    This one is a laugh riot. It does not have Suchitra but Sabitri, who was an even better actress than Suchitra. She was just so natural. But this one stands out for Uttam Kumar, Jahar Ray and Rabi Ghosh. They are simply superb. I have the DVD version but it does not have subtitles :( I sincerely hope the one you buy is subtitled. For, the fun would be lost otherwise. Just go, enjoy it. Thank you for the comment :)

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  9. Oh how I like this movie, but the songs I like even more

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