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Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Into the sea of love (Chori Chori)

Raj Kapoor didn't need to move an inch. His face did it all. When those intense eyes narrow themselves and his lips break into a lopsided grin to say, "Ghum ek kamzori hain, aur main apni kamzori dikhana nahin chahta," not just Nargis is delirious with joy. I too, feel blood rushing to my heart. His nonchalant charm has an alarming effect on my nerves. His casual yet smart demeanour plays hockey with my senses. I get more and more embroiled in the showman's charisma. Gulping down one tumbler of water after another, I sit up to get mesmerised once again by this dashing Kapoor as he entertains with one adventure after another in Chori Chori.

And, come to think of it, he was not even conventionally good-looking, like say, Dharmendra, or Clark Gable (on whose Peter Warne his Sagar is based), but one fast dialogue not only pulls the ground from beneath Kammo's feet, but mine, too. Yes, I'm gushing. And, this is not even Shammi Kapoor, Raj's younger brother and my favourite. But, the embers, left from the fire that Sagar's delicious persona lighted in my mind, die hard.
Chori Chori, Anant Thakur's 1956 make of Frank Capra's It Happened One Night (1934) is a frothy love story that stays with you forever. At least, it has done so with me. Kapoor is roguishly charming (yes, just like Gable) and Nargis is smart (almost like Claudette Colbert). The chemistry between the two leads is obviousy crackling. The songs are magical and the dialogues super fun. Though the film could have been tighter (Thakur could have negated Johny Walker's portions from the script) and crisper, as long as Sagar and Kammo are engaging in their interesting escapades, I have no complaints. I chose to be more than enthralled by the highly charged physical chemistry between the two.
Everyone knows what It Happened One Night is about. For Chori Chori, just add in some Bollywood tricks. Or in the case of this AVM Production, throw in some spices from the South. For instance, a Bharatnatyam recital (that is somewhat redundant), locales in Madras and Bangalore, a lovely boat song (Us paar saajan) by the fisherfolk of Madras, daring swimming antics by Kammo (Nargis), the spoilt daughter of millionaire Seth Girdharilal (Gope) and lots of song and dance. Then you have the extra space given to Bhagwan Dada and his screen wife so that they can sing the entertaining Sawa lakh ki lottery (the only Mohd Rafi track among the Manna Dey-Lata Mangeshkar carnival). And, since AVM has put in money, the film takes 3 hour to end.
The score of Chori Chori is remarkable. A job fantabulously done by Raj Kapoor's favourite, Shankar Jaikishan. Every song is mindblowing (barring All line clear, which I think is superfluous). In terms of range, mood, music and lyrics, each song is a gilded classic. Take Rasik balma for instance. Mangeshkar's mellifluous voice breathes life into Nargis's afflicted face. She is nursing a pained heart stung by unrequitted love. On one hand, Kammo feels cheated by the one who she loved dearly, and on the other, Sagar is suffering because many of his questions have been unanswered. Sagar loved Kammo, he took some time to tell her so, given his pragmatic approach towards life. But he did not expect to lose her. Hasrat Jaipuri's words reflect the storm in both Kammo and Sagar's hearts. This is a song that is difficult to forget...
Juxtapose this with the ebullience of Panchhi banu udti phiru. Mageshkar again is brilliant. A joyous feeling enveloping her very existence after her freedom from filial fetters, Kammo is a bird all set to fly to the promised land. A land where love from Suman has been promised to her. But little does she know that Suman is the devil who can truncate her flight without any remorse. But there is no stopping Kammo right now. And this song reflects this bliss.
One word for Pran, who plays the opportunistic Suman. Though he hardly has scope in this film, it is exciting to see him fooled in the end. At least he does not get the chance to play his dirty tricks. That would surely spoil the fun and lengthen the already long film.
Raj Kapoor and Nargis puppet dancing to Jahaan main jati hoon was a different experience. Unique, innovative and deftly done. Making Kapoor dance should have been something. And the hard work paid off. The song is fantastic, the dance fun and the slow development of romance through the song is wonderful.
Though many would complain against the inclusion of Mann bhaawan ke ghar, for eating into the tight denouement, I beg to disagree. This exuberant song speaks volumes about a woman's feelings on leaving her father's home after marriage. Plus, here we have Nargis, all bedecked in bridal finery, yet her heart shorn of the joy that she should feel on this occasion. But, how can she help if Sagar is not the man she is tying the knot with. Sagar, the man who made her realise what true love is and whose every harsh word felt like flowers on her arrogant ears...
Raj Kapoor kills with his attitude. He does not have to move a muscle, he just has to flash that deadly smile, either in a sarcastic manner or in an amiable way. And, you're done for. He does that aplenty in Yeh raat bheegi bheegi (a marvellous duet by Manna Dey and Mangeshkar). Trying to ward off the effects of attraction from his khubsurat bala, Sagar knows that love will soon have the better of him. And, the moonlit night is hardly helping him to control his emotions. As you sail through the lovely notes of the song (courtesy Shailendra), the musical cadence lulls you into a magical ambience where everything is pretty and attractive. Just like Kapoor's flamboyance and Nargis's sublime beauty.
As much as I feel that Raj Kapoor was blessed with an excruciatingly attractive face and a magnetic personality, Nargis on the other hand floored one an all with her smart attitude. And when both came together, the screen caught fire. Their crackling chemistry is used well in Chori Chori (like it was in Awara, Aah and Shree 420). Sagar and Kammo sizzle together. When they fight, you can feel the sexual tension, when they laugh together, they create magic. They do superb comedy, fight like true enemies (sample the bus scenes and the inn scenes) and slowly fall into love. Both their performances are in sync with each other and you can see that they are enjoying their joyride. And when Aaja sanam madhur chandni happens, you know that it is not for nothing that Raj Kapoor and Nargis's story is one of the most oft-repeated of Bollywood affairs/ romances.
Chori Chori is cent percent entertainment. The film was remade in Bengali in 1959 as Chawa Pawa, starring Bengal's darling duo Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen. That film was great too. Loving, sensitive and poignant. Suchitra Sen is beautiful, Uttam Kumar is smart and good looking. It also had the utterly talented Tulsi Chakraborty as the innkeeper (he was outrageously funny). The Bengali film was more compact and devoid of irrelevant sequences.
But, all said and done, nothing close to the smouldering effects of the scintillating showman and his flooring antics...


  1. Hi! This was my first B/W purchase and little did I know that I am stepping into an altogether different world of Hindi cinema. I thoroughly enjoy each and every frame of this movie. Though I quite agree with you on Johny Walker's part.. a bit strectched but the lines he throws at Kammo in the bus makes up for everything. I had a constant grin on my face during the bickerings and thoroughly enjoyed the lovely scenes.. esply "Jahan main jaati hoon..." Nargis was endearing in it..what with controlled expressions like a real Kathputli. A lovely experience and a treasured buy! :)

  2. I don't much care for Raj Kapoor, but this is one RK film I really enjoy (in fact, it's the only RK film I've bought so far - the others I either saw on TV, or have rented). Superb music (even All line clear, in my opinion), and great chemistry between the leads.

    I've heard of Chawa Pawa (I think you also mentioned it when I reviewed Agni Pariksha...?) but had no idea it was this story. Must look out for that too! Thank you for the tip. :-)

  3. @Punya: I loved the scene where Raj Kapoor shooes Walker away in the bus claiming that Kammo is his wife. Lipsmacking! I love this film, too, every frame of it. Though it is a tad lengthy I can sit through it anytime just for the leads.

  4. @Dustedoff: Yes Chawa Pawa is immensely enjoyable. It is shorter too. And Uttam-Suchitra were fabulous. I'm sure you will like it, though the execution is a bit different in some places.

  5. I'm not a fan of either of the leads and usually go out of my way to avoid watching a film with RK in it. So I avoided watching this till a few months ago, and was surprised to find that it is perhaps the best IHON adaptation Bollywood ever made! The film did not feel too long - so either it really was very entertaining or Rajshri had a shorter version on their site.

    I had no idea Chawa Pawa is a remake of IHON. That makes me doubly anxious to watch it! I bought it with a bunch of other Uttam-Suchitra films a while back, but my DVD just won't play. :( I'll have to order a fresh one!

  6. @Bollyviewer: You know I also was a bit prejudiced against Raj Kapoor earlier. But then I saw some of his films very keenly and found that he did have an attitude. But then he overdid that Chaplin thing and it got on my nerves. But this film is really entertaining. I don't think Nargis was good looking (many would kill me to say so) and acted just decently. But I guess it was her chemistry with RK that worked so well.
    Chawa Pawa is a lovely film and yes it is a shorter version of IHON. It has the funny Tulsi Chakraborty as the innkeeper. His portions are soooo hilarious! Happy watching it :)

  7. This is one of my favorite RK films. I don't actually love the man but there's no denying that he was a very good actor and that attitude of his blended with intense blue eyes does have a bigtime effect on me. Exactly...he overdid that chaplin thing and overplayed the simpleton. He's someone who I am not extremely fond of, neither do I dislike him. It's a kind of confusing relationship :-)
    I adore him in movies like this, Bewafa, Aawara etc. Awara is my all time favourite. The only reason I am not as fond of him as other bollywood heroes is that I have to prepare myself mentally to watch his films. They are so socially awakening and hard hitting.
    But that again just goes on to prove what a great actor/director he is. Except for his later films like Ram Teri Ganga Maili, Satyam Shivam Sundaram....where he used the heroines as mere glam dolls, I do like the films he directed as well.
    I would love to see the bengali version. I really like seeing Uttam-Suchitra together.
    True, Nargis wasn't very beautiful but there was something very attractive and sensual about her! And when she's paired with RK, their chemistry does sets the screen ablaze.

  8. @Sunheriyaadein: You mean you have a love-hate relation with him ;)
    Me too. As much as i dislike his overtly Chaplinesque character, I love his intensity in Awara, Shree 420 (post intermission). he was very attractive and I'm sure he knew that. His chemistry with Nargis was something legendary.
    I liked his later films as a director because they were compelling social dramas and they proved his mettle as a gifted director.
    Chawa Pawa is enthralling, I'm sure you will like it. :)

  9. Good film, though tighter editing was required. The theme is cliched, but the Raj-Nargis chemistry does the trick. And as you mention, a non-Chaplinesque worldly wise RK is a treat to watch. Call be weird, but I love the positive ending — a nice deviation from the heartbreaking Roman Holiday.
    Rocking post :)

  10. @Netdhaba: Yes indeed, Raj Kapoor's non-Chaplinesque avatar was a treat. Though the film should have been more crisp, I'm game as long as I get to see the showman hogging the limelight.
    I used to think the plot is borrowed from Roman Holiday. But actually it is adapted from It Happened One Night starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. That was awesome too :)