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Monday, 16 August 2010

Jaded stars (Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki)

Consider Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki over with the death of Asha Parekh. Figuratively I mean. For, even though the film ends after a mind numbing session of bad songs, loud performances and unexciting fisticuffs, there is hardly any more meat in the drama save the strong histrionics by Nutan. I think it is amazing that this Raj Khosla (melo)drama won a Filmfare best film award in 1978. How on earth?
Here's the plot in a jiffy (the film was adapted from the Marathi novel, Ashi Tujhi Preet). Vijay Anand, playing the 'young' Thakur Rajnath Singh Chouhan, saves Tulsi (Asha Parekh), the helpless courtesan while she is escaping from a batch of goons and the owner of the kothi. He gives her shelter in his outhouse haveli and soon the two fall in love, much to the ire of the Thakur's mother. She wants her son to marry someone of the same status and not a woman of questionable character. Mother and son fight over this before mother has a cardiac arrest. Just when you thought that this Thakur is determined enough to let his love rule over the need to honour his family name, Tulsi plays the spoilsport. Though she is carrying her lover's baby, she sacrifices her own happiness and forces the Thakur to marry the girl chosen for him by his mother. After much deliberation, the Thakur relents and thus enters Sanjukta (Nutan) in his life. Sanjukta will not have a mere prostitute steal her man from her and gives the mistress a piece of her mind.
Hurt and humiliated, Tulsi ends her life, convincing her lover that he should now devote himself to Sanjukta. The wife suffers from guilt for instigating Tulsi's death. She realises that Tulsi was seriously a generous woman (which other mistress would give up her happiness so easily?) and promises to rear the dead woman's son honourably. She sends Ajay, Tulsi's son, to a good boarding school and occasionally goes to meet him. Amidst all this the Thakur meets his end in an equestrian accident. Sanjukta's son, Pratap (Deb Mukherjee) grows up to be a spoilt brat. Sanjukta decides to hand over everything to Ajay (Vinod Khanna), the rightful owner (as he is the Thakur's eldest son) of the Chouhan property.
The rest of the film deals with Ajay and Pratap's ego battles, their lacklustre love stories and the road to the halcyon end where all misunderstandings regarding Ajay's ilegitimate birth is sorted out.
I do not recall any of the songs save the title track (by Lata Mangeshkar) because the songs are not worth remembering. But that's how I feel. Laxmikant Pyarelal have never been my favourite.
Anand almost looks like this in the film, albeit a little younger
Now for the ghastly cast (barring Asha Parekh and Nutan). Vijay Anand as the brave and dashing Thakur? Not pleasing at all. He is pot-bellied, old and carries a ludicrous hairstyle. I almost cringed at the sight of Anand romancing Parekh. Or should I say laugh. Better of as a director, I think Khosla armtwisted Anand into this role, for some strange reason, I'm sure. In the scenes where he is dangerously close to Parekh, and later Nutan, you can sense his discomfiture. Gross miscasting, in terms of looks and personality. On acting, Anand cannot go wrong. He knew his expressions and voice modulations too well, I guess.
Next in line for the brickbats is Deb Mukherjee. Grey in character, Mukherjee's expressions are thoroughly disinterested. He is fat, old and highly improper to play a rich young man, too full of himself. When he hits a village belle with plump tomatoes, from atop a tree, I almost feel the branch will give in under his weight. He has a stupid swagger and not the right physique to model those funky shirts and bell bottom pants. His hair is sparse and hairstyle belongs to old uncles. In a particular song, he is supposed to look extremely roused by the exoticism of an intoxicated village girl. I can't begin to describe the look. It's as if he is going to launch into a fierce fight with a sworn enemy!!!
Mukherjee's scenes with Khanna are still better. At least they have some steam. But, fact is, I somehow miss Prem Chopra here. The role of a jealous brother so suits him. And, Chopra was smart and good looking, too.
Since I'm not an overtly Vinod Khanna fan, I'm not in a position to analyse his part. One thing I can say for sure though. I'm not fond of such loud personas. But perhaps that was Khanna's charm. He wore his heart and booming voice on his sleeves. My only problem is with one aspect of Ajay's character. A man who is forever grateful to his Biji for giving him a good upbringing, should be more composed. The way he moves around the factory and the haveli, the way he romantically pursues Naini, the way he monitors Pratap's shortcomings, appear a little overconfident and out of place. I would expect him to be softer in his approach. But that's just my view.
The supporting cast is bad. Period. So are the two women in Pratap and Ajay's life. While Naini is Neena Mehta, the village girl is Geeta Behl. Both are very ordinary. They lack the charm that is needed for the roles.
The two women portraying the lead protagonists stand out amidst all the drab characters. Asha Parekh is past her prime in 1978 but she still acts like a dream. Her dance to Shobha Gurtu's Sayyan Rooth Gaye still has the old magic and her expressions are awesome. Her character is well-etched and tight. She is the sacrificing mistress who wants her lover to have a happily married life. She knows that the society would slight and stigmatise her lover for being associated to her. She also wants Sanjukta to get her due rights as a wife and prodes the Thakur to fulfil his responsibilities. This is a rare film where the mistress is glorified as an honourable and dignified woman. Just as in Hindu households the basil plant can never be taken inside the house, Tulsi is never accepted inside the Thakur's home and life. Social taboos and the strictures imposed by the Thakur's old mother keep Tulsi away from the Thakur. But in his heart the Thakur loves her and in this truth Tulsi revels. It is the magnanimity of Tulsi that forms the backbone of this film.
If Tulsi is large-hearted, Sanjukta shines through her benevolence. Her pangs of guilt povokes her to take care of Ajay and being a Rajput she never shies away from her promise to give him his dues. It is through Sanjukta's actions that we see how this woman starts honouring her husband's mistress. I love Nutan's crisp dialogues. She is smart and sharp like a whip and has no qualms in belittling her own son when she feels that he is getting two big for his shoes. She is old but she still looks fresh. She is graceful and dignified and almost rescues the ship from sinking. Though you can almost doze off during some scenes, Nutan's entry will jerk you into your senses. Yes, her performance is catchy and entertaining (deserving of her Best Actress Filmfare trophy). A rare gem, alongwith Parekh, amidst a battery of corroded pebbles...

17 comments:

  1. I saw a bit of it on Doordarshan last year but I didn't like it. So never saw the entire movie. I had just seen Bin Phere Hum Tere and Swathi then, I didn't have have the stamina to digest yet another late 70's/early 80's film.

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  2. Admire your patience...that you could tolerate this one. It was a good movie, but a little too slow for my taste. Why does a woman have to be so vulnerable? Anyway, it is nothing but another mellowed drama from Raj Khosla film factory. Vijay Anand was unbearable....Kudos to you though, first for watching it and then writing about it and that too minutely.

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  3. @Sunheriyaadein: I too did not have the stamina. No wonder I was dozing off during the film quite often. What a ghastly piece of work this was, especially when the children grow up. Just does not look like Raj Khosla's handiwork :(

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  4. @Shilps: Vijay Anand's hair was scary... and so was Deb Mukherjee's stupid swagger!
    Why does Parekh have to die? I hated that. The film then for me was virtually over :(
    Raj Khosla was best with his suspense thrillers. I did like Do Raaste, but not, never this one :(
    I just wanted to tell everyone to stay away from this, hence this post ;)

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  5. I'd heard a lot of people raving about this film, but when I finally got around to seeing it last year, I was disappointed. Nutan and Asha Parekh, as you point out, put up fine performances, but other than that, there's little. Vijay Anand is... well, he was much better in stuff like Haqeeqat. The younger generation were forgettable, and much of the film made me either yawn or cringe.

    Definitely not a film to rewatch, Raj Khosla or no. ;-)

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  6. I agree with your review, there was something so trying about this movie, it took a lot of effort on my part to finish it without chucking it out of the player. I had watched it because it had been touted as a classic of sorts plus the fact that it was an award winner and supposedly a huge hit at its time of release added to my curiosity and persuaded me to watch it,and as much as i love Laxmikant Pyarelal ( I love them a lot) the songs in this were rather drab and its only the title track i remember too, a very interesting review still though.

    P.s can you kindly tell me the reason why Basil plants are not allowed in the house

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  7. @Dustedoff: Haqeeqat, that's one film I've been hearing so much about. Is it a full-on war film? Who are the leads? The songs are good. I think I will watch it (even though I much prefer Vijay Anand as a director than an actor) even though Chetan Anand is not one of my fav directors.
    The younger generation in this film was plain bad. Sad that Asha Parekh's role was so itsy-bitsy. She deserved more. Wonder why this film is so famous?? :(

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  8. @Bollywooddeewana: The film was so long for no reason and the younger actors were so boring. I just hated the film after Asha Parekh passed away. I just tried and stayed awake to finish it because I too had heard good things about the film. Wonder how it became so famous? I prefer Raj Khosla's Do Raaste much much more. It had good performances and a tight storyline. I'll review it soon.
    I'm not sure why the tulsi plant is never allowed inside the house of any Hindu family. But my mum says that it is a very sacred plant to Hindus. So, it is kept near the entrance of the house so that the ambience is pure and it can ward off any evil eye from falling in any household from outside. The plant is also worshiped in the evening by the women of the house for bringin peace and prosperity in the house and a diya is lit near it, signifying that the house be always flushed with brightness and may darkness never fall on it.
    If I get to know anything more regarding the tulsi plant I will let you know for sure. :)

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  9. With a name like Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki and Asha Parekh, in the title song, looking like she will weep and sacrifice throughout the film (I was not to know that she would die pretty soon!), I knew I would never watch it! So I am glad to know that I was right to avoid it! Isn't Yeh khidki jo band rehti hai from this film? I certainly prefer that to the weepy title song. But then, I do like Vinod K in spite of his loudness!

    As to Raj Khosla, somehow nothing quite matches up to the magic of his earlier B/W films. I'd much rather remember him as the director who gave us the likes of CID and Ek Musafir Ek Haseena than one who made this!

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  10. @Bollyviewer: Yes Yeh Khidki is from this film. This is such a bore. I too prefer Khosla's B&W ventures than these. I love Woh Kaun Thi, Mera Saaya, CID and Ek Musafir Ek Hasina. I made the mistake of seeing Anita. That was bad too. But, I did like Do Raaste.
    Stay away from this one. This is plain, plain bad. :(

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  11. Appears like this is another Chandan ka Palna-type film. So i must stay clear of it.
    Haqeeqat was Bollywood's balm to Nehru and India's bruised ego after the 1962 thrashing in China's hands. Chetan Anand or not, it was destined to be a smash-hit because of this reason.

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  12. @Netdhaba: No not so bad as Chandan ka Palna. You had the fiesty Nutan who tries to save the ship from sinking. Definitely better than old and distorted Meena Kumari. ;)

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  13. There is a story behind not allowing Tulsi inside the house. I had heard it in some purana but don't exactly remember. It basically revolves around a woman, a devoted wife who was tricked by either Lord Vishnu or one of his incarnations and a curse she had given him.
    Vijay Anand, I never thought so highly of him until I saw Aakhri Khat . I felt Haqeeqat and Heer Ranjha were little over-hyped. But after watching Aakhri Khat I have fallen in love with the man. It's a masterpiece and I'm still in awe of how he managed to direct a 15 months old toddler. Amazing movie. Do watch it if you haven't seen it already.

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  14. @Sunheriyaadein: Isn't Akhri Khat the one with Rajesh Khanna? I have heard about it. Will see it then if you say it is really worth it.
    I always preferred Vijay Anand as a director rather than an actor. After all, his Teesri Manzil is my favourite Hindi film. And Jewel Thief is one of my top favourite films. God knows why he maintained that ludicrous hairstyle???
    Thanks Archana for this trivia about the Tulsi plant :)

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  15. Hey.. thanks for warning us about the so-called Classic! It was there on my buy-list coz of Nutan's filmfare win... I thought it to be in league with Nutan's late works like Saudagar (Nutan was superb in it!). But thanks a tonn for the review.. I will now spend that money on Buying "Hariyali aur raasta" :D

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  16. @Punya: Yes, this is so not a film that you spend your money on. Saudagar was a different thing altogther. Sensitive story and awesome performances. Nutan was old but still so charming. This film is more of a sleep inducer :(

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  17. Nutan was her best in Bandini and Saudagar I feel

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