Saturday, 25 September 2010
In Indu's case, it is the constant feeling that Prem's mother is more aware of her husband's likes and dislikes. The growing responsibility towards Prem, brings her closer to him. In Prem's case, the change is more complete and rounded. Initially irked by the change of his single-status, he constantly cribs about having to take care of a wife. With his paltry income, running a house becomes a difficult task in Delhi. And then there is Indu, who is not exactly to his liking. It's as if he has been forced into marriage and hence his circumspection. It takes many tiny incidents, his mother, a friend, a swami and a bizarre acquaintance, to drive home the point in Prem's mind that he is after all quite ready for a family. Or should we say he gradually gets in the groove of running a family, with some realisations dawning upon him.
Prem (Shashi Kapoor) and Indu (Leela Naidu), when the film opens, are going to attend a wedding. Prem witnesses the discomfiture of the bridegroom and soothes his frayed nerves by relating his own tale. He was in a similar position a year earlier. He was not fond of his wife, more because he was not very eager to settle down in marriage right away. Living away from his family in a rented house in Delhi, he keeps complaining how difficult it is for him to run a house, given his meagre income of Rs 180 per month as a college professor. He compares the food cooked by Indu with the food that his mother made. He is hardly loving or caring towards her. He keeps reiterating that she is better-off because she has no worries.
She shares her thoughts with her landlady, Mrs Saigal (Achla Sachdev) and complains to her a bit, too, about how her husband is always asking her to curtail costs. It is Mrs Saigal who first breaks the news of Indu's pregnancy to Prem. The sky breaks on his head. How would he afford a baby now? The tiff between Prem and his wife sheds light on the utter lack of misunderstanding between the couple. They are still so new to each other's feelings, yet they are going to have a baby!
From here on, we suddenly see a change in Prem. He urges Indu to take nutritious meals and even gets laddoos for her. I love how James Ivory shows Prem trying to steal kisses from his pretty wife. He decides to call his mother to take care of the situation. But little does he know that with his mother's intervention, things would go outright awry.
Prem's mother (Durga Khote) nitpicks on her daughter-in-law at every instance. She is the typical Indian mother, ever too indulgent towards her son and believes that no one else can take enough care of him. She chides Indu at the drop of a hat and raises questions over her pedigree.
The homely squabbles are the best part of the film. Because, in them you get to witness the change in Prem. He soon realises that he has duties towards his family, especially his wife, who deserves special care. Prem grows up in the process of settling homely matters.
There is a point when Prem feels that he should abdicate all worldly worries and attain spiritual freedom. His quirky acquaintance, Ernest (Ernest Castaldo), eggs him on to it. But I would say that it is because of Ernest that he again realises that he is quite eager now for a family and spiritual replenishment can wait. The swami (Pahari Sanyal) too, helps him to believe so. For, he now has Indu by his side. To laugh and cry with him. Worries will be easier to deal with.
The Householder looks so Indian that it is a bit strange sometimes to hear the characters speak in perfect English. The dialogues, I'm afraid, are a bit too text bookish. But then, maybe because while watching the film I almost always believe that the characters are going to break into some familar Hindi lines. The cast is awesome. Durga Khote, Achla Sachdev, Pahari Sanyal, Harindranath Chatterjee (he is awesome with his diction) play such Indian roles with such British elan. Delhi looks lovely. So serene, empty and full of splendid locales.