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Monday, 13 September 2010

Marriage caper (Chameli ki Shaadi)

This is a small film set in a small town. It dwells on nondescript people and their tiny aspirations. But the fun derived from watching these people while they go about their affairs is gigantic in proportion. This is a simple love story with extraordinary twists and turns. This is a tale that will make you laugh and learn. So, enjoy the joyride called Chameli ki Shaadi.
Basu Chatterjee's films are always entertaining. And, this 1986 romantic comedy is no different. Without prevaricating, let's get to the story (but no spoilers, I guarantee).
Charandas (Anil Kapoor) is a local lad living with his brother Bhajandas (Satyen Kappu) and sister-in-law (Tabassum). Bhajandas is always nagging him to do something worthwhile but the young Charandas is busy whiling his time in the neighbourhood wrestling club. He is a protege of Mastram Pehelwan (Om Prakash) whose students are under the strict oath of not marrying before the age of 40. As per his guru's instructions, Charandas is prodigious with his wrestling matches and exercises.
One day Charandas is ordered to get a sack of coal by his sister-in-law. He rushes to the local coal trader Kallumal's depot. Kallumal (Pankaj Kapur) sells coal on a rate higher than the controlled rate and receives enough flak from the locals for doing so. But, he is determined to stand his cheeky ground and even aspires to become the leader of his community. When Charandas reaches the coal depot, he is in for a shock. Instead of the slithery Kallumal, the depot is being manned by his daughter Chameli (Amrita Singh), for the time being. Charandas's pledge of celibacy till 40 goes for a toss and he loses his heart to Chameli at the first sight of the chubby but pretty girl. In her school uniform, Chameli looks like a cute princess to Charandas and he is head-over-heels in love with her. If his guru had instructed him to never look a girl in the eye, he does that exact same thing now and keeps smiling innnocently. Chameli too, angles for attention with her sweet talk. But soon, the prospective lovers' first meeting is hindered by Kallumal's presence who shoos Charandas away from his depot brushing away the latter's demand of buying coal at a proper rate.
Now that Charandas has made the heart of Chameli his destination and abode, he waits everyday outside her school for a glimpse of Chameli. One such day he is caught by Mastram Pehelwan while he is at it. In an instant Charandas flees to Lawyer Harish's (Amjad Khan) house. He realises that his Wakil bhaiyya is the only one who can help him to get the girl and rid himself of Mastram's overbearing influence. He shuns his akhada guru and becomes a student of Harish. Now he is willing to do everything that this astute and endearing man instructs him. And, yes, Harish does show him the ropes to getting the girl and setting matters right. But for the tricks you have to watch Chameli ki Shaadi.
Once the girl is in Charandas's kitty, he has to ward off her drunk uncle, Chhaganlal (Annu Kapoor) who has been called by Chameli's mother to keep Charandas away. Kallumal and his wife, Champa (Bharti Achrekar) will not have Charandas as a son-in-law as he is from a different caste. They shortlist some losers for Chameli even though they have to pay a heavy dowry. They lock Chameli in a room, take her radio away (as Champa feels that all the Hindi songs are eating into Chameli's sense and pragmatism) and force her to marry some Makkhan, an aspiring lawyer. But Charandas and Harish prove too clever for them. While Harish scares away Makkhan, Charandas make mincemeat of Chhaganlal, who is a greedy rogue of the highest order.
The ending is exciting and happy, just as all romantic comedies should end. But the run-up to the ending is pacy, hilarious and full of rib-tickling incidents. Though Kalyanji-Anandji's music might seem to truncate the lucid narrative, I guess commercial Hindi films would be deemed incomplete without them. But, once the song and dance is over, the action begins all over again.
Anil Kapoor and Amrita Singh did quite a few films together and do share a warm screen rapport. Anil Kapoor looks quite sweet in 1986 (a bit too hairy though) and Amrita Singh was cute. More than their looks, hardly glamorous, it is their histrionics that stand out. Charandas's transition from an innocent young wrestler to a die-hard romantic all set to take the town by storm for the sake of love, is just so splendid. And, his exaggerated swagger is really comic. Amrita Singh is outright funny in parts. Especially when she lashes out at all and sundry with her caustic tongue, her expletives, her hands and feet at one go. She literally pummels those who raise their fingers against her love for Charandas. A funny caricature of an outright feisty woman.
Pankaj Kapur is another masterpiece in the film. With his mousy face and his paunch, he sure looks like a opportunistic coal seller who is working hard to be the leader and representative of his community. On the one hand he has political aspirations, and on the other he is peevish enough to sell his daughter to any darn loser so that he is not slighted by his neighbours. Pankaj Kapur modulates his voice impeccably and his altercations with his better-half are just awesome.
Om Prakash tickles your funny bone with his characteristic dexterity. Only here, he might sometimes irk you with his rantings against women. They are thoroughly chauvinistic and ludicrous. (naari nark ka dwaar hain, naari mard ko khokhla bana deti hain... unfair and outrageous)!!
Now coming to the most important character in the film. I've made it evident in my last post that I hold Amjad Khan in high esteem as a performer. In Chameli ki Shaadi he shows how smart comedy is done with panache. He is pink and fat, with glowing apple cheeks, but when he starts operating with his quick and sharp wit, there are firecrackers. The best lines are mouthed by Amjad Khan as he devices way to help Charandas. His manoeuvrings are both hilarious as well as clever and he is too fast for anybody in the movie. It's awesome how the director makes a commentary on social maladies like caste discrimination and dowry in a light-hearted way. And the best part is that the cudgels for teaching are on Khan who does not resort to pontification. This Wakil bhaiyya's methods are highly entertaining and perhaps the winning stroke in this frothy small town romance...


  1. I love this film. It's one of those films you can watch again and again, and still laugh. I thought Amrita Singh was fabulous in this.

  2. @Banno: I love everything about this film. It's such a sweet simple story yet so so hilarious. And I loved Amjad Khan :)

  3. I am not an Amrita Singh fan, and I don't usually like films from the 80's - but this one's an exception. Delightful flick, and the title song chorus - that "Chameli, Chameli, Chameli ki shaadi" is one of those songs that, once in my head, refuse to quit running through it!

  4. @Dustedoff: Yes, even I'm not very fond of the later 80s films. But this one is such a pleasant exception. And i love Amjad Khan here. i think he was totally wasted in the commercial potboilers.

  5. LOVE this film. I remember hearing the Chameli, chameli, chameli ki shaadi song on radio a lot, but the film was a complete surprise when I watched it. I expected something along the lines of 80s Anil Kapoor masala. Of course, many years later, I realised that it was a Basu Chatterji film - and that explained it all! :D

  6. @Bollyviewer: There is another good Anil Kapoor film I really like. That's Woh Saat Din. In Chameli ki Shaadi, Basu Chatterjee increased the fun by setting it in a small town. I loved every character here :)

  7. Ahh i had this waiting to be written up, but no bother now, you've done a great job of it. I found it enjoyable and i liked the message in it but its not one i would watch more tahn once

  8. @Bollywooddeewana: Thank you for the praise. I think it is a thoroughly enjoyable film. And a typican Basu Chatterjee fare at that :)

  9. I have this habit of digging up reviews of old movies on internet and on one such quest, I landed on your blog and I must say i was hooked. Great Reviews.

    However, coming to the instant film, this movie one of my all time favorites. Every frame of the film is etched in my memory. Be it that classic laugh-cry of Chameli's mother or the scene where the mama gets framed up for murder, every scene is a delight.

    I agree with you that Amzad khan is the real Hero of the film who stood tall. Whenever he came on screen, there was a gentle anticipation. For me the best scene is when Amazad khan asks Anil Kapoor that as per the letter of chameli there will be a Saheli of hers who will accompany her to the Pinto Restaurant. On being replied in the affirmative by Anil Kapoor, Amzad gives a sly smile and asks with an almost imperceptible wink "samajh Gaye?"
    Anil Kapoor: Haan
    Amzad Khan: kya samjhe??
    Anil Kapoor: (with a knowing grin) Ke aap bhi mere saath chalenge
    And the expression and the subsequent denial by Amzad is a sight to behold.
    I have rarely found out any other movie with such gentle humor and an authentic humane touch of the small town India.
    This movie is a gem and I loved your writing, u wrote beautifully.
    Waiting for more.