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Saturday, 26 February 2011

Brains to be left behind (Half Ticket)

The moment you start reasoning with what's happening in Kalidas's braindead comedy, Half Ticket, you will miss out on the fun. I made this mistake initially. Stupefied at the incredible plot, the crazy situations and the absolutely OTT antics of Vijay, I started questioning whether I should actually sit through this 1962 film. But then when I thought to myself the stark absurdity of my wanting to question the credibility of the plot or situations, I gauged that I better turn the switch of my grey cells off and simply go with the flow of the story. Or the lack of it. Maybe that's why by the time this comic caper ended, even though the climax was severely botched up, I was actually laughing inwardly at some of the really funny bits.

Egged on by a faithful reader of this space, I sat down to watch Half Ticket with much trepidation. I had my reasons. The story was confusing, I'm not fond of Kishore Kumar at all as a lead actor, I do not enjoy slapstick humour and this is not one of Salil Chowdhury's best score. I kept cribbing to myself about how awkward and floppy Kumar looked as a college going youngster, how seriously stupid he appeared trying to pass of as a young lisping kid and how wrong the makers were in pairing the gorgeous Madhubala with a non-looker like Kishore. And yes, what a waste of Pran and his diabolical wizardry!
But then I suddenly discovered that I was being over-critical. For, there is a good side to all the bad sides in this film. That Kishore Kumar agreed to do this role says a lot about how flexible he was about his image. He was game at trying this utterly nonsensical part that maybe not many stars of that age would dare to lay their hands on. During the time when Kishore was fooling Rajnidevi as Munna, I kept being irritated at the idea of a big burly man trying to pass of as a young boy, who is somewhat smitten by this charming lady. But then I cannot say that a chuckle or two didn't escape my lips seeing the superactive histrionics and actions by Kumar. The set-up is so farcical but then haven't we enjoyed farces by Oliver Goldsmith. I remember cracking up at the boisterous gags of Tony Lumpkin and his cronies when She Stoops to Conquer was being read out in class at college. So, Half Ticket, after all these judgements, did not look so bad after all.
Vijay (Kishore Kumar) drives his rich father, Lal Chand (Moni Chatterjee), up the wall with his crazy ways. It's not clear why Vijay behaves in such a fashion. Basically a guy with a good heart, he gangs up with college mates and calls for a strike when the principal rusticates a poor student for not being able to pay the fees. Fed up with this action, Lal Chand quickly coughs up the required amount before the principal so that hi son stops all this commotion. But the principal is also hell bent on not allowing such a racketeer to continue in his institution and suspends Vijay. Vijay sees this as a liberating move. While he is most happy and prances around, his father and elder brother curse him for being such a worry.
Till here I feel that Vijay is being overtly impudent. There is no reason why he would bring so much shame to his family. I gather he takes pride in being a rich man and is thoroughly spoilt. Lal Chand decides to get Vijay married to a rich man's daughter called Asha. Though the father does not say it explicitly Vijay views it as a prospect to earn loads of money through a hefty dowry. So he behaves like a total tomfool before his prospective father-in-law who decides thus that he does not want his daughter's life spoiled. At this, Lal Chand is furious and throws Vijay out of the house. Vijay, with a few banknotes in his pocket and his shaving kit leaves to rough it out in the big bad world.
In the station ticket counter he realises that he would need money at every step. After a sudden encounter with a fat woman (Tuntun) and her obese son Munna, Vijay's brains start over timing. He disguises himself as Munna, a young boy, and looks to travel to Bombay with a half ticket! Meanwhile a jewel thief called Rajababu (Pran), who is absconding after robbing a precious diamond, takes up the chance to dupe the law. He hides the stone in Munna's back pocket and gets onto the train telling everyone that he is Munna's uncle. Total pandemonium ensues after this. Rajababu is just trying to go his own way after retrieving the diamond from Munna's back pocket and Munna is up to his own trip of crazy antics. In the train he sings Cheel cheel chillakey where he gets the entire crew of passengers in the compartment involved. Hot on the trail of the jewel thief is the police who are keeping a close watch on Rajababu and Munna. At the first opportunity, Munna escapes from Rajababu's grip and gets into Rajnidevi's (Madhubala) compartment. He fools her saying that he is a young boy who is very scared of lightening. Wonder why Rajnidevi cannot make out that this person is too big to be a young boy???? Tipped of by the police who are looking for the errant boy that a demented boy is on the loose, Rajnidevi gets scared that this must be that mad boy. But Munna convinces her that he is absolutely harmless and that he would love to stay with her as he likes her immensely. If this is Kishore Kumar's way of cozying up to a gorgeous woman, I have nothing to say!!!
A host of events follow after this. Vijay reaches Bombay and after falling out of several jobs, gets a decent job in a Murphy Radio showroom. All this while (and till the end) Rajababu tries to nab Vijay so that he gets the diamond from him but the moment Vijay sees Rajababu's shadow he is better far far away. On one such escapade we have the scintillating and hilarious Aake seedhi lagi dil pe aise katariya, a masterpiece in terms of picturisation, playback and expressions. Not that Kishore Kumar looks the best as a woman, but he sure is ribtickling as one. His movements are super-duper fun, his facial contortions are just too much to digest and his chemistry with Pran is awesome. I'd say, Vijay is better off with Rajababu here than he ever will be with Rajnidevi. Look at how the two dance and you'd know that they are naturals at wooing each other. Pran actually shimmies here and that too with the jumping Vijay! Kishore's playback is quite good, too. Simultaneously simging fro both the man and woman, Kishore manages to sound so much like Pran in the man's voice. I really really liked this song. It's peppy, fun and so so hilarious! Definitely the high point of the film.
Shorn of his 'Munna' disguise, Vijay confesses to Rajni that he is in love with her. And after much deliberation, Rajni who we now know to be Asha, the girl who Lal Chand wanted Vijay to marry initially, also realises that she loves Vijay. Though she is living in denial, her aunt helps her in coming to terms with the truth. Asha's aunt is played by Manorama, an actress whose performance never fails to make me smile. Here she is the loving aunt who bemuses over the fact that she never got married because no man was ever made good enough for her. Though she fell in love with some Tunnu, she never got to marry him! Don't ask me why! I though Manorama's introductive scene was so sweet. She is cutting a poster of Elvis Presley and singing Love me tender so sweetly!!!
Anyway, as the ends approaches a host of events take place and the situation spins out of control not just for Vijay, Rajababu, Asha and the police, but also the director. What could have been a funny end turns out to be a messy and confused one. Still I'd say that Kalidas maintained the farcical thread throughout the film quite well. And the best part, the film rolls up in two hours. So your brain needn't be dead for too long!
Madhubala in a light role was simply charming. She sings, dances, exclaims and looks gorgeous. Wish Kishore Kumar was a better looking man. Then Aankhon mein tum (Geeta Dutt and Kumar), Woh ik nigaah kya mili (Lata Mangeshkar and Kumar) would have been such brilliant songs in terms of picturisation. I feel Kishore Kumar could never be the perfect romantic hero. He jumped round too much for that effect. That sweet sensitivity or passion never really was his cup of tea...
Kishore Kumar turned out to be so much like Kishore Kumar, prancing, fumbling and full of action. Sometimes a buffoon, sometimes awkward, you do not need a comedian when you have him as the lead. In the scene where he gallivants on the road in a nightdress, he reminded me of Rajindernath in Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon. Absolutely joker-like as the lisping young boy, Kishore Kumar also does not try too hard in matters of wooing the lady. I bet he knows that the lady will obviously come to him, so why waste energy! But one thing is for sure, no man would be able to pull of this role if he did not have the capability of laughing at himself. This Kishore Kumar definitely must have had. For, Vijay is not a character you would respect or love. You'd just watch him perform the part and extract as much fun as possible. At times slapstick, at other times outrightly OTT, his genre of comedy thrived a lot on body movements than sharp saucy humour. But then I wonder, could he pull off a Shammi Kapoor-esque Anil Kumar Sona?! Did he have that charisma, the style, or that flamboyance?!

24 comments:

  1. For some reason, I've only ever watched half of 'Half-Ticket'. The slapstick does get too much, and I prefer Kishore Kumar when he's being a little quieter. But I think he sort of revelled in his crazy image, even as a singer and in real life, and this role must have been easy-peasy for him to do.

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  2. @Banno: I know. It does get a wee bit too much in Half Ticket. Why do u think I sat there being half sure of why I was watching this film. But Aakey seedhi is definitely a great one song!! I'm now quite glad there there is at least some one who agrees with me :)

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  3. @Sharmi, Wow that was quick :) When I started watching Half Ticket I didn't have any expectations considering it had Kishore Kumar as lead. I don’t always enjoy slapstick comedy either. The moment I realized it was not an ordinary comedy and least of all a typical old Hindi film but a real mad capper I thoroughly enjoyed it. You have to see Kishore Kumar not as a hero trying to woo heroine but as a comic actor with great timing and you will enjoy this classic much better. There were so many mad scenes. The best of them was the sequence where he goes to install tape recorder at Shammi’s house and how he avoids her advances in reaching his back pocket. And the way he twists with Shammi still trying to make his body inaccessible -- simply hilarious. There were such mad scenes as Kishore Kumar literally applying Makhan to the boss as his way of maska to get the job. And one of the initial scenes where he describes Vijay to the priest to ruin the marriage proposal. Almost the same dialogues were used by Amitabh in Sholay much later. His chemistry with Pran on the train and in Aake seedhi lagi dil pe song was so good. The train song Cheel cheel chillakey is one of his such enjoyable care free songs. On the whole I thought Half Ticket is one movie that can get you out of blues. The ending flight and crane scenes were unnecessary but the movie ends really well in revealing who Manorama’s secret lover was :)

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  4. @Sreenath: Wow you really are impressed with the film. Yes, I too found these scenes really funny. Thanks for asking me to see it. I quite liked that song, it was awesome :)

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  5. I second ur liking of 'Aakey seedhi lagi..." loved Pran in that one. Baaki, this is a good one-time watch if u are dangling in a frustrated mood! the super-hyper Kishore Kumar, though cringe-worthy as Munna, might rescue out of that mode.. loved some of the quick resorts exchanged between the leads in a few scenes. but, the songs were visually pleasing. I lost out my heart to Madhubala in "Chand raat tum ho saath..." she is breathtakingly beautiful in that 'big-bindi-kohl-laden-eyes' look. the way she says "dil ka aitbaar kya.. kya karoge ji kal jo ye badal badal gaya..." such innocent expressions!
    And yes, Manorama is full of sheer screen presence (in every role of hers).. those dancing eyes are such a puller!
    But yes, the end was outrightly ludicrous.. all that helicopter thing.. sigh! (read "exasperated expressions"). Nevertheless, one might watch it for lovely Madhubala and visually appealing songs..

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  6. I want to watch this one. Haven't been able to do so yet...

    Btw... that was a great review. Made for a nice read :)

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  7. @Punya: You are bang on with all your descriptions as always :)

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  8. @Roshmi: It's up on YouTube. That's where I saw it. YOu can see it there. It's okay for a one-time watch :)

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  9. It's available on mybigflix.com as well and the quality is better than YouTube. Here is the link: http://www.mybigflix.com/home/movies/half-ticket/499

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  10. I take back my words. YouTube quality of the movie is good. At least there are no ads like on mybigflix :)

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  11. @Sreenath: So big flix is also a site where u can watch free films is it?

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  12. @Sreenath: Yes yes Youtube sometimes has good quality print. I watch many films there :)

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  13. @Sharmi: Yes, BigFlix is actually rental site that does home delivery but mybigflix.com has free streaming of many films. Most are newer movies though.

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  14. @Sreenath: Yes i checked. I saw that they have Chhalia, a film i really want to see. But it's not free. I think i'll have to buy the DVD :)

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  15. I have a great fan of Dileep Kumar....he is a versatile actor.... I think the name of movie Half Ticket should be Comedy Ticket, because i found lots of fun in this movie.

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  16. @ComedyTicket: Well I'm sure it should have been since there are plenty of gags. But I think you are mistaking Kishore Kumar for Dileep Kumar. Anyways thanks and keep reading :)

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  17. an all time classic always!!......kishore baba ki jai ho!!

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  18. @Cancerian: A bit freakish but funny in parts!!

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  19. @Rashmi:- The movie is ossumm..!!!
    I really loved the songs "chil chil chilla", "aake seedhi lagi jaise dil pe kataria..."
    There are many more movies of Kishore Kumar which are worth watching Chalti ka naam gadi, Mr X in bombay, Sadhu aur shaitan, Pyaar kiye jaa, Jhumroo, Shreeman funtoosh, Dilli ka thug..

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  20. Tushar: Hey thanks for the comment but I think you got my name wrong :(

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  21. @Sharmi:-Srry for the typo:(
    Hey Sharmi u got that movie from bigflix..??
    I watched dat movie few years ago on sony, i guess now only Zee classics air old movies..

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  22. @Tushar: I don't remember actually from where I saw it!

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  24. Thanks but please do not use my blog to promote your school or whatever!!

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