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Monday, 28 February 2011

Drama that drowned (Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi)

This has often been the case with me. While browsing for a certain film in free movie watching sites, when I chance upon an obscure film that looks pretty interesting I cannot control the temptation. These maybe films that have not been spoken about much. They necessarily may not have the best lead actors or the most memorable songs. But something about the story is so tantalising that it makes me forget my initial search and I sit down to watch this new discovery at that very instant. And, like it always happens I'm quite amused at how predictable the story line is, how most of these films are family sagas and how almost every one of them stand due to the merit of a superb supporting cast.

Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi has been my recent discovery. The other day while rummaging through movie sites to get my hands on Chhalia (I so want to see this Raj Kapoor - Nutan enterprise by Manmohan Desai), I came across this amusing family drama where every character is stereotypical and the plot has been so heard of before. But something about the film totally pulled me towards it. Is it the story (a brainless drama about the incessant tension between daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law), it's strong cast (Om Prakash, Jagdeep, Lalita Pawar, Shashikala, Leena Chandavarkar and Sanjay Khan) or was it the over-dramatic picturisation that reminded me of southern productions? But whatever might have been the reason, I quite enjoyed the film (at least till things got out of hand) and felt good that it was easy on my brains. Infact, the way the film progressed guaranteed that I do not think about it at all and just sit and watch it aimlessly!!
Bhagmati (Lalita Pawar) is a widow and has two children, Kanhaiya (Jagdeep) and Sadhna (Leena Chandavarkar). While she loves both her children she is also very cruel towards her daughter-in-law Lajwanti (Anupama). Bhagwati, the greedy and stern woman, has not allowed Lajwanti to stay with her son because Lajwanti's father Chamanlal (Manmohan Krishna in his usual tear-jerking role) has not been able to cough up the Rs 50,000 dowry demanded by the mother-in-law. Though Kanhaiya is angry with his mother for this and harbours romantic thoughts about his helpless wife, he is too much of a wimp to stand up against Bhagmati's injustice. All he can do is stay scared and spend his time bathing his pets all the time. In return Bhagmati is always brainwashing Kanhaiya that Lajwanti is not good enough for him and she will get him married to a better girl. This Kanhaiya will not tolerate but he is not man enough to protest! Jagdeep's role is excruciatingly weak in this V Madhusudhan Rao 1970 film. You actually feel like slapping some sense into him. He does not have the courage to correct the wrongs that his mother has been doing all these years. He has married a young girl but is powerless when it comes to behaving like an ideal husband. He shirks his duties and continues to be scared. When Chamanlal tells his daughter that she has been married to a spineless man he is right. Only if Lajwanti was progressive enough to move on from this band marriage. But no! She too is such a crybaby that she feels it is sin to hear her father cast aspersions against her lawfully wedded husbands! Oh how regressive!
This was one of the most terrible aspects about the film. Even when Bhagmati continues with her cruel acts against Lajwanti, the mute girl silently suffers. It's intolerable I tell you. Not only Bhagmati's deviousness but also Lawanti and Kanhaiya's lack of strength of character...
But then the scene shifts to Motilal Chaudhury's mansion in the next village. Here there is some other kind of fun. Motilal (Om Prakash) does not talk to his wife, Maya (Shashikala) directly. Their communication happens with the help of an interlocutor servant called Govind (Sunder). Now there must be a reason to it. What amazes me is when their son Dilip (Sanjay Khan) later reveals that he has seen this happening since childhood, how come he never questioned the action or tried to put an end to it! This is seriously a weird household. Anyway, Motilal is a happy go-lucky man and Maya also does not seem to be a bad woman like Bhagmati. Dilip is a college-going lad and as events unfold he is successful in making Sadhna his lover, as she too goes to the same college. A chance meeting between Sadhna and Maya and the latter is decided that she will only have Sadhna as her daughter-in-law. Bhagmati is also thrilled with the alliance as Motilal is an affluent man in the village.
Sadhna, who used to be a naughty lover (she looks really perky in the song Suno ji tum), turns out to be a doting and dutiful daughter-in-law. But problem starts when she is a bit biased towards her father-in-law and sometimes a tad stern with her mother-in-law. Motilal hands over the house keys to Sadhna as soon as she is married and Maya does not like that. There's more steam in this uneasy situation when Motilal reveals to Sadhna that he does not talk to Maya directly because he cannot forgive her for driving his mother Lakhsmi (Pratima Devi) away from the house many years back. (Well, currently Maya's behaviour does not appear as cruel and rude as she is shown to have been 20 years back). In fact, she is quite caring and affectionate towards Sadhna, who in fact is a bit careless about her behaviour.
Things go awry when Bhagmati fills Sadhna's ears with evil advice on how to ruin Maya's peace. She tells her to drive Maya out of the house just as Maya did years back. Though Sadhna does not heed her mother's words, she behaves in a somewhat impudent fashion with Maya, which Motilal enjoys as he is reminded of how badly Maya treated his own mother. Sadhna is pregnant and when Maya wants her to shift downstairs so that she is not inconvenienced due to climbing the stairs all the time, Sadhna is irked by the suggestion. She thinks that Maya is interfering in her personal life too much and complains to her husband. Here I would like to say that the men in this film (except Om Prakash) are so weak that they will leave no impact on you for sure. Dilip is such a sissy that he readily parties with his mother and totally ignores Sadhna's claims. In fact he is so disturbed by the stirrings in the house that he abandons Sadhna (who is still recuperating from her miscarriage) in the village and leaves for the city in search of a job. Maya is upset that her son has left, Bhagmati is angry with Maya that she did not take good care of Sadhna when she was carrying, Kanhaiya is furious with his mother for incessantly ill-treating his wife and Motilal is watching all the fun!!!
At this juncture the script totally spirals out of control. Too many things, for reasons I know not of, start happening simulatneously. Sadhna who I thought was a sensible young woman starts appearing like an emotional fool. Lalita Pawar who till now kept me glued with her cruel antics and top-notch histrionics starts losing interest in the film. Kanhaiya continues to try my patience. Sanjay Khan is handsome alright but needs to get his act together. Shashikala cannot decide whether she is a good woman or a wicked one!!!
The only person who holds his own is Om Prakash. His witty one-liners, sing song dialogue delivery and cute disposition make me sit through this inane picture. And when it ends I start thinking about what actually attracted me to this one...
Well, I still cannot figure out. So, might just commence my hunt for Chhalia again...


  1. What a coincidence! I saw this film just yesterday on Rajshri, and that too just because I was looking through their catalogue of films, searching for something to see and this sounded like good time pass. Entertaining enough, but by the second half, it had become too silly and melodramatic for me. Plus the songs - despite being RD Burman - weren't that great.

  2. sounds like itsup my street, i love these saa bahu films, seems this is where Ekta kapoor got her title for her famosu soap opera from

  3. There was another saas bahu film that I saw but can't remember the name. It starred Reena Roy, Jeetender with Lalita Pawar too.
    Trust Lalita Pawar to be there in most saas bahu films :-D

    I found it the same way as you did, Sharmi, while looking for some other film.
    I find these saas bahu films quite an easy timepass - and then afterwards can't even remember their names. Hahahaha!

    Tried looking for chchalia too, but without success.


  4. That must be Sau Din Saas Ke

  5. Pacifist, Sharmi: Chhalia isn't that great - too weepy for my taste, and Raj Kapoor is at his most irritating. But yes, Rehman is total eye candy, so that is some consolation. Unfortunately, his character isn't that likable... :-(

  6. @Dustedoff: Yes Madhu I too see these films for timepass and I totally love Om Prakash, Lalita Pawar and Shashikala. :)

  7. @Bollywooddeewana: Well you can try it but I cannot guarantee that it will be totally fun. And Ekta Kapoor just got inspired from here I guess.

  8. @Pacifist: I think Rajshri has some good films. I'm game for almost all of them

  9. @Sreenath: Well I've heard about that film but never seen it. Is it any good?

  10. @Dustedoff: Ohh then I think I should give Chhalia a pass :(