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Friday, 18 February 2011

Powerful Pawar (Memdidi)

Memdidi, directed by the master of simple yet sweet tales, is a unique enterprise. It has no conventional leads, it stars Keysi Mehra whose name provides absolutely nothing on search pages and it is pulled off by people who have made a name for themselves playing character roles. But here, they become the heroes, they make you laugh, cry and sing along with them, they warm your hearts with their goodness and they tell you that blood ties are not necessary to forge long time bonds. Sometimes people who are not even remotely related turn out to be so close to one another that they can go to great lengths to keep each other happy...

Such is the bond between Memdidi, Bahadur Singh and Sher Khan, three people who start off acrimoniously, but land up forming a special relation---a relation of love, trust, care and understanding. A sister gains two brothers who can do anything for her. Two brother gain a sister who is forever caring to them. When she chides them, it is for their own good, when she lovingly orders them around, they know that she has the right to do so. After all she is their beloved Memdidi, who is a bright light in their lives now.
Hrishikesh Mukherjee's 1961 family film is a joyful story of love, bonding and relationships. A delightfully touching drama about people who do not cringe before sacrificing their own happiness for others. As Memdidi says, "Instead of doing something that will keep yourself happy, do something that will bring a smile to others' lips." And that is what Bahadur Singh and Sher Khan strive to do. Here are two good natured men who find a new direction to their wayward lives after the arrival of Memdidi in the locality. Till now the two burly middle-aged men used to do good for people all right, but they also did things that benefitted them. Though they would always help people, their existence lacked a steady direction. Memdidi comes and these two person suddenly have someone in their lives for whom they start caring.
A streak of rare concern surfaces in the two men and they realise that they are responsible for Memdidi. They become her protector and want her to have a worry-free stay at the locality. Every few hours they drop by to ask whether she is alright, whether she has taken her food and why on earth is she working overtime. Such a pleasing sight! But little do they know that Memdidi is toiling hard so that she can send the money to Rita, her ward who is studying in a posh institute in Shimla. 
After the director throws light on the Rita segment (her introductory scene is simply awesome), the film gets even more interesting. Rita (Tanuja is so young that she actually looks like a chirpy teenager), who is an orphan of rich parents, has been kept in the dark by Memdidi that the riches are a thing of the past now. Rita, leading a carefree life, believes that her governess (Memdidi) sends her the money every month from the property that her parents have left for her. Such lack of tension has also lead her to fall in love and enjoy herself with Dilip (Keysi Mehra reminded me of both Joy Mukherjee and Dev Anand for his good looks and strapping appearance), son to a rich but miserly father. I love their sweet love talk and childish quarrels.
Suddenly, as a result of so much hardships (Memdidi spends most of her nights sewing and her morning making spices and pulses cookies for sale), the old woman falls ill and is rendered really weak. In such an infirm condition, her two well-wishers take very good care of her. But since she cannot work, she cannot send the monthly sum of Rs 300 to Rita. When Memdidi decides to write to Rita the truth, Bahadur and Sher Khan plot to hide the real truth from Rita so that her innocent heart if not broken. Instead they plan and dupe Dilip's father (played by Hari Shivdasani) so that he agrees to marry his son to Rita. What happend next is for you to see. Trust me, it's interesting and enthralling in some bits. Though the end comprises the usual melodrama, Memdidi is a film that you just should not miss. 
Tanuja and Keysi Mehra make a handsome couple. And the music is pretty good, too. Though not top class as one would expect from a music director of Salil Chowdhury's calibre, it is enjoyable and fresh. I particularly liked Mein jaanti hoon, Raaton ko jab neend na aaye and Beta waowao. The first one is a bouncy love track picturised on the gorgeous lovers. A naughty and romantic number, it is especially memorable for how charming Tanuja and how dashing that Mehra person look. Raaton ko is a young girl's dream number. Lost in love with someone, every girl must be singing this song when sleep eludes her every night. The best one is of course the third song, picturised on the playful Tanuja (looking so perky and slender in a blouse and flouncy skirt) and a street dog. Watch her expressions, they are impeccable.
The comedy in the film is situational and hence goes with the flow of the story. While Bahadur Singh has presence of mind and is witty, Sher Khan is somewhat goofy and a bit slow. And it is their altercations that will make you laugh. Every performance in the film in very good. All the characters play their part really well. David for instance makes you smile every time he talks and Jayant is hollering always but is all wax inside. Together these two men are gems and possess two golden hearts. They try to be all rough and tough inside, but little do they realise that their endearing face says it all. These are simple yet good people who cannot do anyone any harm. Even when they dupe, they do so so that in the end everyone is happy.
Even if this does not convince you, watch Memdidi just for Lalita Pawar, a woman who surprises me always with her range. Here, she is somewhat like Mrs D'sa in Anari, but here her character is even more strong (I also think she is quite an elegant beauty). She is a loving woman who does only good to people. Just imagine the sacrifice she has been doing for Rita! Day in and day out she has been breaking her back just so that Rita can have a comfortable upbringing. And when she arrives at the locality, she makes a place in everyone's heart with her love and warm words. She is not just a sister to the two men, she become a family member for everyone in the locality. Lalita Pawar with her fabulous performance proves that an actor who is most famous as a character artist can turn the tables any day if given an author-backed role to play... Hats off to her brilliance...


  1. The film was not very successful, actually it bombed at the box-office.Those days if films did not follow the beaten path often flopped since I have not seen the film I really cannot comment but going by your review it appears to be a good film.

  2. Then as now a film has to have top stars to have any success.
    It's a lovely film. One feels happy with the world while watching it.
    Thanks Sharmi. It was nice reading your review and reliving the film in my mind.

  3. @Shilpi: I found the film very heartwarming. It's definitely worth a watch :)

  4. @Pacifist: At your service always Ma'am :)

  5. Mem-Didi is a sweet film. A charming film about human relationships... and I totally agree with your views. Only the peerless Hrishikesh Mukherjee could have made such a film.

    Lalita Pawar is a versatile actress... whose talent was not given due recognition or opportunity. I did read that she used to act in lead roles in her youth... but an unfortunate event damaged her eye... and she moved on to character roles thereafter.

    And yes... Tanuja is so young... she is unrecognizable!

  6. @Roshmi: Yes I heard about that incident also where an actor,while taking a shot, accidentally slapped her too hard. Her eye was damaged. But otherwise she was quite a beauty and you can make that out in her later films as well. But what an actor!!!

  7. I know I've seen this film, but so long ago that I don't remember a thing about it! It sounds wonderful, and anyway I always think Hrishikesh Mukherjee, even when not at his best, is very watchable.

  8. @Dustedoff: Yes, his films always have a way of communicating through emotions. His ways are subtle and pleasing and that's what I love the most :)

  9. This one has been on my to-find-and-watch list forever. Not only does it sound interesting, it also stars some of my favorite actors. It's so nice to see Lalita Pawar get a role worthy of acting caliber, and Tanuja is always a pleasure to watch.

  10. @Bollyviewer: Lalita Pawar is just awesome in all the roles she plays, even if it is a teeny-weeny one. Here of course her role is that of the lead and I loved her :)