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Friday, 25 March 2011

Friends in need (Ora Thake Odhare)

There was this niggling urge to title this post "When east meets west". For, that is essentially what Ora Thake Odhare is, from a very superficial level. The 1954 film directed by Sukumar Dasgupta depicts the constant battle between the members of a West Bengali family and a family from East Bengal. Thereby representing the friction between the two communities that has been since eternity. But then, as the minutes elapse, this hilarious movie turns out into a kaleidoscope of emotions that one got to see in the Bengal of yore. How despite all the friction, familes, both from West and East Bengal, were there for each other in times of joy, sorrow and distress. How, no matter how much they fought, they helped each other in every big or small way. And how heartwarming Bengal and its culture used to be. When the film ends, it does leave you with a feel-good emotion, that is not devoid of the tinge of wistfulness for what we have lost from the days of yore...

Ora Thake Odhare also pairs Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen romantically but this is perhaps one such film where the couple attracts the least attention. For, the supporting cast and the surrounding events are way more engaging and rollicking than the flutterings in these young hearts. Harimohan Babu (Chhabi Biswas) and his family are Wes Bengalis. His neighbour, Shibdas Babu is an East Bengali. Harimohan Babu lives with his wife, one college-going son called Chanchal (Uttam Kumar) and daughter Rini. He is often visited by a relative called Kartick (who turns out to be quite a selfish lad later on). Shibdas Babu has in his home his wife, his young niece Meenu (Suchitra Sen) and his son Naru. There is also the comical Nepal Mama (What would the film be without the inimitable Bhanu Bandopadhyay). We witness the daily bickerings between the families or the silliest of reasons. The heads of the family quarrel at the drop of a hat. But their fights only evoke laughter from the insanity of situations and dialogues. For instance, the film starts with the barrage of accusations about who has borrowed what from each other's families. The Das family has borrowed a sewing machine from the Mohan family, the Mohan family has borrowed the iron from the Das family, the Das family has borrowed a bag from the Mohan family and so on and so forth. So, in the course of the verbal duel, the owners take back their belonging one after the other to hilarious consequences. It's like a never ending fight. But what makes it even more funny is the way they fight over these non-issues. Nepal Mama uses his immaculate Bangal language (replete with the intonations and dexterous use of the dialect) along with Shib Das Babu, Hari Mohan Babu uses his sophisticated Bengali to insult his neighbours. It's just too ribtickling to listen to them.
But what's really fascinating is how after seconds of the fight, the members of both the families reunite once again. Proving that the bond is far too tight to be broken by these inconsequential battles. Naru and Rini are thick friends and Chanchal tuitions Meenu. So, there is quite some attraction between the latter duo.
Juat when you think of course that the fights are over, there is an announcement of a football match between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, an avenue for more fights between all East Bengalis and West Bengalis. Nepal Mama brings home an old transistor so that everyone can enjoy the relay of the match. But, fact is, the relay can be hardly heard, but the supporters of each team assume that their own team is winning and hence pick up fight with the supporters of the opponent team. A heavy brawl ensues and the air is wrought with tension between the two families once again. Only to be lightened in no time of course. This is the life lives by these simple people who are essentially good at heart and always there when bad times befall their neighbours.
When Shibdas is troubled by his landlord (Tulsi Chakraborty) for the payment of rent, he borrows the sum from Hari Mohan. Though Hari Mohan is himself having trying times financially, he borrows the money from a Kabuliwallah to help his neighbour. This is the kind of bond that makes you smile. No matter how appalling one's condition is, they will go to any length to help their neighbours. Nepal Mama also is a curiously funny case. He might lose his temper and start rattling off in chaste Bangal, but it takes but a few seconds for him to melt. It is after all Nepal Mama who plans with Shib Das on how to help Hari Mohan when the latter is having a trying time after losing his job.
Then comes the chapter of the Hilsa. It is quite well known for us Bengalis that East Bengalis have a soft corner for the Indian Shad just as West Bengalis enjoy a craving for lobster. In the film there is a sweet scene where Shib Das brings home a pair of Hilsa fishes so that the preparation is enough for both families. How heartfelt is the gesture! Similarly when Hari Mohan orders tea to be made in the evening in his house he makes sure that he sips the cuppa with Shib Das and Nepal Mama. Alas! Those days are no more, when neighbours would meet up everyday and sit down for leisurely chats.
When Hari Mohan loses his job, he is too proud to tell of his troubles to Shib Das. This is also because the neighbours are not on talking terms. Shib Das's elder sister comes visiting and she proposes that Meenu be married to Chanchal. In a fit of indecision, Hari Mohan negates the match, to which the sister feels insulted. This is not taken very well by Nepal Mama who instigates Shib Das. So, when Harii Mohan loses his job and crushing under debt, he decides to leave the house and go away with his family, Shib Das only gets to know of all the problems really late. But then there is also the devious Kartik who embezzles Hari Mohan's money regularly.
In the mean time, differences crop up between Meenu and Chanchal and they too separate owing to the tense circumstances. But with Nepal Mama and Shib Das's sister at the helm of affairs, nothing can go wrong for very long. The ending is happy, funny and carries with it a prospect of more hilarious fights that would take place very soon!
Watch this film, please. It is not only a roller-coaster ride of two middle-class Bengali families, but it also shows those aspects of human bonding that leave a positive mark in the mind and heart. These people are real friends and no matter what the conflict is, they do stand up for each other when the situation so arises. The film also reflects life and living in the city (especially in North Calcutta) around 40 years back, when one man worked to feed an entire family. Maybe the income was not very high, but there was a sense of satisfaction that he had true friends to fall back on. Separate families lived as neighbours but shared each others' joys, sorrows and troubles. It was a life that looked merrier, lighter and much more special...

17 comments:

  1. Thanks for the wonderful review. It is indeed a superb and thoroughly entertaining film. I watched it the other day :)

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  2. Sounds lovely! Will look out for it. If only getting subtitled Bangla films was not so difficult...!

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  3. @Roshmi: Wasn't it ultra hilarious! I just couldn't stop laughing when the fights began!

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  4. @Dustedoff: Hehe, I swear! Guess the DVd companies should do something about it. These films so need to be restored for posterity!

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  5. Hey.. thanks for another good movie review. Now I need to hurry up with my list. This one will follow 'Indrani' soon. :)
    You were right. I found it on youtube. Thanks so much!!!!

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  6. @Sharmi: Exactly! And not just that, they need to be preserved and disseminated also to people who may not understand that particular language.

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  7. @Dustedoff: ya I swear! For this film does have dialogues in chaste Bangal that can be a bit difficult for those uninitiated to the language.

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  8. Searched and searched for a subtitled version, but couldn't find :(

    pacifist

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  9. Just finished watching 'Deep Jweley Jeyi'. The more I watch Suchitra Sen, the more I fall in love with her. Request you to do a movie review of this one too.
    Thanks!

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  10. @Pacifist: Oh no!! This is so good to not have a subtitled version!! :(

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  11. @Punya: Oh sure, that one was a masterpiece and the original of Rajesh Khanna starrer Khamoshi that had the song Woh shaam kuch ajeeb thi.

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  12. And may I pls request for one more - Chawa Pawa? Watched it recently. This one is far better than Chori Chori, me thinks. :)

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  13. @Punya: Sure sure, my lady! But, I somehow liked Chori Chori lots. But Chawa Pawa is also damn special :) For, I just couldn't keep myself from loving Uttam Kumar all over again :)

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  14. I totally agree with you... and I have bought this one as well :)

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  15. @Roshmi: Oh great! You seem to be in a total Bengali films buying spree :)

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  16. Great review...only a small glitch...in 1954 there were no transistor radios....the radio shown in the film for the East Bengal Mohan Bagan match commentary was a good old valve radio....

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