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Monday, 4 April 2011

A subtle celebration of love (Chawa Pawa)

When you watch Uttam Kumar romancing Suchitra Sen on the silver screen you suddenly feel a stab in your heart. A piercing pain for something joyous that alas shall never ever be. Such was the beauty of this evergreen pair that reached the pinnacle of success in Bengali moviedom. Such beauty can be only once. And such indelible and deep was the impression of this onscreen couple that no lover of Bengali cinema will be able to give a scope to any duo exuding lesser magnetism or charm.

Here is an ode to a film where the romance between the couple is never expressed. But every onlooker knows that two souls will soon be one. An incessant attraction, a constant pull increase the tension between the two. They are trying to withstand the call of the heart but surely the mind shall not rule in the matters of love. Jatrik's 1959 romance Chawa Pawa is a film that has stood the test of time. It might not be a global name as It Happened One Night or the Hindi precursor Chori Chori, but this film is a wonderfully breathtaking story that stays etched in the senses forever.
The story is well known and let us not spend virtual space on that. What is noteworthy is how the directors took a very unique Hollywood fable and customised it to suit the Bengali tastes to perfection. They took Uttam Kumar, the man who could have been the only one to fit the role of Rajat. He is as smart as smart could be, as clever as is required and turns romantic just when the timing is right. He is funny, attractive (Oh Lord!) and extremely spontaneous. All he has is his dedication and scooter. But, Lady Luck is a bit miffed with him. So, Rajat armed with his chivalry takes him upon himself to help the impulsive girl he meets. However, he does not know that fate has decided otherwise. This lad, wayward and all alone will soon find himself falling hopelessly in love with the rich girl he is supposed to deliver safe and sound to her home. In the way, we have misunderstandings, fights, tiffs and tickles. But in the end, in a utter sensitive way, Rajat is granted the love of his life.
Rajat is pragmatic. When he meets Manju (Suchitra Sen) and realises that she can be the ticket to his attaining some wealth, he cleverly monitors the process in which things need to be done. He plays the cards in such a manner that Manju never suspects him of giving out her whereabouts to her father and at the same time makes her believe that he supports her cause. What an astute player!
But, will he be able to restrain himself from falling in love with this beauty called Manju. Initially perturbed by her spoilt, brash and impulsive persona, he soon realises that this is a woman who craves for unadulterated love. And perhaps some strictness. Why else would Manju stop herself from banging the teacups when Rajat gives her a stern glare? Why does she obey his orders, no matter how ridiculous they sound to her? Why does she enjoy his adulatory glance when she is bedecked as his bride (Boy, what a superbly crafted scene!) Here we have the poignant admittance of Manju in Ei to kachey. Here is a woman absolutely in love with her rescuer and here is her heartfelt owning up that her actions and words are not in sync with the situation anymore. She says whatever she says because she loves Rajat. She wants to marry him. She does not care anymore, about the world, about the circumstances and about the difference in their status.
But Manju will have to wait. For, Rajat is not a wicked opportunist. He will require validation to the last degree that Manju loves him despite everything. Why else would he sing Jodi bhabo ei to khela!  And it is also his manner of pushing Manju into the realm of practicality, a world where Rajat and Manju are too far apart...
Chawa Pawa is a composite whole. It starts off adventurously, settles into a sensitive romance (not devoid of ego and power battles) and ends with the joyous reunion of two souls drunk in the elixir of love. Manju is the indignant daughter of the owner of a newspaper who will not marry the man her father has chosen for her. She runs away from her father's grasp and finds herself taking refuge under the minimalistic yet clever resources of Rajat, a struggling reporter who happens to be employed under Manju's father. In the process we have some hilarious sequences. One of my favourites is the scene where Manju coaxes Rajat to wake up when the Ticket checker comes knocking. Rajat, groggy and disoriented mumbles that there is no space to shift. On getting nudged even more, he is jerked up from his stupor only to be faced with the sheer beauty that is Manju. The fun has only begun. To evade the prying eyes of the law, Rajat forces Manju to pose as his wife and they both land up in a dismal looking lodge owned by Chakraborty Moshai (What would have the film been without the stellar performance by Tulsi Chakraborty).
Chakraborty Moshai is a cunning and greedy weasel shaped like an urn! Initially reluctant to offer comfort to the couple, he immediately changes his stance when he smells a rat. In an instant, new tea sets are brought out, words become saccharine sweet and eavesdropping ensues. The owner even uses his simple wife to glean information from Manju. Oh what a laugh riot these scenes are!
But Rajat is too clever for this greedy fatso. He escapes his sticky claws when his friend comes calling. In Rajat's friends's house we discover that Rajat and Manju are no longer strangers. They are now lovers, who are having difficulty stopping themselves from owning up their heart to each other. But stop they do. What is this game of sweet torment, of indulgent adoration. Gosh it's difficult to forget Manju's beauty as the coy bride and Rajat's spectacular charm as they look away at each other on the terrace.
But Rajat will not use a shortcut to attain Manju's affections. He is a proud man and his pride shines forth as he takes Manju to her father. In the end when Manju embraces Rajat and promises never to let him go, we jubilate at this sheer celebration of love. We realise that Rajat and Manju are made for each other...
No one else could have portrayed the roles of Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen. And no one could have done the parts of Chhabi Biswas, Tulsi Chakraborty and Rajlakshmi Devi. In that the casting director did a marvellous job. If Uttam Kumar plays the smart, freewheeling youngster to perfection, Suchitra is awesome as the impulsive Manju who only listens to her heart. She listens to her heart when she has to run away from home and she does the same when the time comes to profess her love to Rajat. What a sassy woman! I love her costumes. She does look like the spoilt rich girl in her capris and top and in her chiffons. She is lovely, just lovely. A perfect foil to the handsome, oh so handsome Uttam. 
And, if the gorgeous lead pair is not enough to convince you to watch Chawa Pawa, do it for the story. There is a fine departure between what you want and what you get. This film depicts that perfectly. A sublime tale of romance that will make you gravitate towards it from the word go...

21 comments:

  1. Hello Sharmi,

    This sounds delightful! How does this movie compare with Solva saal and Chori chori?

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  2. Chawa Pawa is obviously VERY popular, because though I've had it on my DVD rental wishlist for more than a year now, every time I check, it isn't available - someone else has rented it! I'll give it another month, then buy it from Induna if I still haven't been able to watch it! It sounds too good to delay any further. :-)

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  3. @Yves: Hello. This is delightful. Sublime to be precise. And Bengalis love this much more than Chori Chori, though I myself do not mind the Hindi version. But it has no similarities with Solva Saal. Do watch it please :)

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  4. @Dustedoff: Heheheheehe... I can understand your dismay. I think you can surely buy it. It is a rare collectible for sure. This film celebrates the onscreen magic of Uttam and Suchitra is such a beautiful way. A lovely lovely film for sure :)

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  5. A lovely film going even better than the Hindi one, for me. This one has lots of room for the romance to bloom unlike Chori Chori which I found was hampered by a slew of beautiful songs and uncalled comic plots.
    Though I found it very entertaining, the latter had very few moments of Raj-Nargis romance. They realise their love too soon and the next scene after that is the climax! No time for the romance to play after "Aaja sanam..."
    And after watching Uttam-Suchitra film, I feel Chawa Pawa is much better of the two.
    Even if I keep the comparison aside, Tulsi Chakraborty made this one a highly enjoyable affair with his characteristic facial expressions. I just loved the gleam in his eyes whenever he would say "Das taka". Hilarious!
    And words leave me when I say that Suchitra Sen and Uttam Kumar have been a distinct feature of Bangla romance!

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  6. @Punya: Haha, I see you are now absolutely sold on this one. And not surprisingly. But I think it is Das Hajar Taka!! Tulsi Chakraborty is inimitable!!

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  7. I’ll buy this one then. Your review makes me want to watch this movie J

    But going by the story… isn’t it more like ‘Roman Holiday’ starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn than ‘It Happened One Night’??

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  8. I am here after a long gap, was away and also suffering from a near immobile right arm. I see you have raced ahead with some lovely Bengali films.Guess what? was in your city for a couple of days and managed two lay my hands on two Bengali films,Nishi Padma and Shesh Anka, just loved the films. Will go through your reviews later.

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  9. @Sharmi - oops! Das Hajar taka it is!

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  10. @Roshmi: No no it is very much It Happened One Night that was also remade in Hindi as Chori Chori. Do watch this. It's remarkable :)

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  11. @Shilpi: Well, hope your arm gets better soon. :)
    I did not quite like Nishi Padma. I found Amar Prem much much better. As for Shesh Anka, I don't remember whether I've seen it. Will watch out for that one.

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  12. @Punya: Hehehehe.. no problem dear :)

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  13. I've ordered it at Induna. At least they have it :)
    I saw 'Railway platform' (1955) recently, which could be called 'It happened one night' with a twist. I liked it.
    pacifist

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  14. @Pacifist: Who's in Railway Platform?

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  15. Sharmi, Railway Platform is Sunil Dutt's first film, and has Nalini Jaywant and Sheela Ramani. Manmohan Krishan is in an interesting role of a sort of poet with a shawl thrown around his shoulders hiding his armless body (which Sanjeev Kapoor 'copied' in Sholay).
    pacifist

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  16. @Pacifist: Ooooo... SUnil DUtt!!! Then I have to watch that one for sure. Thanks for the reco :)

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  17. Nice blog. Hope to visit again in detail.

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  18. Loved your review of Chawa Pawa. I have it on my PC and keep watching bits and pieces on and off. I have made a small film strip of my favourite scenes and uploaded it on youtube. Do watch it.

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  19. Your review of Chawa Pawa is really fun to read. This happens to be one of my favourite films. Just one thing I would like to point out, The owner of the lodge in the movie is called Chakroborty and not Bhattacharji Moshai as you wrote. They have retained the name of the actor. I thought You may want to correct this in an otherwise enjoyable description of Chawa pawa.

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