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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Women's lib (Pati Patni)

If you discount the main leads in this S A Akbar comedy, you are in for a jolly good time. Not that the main story is bad or the cast dismal, but it is the supporting cast that comes up trumps in the entertaining Pati Patni. The lead cast is good, the story conventional, replete with the usual romance, twists and misunderstandings. But it is the utter uproariousness of the supporting plot that takes the film to another level. The best comedians are all brought under one roof but every one of them has a special part to play. The dialogues are so darn hilarious and the situations are absolutely funny. Wonder why this 1966 film is not spoken about much. I think this film deserves much more than obscurity. It needs to be celebrated as one fine comedy. Fast paced, action-packed and utterly hilarious!!

The film opens with the harrowed Dhanprasad (Om Prakash) pacing up and down his mansion. He is worried because his wife and daughter are late in coming home. As he starts speaking to his wise munim Padampat (Johny Walker plays a clever Gujju who will make you roll with laughter at all points), we get to know that his wife, Sundari (Leela Mishra in a never-seen-before avatar) used to be a thorough simpleton. But, of late she has transformed into a social butterfly (with ribtickling results). She dresses up in garish saris, wears her hair in a hideous bouffant and dolls herself up like a joker. And yes, she speaks in a tongue that only she can understand. I'd call that distorted English combined with distorted Hindi!! She visits a women's organisation with her daughter Kala (Mumtaz) who is herself a victim of new age liberated thoughts. But while the organisation earlier used to propagate ideas that atoned to true identity and liberation of women from age-old rituals, bondage and customs, nowadays, thanks to the promiscuous Lali (Shashikala), it is more of a club where women are encouraged to ill-treat their husbands and move around in a vain manner. Kala is fast friends with Lali and follows her preachings whole heartedly. Well, she is young and is prone to be mislead. But, the fun part is that even Sundari headbutts into the clan to prove that she is young and fashionable and up to date!!
Padampat tries to convince Dhanprasad to muster up the courage to bring Sundari and Kala back on track but the old man is too mousy a character. Henpecked, to be precise. So, when Amar (Sanjeev Kumar is so young and attractive with his thin moustache) cautions Kala against Lali and Sundari insults him and asks him to leave the house, Dhanprasad is not able to speak out a word to defend Amar, his nephew. In between there is a scene where they show Kala and Lali dancing away at Modern club. That's nothing unexpected. But what's excruciatingly funny is how Sundari forces a fat man to dance with her. Oh! I could barely sit straight watching that!!!
While the fireworks are on in Dhanprasad's mad household, the scene shifts to Amar's existence. He works for Gupta (Sujit Kumar) a respectable singleton, who is being ensnared by the charms of Lali. When Amar is uprooted from his well-to-do existence by his aunt, he is given refuge by an old colleague (S Banerji) who sees him as a prospective groom for his daughter Gauri (Nanda). Amar likes it at his new home, more so because he takes a great liking to the pretty and simple Gauri who is so unlike his own proud cousin Kala. Even Gauri likes him and reveals that she knows Kala as she used to teach poor women cooking in the same organisation. But now that the women involved in the club are more inclined towards fashion and parties she finds it better to stay at home. Till this point I like Nanda. I even think she looks very pretty with a simple bun. Wonder what happens to her looks after she gets married. She starts looking so much more older than the handsome Kumar. However, let's not divert here. Their story is full of melodrama and soppy tears anyways. What is more rollicking is what happens at Dhanprasad's abode...
Padampat, in his inimitable Gujarati style, advises Dhanprasad that he should get Kala married soon, so that she is tamed. On the other hand, Sundari orders Padampat to find a singing teacher for Kala, an idea that Dhamprasad despises. He is scared that his modern wife is soon going to make his home a theatre! Padampat is in a fix. But, their is a ray of hope when he chances upon Pashupati (Mehmood), an orphan who he soon discovers to be his old friend's son. Padampat now realises that he can use Pashupati to tame the shrews in the house. He runs back to Dhanprasad to give him the good news and as expected tutors Pashupati for the job. Watch Mehmood and Mumtaz together. You'll know what chemistry is all about. They just set the screen on fire with their histrionics. And when Kala starts beating Pashupati up, all hell breaks lose. But there comes a situation when Kala, the proud and foolish girl wants to marry the simple and naive Pashupati. And what happens after marriage is even more funny...
This film was a chance discovery. I'm happy for that. For I was expecting nothing from this one. No wonder it scored brownie points from the word go. The best part is that it drove home all the morals in a funny manner, without much pontification. A woman's freedom does not come through being ultra glamorous or promiscuous. Women's liberation is a different thing altogether. Though Gauri's role should have been less whinning and more concrete (the director should have used her to show what education and a will to work hard can do to a woman), she does stand out as a stark contrast to the flighty and whimsical Kala. I guess you can just gloss over what happens to Gauri and Amar. The songs too are well scored by RD Burman and sung by Manna Dey, Asha Bhonsle and Lata Mangeshkar.
What rules throughout is the comic timing of Leela Mishra, Johny Walker, Mehmood, Mumtaz and Om Prakash. A crazy lot that left no holes barred when it came to solid as well as subtle gags...


  1. Saw this film as a kid, did not understand much of it as I was too small but I remember I found Leela Mishra in her ultra modern get up quite hilarious. Would love to catch up with film again.

  2. @SHilpi: Yes oh yes, Leela was so so funny. And so was Johny Walker. I think this film deserves a second watch for sure :)

  3. Well, what a laugh this seems to be! I wonder Sharmi: does this film render to justice to women's lib, even in India, or is it a subtle way of saying: better for women not to meddle about changing their "position", and stay at home?

  4. That sounds like a whole lot of fun! And from my previous experience of the Mehmood-Mumtaz jodi (in Pyaar Kiye Jaa), I am even more eager to watch this film. I just hope I can get hold of it!

  5. @Yves: The film shows a very distorted version of women's lib but it does in a very funny way. But I hardly cared about the morals. It was a fun watch!!

  6. @Dustedoff: Great!! You must watch it. It's up on Youtube. That's where I chanced upon this gem :)