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Friday, 29 March 2013

Anchored on lies (Manzil)

Give me one good reason why I should sympathise with Ajay Chandra when the going gets tough for him. In
my opinion, he is a big liar, an opportunist, a shirker and a glib-talker. So, even when at last he does get down to work and puts in some effort to save his business from downing shutters, I can hardly say that I feel satisfied with the happy end to his love story. For, a relationship that is founded on lies and false identities will need much more than one sweeping effort to withstand the tests of time. And, how come Aruna and her father does not realise that.
Basu Chatterjee's 1979 Manzil has Amitabh Bachchan playing Ajay Chandra, a struggling young man who wants to start a business of scientific precision instruments. He hires a worker called Anokhelal (AK Hangal) who will buy spoiled galvanometers and repair them before delivering them to customers. I wonder why Ajay wants to start a business that is based on scrap. Anyways, to each his own. He invests some money in the business, mostly that of his mother's savings and buys a small office space. His planning would have won accolades if not for some glaring mistakes he makes. He trusts Anokhelal with almost everything, who is poor enough to get swayed by another mean middleman. Ajay is duped by Anokhelal in the process and learns the hard lesson. One would say, hearing this bit, Ajay merely learns the rules of business this way. But my point is not that. I have problems with how Ajay conducts his business and himself.
For instance, when Ajay's mother pleads with him that she has no more money to lend him, he continues imploring her to break into her savings not realising the old woman's distress. On losing money when she tells him to work on the galvanometers himself, he is stupid enough to point out that he wouldn't be able to do anything as he has never done anything! So that means, he wants to just sit and enjoy the fruits of the venture without investing efforts. This makes him a shirker, a shirker who does not know how to put his education to use. Well, later he does, but then the script is flawed from the beginning...
I also have objections on his dealings with Aruna (Moushumi Chatterjee). He woos her with white lies from
the very beginning. When he goes to her house for the first time and realises that she is rich, he guards his real status from her just to appear worthy of her affection. I wonder whether he is a gold-digger, whether he wanted to mint money from the alliance. One might say, and as Ajay reasons that he is scared that his poverty and struggle might scare her away, but what is a a relationship if its foundation is based on lies and deceit? And later Aruna says that Ajay revealed the truth to her. But under what circumstances?!
Even in the end when the legal case against Ajay is withdrawn, how easily Barrister Khosla (Satyendra Kappoo) forgives him. Aruna is beaming. Is it so easy to accept a liar as your son-in-law? Just one finished consignment wins the Barrister's heart? Too flawed is the narrative...
Also, how come Ajay's mother (Lalita Pawar completely wasted in this nondescript role) suddenly starts supporting her son's wishes when all the time she has reservations against his doing business? Initially she
doesn't want t o part with her savings thinking he might squander them and then later she herself hands them over. You might say that as a mother she wants her son to be happy. But doesn't this mother realise that her son is having things too easy and should put in more effort. Well, another side to the story might be that one always learns the hard way. If Ajay's case wouldn't have deteriorated, he wouldn't have pulled up his socks. So, from that angle Chatterjee's film is praiseworthy. But then, I still have problems seeing a glib talker winning his share of pie too easily. What is the guarantee that Ajay won't repeat his mistakes?
My biggest problem was with Ajay's behaviour with his friend Prakash Mariwalla (Rakesh Pandey). He just
takes this good guy for granted and even has the audacity to order him around and be rude to him. I wonder why Prakash tolerates Ajay's nonsense? For friendship's sake? Is it really worth it?
Manzil's characterisation disappointed me. Though Amitabh Bachchan gave an effortless performance and was convincing as Ajay, it was his very persona that left a bad taste in my mouth.
Moushumi Chatterjee is a lovely looking girl but I wonder why she did not work on her Hindi diction? It really bogged down her nice performance of a rich, dreamy eyed girl floating in love.
Well, the only thing then that stayed on with me from this film is the lovely track Rim jhim gire saawan. Composed by RD Burman, this song is actually the leitmotif of this film. I seriously wish the film was as fresh and breezy as this lovely monsoon ballad...


  1. :) You really need all your heroes to be completely heroic, do you not? Manzil's Ajay was the common man, the man who dreams big, works a little, and doesn't put in the hardwork until disaster strikes. The fact that he is not above using his rich friend (who doesn't mind, by the way), or that he learns his lesson the hard way? No, he is not 'like-able' but he is 'relate-able' which is why the character and the story worked.

    Besides, why wouldn't the mother give him the money even though she has reservations? You want him to put in more effort, and then she gives him the money so he can do so, you have a problem with that too? *grin* Oh, Sharmi...

    I *liked* Manzil *because* AB was so cast against type!It is one of his more realistic roles.

  2. @Anu: Hmmmm, point taken but I don;t like how he just continues lying to Aruna and he's so okay with that. He is picking favours from Prakash but is rude to him and sometimes talks to him as if Prakash is his man Friday!!
    I can understand that Ajay was a character out of real life but he was so not honest. Yeah,m I guess I want my heroes to be heroic and if not heroic, at least honest enough to woo the lady with truth.
    Also, he is stupid enough to squander away the money and then wakes up after hell strikes. he wouldn't have had to worry so much and make his mom worry if he had been diligent from the very beginning.
    But I guess am subjective. I happen to meet deadlines like a maniac and maybe that's what prompted me to see all these flaws in Ajay. However, i get your point. :)

    1. There are many Ajay kind of characters in real life - so I do not find any issue at all with this story. Every watcher, would have understood the problems and risks that the character Ajay was facing by being dishonest to his closed ones.

  3. And you haven't met charming ne'er-do-wells who want to get ahead by hook or crook? No one says he is a nice guy; all I'm saying is that it is not completely black and white.:)Circumstances make devils of us all. (Says someone else for whom deadlines are important. Er, what has that got to do with the price of beans in China?)

  4. @Anu: Okay okay, admitting that I was seeing only black and white. Yes, grey can be interesting at times. Maybe, I don't like Amitabh Bachchan, so... :P

  5. @Sharmi: I like AB when he plays his typical roles. I watched his Kasauti recently and didn't like it. He played a soft cabbie in the movie.

  6. Manzil is a remake of Mrinal Sen's "Akash Kusum", in case you did not know it. One of Sen's early efforts, it is nonetheless a better movie since the character portrayals are more convincing.

  7. @Soumya: Akash Kusum ta dekhtey hobey taholey...

  8. Nice to 'see' you after so long, Sharmi :-)
    I'm afraid I'd have to agree with Anu in this. The negativity that is present in everyone is often not shown in films. The hero being always so good.
    I remember people saying the same about the film Devdas, and the character - he's weak, a coward, self pitying - are the complaints.
    Sure they aren't likeable, and so why sit throgh a film watching someone not likeable becomes the question.
    Agreed Amitabh's character is quite a darker shade of grey.
    BUT I agree with you about honesty with your loved one. There I think the writer wanted to show that a character who's not entirely right will take it also into these matters?
    But your points of why you didn't like have been explained very well. :-)

  9. Akash Kusum is the better film, lacking the 'happy ending' that is mandatory in any Bollywood production. But I suppose that a truer remake would not have made enough at the box office.

  10. @Anonymous: I think I must watch Akash Kusum now.