Dir: Sai Paranjape
Cast: Farooque Shaikh, Dipti Naval, Ravi Baswani, Rakesh Bedi
Chashme Baddoor on PFC
In the 1980s, the mainstream Hindi cinema was rapidly going downhill. Amitabh’s best years were gone and his career was largely going through the rut of ‘Angry Young Vijay meets Funny Guy Anthony’ repetition. His only real contender Jeetendra was dishing out his terrible ‘Ta Thaiya Ta Thaiya Ho Ho’ hits like Himmatwala, Mawali and Tohfa. Even though I was still not old (or mature) enough to understand or analyze ‘Why’, I had started to get disenchanted with Bollywood. (It hadn’t even got that sobriquet back then!) I was slowly getting weary of watching the same old ‘Ghise Pite’ plots rehashed to death.
Those were the days and that was the mind-frame, when I had first watched Chashme Baddoor in some run-down theatre in central Mumbai. But right from that first viewing, I got hooked on to the film. It was such a refreshing change from the films I had been watching till then. New faces, fresh ideas, great comedy, pleasing romance, good music- the film had everything going for it. That initial fascination for Chashme Baddoor might have been slightly tampered by the passage of years but still that film remains one of my personal favourites and in my opinion, an all time classic! Recently I watched the film again on the DVD and I was struck once again by how fresh the film feels even today and (judging from my two young daughters’ reaction!) how well it still connects to the new audience.
Chashme Baddoor starts off as a tale of three bachelor friends sharing the same flat. Two of them (Ravi Baswani and Rakesh Bedi) are utterly shameless yet endearing rascals! Failing in exams, unsuccessfully wooing the fairer sex and remaining penniless comes naturally to them and what separates them from mere mortals is their ability to take nothing seriously! In total contrast to them is their flatmate (Farooque Shaikh) who is the ultimate serious, sincere, ‘Seedha Saada Sharif’ guy. He is a gold-medallist Economics M.A. who doesn’t look beyond his boring books. ‘Girls’ for him, is a perfect enigma.
The fun starts when the two scoundrels see a pretty girl (Dipti Naval) near their building and try their luck in wooing her. Both fail miserably in their attempts but somehow cover up their failures with tall tales of taking the girl out on a romantic date! Somehow through some comical coincidence that same girl falls for the ‘Sharif’ guy. The jealous rascal-duo first sour that love-story by poisoning their simple friend’s mind but later realize their folly and try for damage control- again with comically disastrous consequences! How will the separated lovers unite?
The superbly natural performances from the main cast- a far cry from the ‘dialogue-spitting’ filmi characters is the first thing that wins you over. The male bonding chemistry of the three friends is straight out of any college hostel. The posters on the wall, the perpetual tea-sessions, the half-burnt cigarette stubs, the towel-clad roaming around, the constant cash crunch, the rose-tinted romantic dreams, the hopeful street-struts and the unabashed tall tales- oh, it is just spot on! Then there is the street-corner Paanvaala Lallan Miyan (Syed Jaffri)- a lovable simpleton who verbally keeps lashing the trio for not paying up his bills but still gamely puts up with their excuses!
The budding hero-heroine romance is equally charming with the shy bike-lifts and Tutti-fruity and coffee meetings! But how that romance begins with an unforgettable ‘Miss Chamko scene’ is definitely the highlight of the film! The way that entire scene is built up is something to be seen again and again!
As a director, of course this film is under Sai Paranjape’s command and what a fine job she has done. When you consider the fact that this was her first directorial film-venture, you are further amazed. The thing that particularly struck me on this viewing is the subtle, clever self-deprecating parody she uses time and again, when she has to use the clichéd commercial elements like the hero-heroine running around the trees in public garden, singing perfectly rhyming spontaneous songs with a 40-piece orchestra; the villain toting a gun in the captive heroine’s face with a wicked exaggerated laughter; the heroine screaming ‘Bachao’ and the hero jumping onto the goons from an impossible height! She even does a collage of old songs replacing the original romantic pairs with the hero-heroine pair and believe me, she gets her choreographer to evoke a perfect period feel. Remember that this is done much, much before similar efforts in Om Shanti Om and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and almost as effectively despite working on a meager budget! And then the way she manages to capture Delhi through her lens, it looks so clean, green, unspoilt and charming!
Rajkamal’s music comes up with some real beauties like Kaali Ghodi Dwar Khadi and Kahan Se Aaye Badra but perhaps one or two other songs from the film could have been chopped to improve the pacing.
In the 80s, Chashme Baddoor was one big triumph for the small, meaningful, intellectual cinema and this it could only do because it never overlooked one primary (but often looked down upon) goal of film-making - to entertain the audience!