Sunday, March 8, 2009

Chashme Buddoor

Thanks to Memsaab's rave review we watched Chashme Buddoor (1981) the other night, and it's every bit as delightful as she makes it seem.

Chashme Buddoor (a loose translation might be "Knock on Wood") is a bit like a comic La Bohème. It's the story of three roommates and their attempts to woo the girl next door, Neha (the terrific Deepti Naval). There's the poet Omi (Rakesh Bedi), the would-be actor Jai (Ravi Baswani), and Siddharth (Farooq Shaikh), a bookish economics graduate student. They share a cramped flat, and are constantly in hock to the local paan-walla, cigarette and soda vendor Lalan Mian (Saeed Jaffrey). Both Omi and Jai go to Neha's house to try to impress her; both fail miserably, but return to their buddies with elaborate stories about how successful they were. Finally, Siddharth is home one afternoon when Neha comes to his door--she's doing laundry-detergent demonstrations, and only needs to do one more to fill her quota. Over the suds, they begin a shy courtship, which eventually blossoms into love.

Chashme Buddoor is full of moments that gently mock filmi conventions. When Siddharth and Neha are sitting together in the park, she points out that they should be doing a song-and-dance number. Then, glancing around at all the couples and families that surround them, she wonders how it is that in movies when the hero and heroine dance in the park it's completely empty. Yes, Siddarth muses--and where do they hide the 40-piece orchestra? In another scene, the couple is sitting in their favorite cafe, and ask the waiter for another round (Tutti Frutti ice cream for her, coffee for him)--but, Siddharth tells him as they linger together, please take your time. Fine, the waiter replies--I'll bring it after the interval (which then arrives on cue).

The humor mainly depends on the observation of telling details rather than slapstick, and there's a hilarious montage of great movie love songs restaged as Jai's fantasy date with Neha. One key factor in the film's success is that all of the actors are perfectly matched to their roles. The boys aren't chiseled gym bunnies, and Neha, though lovely, isn't a Miss World contestant inexplicably parachuted into a typical Dehli neighborhood. I'm curious now in particular about Deepti Naval and Farooq Shaikh--I'll have to explore a bit more of their filmographies.

The course of true love never runs smooth, and for their own selfish reasons Omi and Jai decide that they have to break up the couple. There are some lapses in narrative logic, and in the last 20 minutes the director/writer Sai Paranjape abandons his her filmi satire and stages an almost conventional masala climax. But by then Chashme Buddoor has built up so much good will that it's easy to forgive this minor lapse (and don't stop watching before the credits roll.)

You don't have to take my word for how enjoyable this movie is, though. If you haven't seen it I urge you to read the reviews of Memsaab and Beth (which I discovered as I was writing this), and then run out to rent the movie. You'll be utterly charmed.

9 comments:

  1. I love this movie and its every bit as charming as you describe! By the way, the director Sai Paranjpe, is a woman. She has made several other such charming and heart-warming movies - Katha that also stars Farooq+Deepti and Sparsh - neither of which descends into slapstick at the end (but they're not out-and-out comedies, either). And Farooq and Deepti have two other great comedies. I think memsaab reviewed one - Kisi Se Na Kehna - and then there is the hilarious Rang Birangi.

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  2. Bollyviewer, thanks for the correction about Sai Paranjape's gender, which I've made above, and for the recommendations--we'll definitely seek them out!

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  3. Katha is lovely; I haven't gotten through Sparsh although I started it (I will though, I was enjoying it before I got sidetracked)...and I loved Kisi Se Na Kehna (did write about it) :-)

    Chashme Buddoor is Sai's masterpiece, though!

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  4. I keep forgetting to look for Sai Paranjpe's movies and am going to go on to netflix RIGHT NOW before I forget again! [Netflix-using note: BUGGER I'm getting nothing when I search for her name; thank goodness bollyviewer put some titles in!]

    I'm so glad you got to see this!

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  5. Memsaab, thanks for your original review, which is why we discovered this small gem of a film. Your review of Kissi Se Na Kehna makes it sound pretty delightful.

    Beth, yes, Netflix can be frustrating. Not only is their film indexing inconsistent, many currently available Indian films wind up in their "save" or "very long wait" categories. Someone there needs to keep a closer eye on Indian DVD releases (not to mention make them searchable by director!).

    I notice that IMDB gives an alternate spelling of Sai's name as Sai Paranjpye (which is how she's credited on the cover of Chashme Buddoor). Perhaps some of her films are listed on Netflix under that name?

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  6. Deepti Naval was awesome in her first movie "Ek Baar Phir" (roughly translated as Once Again). There were 2 heroes - Suresh Oberoi (Vivek Oberoi's dad) and another guy whose name i forget.

    This movie was known for its story, direction, acting and music. Do watch it if you get a chance.

    Another famous Deepti Naval and Faroukh Sheikh movie is "Saath Saath " roughly translated as "Together". This movie too is famous for its story, performances and music.

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  7. Anonymous, many thanks for the recommendations!

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  8. 'Katha' is one of my favs. Check out Jabberwock's review review of this Sai Paranjpe's classic.

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  9. anindya, since this post was written I have seen Katha. It is a really wonderful movie, with excellent performances by Deepti, Farooq, and the wonderful Naseeruddin Shah. Thanks for the link to Jabberwock's review!

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