Monday, April 8, 2013

Chashme Buddoor - A Mint Fresh Legacy

Earlier this week, I had the privilege to revisit an old classic film, one that could be easily shortlisted as one of the best comic capers to hit the silver screens in India. Yes, the original Chashme Buddoor will be releasing again this weekend alongside its modern-day remake, David Dhawan's Chashme Baddoor. The digitally restored version of director Sai Paranjpye's 1981 film Chashme Buddoor is all set to be released on April 5, 2013 and they had a premiere for it for which I was more than delighted to go. The film stars Farooq Shaikh, Deepti Naval, Rakesh Bedi and Ravi Baswani in the lead roles. The film is brought back by PVR Director's Rare, an initiative to provide an alternate platform to innovative films, who have worked to digitally restore and re-master the original. 

Now, I feel myself inept to fastidiously analyse or review a classic that has been gigglingly accepted and lauded by one and all and can manage to secure a large number of people on a weekday to come and watch or revisit it, even after more than 30 years of its release. It would be to mundanely cliche to complain that a remake should not have been done when remakes do actually find an audience and it would still be insipid to pit them against each other to fellate the masterstroke of either or both.  Here, I dont intend to review the classic but reminisce some instances of the original Chashe Buddoor that court the audience till today.

 In the wake of an era that is doused with one film on male-bonding every month, there is something about this aged concoction that caves for wonderment. First time in the history of cinema, two films with the same story and the same name will come alive together on screens this Friday. One must thank PVR for this initiative as the original will be releasing only in select screens and the remake will get a wide release, more as an ode to its success than some haughty competition that it is made out to be. Embarrassingly, I was not born when the 1981 film released and I did not see the film till very late in my growing up years. I would parlay that many of my peers who were born in the late 80s and early 90s did not get a chance to see this film. What actually surprises me is that many people who are older than me and were around at the time of its release have also not seen it. But then, since when did we have audiences that supported the right films? 

What makes Chashme Buddoor work even today is the relevant comedy and permeating innocence. Colle guys are still broke, they take mini loans everyday, they still chase girls and compete with each other for the same girl, every guy fumbles and flummoxes when he meets the girl he likes, and sadly, crimes related to women have magnified their presence. Lack of lavishness or finesse has got nothing on the original as it coats you with a breezy charm, something that was much rare in the shlocky garish Hindi cinema of the 80s, most cathartically witnessed in the likes of Himmatwala and its last week's brutal remake. 

Heaping on simplicity, the film has many ingredients in its enduring aftertaste. Many talk about the scene where Neha (Deepti Naval) meets Siddharth (Farooque Shaikh) for the first time as she unassumingly knocks on his door to sell a detergent powder. Chamko, the washing pwder, that almost became iconic with this delectably charming while Naval got immortalized as the loquacious Miss Chamko. Incidentally, Shaikh and Naval were present at the screening this week and an excited fanboy asked them about this scene which the veterans shrugged off as a well-written scene more than their performances. Undoubtedly, the script had much to rave about than just this scene. The film carried an inherent subtle satire on societal practices and customs shown through the lives real characters who go around objectifying women, fabricating stories, doing ridiculous jobs to finance their dreams, and doing other silly things that brought them close to our hearts with the batof an eye lid. The multiple old songs and external references used to serve as metaphors to the ongoing situation add to the spoof nature of the film itself, a spoof which is done endearingly well and is highly likable too. In one sequence, two lead characters poke fun at actors breaking into songs in Hindi movies and wallow into a similar practice right after.

Chashme Buddoor was one of the most mint fresh films for a year like 1981, something that the predominantly political 60s and action 70s had not witnessed. This was one of the first films in a long time that buttressed on its mood, the ambiance of its music, the lack of background score, the minimalistic use of light and camera and largely on its homely production design. Being genteel was not the order of the day in 1981. The screenplay did not limit itself to ramshackle regressive ideas on most instances whether it came to Neha's broad-minded family or just the opening credits showing all kinds of voyeuristic images. Sai Paranjpye was well ahead of her times with this one and only such films can be watched years ahead with equal delight.

This weekend, I would suggest you to revisit this fascinating classic even if you have decided to watch or not watch the remake. It will surely back you to the days when script and performances mattered more than the packaging of the film. 

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here