Tuesday, September 06, 2005
This 1956 classic was something I saw about a month ago but I somehow never got around to writing the review. Shambu and Amit Mitra co-direct this satire. It tells the tale of a simple villager(Raj Kapoor) who finds himself in Calcutta, hungry and thirsty. In his search for water, he walks into an apartment complex where he is seen and presumed a thief. The film tells the tale of his subsequent efforts at hiding in the complex and the hypocrisy that he encounters in middle class society.
A dark comedy, this is one of starkest films in Indian Cinema. Shambhu Mitra's direction is almost flawless and he takes the film forward through a series of episodes, unmasking the double standards in society. The village bumpkin stumbles into a number of different homes in his attempts to escape, and experiences various forms of depravity...drunkenness, gambling and counterfeiting. He sees adultery, clandestine love, a husband trying to steal his wife's jewelry to place a bet at the races, a rich drunk who wishes for his wife to more than entertain his friends, neighbors who fight for everything and a murderous counterfeiter. All of this happens when the whole complex is in search of the so-called thief. The thirsty villager finally gets to quench his thirst, thanks to a kind and pious woman(Nargis), in the last scene of the film. The film does a great job at asking us searching questions like looking at oneself before pointing fingers and also addresses issues of social apathy and mass hysteria. The depiction of the foibles and the insularity of the middle class almost jumps out at you and makes you cringe.
A huge strength of the film is the supporting cast. Ifthekar (as the resident 'dada', in the only young and non-policeman role I have seen him in), Pahari Sanyal (as the stealing husband), Motilal (as the wife-beater,in the most lovable drunk act ever filmed) and Nargis(the woman who gives the villager water, in the last of the famous RK-Nargis pairings) were all very believable. What can say about Salil Chowdhury's music? The sublime 'Zindagi Khwab hai' and 'Jago mohan pyare' start and finish the film respectively. Then there is that personal favorite, the bouncy 'Loshe wai wai', a song which unfortunately remains one Chowdhury's more underrated tunes.
The only drawback of the film is the fact that all episodes do not get equal time. The Motilal episode drags on needlessly while the alcohol-maker sequence ends far too quickly.
A classic movie, fit to be displayed proudly in your 'Satire' collection, right next to 'Jaane bhi do yaaro'.