Thursday, 2 October 2008

Black and White Shashi I: Mehndi Lagi Meri Haath (1962)

The first half of this movie is very, very sweet, but unfortunately it falls prey to the curse of the second half (as Beth's puts it). I am not adverse to melodrama or misunderstandings, but only if I can see why somebody is doing what they are doing. Here, I just got angry and wanted to shake people.

The story starts with preparations for a wedding. Deepak (Shashi Kapoor), whose sister is getting married,is applying Henna to the hands of a bunch of small boys when her friends decide that he should do it for them, too. Among them is Rajni (Nanda) a somewhat subdued girl. Deepak is instantly smitten by Rajni and has an elaborate fantasy song about her.

Deepak:
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Rajni:
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Rajni as Deepak imagines her:
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The next day they are both going back to Bombay and meet at the railway station, where Deepak becomes more than a little confused.

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Back in their respective hostels we are treated to non-matching his and hers stories of what happened. We also meet Rajni's and Deepak's friends. The latter include our comic relief for this moive, and a guy I decided to call Mr. Spoilsport.

Rajni and her friends:
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Deepak and his friends:
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Mr. Spoilsport:
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It also turns out that the two somehow managed to mix up their suitcases. The suitcases are exchanged, but then Deepak, who is also of a poet, realises that he left one of his poems in Rajni's suitcase. He writes her a letter asking her to return the poem to him. As she is on her way to give it to him she meets with an accident and is taken to the hospital where Deepak works as a surgeon.

Deepak looking for the missing poem:
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He looks awfully young to be a qualified doctor:
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Deepak spends rather a lot of time looking after Rajni, so much in fact that his boss, Dr. Mehta (Ashok Kumar) notices. Dr. Mehta obviously favours the direct approach:

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When he realises that Deepak and Rajni are in love he encourages to sort things out with their parents, or rather mothers, as neither of them has a father. He also remembers that he once made a mistake in love, and when he realized his mistake, it was too late. Of course, this is completely unlikely to be of any significance later on in the movie, isn't it?

Deepak then takes Rajni to meet his mother, who takes an instant liking to her, while wondering out loud why on earth such a nice girl would want to marry her idiot son.

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The two go on to meet Rajni's mother, singing along the way.

And, no, he doesn't keep his eyes on the road:
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However, after their arrival they find the house locked and are told that Rajni's mother has gone to the nearby village. Rajni goes there on her own and finds her mother trying to sell the house. She is hindered by some villagers who treat her badly and accuse her of being a loose woman. Rajni is shocked to hear this accusation and even more shocked to learn that her father never died, but left her mother pregnant. Her mother claims that they were married in secret but Rajni doesn't believe her. She leaves her mother's house and also resolves to break things off with Deepak. I am not sure how she can't have known this given that they seem to live withing walking distance of the village, but I am willing to suspend disbelief here.

Mom is distressed:
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and things get worse:
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Being upset does strange things to Rajni's hair:
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Of course, she doesn't tell Deepak what the matter is. Instead, she tells him that she never loved him and that he misunderstood her kindness, and would he please go away and leave her in peace. Deepak is rather puzzled by this behaviour, and expresses his sadness in a melancholy song.

Deepak sad and puzzled:
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Lost in happy memories:
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The problem is, that Rajni can't stay away from Deepak. She constantly finds excuses to turn up at the hospital, which is particularily unfortunate as he is prone to swooning every time he sees her and starts to make more and more mistakes at work which in the end cost him a foreign scholarship.

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There follows a rather nice qawalli in which Deepak enumerates all the ways in which love is bad sitting around looking sad while his opponent sings the praises of love with great enthusiasm.

One of the two is having a lot more fun:
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Even Deepak's mother notices that something is seriously wrong and she confronts Rajni. Rajni tells her the truth and makes her promise not to tell anybody, not even Deepak. Deepak's mother is very torn, as she would still like Rajni as a daughter in law and is unwilling to believe that Rajni's mother really had a child out of wedlock but doesn't want her son to get married to a fatherless girl. And Deepak is still left in the dark as to what is really going on.

People being dramatically unhappy:
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Oh for crying out loud:
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News then reaches the hospital that a plague has broken out and volunteers are needed. Deepak joins the volunteer-team against Dr. Mehta's wishes. Well, it is at least a more socially responsible way of committing suicide than drinking yourself to death.

Will the two lovers ever be re-united? Why would it be a good idea for Dr. Mehta to meet Rajni's mother? And what is Deepak doing on the railway lines? And why would this worry me a lot more if this was a 1952 movie starring Dilip Kumar?

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I really enjoyed the first half of this, even if I felt that Deepak seemed rather young to be a qualified doctor. The only slight quibble is that Rajna looks slightly melancholy long before she has any reason to be sad, but maybe she was just meant to be a bit more subdued, in contrast to Deepak's silliness. However, around the three quarters mark I lost patience with Rajni. I am not a great fan of making other people's decisions for them, but I can sort of see that she might not want to tell him, being afraid of making him choose between his love and what people's opinion perhaps, or maybe thinking that it is after all not just her secret but also her mother's. But why does she haunt him after she has decided to break things off with him, especially ones it becomes obvious that this is quite distressing to him. It also seems rather unnecessary, surely he could have gotten depressed and suicidal without her following him around in this manner.

Apart from that, it is nice, the actors do a good job, and the music is pleasant.

Anyway, some more Shashi pictures:

The shocked look:
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The stubble of concern:
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Dramatic bed-post clinging:
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The stubble of despair:

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Aaaaaaaaaaaw:
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5 comments:

Bollyviewer said...

Shashi was super cute here and so was the romance. Why why why did they have to make the heroine such a mean character who actually turns against her mother and then stalks her ex-lover!

As to why Nanda was melancholy before the blow fell - she specialised in playing the sad younger sister and melancholy wife up till then. When she finally discarded the melancholia (a few years later) she tended to turn pouty and whiny (like in Jab Jab Phool Khile)!

antarra said...

Thanks for the explanation on Nanda's melancholy. It just confused me as I suspected that she was harbouring an awful secret which would endanger the young lovers bliss.

memsaabstory said...

I love Nanda, maybe because I'm at heart pretty melancholy myself :-)

Despite the plot that sounds a reverse-gender version of "Aa(aaaaa)h" I think I want to see this.

antarra said...

Memsaab - It is worth watching. I am probably being a bit harsh on it as it is the more irritating second half that is fresher in ones mind after watching the movie. The first half is very sweet. And I have seen Shashi in far worse.

Beth said...

I too am captured - mostly by the cutey Shashi and "the stubble of concern," but still.