Sunday, 2 November 2008

Black and White Shashi II : Prem Patra (1962)

Back in August, Beth, the PPCC, Kaddele and I watched this together. I suspect that I was the person who liked the movie best. At least, I had watched it once before, and have seen it twice since; once inflicting it on unsuspecting viewing companions as their first expierience of Black and White Bollywood (would the be bw BW?). They also commented that it is a very quiet movie. I am assuming that this wasn't a polite way of telling me that it was deadly dull; but it is true that it is decidely free of high drama and histrionics.

After a rather pretty title sequence involving a letter, the movie starts of by showing us Ratna (Parveen Choudray) engrossed in the 1960s equivalent of "Love letters for Dummies". Ratna's father is a doctor and we learn that he brought up a young man called Arun (Shashi Kapoor) and educated him to be a doctor. Arun is an orphan but he has an uncle who is currently visiting from their village. He, Arun that is, recently passed his MBBS and there is talk of him getting a state scholarship to study abroad.

Now remind me, what was the movie about again:
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Ratna, she pouts a lot:
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At the medical college we are swiftly introduced to our comic relief, Dr. Kedar (Rajendra Nath), his girl-friend Sumitra (Chand Usmani) and Kavita (Sadhana) , a medical student who is currently rather irritated due to having received yet another love letter. There is also a girl in glasses, who give a running commentary to all the events in medical college. Then we finally get our first glimpse of Arun, engaged in doing worthy things of a medical nature.

Kedar and Sumitra:
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Miss Pushing the plot along:
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Kavita, she looks irritated a lot:
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And Arun, still looking rather young for a doctor.
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Kavita and Arun literally bump into each other on the main staircase. Arun is highly embarassed, especially since Kavita is convinced that Arun did it on purpose. Kedar and Sumitra, however, are convinced that they have seen some sparks fly and conspire to have the two of them spend more time in each others company doing a night shift on the same ward.

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One medical emergency later, they are exchanging shy but not at all uninterested glances in her car and express their developing feelings separately in a rather sweet song. Unfortunately, Arun has been spotted getting out of Kavita's car by Ratna and one of her college friends fills her in on Kavita's reputation as the most beautiful student and her problem with getting too many love letters. The friend says she has a sister in the medical college, hence all the inside information.

One look:
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another look:
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all very, very cute:
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Ratna then asks Arun to help her with her studies. She has also suddenly taken to wearing Saris, and she is trying her best to flirt with him, but he is oblivious to what is going on. This upsets her a lot and when her father finds her crying he realises what is going on and decides to have a talk with Arun.

Arun failing to take any hints:
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Arun is surprised and more than a little shocked that the girl he regards as his younger sister has fallen in love with him and begs to be let off having to marry her. Displayig more sense than is usually found in Bollywood parents, Ratna's father, who, after all, brought Arun up and had him educated, agrees that people can't be forced in such matters, but asks Arun to be careful with Ratna as this will come as a nasty shock to her.


Ratna does not take the news terribly well, especially since she has found a piece of paper with Kavita's name all over it. In order to get back at Arun she composes a love letter to Kavita in Arun's name, something she can easily do as she is able to imitate Arun's handwriting.

Oh:
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Unfortunately for Arun, the love letter is first spotted by a group of giggly girls, who proceed to read it out loud, until Kavita turns up. She is irritated and edged on by the girl in horn-rimmed spectacles goes to complain to the principal. The principal sends for Arun, who, knowing full well who wrote this letter, still does not deny that it was him who wrote it. This costs him his foreign scholarship, and he decides to go back to his village.

With friends like these ...
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Bad news:
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When Ratna hears what happened she is gripped by remorse and confesses everything to Kavita. Kavita tries to talk to Arun but he has already left.

Back at the village, Arun's uncle suggests that they get the money for his education abroad from the local landowner. Arun isn't too keen, but he agrees. He becomes even less keen on the idea when it turns out that the money comes complete with fiance. The landowner would rather like Arun to marry his only daughter, Tara (Seema Deo). It takes his uncle and aunt some heave duty emotional blackmail (don't your remember you mother died because there was no doctor in the village, you becoming a doctor was your father's last wish) to get Arun to agree to the arrangement, but he does agree in the end. When he is asked whether he wouldn't like to see his fiance before he leave, he says, what's the point, you can't tell what people are like from the outside anyway, only he puts it a bit more politely.

Not a happy bunny:
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Leaving for London:
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Shortly after he leaves for England, and while he is saying his good-byes he learns that Ratna is now engaged. This is the last we see of her and her father.

Meanwhile, Tara is send to the big city to become more sophisticated. She is going to stay with her aunt, who turns out to be no other than Kavita's mother. As if that wasn't arkward enough, Tara also becomes rather friendly with Subhash (Sudhir), who originally was intended as a prospective fiance for Kavita, but she had asked for some time to finish her studies before getting married. The one person she quite clearly isn't interested in is her unseen fiance in London.

Tara:
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Enjoying a day at the zoo with Subash, who isn't blind, despite the glasses:
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When a letter arrives from him, she isn't too keen on answering, but her father insists. She manages to convince Kavita to write the letter for her. I can't see how this could possible go wrong. In any case, Arun is charmed with "Tara's" letter, and writes promptly back. In this, and in every following letter he is full of praise for "Tara" and full of disdain for the girl who betrayed him to the principal. He is quite obviously still very upset about what happened with Kavita.

If only he knew whose letter he is enjoying:
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Kavita on her part does now fall in love properly with the Arun she gets to know through his letters, while Tara is less and less interested in Arun or his letters and more and more interested in Subash. She accompanies him on a hunting trip, during which Kedar is almost eaten by a tiger.

May landlady's cat used to hide under my bed like this.
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Before anything can be done to clear up the by now rather complex situation; Arun gets distracted by a letter while sitting next to a bubbling experiment of some sort, the experiment explodes, and Arun looses his sight (but gains a much better fashion sense).

Arun, this is really not a good idea:
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On receiving the news, Tara's father decides that he doesn't want his daughter to get married to a blind man, so Tara is not allowed to meet him at the airport or have any contact with him, not that she seems particularily bothered by all this. As Arun doesn't want his uncle to know about the accident, since there is a good chance that he will regain his eyesight fairly soon, it falls to Kavita to arrange for Kedar and Sumitra to pick up Arun at the airport and take him to a nursing home they run.

I wonder who does his ties:
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When Arun asks after Tara, he is told that she has fallen ill, and will come to see him when she is better. Several days pass, and as Tara doesn't show up, Arun is getting worried that her family may have forbidden her to come. As he is still running a fever, all this worry isn't exactly improving his health. Sumitra tries to convince Kavita that she should come and pretend to be Tara, and after some hesitation she finally relents.

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Arun is overjoyed and Kavita continues to come every day and looks after him, pretending to be "Tara". The two get on very well, the only problem being, that Arun is still very bitter about Kavita, and any attempt on "Tara's" part to try to get him to be more forgiving falls on deaf ears.

He talks a lot:
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As the day of the operation which is likely to restore Arun's eyesight draws near, will Kavita have the courage to confess that she is "Tara"? And will Tara and Subash ever let her father know about their love for each other?

I rather like this; it is well acted, and there is enough melodrama without it ever getting to cloying. The only thing that could have been shorter is the whole tiger hunt business, including the dance performance of some tribals who live conveniently close by. Though there were elephants, which is always a bonus.

I didn't find that Arun was overly bitter about the love letter business, or at least, his bitterness after the accident was already prepared by him mentioning Kavita (though not by name) in every single letter he wrote to "Tara". What bothered me a bit is that we never see him falling in love with Tara the way we see Kavita fall in love with him through the letters. This makes his longing for Tara during his illness a bit unexpected though it could always be seen as due to a mixture of shock and a high temperature.


A couple of pictures before I stop:

Aaaw:
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and a shot from my favourite song:
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5 comments:

Bollyviewer said...

I love this movie (it was also the first movie I reviewed on my blog) and agree that it is surprisingly quiet. The comic relief was anything but comical and I landed up forwarding it everytime I watched the movie.

Arun's bitterness was a bit unjustified, but perhaps the aim was to convey that he was deeply in love and very hurt by Kavita's action? Anyway, its so sweet and romantic and everybody does such a great job visually and acting-wise that it all adds up to a great movie inspite of its flaws!

antarra said...

So far, this is my favourite black and white Shashi. The comic relief did wear thin. I don't fast forwad (though I sometimes rewatch favourite scenes, if I don't have time for a whole movie) but the tiger hunt sequence usually has me getting up to make a cup of tea, or things along those line. It really could have been cut without any great loss to the movie.

And yes, Arun was probably somewhat more bitter than the situation called for, but it was still within comprehensible parameters. Given how hung up he obviously still was about Kavita, I had more difficulty understanding why he was so desparate to meet Tara when he was ill unless she represented everything to him that Kavita wasn't.

memsaabstory said...

I remember liking this film too. I'm a sucker for a good romance! :-)

Beth said...

And if you watch black and white Bollywood with me, it's BW BW BW! :)

Ah Shashi. So cute without the mustache.

I just noticed that you have a tag for "temporary blindness." Fabulous!s

antarra said...

Memsaab -- good romance is one of the best types of movie

Beth -- I much prefer Shashi without the moustache, especially if the moustache is of the starved caterpillar variety as here.