Monday, 7 December 2009

Clerk (1989)

Clerk is a movie which follows the fate of a down-trodden and depressed Clerk (now there is a surprise) with a large number of dependants and a lost love in the ministry of defence. It is also one of my contenders for "worst movie sharing Shashi Kapoor"; but of course such things are always a deeply personal matter.

After a multicoloured opening sequence, which, alas, is a sign of things to come, we meet Bharat (Manoj Kumar), on his way to work. Once he arrived at the office, we meet the peon (that's what subtitles tend to call these people), Sadhuram (Prem Chopra) and some time later his colleague, Pooja (Anita Raj), who is clearly very fond of Bharat (though it's never clear to me why) and who provides a breath of fresh air in the doom and gloom surrounding him. Of course, there is also a sleazy and corrupt boss, B. M. Sharma (Satish Shah), who insists that everybody should speak Hindi, while peppering his speech with plenty of English. Currently he is not in the office for anybody trying to contact him in connection with a tender put in by a certain Mr. Kapoor.

I know, I should have just stopped here:
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Bharat and his boss:
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Surely, life can't be all bad, if she works in your office and likes you; less sure about him, though:
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The movie then continues to illustrate why Bharat's life is so miserable. At home, we meet his older brother Ram, once a soldier, who lost a leg fighting for his country and also is disfigured. He was offered help to get an artificial leg but he declined it. Ram remembers how their father (Ashok Kumar) sold his land, so his sons could study in the hope that they would be able to buy it back at some point, but now all these dreams are just dreams (and so on). Before those two can sink even further into misery, the father suffers a heart attack and we also meet the two youngest siblings, Balram (Rajiv Goswami) and Tulsi (Sonika Gill), who are both still in college. They had gone out to get a doctor for their father, but the doctor refuses to come unless he is paid. Luckily, Bharat knows that what his father really needs to get better is a rousing patriotic song; and indeed, lots of swirling visuals later, Dad is back on his feet.

I wonder how long it took them to get those holes just where they wanted them:
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Familial concern:
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The younger generations (and a use of mirrors that will recur (frequently))
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Is that what being drunk feels like?
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Ram is married to Rukmini (Zeba Ali) and their marriage is not a happy one. He suspects her of doing something quite different on those days when she wears a nice, wedding-like sari and goes to meet her brother. Bharat defends his sister-in-law, but Ram remains unconvinced. The next day at work, Bharat receives a semi-mysterious phonecall. The caller reminds him of the time he spent with Sneh (Rekha) in college, and this leads us to the next song, which also clarifies for the viewer, that the caller is no other than Sneh, who, we learn shortly afterwards, is now married to Mr. Kapoor. They have the sort of relationship where they call each other by last name.

The mirror of marital trouble:
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There is a saying that you can't disfigure a beautiful person. They were trying very hard:
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The mirror of happy memories:
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I am beginning to wonder whether this would be easier to bear if I was drunk?
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Oh, Mr. Kapoor is Mr. Kapoor
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We learn that Mr. Kapoor is evil. He married Sneh because he could impress her with his wealth, knowing full well that she really loved Bharat and now one of his aims in life is to turn Bharat to dishonesty, partly becaue he enjoys this sort of thing, partly because there is this pending tender with the ministry of defense, and partly also from jealousy. He uses his wife to get to Bharat. First she visits him in his office, but meets with a very cold reception when she invites him to their college reunion, and triggers another trip down memory lane, this time to the day when she told Bharat that she was marrying Vijay Kapoor because her sister needed money to join her fiance in the States. She then talks to him on his way home; a conversation with much symbolism involving throwaway lights and holes in sandals, and at first he refuses to come to the reunion. However, after having by mistake downed the peon's alcoholic cold drink, he decides to come anyway. This gives him the opportunity to bemoan the fact that his academic achievement and honesty have left him and his family destitute, to refuse an offer of Mr. Kapoor to support his younger siblings financially (no doubt he refuses to have anything to do with ill-gotten gains) and to treat us another song.

While Pooja wonders what the relation is between Bharat and Sneh, I wonder why the lever arch files never fit on the shelves in movie offices:
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I raise you one lighter:
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The shoe of lost hope and poverty:
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He looks somewhat like a giant snowball:
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I am rather developing an aversion to sparkly lights:
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Hmm, not sure this is an improvement:
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After the function, Rukmini makes some disparaging comment to Sneh, and Sneh lashes out at Rukmini. This, of course, feeds Ram's suspicions. Meanwhile, we meet Balram's girl-friend Sonu (Sonu Walia) (and her amazing trousers, or lack thereof) for the first time. She has a more direct approach to the family's financial problems; she suggests robbing a bank and Balram is ready to go along with her. The Kapoors, on the other hand, having made no discernable progress with Bharat, decide to bribe Mr. Sharma to make their tender successful. He proves a much easier target. He accepts a bribe, but when he is challenged by his boss, Rahim Khan (Rajendra Kumar) about Mr. Kapoor's visit, he implies that it is Bharat who takes the bribes without sharing with his superior, but that if a more senior person interfered, he might be made to share. To facilitate that, Bharat is invited to perform at the office's 15th of August celebrations, which (you may have guessed) leads to another, very sparkly song.

I am not sure Maa would approve:
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The mirror of ill-advice:
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Preparations for the annual giant snowball convention are in full swing:
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That's a perfectly innocent suitcase:
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Senior plotting:
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Just in case you had missed where the movie takes place:
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This is also the day Balram and Sonu have picked for the bank-robbery, as everybody will be out celebrating and security isn't very tight. At first, all goes well, but unfortunately the vitally important motor-cycle won't start and Balram has to escape on foot. In order to appear less conspicous he drops the bag with the money and the blanket he is wearing which are picked up by Bharat (because there is of course nobody else waiting for a bus at this point) who is promptly arrested. Some emotional blackmail by his family later, Balram confesses and is put in jail instead of his big brother.

A fateful meeting:
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Don't worry Bharat, Balram won't be able to take your nobility much longer:
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Tulsi, who has had far to peaceful a life for a member of Balram's family, is accosted on the street by a friend of Mr. Kapoor's with the promise of a job if she goes to a certain address. Unfortunately, what awaits her isn't a job but a man ready to molest her.

He really doesn't appear very trustworthy:
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Oh no, my world has turned upside down:
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In the meantime, Sneh continues her persistant attempts to turn Bharat towards the way of corruption and financial gain. This time, she persuades Mr. Sharma, to take Bharat to a function in the Kapoor mansion, mainly to have him humiliated and to give him a chance to be inspired by the artwork to sing a song about the fact that he is a clerk (not that that is news to any of the people present). Pooja, who is also present, attracts the attention of a rather sleazy older man, who is a business partner of Mr. Kapoor's. When he drops her home, her mother is very shocked, and it turns out that he is actually her father, who abandoned her mother after one of those secret temple marriages which are so common in the movies.

Temptation at work:
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At least we are spared any more fake guitar playing:
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I detect a spot of symbolism here:
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Sometimes, not being pretty would be a distinct advantage:
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The mirror of abandonment and disgrace:
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Back at home, Ram has decided to finally find out what his wife is up to, on the days she goes at very well dressed, and returns with money. When he finds out his is very ashamed, as she wasn't at all doing what he thought she was doing (though why she needed to dress up to do what she was doing, is somewhat beyond me). Anyway, he asks her forgiveness, and offers to be beaten with her sandal. The rest of the family is also very touched by her sacrifice.

I think he may be shocked:
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So, what's that then:
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Aaaaw, at least one problem solved:
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To provide some light relief (and maybe to prevent the viewer from jumping out of the window in sympathetic dispair), we then get to watch Pooja doing some gymnastics, which of course is enough reason for another song. However, before we can get to cheerful, we are back with Tulsi who is now pregnant from the guy who raped her and wants him to marry her. He refuses and says that nobody can force him, as he is Vijay Kapoor's man, when Bharat challenges him. Sneh, who turns up for no apparent reason, points out that Bharat has a choice, of working for Mr. Kapoor, and stealing the project "Green Star" file for him, or watching his sister's ruin. After some tortured deliberation, involving watching a tree being felled (not that that is symbolic in any way shape or form, and not that Sneh was talking about trees which provide shelter earlier on), he decides to go ahead with the dastardly deed.


She looks very nice
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but of course the sparkly lights aren't far off:
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This is not the most promising beginning for a marriage:
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Behold, the key to dishonesty and financial gain:
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The theft does not remain unobserved, but Sadhuram is easily persuaded to not betray Bharat. In order to explain his sudden wealth to his family, Bharat claims that he has won the lottery. To celebrate this happiness, they visit their ancestral fields and Bharat also forces the father of Tulsi's child to marry her. Of course, all this has feet of clay, as it is based on Bharat's involvement in illegal and traiterous dealings, of which his family is still unaware.

Now partners in crime:
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Hey, they are able to smile, how unexpected:
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Family relations are somewhat strained:
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Some days later, Pooja is again at Mr. Kapoor's house, and her father, who is still unaware of their relationship, offers her a lift home. On the way home, he tries to rape her, but she manages to defend herself with a conveniently placed trident. When she arrives in hospital with her mother, to prove to him that she is his daughter, he begs her forgiveness, and only dies after naming her his heir (in writing no less).

Yikes:
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Oh dear:
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The mirror of patricide:
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I am not sure I really needed to see this:
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Now it is time for Tulsi's wedding but, alas, the (presumably) joyous occassion is disrupted by the police looking for Balram who escaped from prison. He is actually lurking on the other side of the road with his girlfriend bemoaning his cruel fate in not being able to attend his sister's wedding (well, what did he have to go and rob a bank for). Some time later, Mr. Kapoor visits Bharat at home, and congratulates him on his newly found dishonesty and arranges some other plans with him, involving more stolen files. Unfortunately, Bharat's father overhears the conversation and the shock kills him, though he has enough time to dress in his old uniform and reassert his patriotism. And he refuses to take his pills because they were paid for with ill-gotten money.

Uninvited guests:
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Self-pitying brothers:
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Sigh:
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Will his father's death show Bharat the error of his ways? How will his brothers react when they find out that Bharat worked for Mr. Kapoor? What is the new dastardly plan going by the name of Operation Red Rose? Which of the people in the ministry of defense is actually not corrupt. Will there be more sparkly lights and hard to spot symbolism? If you don't want to sit through this yourself, I am happy to tell you in the comments.

I really don't like this movie (I am sure that's not that hard to tell). Part of the problem is that I have problems with all the mirroring, billowing smoke, people half hidden behind something or other which goes on in the songs and not just there. I am also not overly enamoured with all the mistreatment of women; and while I generally don't mind depressing movies, this was just too much. It would probably also help if I found Manoj Kumar appealing in this, but I don't.

11 comments:

Rum said...

OMGGG WTFFF NAHIII was my experience with this movie, as a devoted Manoj fan, this just killed me! I thankfully in a teenage rage threw it off my balcony after i watched it, it was just awful for me but then again I'm older now perhaps i can take a unbelievably old Manoj playing a college student with a beatles looking wig!
NAHII i say to myself, because as much as i love Bharat and the crazy drunk camera angles it just reallly annoyed me with the overuse of all Manoj's director traits like the mirrors and silly camera angles! Plus that patriotic anthem which father dearest miraculously get better after hearing!
UGHHHHHH you have the patience of a saint to sit through that! I urge you lol to throw it over your balcony after one watch too!!

Bollyviewer said...

Clearly this is a whole new level of "so bad that its unwatchable" bad movie. In fact, it seems to be even worse than Atithee - which is the worst Shashi movie I've seen so far. Is Rekha as evil as her mullet makes her look, or does she die attempting to save Bharat? And what does Ram's wife get up to in a fancy saree?

I hope you watched something nice after this to cheer you up and restore your faith in the goodness of films!

Anarchivist said...

Is that skeleton thing a painting?? Just a random decoration? Amazing!

Also, I am fairly sure my most accurate job description is "peon," although our Human Resources departments tend to fancy that up. Fortunately, most of us don't have rich people actually conspiring against us to prove our corruptibility. Say, I wonder if Manoj Kumar had read the book of Job recently?

Beth said...

This looks unspeakable. Tempting as it is to watch it just to see if it's worse than The Deceivers, which we have already argued about and after having read this I am almost ready to concede that this is indeed worse, because at least The Deceivers is interesting and relatively straightforward and does not contain father-daughter rape (though PLENTY of racism), I think I'll pass. I'm impressed you made it through!

memsaabstory said...

People have dared me to watch this, and now I see why. Since I pretty much detest MK in the best of times (Gumnaam) I doubt that I could tolerate this one...

antarra said...

Rum -- I am relieved this doesn't appeal to a Manoj fan either. I actully didn't throw it out; instead I sat through it again to blog about it, but I was very tempted to do something violent to the discs.

Bollyviewer -- Athitee is a much better movie than this. And it doesn't make you dizzy with all the strange camera angles.

Rekha does redeem herself in the end; and, if I understood correctly, Ram's wife is giving blood for money. He goes on about how he feels that the alcohol she bought with the money was her blood; and that he drunk her blood. Why doing this necessitates wearing a fancy sari, other than to give Ram a reason to be suspicious and then have a melt-down of remorse, is beyond me.

Anarchivist -- The skeleton is meant to be symbolic of the fate of all humanity and office clerks in particular. There is also a painting of a haggard looking elderly woman, etc.

It does feel rather as if fate/some deity/deities conspires against Bharat.

Beth -- I will consider watching The Deceivers, so at least one of us has seen both. I wouldn't make anybody sit through this, that would be too cruel.

Memsaab -- It's probably best not too watch. I do watch a fair amount of movies which cannot be considered good and enjoy them, but this belongs to a very select group which is just incredibly bad. That said, the songs are on youtube and they are quite watchable and give an impression of why I have visual issues with the movie.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

oh my word!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Shashi a badman? dad-daughter rape??? Manoj being sought after by Rekha AND Anita?! that was a tough one to watch - kudos to you for doing this! Manoj's directorial ventures usually are unintentionally hilarious, but this one appears to be in a class of its own :)

antarra said...

Shweta -- Bits of it were unintentionally funny, but most of it was just plain bad. And I really failed to see why Manoj was so irresistable to the women in his life.

B.H.Harsh said...

This is a pretty famous name on the 'Trashy' hindi cinema list! Farah Khan swears by the unintentional fun of 'Clerk' :p

I saw it last year once, and understood what she was talking about.. haha!

I wish You could see it once again in that spirit! ;) Keep watching more films... cheers!

antarra said...

B.H. Harsh -- I saw it twice; that's quite enough. But I am definetly not going to stop watching movies.

Abhishek Mukherjee said...

Hey, I wonder why I have never come across your blog before. One of the better reviews of Manoj Kumar's magnum opus I have ever read.

Do keep writing!