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14 April 2013

Chashme Buddoor (1981)

Directed by Sai Paranjpye
Music: Raj Kamal
Starring: Farouque Shaikh, Deepti Naval, Ravi Baswani, 
Rakesh Bedi, Saeed Jaffrey, Leela Misra, Vinod Nagpal
A long time ago, Nalini, one of the readers of my blog asked me why I had never reviewed a Farooque Shaikh-Deepti Naval film yet. It got me thinking; it was not as if I had not reviewed films from the 80s before. Yet, I had never touched one of the most effective star-pairings of middle cinema. Like Amol Palekar-Zarina Wahab, one knew what one was going to see when one went to watch a Farooque Shaikh-Deepti Naval film. It would be more 'real'; the plot would be simple, there would be no violence, there wouldn't be the overt trappings of 'masala' films, and the end result would be rather sweet - not the diabetic-inducing sugary sweet confection that later Barjatya movies would turn out to be, but the bitter-sweet reasonable endings that are what an ordinary man and woman would have. 

And so, even though it took me a long time to get around to it, I watched a few of their films. Now that Chashme Buddoor has been remade (or murdered - depending on what view you take of the classics being revamped), I figured this was the right time to shine the spotlight on the original. By and large, Hindi cinema (or any cinema for that matter) tends to forget how to make a real comedy - clean, frothy, and without being puerile or resorting to double-entendre. This film from the not-so-great 80s should be required viewing for anyone who even dreams of making a film in that genre.
Three young men living in a typical bachelor pad in Delhi; sparse, messy, and filled with various articles holding piles of cigarette butts - when they run out of cigarettes, they smoke the butts. The first few shots establish their personalities.
There is Omi (Rakesh Bedi), a self-proclaimed shaayar (poet), who prefers to listen to ghazals. Next is Jomo (Ravi Baswani), who leers at the neighbourhood aunties as well as at their lissome daughters, and has pictures of scantily clad women and the top heroines of the time plastered on one wall. And the third is our hero, Siddharth Parashar (Farooque Shaikh), quiet and sensitive, and mortally afraid of girls. An Economics student, it is his money that subsidises his usually-broke friends.

While Omi and Jomo are lamenting the lack of girls (or ones who will pay them any attention), Siddharth is studying. Or trying to. His friends soon spot a new girl in the neighbourhood but Siddharth is still not interested. Do they even know where the girl lives or who she is? Pshaw! says Jomo. It's easy enough. Sure enough, with some help from Lallan miya (Saeed Jaffrey), he succeeds in his quest. 
She lives in their neighbourhood, in fact, in the next bungalow with her father and grandmother. Since Omi and Jomo squabble over who should woo her first, Siddharth provides a solution: cut a deck of cards to decide. And so the cards decide their fates. 

Omi wins, and the next morning, off he goes to try his luck. That evening he comes back ready with a tale of his conquest (that never was). 
Despite Siddharth's reservations, Jomo sets off the next day to woo the same girl. Reality and fantasy collide just as much in his recounting the tale to his friends that evening. 
Siddharth is impressed but it doesn't give him a very good opinion of the girl next door. He is also amused - how are his friends going to manage now? After all, there is only one girl.
Funnily enough, he gets to meet her, without knowing who she is. Neha (Deepti Naval) also moonlights as a door-to-door salesgirl for Chamko washing powder. When she lands up at their door, Jomo and Omi are flabbergasted, and afraid their lies would be caught out, jump out of the balcony.

So a bewildered Siddharth is left to bear the brunt of her sales pitch. With practised ease, she begins her spiel: Chamko. Kapdon ke liye behtareen sabun. Baar baar. Lagatar. Chamko. 
She then insists on demonstrating the product. Siddharth, by now charmed by his unexpected guest, offers a towel for washing. Now begins the wait for Chamko to perform its miracle. 

It's an awkward silence, because neither know what to say. Siddharth is fidgety and to escape his gaze, Neha begins to look around the room. Her gaze falls on the various pin-ups and Siddharth is embarrassed when a strategically placed towel falls off.
Nervously, he turns the radio on only to have Hum tum ek kamre mein bandh ho come blasting out. Now it is her turn to be embarrassed, and he jumps to ensure the door is open. 

This is just the beginning. Soon, Siddharth's and Neha's little romance is moving along at a fast clip. Jomo and Omi are worried. If Neha finds out they are Siddharth's friends, she is sure to tell him the truth about what happened. And so, they get to him first, offering him proof that she is a flirt; they even tell him details of her house which, they claim, they couldn't have known unless she had taken them there.

So, when he goes to her house for tea for the first time, and recognises those very details, Siddharth's confidence crumbles, leading him to reject her cruelly. And Neha is too self-respecting to want to listen to explanations. Will the lovers' tiff be resolved? Will Omi and Jomo even comprehend what they just did?

Sai Paranjpye, straight from making the heartwarming, and serious, Sparsh  the previous year, decided to make a 180-degree-turn and make a completely whacked out comedy, and did a fantastic job of it. It took a woman to make an honest-to-goodness film on male bonding, and her insights into the world of young men were both incisive and humorous. 

What made Chashme Buddoor stand out was the fact that nowhere did the film veer into slapstick territory. What stands out as possible melodramatic plot points veers into the delightfully banal (the scene where Omi and Jomo find a bottle of poison in Siddharth's drawer); the dialogue was natural, the camaraderie was genuine, and the boy-girl interactions were so devoid of artifice that the film was like the summer rains - cold and refreshing.

Witness the scene where Siddharth spies Neha, waiting for the bus, and offers her a lift. When Neha remarks on the coincidence of them meeting like this, he sheepishly tells her that he had been circling around the vicinity waiting for her singing class to finish. Neha is no coy damsel - she confesses that she had deliberately given Siddharth the information hoping he would swing by. There is a sudden camaraderie visible in both their faces, of having had the same thought/feeling, and of having acted on it.  

Or the scene where Neha, selling soap powder, proudly wrings out a sparkling white towel which she has just washed in demonstration, and Siddharth confesses that it was a freshly-laundered one.

Or the scene where Siddharth proposes (it's a very cute scene), and Neha says it's a huge decision and she needs time to think, lots of time; Siddharth, nervous, asks her how long, and she grins - until she finishes her tutti-frutti. 

This was Ravi Baswani's debut as an actor. Having previously worked with Sai on her debut film, Sparsh, as a member of the crew, Ravi stepped into Jomo's harmless-Lothario shoes with a comic timing that was both perfect and believable. Jomo's imagination is obviously in overdrive when he is talking of his conquest of Neha - long before Farah Khan decided to affectionately lampoon the tropes of a masala film, Sai Paranjpye used a parody of hit songs (and a special appearance by Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha) to poke loving fun at Hindi films. Yet it is so warmly done that we laugh as much at the parody as we do at ourselves. 

Rakesh Bedi, on the other hand, is no Lothario. He is a would-be poet, and is more a man of talk than action. Of course, he is not beyond telling tall tales of his (imaginary) conquests. Both of them were the perfect foil to the reserved Siddharth, played with subtle restraint by Farooque Shaikh.
Farooque Shaikh was adorable as the geek-turned-mod guy, who forgets to remove the price tags from his clothes when he goes out on his second date with Neha. And how can one not love a guy who orders the best item on the menu when the girl agrees to his proposal and spoons it up with a goofy grin on his face? And claims he is just waiting for a 'special girl' to ask him to quit smoking? 
Deepti Naval was the perfect girl-next-door, with her lustrous hair, glowing smile, and minimal make-up. After this film, a generation of filmgoers would enshrine her as 'Miss Chamko'. You couldn't have had a more attractive salesgirl than Neha. Her chemistry with Farooque Shaikh would extend to other films - Katha, Saath Saath, Kisise Na Kehna, etc. 
Leela Misra had a small role as Neha's grandmother, and she was adorable! The love and affection between the two was heartwarming, and she is not above a bit of scheming to get the estranged lovers together.
And of course, who can forget Lallan miya? The neighbourhood paanwaala who gives the young men cigarettes on tick, all the while scolding them for not paying their past dues. As the man who both harangues them and at the same time, offers a sympathetic ear and shoulder, and who is not beyond gaping at a beautiful girl himself, Saeed Jaffrey was a delight.

Finally, a word about the music. Raj Kamal's career never really took off, but the score in this film was very nice, from Is nadi ko mera aaina maan lo to Kaali ghodi dwaar khadi to the well-known Yesudas-Haimanti Shukla duet Kahaan se aaye badira. Add in the fact that Sai Paranjpye used old Hindi songs beautifully, including in the Jomo-Neha fantasy sequence.

For a fun-filled afternoon, when you want to wax nostalgic about your growing up years, a beautiful Delhi, or both, do watch the original Chashme Buddoor again. 

And of course, don't forget to buy yourself a tutti-frutti.


  1. This is what movies should be like - simple, no gushy stuff, something one can relate to, and with a satisfactory, happy ending! Thanks for the review, Anu! I watched this movie many years ago, on a trip to India, and really liked it for the 'normal' factor. Time to watch it again, and enjoy that 'normal' story again.

  2. One of my favourite films. I loved it in the 80s and repeated viewings just won't let the charm wear off. Why, o why aren't there more films like these? Why did nobody finance more films by Sai?
    Beautiful film! Thanks for the review Anu! I made me feel nostalgic!

  3. Oh, yes, do, Lalitha. You're right - 'normal' is exactly what it is, and a nice nor,al. is it too.

  4. She made very few films, didn't she? This is one film that I'm never bored watching and rewatching.

  5. I am in total agreement with you and Harvey, Anu! This is such a delightful film, and its charm hasn't worn off in the years since. I rewatched it only last year, and loved it as much as I had back when it had been released. Such a cute, charming little film. They don't make them like they used to, do they? (which is one reason I'm very wary of watching the 'remake')

  6. I join the queue to vote for the proposal.

  7. So are her Sparsh and Katha.

    It would be interesting if you would take up review of Katha.

  8. They really do not make them like they used to, Madhu. And it is a shame. From what I hear of the remake, I'm staying far, far away.

    In the first place, I hate remakes. Most films should be left alone; it is very rarely that one can better the original. The only times I feel it is okay is when the original was based on a book, and the 'remake' is based on the book - then I'm willing to go see the director's vision (that didn't work too well in the case of the new Devdas), because he is not really 'remaking' the film as adapting a literary work.

  9. I will, Ashokji. Sometime soon, I promise. :)

  10. Wonderful movie on so many levels that no review can do justice to it. Not that you have done a bad job. A small tidbit - the ghazal that is playing in the opening scene in the bachelors' pad is Mehdi Hasan's "Dekh Tu Dil Ke Jaan Se Uthta Hai". I was intrigued by the song when I first heard it and subsequently fell in love with it. So many exquisite details in the movie that one cannot describe them all. I don't think I can watch a remake. What will they think of next - remake Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron?

  11. Watching
    it as a kid , I was struck by the beauty of Delhi - the tree-lined
    avenues, the roads, the parks ...Even today, once in a while (especially
    in winter), I'm struck by Lutyen's Delhi's charm : the winter sun
    filtering through canopies of green, the steam rising from the roadside
    cuppa chai, the riots of colour in the embassy gardens.

    movie is how boy-next-door movies should be made ... making the
    commonplace dear and familiar rather than trite. Katha was a
    heart-warming tale but perhaps not nearly so innocent. As an aside,
    Deepti Naval seems to be a rather multi-faceted personality : )

    probably watch the new one : for one, it apparently is a non-slapstick
    comedy, which is in itself hard enough to come by. Plus I rather like
    Ali Zafar. Sidharth is OK too. Though the girl comes across nowhere as
    fresh as Deepti.

  12. Delhi looked so beautiful. In fact, I thought it was beautiful when I visited in 2008.

    What struck me as I watched the film again, was how even eve-teasing was taken so casually - even by women. We accepted that 'that is what boys do'.:(

  13. Oh this was one of my favourite films and I do not think I will enjoy the remake as much as I enjoyed this one. Yes two things that still remain in my memory and I guess it is true for everyone else, first of course Miss Chamko and that delicious looking tutti -frutti

  14. The remake is playing in a theatre nearby; I'm staying far, far away from it. You know, watching the film, writing about it, and now reading and responding to the comments, I feel like eating a tutti-frutti. :)

  15. Not just the fact that there is a remake of such a lovely feel-good movie (despite the phrase being so abused) but a David Dhawan re-creating it makes it such a terrible injustice to the movie. I think they must ask why anyone thinks that it is a good idea at all to do this? Simply swimming along the tide and keep the idea of writing a movie away makes it so simpler to make a movie.

    Priyadarsan did copy a few scenes of Chashme Buddoor in one of his Malayalam films, I think, especially the one where he checks the girl's house and bathroom towel colour and all that.

    A lady director who demonstrates male bonding so well, interesting observation! From a Sparsh to Chashme Buddoor - quite an astonishing 360 degree range of movies to work on. How come Sai Paranjpye worked on so few movies after this, I wonder?

  16. Of agreeing with what is porpoised / presented by 'you and Harvey".....

  17. Let's not knock Dhawan - the chap's an FTII graduate, and obviously knows his films. His track record notwithstanding. In this case, it was the producer of the film herself who got him on board to remake it. She also digitised the original and re-released it for a new generation to watch and learn.

    Don't get me started on Priyan. If you tell me he didn't copy anything from anywhere, that will be the day!

    About Sai Paranjpye making very few movies, I think she was disillusioned by the fact that she needed to run around to get even the little funding she got. Things weren't so easy for film-makers making her type of films and I'm pretty sure that being a woman didn't help those days. I think, if she were to make movies now, she would find it much easier.

  18. Don't know if Dhawan knows his movies (FTII background notwithstanding) but he knows his target audience alright!

  19. That tutti-frutti in the film was so yummy looking, lucky Deepti Naval she got to eat it.

  20. I know! And she ate it each time with such gusto too!

  21. Like everyone here, it is one of the films I really love to watch. Your sentence.....

    > It took a woman to make an honest-to-goodness film on male bonding, and her insights into the world of young men were both incisive and humorous.

    ...is so telling. Women directors could have brought about a change in film quality today, but they didn't.
    We have that Kapoor woman (Jeetu's daughter) as crappy as he himself was, then there is Farah Khan, and also Ms Akhtar.

    None of them are refreshing. The Talaash director (Amir's) may have shades of being different - not so sure.

    I wish someone would see new version and tell us how it was?
    Thanks for the review Anu, and bringing back the whiff of freshness such films bring.

  22. You're welcome, pacifist. Like you, I wish we could have that age of refreshing, simple films back. Unfortunately, I think it is long gone. Perhaps it is a reflection of the times as well. I do not see any young couple in love today being as direct as Neha and Siddharth in this film. :)

    Among the contemporary women directors you have mentioned, all of them (I think) are trying to out-do the men; it is not their voices so much as trying to break the glass ceiling in the industry. I suppose one should give them credit for that; it can't be easy.My problem is that they all have the support that people like Sai Paranjpye did not - they could do so much more. But then, among contemporary female directors, my picks would be Aparna Sen and Mira Nair, who at least tell a tale well. I cannot stand Deepa Mehta, who, in my opinion at least, is a lousy film-maker; it's only her creds as an NRI and a woman that give her the backing to make movies. (And to think someone like Sai had to run from pillar to post to get finances! Life is unfair!)


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