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30 November 2016

Satte pe Satta (1982)

Directed by: Raj Sippy
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics: Gulshan Bawra
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, 
Amjad Khan, Kalpana Iyer,
 Sachin, Sudhir, Indrajeet, 
Paintal, Shakti Kapoor, 
Kanwaljeet, Sachin, Ranjeeta
Blog reader Shalini and I had once watched a film together apart. Recently, on my review of Majboor, we talked about the possibility of watching a nice masala movie together again to defuse our pre-election stress. We seriously needed the detoxification. Our first pick was Shaan but in her bid to continue the indoctrination of her son in Amitabh-love, Shalini had already watched the film. So we settled on Satte pe Satta. We needed a ‘full on masala diversion’ said Shalini, and I agreed.

So, after settling in bachchoos and bidding husbands to go away and not trouble us, we sat back to watch the film. (Warning: the ‘review’ is going to be interspersed with many, many comments, exclamations, irrelevant musings, spoilers, screenshots and the like. Only our comments in parentheses are going to be colour-coded, Shalini’s comments in green, mine in some shade of brown.)

Right off the bat, we are introduced to the seven brothers. We soon establish that Ravi (Amitabh Bachchan) is a petty tyrant, and that Sunny (‘Shani’/Sachin) is his favourite, while the rest fall somewhere in between.  The other brothers are: Som (Sudhir), Mangal (Shakti Kapoor), Budh (Paintal), Guru (Inderjeet) and Shukr (Kanwaljeet), each of them with their own quirks, and a shared, almost-pathological hatred of bathing. 
[Shalini: I could have done without the visuals of all these… um… specimens in the chhaddis. 
 I heartily concur. Me: Thank heavens they didn’t put AB in only a chhaddi! I don’t think I could have borne that!]
Ravi sits around after handing his brothers a list of chores, and later, also takes the largest portion of the prepared (well, almost raw) food. His brothers are quite pissed off at the tyranny (they get beaten up when they protest), and by Ravi’s open favouritism towards their youngest sibling that they end up making a plan – they inform Sunny that Ravi, listening to their protests, has set forth a challenge, the winning of which will entitle the winner to a whole week of lazing around. 
He will be awarded the choicest of food and lots of milk, won’t have to lift a finger around the house while the others slave away, and what’s more (this is important), he won’t have to bathe or even change his clothes! We soon also establish that Sunny is intellectually-challenged, and he decides to take that challenge to ride a wild horse on the farm.  [Paapi pet ka laalach.] The brothers are aghast at the consequences as Sunny nearly loses his life. 
It is Ravi to the rescue, and Sunny pretends to be unconscious to test his brother’s affection. Much ro-ing later, there are some emotional group hugs and a group song. [‘I love the harmonizing. Great male bonding song.’]  

Later, like Phantom (the Ghost who Walks, shtoopid!), the guys go to a bar and ask for milk. [Shalini and me simultaneously:Doodh?!’ and a couple of minutes later, ‘Fight!’] Enter the hero. Both Shalini and I take a moment to appreciate Amitabh’s ‘entry’. 
[‘AB’s got to have the best entries in Hindi films!'  
‘Yes, and he did it so well too.’  
That voice!’ Sigh…  
Some unabashed ogling goes on. We both also want that bar, even if S doesn’t drink.]
Poor Goga Kapoor gets dhulaaoed. Enter Vijayendra Ghatge. S and I sigh some more. (He really was handsome.) Turns out, he’s Ravi’s friend, Shekhar, who is suffering from a broken heart. Ravi is still in White Knight mode, and sets off to rescue his friend’s love life.
Only, there’s a case of mistaken identity. Indu (Hema) is not the sort of woman who's going to quake at the sight of an angry man. As Ravi rages on about what a heartless witch she is, Indu tells him off quite mercilessly [I like Hema’s character in this, so feisty!’] and when he refuses to listen, slaps him hard and has him thrown out. [‘I felt for AB! Ah, be still, my heart.] However, his mission is successful because Sheela (Sarika) has overheard Ravi’s angry tirade and has seen the light.
Ravi has fallen quite hard for the woman who proved she can stand up to him (a novel experience, I’m sure), but Sheela wonders why Ravi has fallen in love with Indu after the ticking off she gave him. S and I collapse in laughter over 'Itna zor ka chhata khaane ke baad hii milna chahta hoon.'  Sheela begins to smile.
[I like his goggle-eyed look. S loves that Ravi falls for Indu because she slaps him and threatens to have the police called if she sees him around the next time.]  Ravi decides to woo Indu. With a watermelon. Obviously, that's not the way to a woman's heart. When fruits fail, he listens carefully to Sheela's advice and sends his 'love' flowers. Lots and lots of flowers. Unfortunately for him, she sets the watchman on him. 

Finally, he co-opts his youngest brother, Sunny, who proves he can lie very convincingly. Ravi proves he can ham beautifully. [Chhote tukde… Chhote chhote…] Indu proves she has brains as well as beauty, and a wicked tongue to boot. She eviscerates Ravi. And Sunny. And promises to put him jail if he ever troubled her again. 
[S is thrilled that Indu is never ‘tamed’ by love; she remains strong to the end. I’m ecstatic that she doesn’t stand for any of this nonsense, and that Sunny actually tells his brother that what he’s doing is wrong.]

Ravi, by now totally besotted, hasn’t given up. When his brothers intervene, asking him what he means by bringing in a woman to mess their lives up, Ravi lies, saying he was thinking of them; if he marries, his wife will take over the cooking and cleaning and washing. Don’t his brothers see
Shalini and I palm our foreheads in dismay. What an idiot! 
['Lies to his brothers, lies to Indu…’  
“Jerk! Luckily, she sets him straight on that as well.
Ravi's infatuation makes him take another tack, and at Shekhar's wedding reception, Indu is shocked to actually see a face underneath all the shrubbery.
[S says, God, he cleans up well!’ I concur, while simultaneously laughing at Vijayendra's 'Is registhan mein phool kaise ug gaya, bhai?' at the sight of his friend. We sigh in unison. S decides that this Kishore with this Amitabh makes her knees weak. I’m too busy trying to get my heart to be still to answer. Also, I’m wondering how Ravi learnt to dance, and being thrilled that Indu doesn’t fall for his tricks.] So now, a cleaned-up Ravi, with some prompting from Sheela decides to woo Indu with flowers. [Both of us are swooning over his smile.] Indu is showing signs of melting. 
[I like that the song actually shows Ravi actually wooing Indu over the course of several days. It's not 'sing one song and she will fall into his arms'. She takes the time to get to know him.] A quick wedding and a box of condoms later, the couple are on their way home. Where, Indu thinks, she is going to live a quiet life with her husband and his one brother. On the way home, she tells her new husband how she hates noise and chaos.
['I like how the arm comes slowly away from her shoulders.'  
'I wonder how he thought he could get away with it.']
Obviously, he doesn't...
['This is pure slapstick, but God, it makes me howl!’
'Done well, slapstick is fantastic!’ 'I love how his speech gets cut off midway. Poor woman.']
Indu reacts calmly, rather too calmly. Sirf saath?’ 
We both agree that we really love Hema’s character – so strong. A working woman, independent, and yet nurturing, without losing a shred of her self-respect or self-worth. Aghast at the chaos in the house, she sends them all off and begins to make some order out of the madness. Finally, it’s lunch time. And she’s impressed that her brothers-in-law have some manners. Oops!
Worse is to follow; as she walks away in anger, she overhears one of her brothers-in-law reminding Ravi that he had promised to bring them a maid, not a warden who would order them around. 
['I would have killed them.' 
S concurs. ‘At least Ravi has the decency to look ashamed.’
Ravi is genuinely ashamed of his behaviour. ‘Tumne ye achha nahin kiya, Ravi’, Indu tells him quietly. She had left the city, her job and her friends for him, while he had lied to her right from the beginning. 'Tumne mujhe dhoka kiya, mera dil toda.' ('You have deceived me, broken my heart.' Her hurt is palpable. Ravi apologises. 
[We both like that he doesn’t make any excuses while doing so. There’s a respect for her that transcends all the nonsense behaviour and we both go ‘awww’. ]

Ravi leaves the room promising to take her back to the city in the morning. Indu is still trying to make up her mind what to do, when her brothers-in-law troop in. Sunny is their spokesman, and they all apologise abjectly to her, explaining their lack of manners is due to ignorance of common civility rather than rudeness. 
She listens, and melts, gracious in her forgiveness

[S and I agree that we don’t often see a scene that is so beautifully shot in its restraint – there’s no emotional speech on her part, no melodramatic declamation, just being the mature person who listens to them, understands them, and chooses to stay. One gets the feeling that she stays not because ‘pati parameshwar hain’ but because she really does see the goodness underneath all the uncouth behaviour. Not once does she think – or say – that he’s done the right thing.]

The next morning, she sets out to clean the Aegean Stables. Come to think of it, that might have been an easier task than getting her new-found family to bathe. Finally, it’s another threat 'Main andar aaoon?' that gets them all shivering and shaken into the river. 
[S and I are thrilled to see a married woman in trousers and boots and nary a sign of maang mein sindoor. What a thrilling departure for a Hindi film heroine!]

Soon, everyone, including Ravi, who is appalled that he was supposed to bathe as well ('Shaadiwaale din hii dryclean ho-kar aaye the, bhai' is his explanation), is all spruced up and ready to go on a picnic. 
But Ravi has a sudden 'pet mein dard'. So the brothers go away, leaving Indu and Ravi alone. Indu, worried about her husband’s ill-health, is solicitous, but Ravi is aghast that she hasn’t understood. (Kamaal karti ho, Indu!)

Meanwhile at the beach, the boys have stumbled onto seven girls! 

The boys are just in time to spot a boulder (pushed over by MacMohan) on its way to smash Seema (Ranjeeta) into an inkblot on the ground. They’re quite pissed that she just sat there until the other girls, frolicking a little further, come along. There’s Asha (Asha Sachdev), Prema (Prema Narayan), Rajini (Rajini Sharma), Madhu (Madhu Malhotra), Aradhana (Aradhana), and Shobhini (Shobhini). They explain that Seema (Ranjeeta) is confined to a wheelchair. The other girls have been hired by Seema’s uncle to be her companions. 
The girls invite the six young men to a Red Cross Charity Ball on Sunday in order to thank them for saving Seema’s life. But who tried to have Seema killed? Well, it turns out that it’s her oh-so-concerned and attentive uncle, Ranjit Singh (Amjad Khan). 
Meanwhile the young men are having their hopes dashed. Their Bhabhi will have none of it – her darling devars have no idea how to behave in polite society. 
['She doesn’t mince words, does she?'  
'No, she’s brutal. Love it.
But the boys beg her to teach them, and she gives them a quick lesson. In song. 'Acting kar ke dikhaao, na?'
['I love the lesson; ‘How do you do?' Bolo, ‘I like you!’] Hema absolutely rocks this scene, and song, and Shalini notices another pair of boots. Needless to say, Hema looked gorgeous.
[Then, both of us: ‘Oooh, AB!]

Onwards to the party. Shalini and I are thrilled – this has to be the best party ever! All colour-coordinated outfits, guitar held like a gun and played like no instrument ever played before, choreography borrowed straight from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (though it fit this scene so well, I can’t complain) aaaaannnnnddd….. fight!  

Thus proving CivilisationTM is just a veneer. [' Overrated, really.'] Poor Indu! Afterwards, she lets them have an earful. Several earfuls!  
Now comes the man! Babu (Amitabh Bachchan)! [‘Freeze frame’, commands Shalini. I promptly obey, and we lust over his all-black clothes, his grey eyes, the theme music, the man, oh, the man…. ]
Ranjit Singh meets the professional assassin outside the jail, and hands him a new assignment: kill Seema. Back at the farmhouse, by now, the boys are in luvvvv. (The girls are in pretty much the same condition at their place.) While Indu is cooking in the largest pot I have seen outside a wedding feast preparation, the boys are losing their appetites, and mooning around the place at night, unable to sleep. 
We collapse laughing over Battiyaan bujhado…. ‘Battiyaan bujhaane se bhi neend nahin aayegi…’ but we are in awe of the choreography in the song, a non-dance song. Ravi can’t bear his brothers' morose looks any more. 
So he comes up with another one of his brilliant (hare-brained) ideas. (Didn’t the consequences of the last one teach you anything, Ravi?) He grabs all his brothers and they set off to kidnap the girls and bring them back to the farmhouse. (Looks like Sunny isn't the only intellectually challenged person in the family – what was Ravi going to do with them after?) So off they go, singing one of the most iconic cult songs ever, full of vim and verve. We are both agreed that this one of RD’s best songs. Ever. Lyrics, music, singing, lip-sync, picturisation, all meld together.
Finally, they reach Seema’s house, where the girls are also restless and in luvvv… The scene that follows is hilarious, and Shalini and I laugh out loud at the cat noises and the scream-less fainting… The kidnappers also seem to have come prepared with masks, and with bade bhaiyya supervising, they roll the girls in rugs and carry them off. Budh, unfortunately, is too weak to carry 'his girl' off and resorts to dragging her away by the hair. Ravi does his own kidnapping as well – Seema wanders out and sees him there and he has no other option. 

When they reach home with their ‘plunder’, it is to find an incensed Indu waiting for them. And while Ravi initially blusters at her stinging rebuke of his role in the night’s events ['Pyaar se utha laayein hain' as if that makes everything alright], he’s soon set right by his morally upright wife. ['I love how consistently this movie reinforces its messages.' We both agree that Indu is a very nice character indeed, so no-nonsense.]
So now the ‘boys’ (including Ravi) are outside while Indu plays guardian to seven young women. While she’s raked down the men (including Ravi) for their behaviour, she pleads with the girls for clemency – they are misguided but not evil. She also reassures them that their reputations and their honour are safe – as long as they stay at the farmhouse, the men (including Ravi) will not enter the house. The next morning, an abashed Ravi decides to set out for the town, but not before apologising to the young women. 
[We both love that he takes responsibility for his actions, agree that this film was, in many ways, ahead of its times. 'It is clear that his wife’s opinion really matters to him.'] Overhearing what he tells the girls, Indu quietly tells him that she will await his return.
[Once again, we are both impressed with how natural their relationship seems; the mutual love and respect, the fact that they are both equals in a relationship, is so awesome and inspiring.]

In town, Ranjit contacts Ravi, and asks if he can pick up the girls’ belongings. (Indu has already sent Ranjit a telegram to assure him that his niece is safe, and has told him that her husband is in town.) When Ravi drops in, Ranjit is shocked at having an ace so handily dealt him by the Fates.
This leads to one of the most iconic drunken scenes in the annals of Hindi cinema, and I do not exaggerate – Daaru peene se liver kharab ho jaata hai…  
[Apparently, 90% of this scene was ad-libbed between Amitabh Bachchan and Amjad Khan. Shalini wonders whether anyone can do such a long, complicated scene in one take today. I’m alternately in awe that the two actors, whose real-life camaraderie comes alive on screen, thought up these dialogues, and writhing in laughter at lines like koochie koo (while mentioning Sunny, and ‘gaay nahin, bhains’ while describing one of his other brothers).

By the end of the scene, Ravi is totally drunk, and Ranjit knows all there is to know about Ravi, his brothers, and the farm. The next morning, Ravi is on his way home when he’s kidnapped. 
['This is where the film slacked a bit. I agree; it would have been so much neater to just kidnap Ravi when he was lying drunk in Ranjit's living room. Why go to all this trouble? I suppose one could argue that if he were to be found missing while visiting Ranjit Singh, the latter would be in big trouble. Eh, whatever.]

One AB down, one to take his place. So Babu dyes his hair, changes his eyes from grey to brown. 
[We like him the way he is, but who’s listening to us?] So he lands up in the farmhouse where he’s at once ill at ease, surrounded as he is by Ravi’s affectionate siblings. Also, he soon discovers a fatal flaw in the plan – Ravi has a wife. Babu happens to be a villain with scruples and he stays far away from Indu, who thinks he is still upset at her anger that other night. Luckily for him, his 'brothers' make it easy for him to slip away.
[We had previously commented on how different Babu’s body language was from that of Ravi’s. Now, it seems he’s slipped too easily into the skin of his lookalike. He’s also very much at ease with ‘his’ brothers, and we wished they had spent a little more time emphasising the discomfort, the strangeness of the situation.]

Meanwhile, the girls are also lovesick, and Indu, struggling to keep the boys apart from the girls, finally gives up in resignation. ['The silliness is so good-natured and done with such aplomb that it never deteriorates into bathos.' I’m laughing too much to even type my agreement. I put in an emoji.]
However, amid all the camaraderie and bonhomie, Babu doesn’t forget what he’s come for. Spying Seema alone in the barn one day, he closes the door and advances towards her. Seema, at first unconcerned, quickly begins to suspect something is amiss. Babu advances, slowly pulling out a wicked knife as he does so. 
Seema screams in terror, and suddenly, gets up from the wheelchair and runs to open the doors, stumbling into Indu’s arms. Yup, she’s cured. (Apparently, her handicap was psychosomatic or because of trauma, or whatever... the film doesn't specify.) While she falteringly accuses Babu, whose knife clatters to the floor when he sees his ‘wife’ and ‘brothers’ at the door, Indu notices (finally!) that Seema had run to her. The boys are sure that Ravi had deliberately set out to scare Seema so she would walk again.

[We have been admiring AB’s eyes, the hands-in-the-pocket nonchalance, the creepiness of the scene, while at the same time laughing at the ‘filmi cure’ and the fact that he’s wearing light-coloured clothes, while trying to murder someone with a knife.]

Babu is nonplussed by their open admiration, and embarrassed by the look in Indu’s grateful eyes. He’s even more taken aback when Seema thanks him, and while he’s not really in character here  (as Shalini points out), the ensuing scene is so sweet that one forgives such unimportant points.
Soon, they are celebrating ‘Ravi’’s heroism, and Seema’s new-found 'freedom' from the wheelchair. [I’m ogling Amitabh, who’s looking dashing in a monochrome sweater.]
[Shalini is swooning over his ‘look’, but retains enough sanity to sound a cautionary note: AB is old enough to be our father. Such minor details are not important. He’s made my heart beat faster from when I was a pre-teen. Shalini, like Hema, gives up the unequal task of persuading me that we are being nuts, and goes back to swooning over the look that AB is giving Ranjeeta. 'Haaye!']
While we are still trying to get our breath back, Babu suddenly remembers that he’s supposed to be married to Indu. He's dragged into the farmhouse by Seema and the girls who inform them that they are overlooking his presence in the house because it is Karwa Chauth. Oh, no! Babu is pushed into the bedroom where Indu is waiting for him with the traditional aarti. Babu, being a villain with scruples, comes clean. A shaken Indu reveals the truth to her brothers-in-law, who are furious at being betrayed thus. They are on the point of beating him up when Indu intervenes. He could have done much worse.
[Here, Shalini and I had a mini-argument/discussion; S averring that this was inconsistent with Indu’s character, and me more laidback about it. Neither S nor I come from ‘feet-touching’ backgrounds, but I have seen my friends who do, and the most modern of them will go the whole hog on Karwa Chauth, fasting until they see the moon, eat only after they view their husband’s face, etc. Also, I have known many women who are a blend of modernity and tradition who would not blink an eye at the inherent contradictions in being a modern, independent, free-thinking, working woman, and finding joy in the traditional home-maker chores/wifely duties as well. We agreed to disagree. We were, however, in agreement that Babu is devastatingly handsome.]
There's the climax yet to come. You already know how much Shalini and I like this film; if that hasn’t convinced you that this is an epic film, then watch it because:
1. Satte pe Satta is a well-made film and it has aged well. It is clear they have put a lot of thought into every aspect. [It deserves all the love it can get; such respect for the female characters is so seldom seen in a mainstream film.] 
2.  The performances are top-notch.
3. The humour is in the dialogues and the situations.
4.  For the sheer camaraderie between the ‘brothers’. 
5.   The songs, the songs! RD, Kishore, Asha…. all the way.
6. Amjad Khan. The man was brilliant, especially in the Daaru peene se... sequence. 
7. The gorgeousness of Hema Malini. How. Beautiful. Is. She? Plus, how can you not love such a no-nonsense heroine? She’s got spunk, this girl!  
8.  Amitabh Bachchan. As Ravi. He was beyond gorgeous. He was so good-looking, so manly, so respectful, such all-round goodness. ['He was seriously hot in this one.' I second that.] 
9Amitabh Bachchan. As Babu. 'nuff said. 
So, Chain kuli ke nain kuli ki chain… what are you waiting for? Go watch, if you haven’t already. If you have, it’s time to watch again.

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