I have never attempted a movie review before and I am not sure if I could write one. I don’t think I know enough of the art and craft of film-making to make a sound judgement. But what I can comment upon is how a film touches me as a viewer, if it stikes a chord in me somewhere and succeeds in entertaining me, transporting me to its own magical world while I watch it.
Yesteryear filmmakers like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Basu Chatterjee and Sai Paranjape excelled at this brand of simple, realistic yet entertaining cinema. As I watch their stories unfold, the characters feel like long lost friends or family, or at the very least, people I wish I could meet. And I empathize with all that is happening to them on screen.
I share the excitement of the pranksters in Golmaal, Guddi, Chupke Chupke and Rang Birangi, agonize over the simple problems of the young couples in Piya Ka Ghar and Abhimaan and share the camaraderie of the friends in Chashmebadoor. I watch with bated breath the struggles of the protagonists in Swami and Apne Paraye, root for the underdog in Katha and Choti Si Baat and just can’t help the tears flowing down my face as I watch Ashok Kumar watch a piece of his heart fly away in Mili.
These are simple heart-warming stories of everyday life, gently poking fun at our foibles and finding humor in the most mundane of situations. They display a genuine insight into the common man, his problems and his triumphs, his middle-class values and his abiding spirit. And they are crafted with a great deal of thought and love, which is probably why they touch us so.
The characters in Apne Paraye bicker among themselves but the love they feel for each other is still evident. Recall the scene where Utpal Dutt tells his wife about how he signed away all the village property to Sheila to teach her husband a lesson? Or where he isn’t paying any attention when his wife is complaining about Sheila and absentmindedly rebukes one of his sons in the hope that it would stop his wife’s tirade?
The clock ticks five and the office-goers in Choti Si Baat, Katha and Rang Birangi close their account books and are ready to go take the bus home. (Bombay, with its then clean and green roads and relatively uncrowded buses is almost like another character in these movies.) Summer vacations in Guddi are spent visiting relatives in a distant town. Friends gather home for an impromtu chat-cum-music session in Golmaal and a young couple and their friends have time enough to enact an elaborately staged drama for the Jija’s benefit in Chupke Chupke.
All this might seem absurd in today’s fast and competitive times, but that’s the charm these movies hold for me. I do enjoy the variety of genres, the superior technique, the twists and the turns, the bold themes and the street-smart humor in today’s multiplex movies. But somewhere, something is missing. A touch of simplicity or perhaps the lure of a gentler, more affectionate time. Maybe I am a nostalgic old fool. But I think a touch of love is missing somewhere.