This week, we at FilmiGoris had been talking about the all-too-common phenomenon of multiple identities in Hindi film. From one character pretending to be entirely different people, to the same actor playing different characters, to two different plotlines involving the same character/actor, this meme has a number of forms. There were too many to discuss in one post, so this one will cover two of the “justifiable-deception-disguise-for-romance’s-sake” type of plots that we enjoyed.
Julie M: Anurodh (Request, 1977) is a romantic comedy/farce with a healthy dollop of melodrama, Indian-style. It is also the first Hindi movie I have seen where the romance aspect of the story is not tidily wrapped up in the end (more on that later). Still it was very entertaining, and I’d give it at least 3 stars out of 5. It might stretch to a solid 4 stars if I was in a sentimental mood. The film is available free online with English subtitles, on YouTube, in parts, starting here.
Arun (Rajesh Khanna) and his best friend Srikanth (Vinod Mehra), a singer and songwriter, respectively, are introduced in the credits song.
Arun is gaining some measure of fame, recording and performing live on radio under the name Sanjay–just Sanjay, like Cher–so as not to unduly annoy his father (Utpal Dutt), a wealthy and prominent businessman who disapproves of his son’s career. He also refuses to give live concerts or even have a publicity photo taken, lest someone see his face and connect him to his father. One day the tension between them blows up and Arun leaves home, regretfully leaving behind the poor-but-supremely-talented Srikanth and his widowed mother Radha (Nirupa Roy, who always played dramatic mother roles awesomely–she was famously Amitabh Bachchan’s character’s mother in both Deewar and Amar Akbar Anthony).
Jenny K: A while back I went on a real binge of movies about playback singers, of which this plot reminds me. The best of them were Tehzeeb with Shabana Azmi and Urmila Matondkar as famous singer and daughter, and Saaz, another with Shabana and Aruna Irani as a loosely disguised biopic of singing sisters Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, and their fractious rise to the top of the playback heap. Both are very interesting films, by the way. It seems that life in the audio spotlight is no bed of roses.
Julie M: Clearly, as we learned from Abhimaan…moving on, Arun arrives in Calcutta to stay with his merry mechanic friend Bishan Singh (Asrani) and his wife (an enchantingly bubbly Preeti Ganguli), and on one rainy night he fixes the car of a spoiled rich girl, Sumita (Simple Kapadia, in her debut role), with whom he falls in love. Adorable song occurs after the meeting, where in a radio performance the next day Sanjay tells the story of how he met a girl in the rain the night before, and all he has left of her is her handkerchief.
Jenny K: The radio song reminds me of the scene in Dil Se where Shah Rukh tells the story of the meeting on the train on air, and then later attracts Manisha’s attention with the Ajnabee song. Could be an homage, but a bit more haunting, and less cute. And here it is, alas with no subtitles…but he scarcely needs it.
Julie M: Nice catch! Could very well be an homage. The car incident leads to her grandfather (Ashok Kumar) offering him a position as the family’s driver. In order to stay near Sumita Arun accepts, pretending to be a rather dull, talkative guy named Pritam. Arun then starts to lead a triple life, driving as Pritam by day, performing as Sanjay when he can and as himself, trying to remain in touch with Srikanth.
Things sometimes get comically hairy, particularly after he intercepts a letter from his father to Sumita’s grandfather that indicates that Sumita is the girl his father wants him to marry, and then he finds out that Sumita is a big Sanjay fan. There is a good Shammi-esque song/scene where he arranges to meet Sumita as Sanjay and serenades her, but never lets her see his face:
We also find out that the grandfather is a tragic figure, having lost his only son to violence during the Independence movement–he has built an orphanage in his honor and visits there frequently.
Then one day Srikanth and his mom Radha fetch up in Calcutta, Srikanth very ill with TB. An operation can save him, but how to get the money? Arun proposes, against his better judgment, to give a live Sanjay concert to earn the funds, but this violation of his principle to conceal his true identity upsets Srikanth and he runs down to the river to commit suicide. Just as he is about to throw himself in he hears children singing a happy song–one of his own compositions–of course it is the children at Sumita’s grandfather’s orphanage, where he is leading them, so he wanders over.
Jenny K: I know I may just be an old grinch, but the emotionally wrenching kids chorus thing never really moves me. Not in Mann with Manisha or in the original, An Affair to Remember with Deborah Kerr…do you think you and I are changing places?
Julie M: Maybe on this one issue…I actually liked the kids’ patriotic singing in Pardes and K3G…but it seems to work for Srikanth. He learns how happy his music makes the world, gains a new lease on life, and tells Arun that he can go ahead and give the concert. As everyone gathers at the hospital for what looks like will be Srikanth’s death, Sumita’s grandfather recognizes Radha as his dead son’s wife–which means Srikanth is his grandson. SHOCK!!
Arun’s parents and Sumita show up at the concert, and the identity deception is unveiled with far less melodrama than you’d think: check out the flash of mild surprise on Sumita’s face in the beginning of the performance, and pretty much that’s all the reaction there is. And of course Dad’s objections to Sonny Boy’s singing career instantly evaporate.
Srikanth’s operation is, of course, simultaneous with the concert—the video clip shows it—so Arun records his performance, and plays it back to an unconscious Srikanth in the presence of the rest of the gang, again, to not much drama from Sumita’s grandfather to find out his driver is a national singing sensation. (clearly that family doesn’t surprise easily where Arun is concerned) Srikanth then opens his eyes, and cut to a final scene at the orphanage where everyone is hale, healthy and singing the same happy song with the kids that kept Srikanth from killing himself.
There are no big production numbers in this film. The costumes were actually rather tasteful for the era, even Simple’s bright-yellow pantsuit looking pretty good, but there was an unfortunate brown tam-and-poncho set worn by Sumita’s friend plus Rajesh Khanna had supremely bad hair throughout the entire thing. Oddly, also, Arun and Sumita are not shown as together in the end–no scene of fathers blessing them, no big shaadi celebration. They aren’t even standing anywhere near each other in the final scene. Kyaaa?
Jenny K: No?!?!? Who do they think they are, generating that little heat? Aish and Viveik in Kyun! Ho Gaya Na…?
Julie M: [sound of snorting] The point of this movie, despite the romantic farce scenes and the TRIPLE identity (we thought double-identity was bad!), seems to be the deep friendship and abiding loyalty between Arun and Srikanth. So deep, in fact, that after the first scene showing the friendship between the two of them and a succeeding scene with Arun’s insistence that he wasn’t ever going to marry, I could have sworn that there was going to be a very shocking gay plotline. Alas, this is still India in 1977 and clearly that was not going to happen. But it was weird not to see the couple end up happily in love by the end.
Jenny K: Welcome to the home country of the film bromance! It may be new and trendy here in the US, but all the real emotional connection of equals in love in Indian film are man on man. Always have been. No putting your arm around your girl in public, but your best male yaar, now that’s an altogether different prem kahani. You can never sacrifice too much, or express it too clearly, either. Akshaye Khanna hanging onto a freshly sharpened blade to defend his buddy Sanjay Kapoor in Mohabbat, comes to mind.
Julie M: This one certainly fit that mold! Anyway, it was fun for a film I knew nothing about, and I was introduced to the glories of Vinod Mehra, who for a supporting actor was surprisingly riveting. And even when he was deathly ill, coughing blood and sweating profusely, he still had great hair. And isn’t that what really matters?
[a day or two later]
Jenny K: When I was looking around on Youtube for something, I came across a mention of a Hrithik Roshan film that I hadn’t seen?!?! Imagine! It came out in 2002 and was called Na Tum Jaano Na Hum (Neither You Nor I Know). Still early in Hrithik’s career, it was also Esha Deol’s second film…and wonder of wonders, I actually found her quite charming in this film! To add to the bargain, the third wheel in the show is, once again, the Official Bollywood Spare Male at the time, Saif Ali Khan.
The plot supposed to be a version of The Shop Around the Corner/Bells are Ringing/She Loves Me, etc. Boy and Girl have never met, but come to connect through a random letter found in a library book where the guy, Rahul (Hrithik) is writing to his hypothetical ideal woman (unlikely plot point #1, how often does that happen?). The college girl who finds the letter (Esha) sees herself in what Rahul’s looking for, and goes on a nationwide radio show on a dedications program to try to find him… which she does. UPP #2.
Esha then writes to him, saying she’s a good girl, who can’t go against her parents…at least not yet, and wants to get to know him by writing back and forth through PO boxes for over THREE YEARS. UPP #3. They then fall in love, long distance with the aid of letters, small gifts and chats with the full moon…and mysterious red-garbed back up dancers.
Well, if you can get past the various unlikelyhoods, and there are a couple of cute songs, etc to help you swallow them, you also have to get by the second roadblock in the way of true love…Rahul is the typical self-sacrificing best friend of Akshay (Saif) who is a playboy who his parents think will never settle down. Rahul promises Akshay’s mother that he’ll find the right girl for his friend, one that will make Akshay fall seriously in love.
So fate, and Saif’s aunt, throws Esha and Rahul together, when Esha’s family’s bridalwear company want to hire the best up-and-coming fashion photographer, Rahul, to come to their town to shoot the new ads.
Julie M: Oh, I can see where this is going…
Jenny K: Saif’s aunt has fortuitously set up a new girl for Akshay to match with, also Esha, and Akshay will only agree if his best friend vets her. Two birds with one trip, right? They even end up doing an impromptu music video together for the company. Not too unusual, but I do enoy watching HR move…I think Esha was there dancing, too, but I’m never quite sure when he’s onscreen tripping the light fantastic.
Will they fall in love? Which one will she choose? When will she/he/they find out that Esha and “Box Girl” are one and the same? What will Rahul do when he finds out Akshay’s really in love for the first time? These and other not-really-surprises, unfold at a leisurely pace with the typical Mohabbat/KHNH mix of songs, sniffles and shaadis. I liked it, not earthshakingly memorable, but sweet, and a fine indoor afternoon timepass. Free on Youtube with subtitles but in fifteen parts. Here’s Part I.
Julie M: I’ll have to watch that one. The writing-back-and-forth is too similar to Mujhse Dosti Karoge (another 2002 Hrithik starrer, also involving fraudulent identities when he spends 10 years thinking he’s writing to hot Kareena when he’s actually been writing to, and falling in love with, nerdy Rani who’s been corresponding in Kareena’s name…big surprises all around when they get together in person!) to pass up a comparison, and I’ve liked nearly all of the Shop Around the Corner derivations that I’ve seen. She Loves Me and You’ve Got Mail are my favorites, although the radio dedication program in this seems suspiciously like the one in Sleepless in Seattle.
Jenny K: And pulling from closer to home, the dedications program in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai … “Come home, Anjali!” These shows must be more prevalent in India than we know.