We're always so charmed by Raj Kapoor's visuals.
Or just visuals of Raj Kapoor. Young, thin, Byronic. Triple yeah!
The plot: Gopal (Prem Nath) and Pran (Raj Kapoor) are two studs on the prowl, cruising along the Indian countryside in their trendy wheels. It should be noted that both are phemonally good-looking. Anyway, Gopal is a bit of a dallier - he's got a girl in every hamlet, you know what I mean? Meanwhile, Pran is the sensitive poet of the two. So far so standard. Every year they rock up to a hillstation or something. Gopal pays a visit to his frequent lay, Neela (Nimmi), a poor mountain girl who does nothing but wait for him to return. Pran, like the PPCC, is disgusted and highly disapproving of Gopal's dallying, but, well, what can ya do. The two rent a house from some dude whose daughter happens to be the likable Reshma (a gorgeous, young Nargis). Both men are taken with Reshma - as would anyone, she's just so cute! - but for Pran, it becomes something more, and soon enough, the Raj-Nargis energy supply source is activated. Honestly, the heady scenes of their courtship are reason enough to watch this film, and the PPCC spent most of the time gushing to Beth about how gorgeous Raj is, how wonderful Raj-Nargis are, and - OMG - are those the looming Sitars of Sex, I hear?
The Raj-Nargis chemistry, on high.
Prem Nath's looking quite the stud himself these days.
They're actually not, we were just having Dum bhar jo udhar munh phere flashbacks. Pran and Reshma have a platonic-yet-passionate courtship, and soon enough the wedding sitar - no, violin - no, shehenai - is playing. But one evening, when Reshma's father catches Reshma on her way out to meet Pran, he assumes - like the PPCC did, honestly - that she's going to get some Raj some'n some'n. There follows a bizarre scene that ends with Reshma sort of drowning.
Now begins the usual forced separation of intensely-in-love lovers. Reshma is fished out of the river by the huge brute, Bholu (K.N. Singh, who plays Jagga the Dacoit in Awaara). Bholu, struck by Reshma's prettiness, decides he will wed her as soon as she comes round. Meanwhile, Pran, presuming Reshma is dead, spirals down into the usual unwashed, unshaven lover's depression/madness thing. The lovers get to sing matching his and hers songs of painful longing, as well as a gorgeous duet - Chodd Gaye Balam (My beloved has left). Several close calls occur, according to the Law of !ncredible Indian Irony, where the lovers are almost reunited. Much drama occurs of the usual La Traviata style and we should note that, in the end, the PPCC cried.
Barsaat shares many similarities with Raj Kapoor's later work, Awaara. Both feature strong, stylized visuals that make ample use of dramatic lighting, sharp diagonals, textured black and white, and frequent shots of the sky. The music in both includes at least one large choral number and a couple longing solos - as Philip Lutgendorf's review aptly describes, these songs are like arias which lend an operatic-feel to both films.
Indeed, Raj, when he was on top of his game, had a humanistic grandeur that is just immensely satisfying to watch. When Raj was good, he was really good. Better than his brother, the PPCC's beloved Shashi. Better than anyone else in the Kapoor clan. Better even than Naseeruddin Shah, the PPCC's benchmark for Best Indian Actor. Raj was transcendental.
Do you feel the drama? FEEL THE DRAMA.
Unfortunately, Raj was also highly, highly variable. The PPCC has seen 5.5 of his films so far: this, Awaara, Teesri Kasam, Sangam, Aag, and half of Shree 420. And our verdict on these films and, specifically, Raj's performances, has ranged from transcendental to, well, astonishingly bad. It's not that he was an incapable actor. It was just that he was clearly very talented, and he seems to have become very well-appreciated at a very young age (his first film as a director was Aag, which came out when he was 24), that his performances could sometimes feel incredibly self-indulgent. A bit like the Kenneth Branagh effect (though, OK, Kenneth gets a lot of flack and Indulgent Ken has never been as difficult to digest as Indulgent Raj).
Also, his most famous persona - the Chaplinesque tramp character of Shree 420 and some scenes in Awaara - now rings annoyingly cheesy to our 2008 eyes. As a result, the PPCC has never liked over-the-top comedy Raj, nor have we liked over-the-top melodrama Raj - both performance types are so loaded with affectations and self-conscious posturing. Instead, when Raj was restrained - Teesri Kasam is a perfect example - he was so good. SO GOOD. In Barsaat, we would estimate that he was about 60% amazing Awaara Raj, and about 40% OTT Raj. This is a tolerable mix, and makes for generally fine viewing.
Aww, Nargis was so pretty in this.
The Mao hat, which Beth spotted first. Later in the film, the actor who plays Bholu's local pandit looks Chinese, too.
But that's only talking about his performances. Director-wise, we have enjoyed all of his films (with the possible exception of the overused two-tone color filters he used in Satyam Shivam Sundaram).
The music of Barsaat is, as usual for Shankar-Jaikishen, top-notch. There was an interesting selection of classical Western pieces which serve as background music - we're philistines, so we can't tell you who they were. Uh, Chopin? Beethoven? Liszt? Honestly, it could be anyone. We have no idea. But we do know that our favorite song was Chodd Gaye Balam - such bittersweet melancholy! Such transcendental bliss! Clearly, Chodd Gaye Balam is the new Ham Tujhse Mohabbat here at the PPCC. Chodd Gaye Balam is like Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, if the latter was an old Hindi film song and not a young adult book. You know what we're saying? SUBLIME FROM ANOTHER DIMENSION.