This one goes out to all the bleeding heart liberals in the house!
And this one's for all my psychadelic hippies in the hooouse!
The PPCC has several buttons. If you push these buttons, we will be eternally in your subjectitude. These buttons are:
1. A proletarian aesthetic.
2. Jump cuts between contrasting scenes, tracking shots that either follow or pass by characters, tasteful slow-motion, and the cunning use of wind machines.
3. Shashi Kapoor with long curls.
4. Ass-kicking heroines.
5. Little babies.
6. A hero who smolders like his cigarettes and broods like his chickens.
7. A blunt, bleeding-heart socioeconomic message.
Roti Kapada Aur Makaan (Food, Clothes and Shelter) has all this and more. It also has some seriously mental psychadelic song sequences, lots of fun and innovative imagery, proto-Shashitabh who eventually steal the show, several awesome songs, several reprises of awesome songs, and enough symbolism to sink a boat with.
Epic songs by the disadvantaged.
Shashi looking so fine he looks like a plastic doll. According to some people.
We should probably say: this movie goes for your heart, your stomach and your brain with a battering ram. The PPCC prefers loud, blunt symbolism over hollow subtlety any day, so we loved this movie. Like loved it big time. It was fun, it was tragic, it was truly epical. Yeah! Even Manoj Kumar, who we only knew via the Om Shanti Om scandal and his way oversensitive behavior regarding it, even that guy, managed to be a compelling hero and an excellent director. You go, Manoj, you use that glitter and you brood the hell out that scene and you keep touching your face, man! Go, man, go!
The songs! The fashion! The unshaven, returning hero Amitabh! The unshaven, gilded bourgeoise Shashi! The sacrificial Zeenat! The everything!
But let us begin at the beginning. Cue entrance of Bharat (Manoj Kumar, or, as he'd prefer, Mr. India Himself). Bharat is the older brother of a swarming family. He has a degree and cannot find a job. The middle brother, Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan, very proto-himself) is angry and young (!). The youngest brother, Deepak (some guy), is part of the wallpaper until the end. Anyway, Bharat's girlfriend, Sheetal (Zeenat Aman), is fun and zesty and lands a job secretarying for this incredibly hot businessman, Mr. Mohan (The Shashi Kapoor). It's not long before Sheetal melts in Mr. Mohan's hotness like butter in the microwave. Bharat is hurt, almost inconsolable. He touches his face a lot.
Bharat lands a job at a building company. He befriends the zesty, proletarian Tulsi (Moushumi Chatterjee) and the Sikh stereotype (Prem Nath). Tulsi is a rape victim. In maybe the bluntest symbolism we've seen in a while, Tulsi was gang-raped by the Food Man, the Clothes Man, and the Shelter Man. OMG.
The highly disturbing, highly stylized rape scene.
Honestly, we think this might be one of the most gorgeous moments ever captured on film.
So basically everyone's under a lot of economic pressure, like big time. Bharat is freaking out. His dad passes away. He has no money. His girlfriend just left him for Mr. Heartbreaker Kapoor. Argh! Bharat starts to fall in with the wrong crowd: a bunch of smugglers, gangsters, and economic evildoers led by an evil Madan Puri and an interestingly morally ambiguous Poonam (Aruna Irani).
Thankfully, the return of a one-armed brother, the gregariousness of the Shash, the love of his girlfriend, and the massive brawn of Prem Nath help Bharat save himself, first, and then save India. It really is a wonderful movie.
Another moment from out favorite song, wherein Manoj is wonderfully sweet and poignant. The bit when he sings his verse is just lush.
We just loves ensemble casts where everyone fits together like puzzle pieces and everyone is sympathetic. And they all work together to make a better world, sigh! But to say that made the movie for us would be untrue, because what we loved and enjoyed - more! more! - was the crazy, intense imagery and the film's overall aesthetic style. It was so freaking interesting. Manoj Kumar seems to have taken a big lesson out of the Woody Allen school of directing, because he favored lovingly long shots which zoom in, zoom out, pan across the room, follow characters, linger on meaningful objects, return to the action, and so forth. Several conversations were shot in single takes! Yeah! Manoj also favored geometric patterns and classical set-ups, where tension is built via lighting or stares. Yeah yeah!
Their heads form a diagonal, their lines of sight form the tension. Gush!
And (big and here) the songs! They ranged from the absolutely tripping Main Na Bhuulunga - the anthem of Bharat and Sheelat's love, which became more and more poignant with each reprise (three!) - to the stylized and geometrical Aur Nahin Bas Aur Nahin, to the sublime and proletarian Mahengai Mar Gai (memories of Immaan Dharam's gorgeous Konjam Konjam!), to the bittersweet and zany Panditji Mere Marne Ke Baad. Guh. We loved 'em all. ALL. We loved the moment after Aur Nahin when the Shash has clearly understood everything, he blows out the fire ("A singer like that ignites fire in the audience's hearts!"), and engages in a slightly sinister, slightly piss-take, slightly joyous whistling reprise! (And note that when Zeenat and Shash start clapping and spinning, it's all one take.) We loved the moment when poor, hopeful Tulsi, who can't stop talking about how great Bharat is, gushes, "Oh, Dad, you know what he said once?!" And the scene zips to Mahengai Mar Gai, where the singer croons, "They said, 'Who are you?' I said, 'Your love.'"
But we could fill up a book with all the little moments we loved. We took more than 50 screencaps of the movie, because there were so many beautiful little shots that we wanted to keep. But how can you catch a cloud and pin it down? Alas, we lose the kinetic magic of the movie itself in just posting some stills like this.
We loved the tension in this song. So emo! So complex!
In terms of performances: first, as we said, Manoj Kumar was bad-ass awesome as the brooding, struggling, weight-o'-the-world-right-here first son. Like Zeenat, we were torn: Shashi's the hottest thing since fire, but poor Manoj - look at him! He's gonna get a pimple if he keeps rubbing his hands all over his face like that! Indeed, we felt a lot better when (spoiler spoiler) Shashi rights his inadvertent wrong and joins the Amitabh jodi instead (where he belongs, you could say). Manoj only became annoyingly preachy towards the end, but this was also because he was starting to get outshone by Shashitabh and Zeenat. Which brings us to: Shashitabh and Zeenat! Shashitabh first. Both Amitabh and Shashi were FINE in 1974, gush. Or, as my friends never tire of pointing out, Shashi looked like a plastic doll. Whatever. A FINE plastic doll. It was odd to watch these two towering icons of awesomeness play second banana to the face-touching guy, but then they ended up becoming progressively more and more awesome until their sheer force of awesomeness could not be denied. We can just imagine the Bombay producers in those cinema seats: "Look at these two! That's GOLD, right there. Freakin' GOLD." Zeenat, likewise, was kicking ass big time - and, while we usually share Beth's weariness with the whole self-sacrificing archetype in Hindi cinema, we actually got quite weepy during that one scene where... you know. We won't say it.
When there's something bad, in the neighborhood. Who you gonna call?
The freakin' Shashitabh, that's who. I ain't 'fraid o' no ghost.
All in all, this was the type of the movie where we ended up yelling into our TV screen, "GET HIM!" and, when the credits rolled, "SEQUEL. WE MUST HAVE A SEQUEL." The sequel could be called The Black Ishtone.