Saturday 26 April 2008

Swayamvar (1980)

The Brothers Charisma. Give us your daughters!

For a conservative fairy tale, Swayamvar (which roughly translates to the process by which a woman chooses her husband) is surprisingly touching. And for such a broad comedy, it is surprisingly funny as well. But sometimes all it takes to make a film is one good song, and we at the PPCC are just suckers for reprises of good songs as well. When movies with one good song and one reprise of that good song also contain one oddly true-to-life scene as well, that's it. We have been bought and sold right there. BOUGHT AND SOLD ON THE MARKET.

1 fab song + 1 reprise of fab song + 1 true-to-life scene = the PPCC's eternal subjectitude to the market

Check out Shashi's monster hairy hands!

No doubt this film owes a lot to the skill of its two leads: the kickin' Sanjeev Kumar and our beloved Shashi Kapoor. While normally these two got relegated to second and third banana roles in Amitabh Bachchan-starrers - for example, Trishul, Silsila - they made a number of movies in their own right - the passable Sawaal, the awful Mukti. The Shashjeev duo certainly has a different vibe compared with the Shashitabh: less angry, more relaxed. And Sanjeev and Shashi have such charisma that, combined, they are... something with lots of charisma!

Hi, I'm Sanjeev. I'm, like, so nice it makes you want to cry sometimes.

Hi, I'm Shashi. My hotness is a renewable source of alternative energy.

Once upon a time, there lived a girl named Cinderella. Err, I mean, Shanti (Vidya Sinha). Poor, orphaned Shanti had an evil stepmother, Durgadevi (Nadira), and an evil stepsister, Roopa (Moushumi Chatterjee). One day, a former employee of her late father came to the house and offered his two sons in marriage to the sisters. The evil stepmother, advised by her evil brother, sent him packing. But little did they know that his sons were the majestic Ram (Sanjeev Kumar) and the inshashibly fine Lakshman (the Shash). Yes, indeed! What a catch! Two catches! These two are righteous, noble, lovable and cuddly. They even help with the housework! Who could resist?! Anyway, per their father's instructions, the sons disguise themselves and gallop off to seduce the two sisters. Ram assumes the identity of an overexcitable servant, Ramu, in order to snag Cinderella, and Lakshman meanwhile does his usual Shashi thing and assumes the identity of Prince Maharawesome, who not only signs blank checks but also woos the hell out of spoiled stepsister Roopa. After some glowing smiles, some truly hilarious Shashcapades involving a scalp massage gone kinky, and a couple of wonderful songs, the girls are suitably wooed and wedded.

(And no, we will never get tired of making puns on Shashi's name. In fact, we'll verb it now!)

Hi again, Sanjeev here. My smile is so bright I can light up dark closets. I also know how to sieve flour.

Meanwhile, I, Shashi, can embarrass and charm you with my odd foreplay. Would you mind massaging my chest hair?

Unfortunately, Lakshman needs to shashify that Roopa loves him for his heart, or at least his shashishity, and not his money. He hatches a great scheme: he reveals himself to be a fraud and every night gets totally trashed (SHASHED!), stumbles back home and abuses everyone. Oddly, this doesn't appear to work, so he bucks up and tries harder. Stealing Roopa's necklaces for booze, attempting to make out with her uncle (Madan Puri!), leering drunkenly at her mother, and eventually singing a bizarre song which seems to imply that being an alcoholic is less bad than being snobbish. Well, we never really thought about it that way, but, uh... shash? Anyway, when Roopa refuses to join Lakshman after he is practically kicked out of the house, the movie seems to imply that she's neglecting her wifely duty. "A husband is your ultimate defender," the shashed-out Lakshman shashes. Well, sorry, man, but you're not exactly inspiring confidence right now.

Indeed, as Memsaab rightly notes, this might be lost in translation/time, because surely most women nowadays would find it actually quite easy to let their drunken husbands leave (even if they are so scrumptshashious). So it takes more glowing smiles, slumming it in the servant quarters, a comparison with a drunken Ranjeet (where, no duh, a drunken Shashi is preferable to a drunken Ranjeet) and one TRANSCENDENTAL REPRISE to finally tame Roopa into a humble, loving, dutiful wife. Disguises are removed, all is revealed, all are reunited, and yea verily there is much shash.

(Is the shashness getting tiresome? MWA HA HA, we shash not!)


Yet again.

So until the TRANSCENDENCE, we were enjoying the movie on an average level. We laughed a bit, here and there. The songs were nice. We especially appreciated Ram's extra-sweet, pro-girl power song to Cinderella, where he tells her, "Man, you should see what women are getting up to these days!" And damn, don't you think Sanjeev Kumar's smile should be on advertisements for tooth whitening products? Anyway, it was really the sequence when Lakshman and Roopa slum it that turned this film's sweetness on hyperdrive. Not only that, but SO sweet was this whole sequence - when Lakshman pretends not to notice how bad her cooking is, when she defends his pride in his absence, when they finally do it (yeah, really!) - that at one points it hits a wormhole of realism and becomes another movie entirely. Suddenly, laughing genuinely, Lakshman and Roopa become real, three-dimensional people.


The best scene in the movie. Or maybe the best scene in any movie anywhere.

Not that Hindi movies don't feature real people, but, well, OK, yes, usually they don't. Usually everyone's playing an archetype or cliche or themselves - an Angry Young Man, or a neglectful father, or a vamp, or Shashi, or whatever - and so you start to forget about realism and characterization. Unless you're watching Naseeruddin or Shabana, you're just not prepared for anything too genuine. Hence why the scene between Lakshman and Roopa is so surprising, and so rewarding, and so out-of-place seeming. These people don't belong here, in my little television screen, they belong in the big, wide world - living and breathing creatures as they are!

There's a bit of a cat fight over the brothers.

Fun Fact

Check out this guy's awesome imitations of Sanjeev and Shashi. It's true! Sanjeev does swallow all of his consonants!


Memsaab said...

Shashi and Sanjeev totally made this film. I loved it :-) You are right, too, about the scene between Lakshman and Roopa, it was incredibly sweet and real. Great screen shots you've posted as well!

Bollyviewer said...

"Shashcapades", "shashify", "shashed"!!! lol Are you going to do a post on the new dictionary of shashi words (shashictionary)?

Have to admit that inspite of the glowing presence of Shashjeev I couldnt really take to the movie - perhaps because of its strong "taming of the shrew" subtext, perhaps because I associate 80s Shashi with better movies like Kalyug, Vijeta and New Delhi Times. Anyhow... its the only Cinderella story that has a happy ending for the ugly step sister as well!

Beth Loves Bollywood said...

Personally I vote for "Shashinary," but we should consult with the S. P. Ministry of Culture.

This post has a very good scroll-down effect. I could tell it was Shashi by just the top of his head - well, and the fact that I was reading your site, which meant that Shashiness was likely.

That Swayamvar website does not exactly inspire in me the confidence I would want when having my match made.

PS I haven't gotten any further on DMJM yet but I did get about 20 screen caps from the first 10 minutes. Look for them in new banners soon.

Beth Loves Bollywood said...

I forgot to say that I literally LOLled at the renewable energy caption. My dog was startled from his nap and everything.

Crazy on Bollywood said...

Screen shots r good especially the duo scene Shashi and Mousumi.For ur kind information let me tell u 1 thing that Shashitabh pair is very very popular than Shashjeev.

squarecut.atul said...

This was a nice "Chandamama" kind of story, full of moral teachings. Considering that I was conditioned to be like that, I liked this movie, which was a typical South Indian movie ( social drama) before typical south Indian movies underwent a metamorphosis into Jeetendra- Sreedevi,Shakti Kapoor, Kader Khan kind of movies.