Saturday 3 May 2008

Roti Kapada Aur Makaan (1974)

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.


Memsaab said...

I hated this film. I think it's because I do not like being hit on the head with a blunt instrument. Also, being a white girl myself, I get tired of being called a drunken whore.

If you like this film though, you will probably like Purab Aur Paschim (to me, they are essentially the same movie)...There are trippy psychedelic scenes. No Shashi, but Vinod Khanna. Me being called a drunken whore.

Your review almost makes me want to give RKM another chance, though :-)

a ppcc representative said...

Ooh, Pran and Vinod Khanna...!! Too excellent! And I think I might know this film via the Twinkle Twinkle song (oh Lord).

Though, of RKM, I consider myself usually quite sensitive to gender issues and ethnic/nationalist issues when watching movies, and I didn't catch the white girl = drunken whore thing. How did I miss it? Are you talking about Poonam? (I thought she was actually quite a bad-ass character! Her end was unfortunately the standard end of 'bad girls' but I thought they built up quite a lot of interesting sympathy for her earlier.) I had actually put that down as another plus in favor of RKM: as much as Manoj was loving India, he (1) emphasized its problems and (2) didn't rope Westerners in as a target. Again, unless I missed something major?! Maybe I spent too much time watching for cuts! (Which OMG seriously they were really cool!)

The one thing that did bug me big-time was the fact that most of Madan Puri's thugs attacking Team India in the final free-for-all fight scene were Africans.

Crazy on Bollywood said...

I saw the movie RKM but can't remeber the fact of the movie.Pls give a little description about the movie.

Memsaab said...

Maybe RKM is not as bad as Purab Aur Paschim...or perhaps it was that time of the month when I saw it :-) In any case, I've lumped all of Manoj Kumar's directorial efforts together. Mr Bharat, indeed.

Ah yes, the Twinkle Twinkle song. That IS a highlight!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Oh my goodness- I have a weird relationshio with RKM- I've always wanted to watch it because of Shashitabh, but Manoj's presence in it has always prevented me from doing so. After your review though, I may finally take the plunge, after all this time...:D

And Shashi is beautiful- if he is plastic, I will love plastic forever.

Bollyviewer said...

Manoj Kumar movies are to be avoided at all costs! His brand of patriotism is nauseatingly Manoj-centric and awfully uninteresting. The funny things is, I knew about the exisetence of RKM - through the songs on TV - but discovered the exisetence of Shashi in it only recently. So, now it is on my "to watch" list. :-) So is another of Manoj's "patriotic" movies - Kranti - which also has Shashi.

Long Haired Spider said...

I really enjoy RKM, mostly because of Shashi (swoon) and Manoj's direction. My husband and I have a running joke: "Is Manoj on the premises?", said whenever there's some weird directorial/cinematographic stuff going on.

a ppcc representative said...

Lovin' all the Shashi love in the comments. To Shweta and BV - definitely watch RKM, it was absolutely fab! We went into it heavily prejudiced against Manoj and came out of it praising him as a director and hero! At least, in this film, he's excellent.

Crazy on Bollywood - Please see above for a description of the story and review of the film!

a ppcc representative said...

Oh and forgot to say: Welcome, Long Haired Spider! A new Shashi lover, whoopee!

Beth Loves Bollywood said...

It's both highly satisfying in key areas like Shashitabhiness and also the bluntest of blunt instruments. But enjoyable. Aaaaa! I'm conflicted.

Crazy on Bollywood said...

It would b nice if u post another sashitabh mega movie DEEWAR.G8 movie."Rahim chacha agla hopta ek kuli hopta dene se inkar korega"

"Dabor sab main aaj bhi feke huya paisa nahi uta tha"

"Mere pas maa hai"

Hw can u ignore it?shocked.

a ppcc representative said...

Beth - I know! This film makes me feel v. conflicted too - I thought I wasn't supposed to like Manoj Kumar, and yet I do! At least, I've only seen this film and it was so fab. So, so lovely.

Crazy on Bollywood - Getting to it, getting to it. Though I should warn you: I didn't like it very much. (I know! I don't know why either.) I'm going to give it a third shot and see if it sticks this time.

Filmi Girl said...

I had no idea that everyone hated Roti Kapada aur Makaan! *sob* I loved it!

Perhaps I don't mind being hit over the head with a blunt instrument when that blunt instrutment is Manoj Kumar/Shashi Kapoor shaped and has good songs.

To be honest, I don't think Manoj Kumar is as anti-White as he is anti-materialism. I was more offended watching Namastey London than with this one.

Purab aur Pachhim is also very excellent. Pran, in particular, has a very juicy part. Vinod Khanna doesn't really register, but Saira Banu will knock your socks off as Preeti.

Anonymous said...

I LOVED LOVED LOVED this film! Thanks for the great pictures and review. RKM had too much fun-angst to not enjoy. I like your description of the third brother:
"The youngest brother, Deepak (some guy)" quite right. It's my first Manoj film too other that OSO reference, and I must see more of his face touching, slow-low talking. In fact, I wanted to talk like him after seeing this. And the sewer scene was fantastically sick, ah the poor bebe! Plus I loved all the heavy handed symbolism,e.g. "Bharat is in trouble" or "We must support Bharat." Finally any film with amputations is firmly in my dil, and this film had 2, Tulsi's dad and Amitabh. LOVED it!
All the best!

Hans Meier said...

I thought this film was over-the-top in a negative way, for once, what with all this pathetic patriotism and self-pity and such (i do love real masala like Amar Akbar Anthony etc. etc., or Deewaar, for a change). Now with your review, it provides a new attitude which could still find the flick pathetically patriotic and self-pitying, but enjoy it anyway. Hm.

Would have loved more of Amitabh Bachchan though, really don't care for this wimp Manoj.

Hans Meier said...


Propertymesh said...

Property mesh Provides Property in delhi, Residential Property in delhi, Delhi Property dealers, Commercial Property in delhi, Flats in delhi, Delhi flats

Unknown said...

The Shashi Kapoor is dead. Long live the Shashi Kapoor!

The True Indians said...