Saturday 6 December 2008

Woh 7 Din (1983)

Padmini Kolhapure seducing the silly but lovable Anil Kapoor in Woh 7 Din.

Woh Saat Din (Those Seven Days) is a deeply likable, small-scale film. It's like Chicken Soup for the PPCC Soul, since it's ambitions are middling, its successes are mild, and its general vibe is one of comfortable charm. A drama of the heart, it has no villains and no meltdowns (a little unfortunately, since we just love it when Anil melts down). It just has some gentle tugging of the heart strings and - voila! The end.

That may make it sound dull, and it's true that the pacing is relaxed and unhurried. But once you get into it, the simplicity worms its way into your heart. All the characters are quirky and sympathetic, with funny little peccadilloes, and the vibe is one of sweet humanism. It reminded us of R.K. Narayan's books - and who doesn't love R.K. Narayan?! (Well, apart from Shashi Tharoor.) No one!

The story begins with a visibly unhappy couple on their wedding day: Maya (Padmini Kolhapure) and Dr. Anand (Naseeruddin Shah; long time no see at the PPCC, Naseer!). On the chilly nuptial night, Maya tries to kill herself. After discreetly pumping her stomach without waking the neighbors, Anand comes to the reasonable conclusion that, "If the bride tries to kill herself on her wedding night, the wedding was probably forced. So what's the problem, Maya?" Maya relates her story and we learn that, back in the day, her family had sublet their room to an affable pair of struggling street musicians - Prem Pratap (Anil Kapoor), self-proclaimed pride of the Punjab, and his cheeky assistant, Chottu (Master Raju). These two are bumbling, passionate, silly and proud. They make an endearingly screwy couple: Prem, who's eyes light up with dreams of becoming the next Laxmikant-Pyarelal, is an absent-minded and impractical dreamer with a proud Punjabi streak. Chottu is wiser and sassier, pumping Prem up and also bearing the brunt of his frustrations via repeated bitch slaps.

The screwball duo.

It's not long before Maya falls for the pair - in particular the highly eligible Prem. But her cheeky attempts at flirtation - sending samosas upstairs "with love from sister-in-law" or not-so-coyly showering under his balcony - are met with baffled incomprehension. Prem's just too busy thinking about his harmonium to have any time to think about... his other harmonium. Except no! His "coy and unavailable" act was just that - an act - since it soon comes out that he secretly loves Maya back but fears her strict family's ambitious marriage plans. "I know I'd be too poor for them," he sighs.

OK, everyone take a minute to emit the collective, "Awwwww!"

Indeed, after the plan to elope ends in ass-kicking disaster, Maya is hurriedly married off to the neighborhood widower and money-wallah, Dr. Anand. Back in the present, Anand hears all this and decides to track down the elusive Prem once and for all. What happens when he does manage to find him - well, you'll have to watch for yourself.

Master Raju as Chottu was hilarious. And doesn't Shashi wear that same outfit in Trishul? Or was it Amitabh in Don?

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Woh 7 Din is how sympathy slowly moves from character to character and ends up squarely on Anand. It begins with Maya, so that Anil Kapoor has a difficult task in that he must make the "other man" appealing. In this respect, he succeeds greatly. The flashback scenes are suffused with humor and humanism, so that we can definitely feel Maya's longing and nostalgia. Oh, those were the days! But, most interesting of all, the sympathy then manages to move from the two lovers to Naseeruddin Shah's Anand. Slowly but fundamentally, we realize just what a "devda" (god) this guy is, so that, by the end of the titular seven days, when Maya has by then fully experienced the Elysial Anand household and Anand himself has been busy tracking Prem down, everyone (audience and characters) is a bit conflicted about whether a reunion would be the best idea after all.

Even though we've been binging on Anil these last two weeks, this film really belongs to Naseer. His character is great - progressive, humanist, feminist (!) - and Naseer plays him with quiet dignity. We were reminded of his lovable roles in Masoom and Sparsh - yet even those characters were flawed, whereas Anand is clearly a Perfect Being. Perfection can be a drag, but Naseer makes Anand human as well. His baffled joy at Prem and Chottu, when he finally finds them, is very affecting - he just seems so happy, curious and bewildered (they are a screwy pair, as we said). Later, his grief over his mother is poignant and real. Go, Naseer! You definitely captured our heart by the end of this film. Master Raju was a lot of fun as Chottu. This kid, a bit too old to still be called a child actor as he was in his 70s films, was a hoot and a great foil to Anil Kapoor's Prem. Padmini Kolhapure was very effective at portraying the poor, conflicted Maya - also, like Anil's Prem, she did very well at showing us someone who was lovable, cheeky, young but ultimately immature and flawed. The scenes when she hesitates before visiting Anand's terminally ill mom were painful and well-done.

A great moment for Naseer's acting.

This is a nice film for a quiet night at home, when you just want something plain and simple. There were some very nice touches - for example, the meta when Prem says he wants to make music "like Laxmikant-Pyarelal" and the film's actual (lovely) music is... by Laxmikant-Pyarelal, or those moments when all the characters are privately jamming to a passing marching band's beat. And some fun trivia, while this was Anil Kapoor's first major role in a Hindi film, a few months earlier he made his debut as the hero in Mani Ratnam's first film (!), Pallavi Anu Pallavi - this according to this interview.


Anonymous said...

Awww, this sounds adorable. And, um, really familiar. Did Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam just rip off this plot entirely and add about two metric tons of melodrama, then?

Anonymous said...

This sounds v.v. charming and sweet.

And, ditto re: HDDCS!

Anonymous said...

This film left me very unsatisfied - chiefly because of the way the triangle was resolved in the end.


Prem's speech on the importance of the marital bond clearly signaled to the conflicted Maya that he was "willing" to have her but her duty was with her husband. The poor girl had no choice but to "choose" her husband, then! And though it was the expected conclusion (and one I liked because, like you, I found Dr. Anand very lovable) - any movie that tells a woman that she may marry only once and that too, for seven lifetimes (thats the usual Hindu marital bond for a woman), has me up in arms. HDDCS has a similar resolution, but at least there the woman gets to make up her own mind.

PS: Excellent link about Tharoor's dislike of R. K. Narayan's writing - he certainly tears into poor Narayan's prose with a gusto!

Anonymous said...

Huh, I totally missed the HDDCS parallel. The two movies occupy such different spaces in my brain that it didn't even occur to me. Now I see it and I think, yes! It is rather like a sweeter, less melodramatic, less expensive, HDDCS!

I loves it.

BV - yeah the last five minutes aren't all that much fun but in a perverse way I liked the fact that Naseer the Perfect wasn't having any of the bullshit but it was his wife who couldn't get out of it. I prefer to think of it as "if she'd chosen Anil then the audience would have revolted, not because she stepped out of her marriage but because she was leaving Naseer the Perfect!" In my mind she does it because she understands at a gut level that this would be a very stupid thing to do.

a ppcc representative said...

Heqit - Welcome! And it is, go watch it. :)

Memsaab - It is. It's like a warm, soft blanket and a glass of orange juice.

Bollyviewer - Oooh, I exclaim in pain. Yes, you mention the one major flaw of this film. Yet I like to wave my hands and think like Amrita: I pretend that she chooses Naseer not because of the whole culture argument, but the "Naseer is actually better, when you think about it" argument.

Actually, I think there's a teensy bit of subversiveness in this film, just because Naseer is so clearly advanced, while the two yokel kids can't get their heads around the more progressive ideas - even when it's to their benefit! I love (in a perverted way) when Naseer makes his obvious, progressive, enlightened and logical argument in favor of breaking up a sham marriage and, when Anil finds himself in the corner, Anil just shakes his head in bewilderment and goes, "Gosh, I'm confused now!" Silly man.

Amrita - "Naseer the Perfct", YES!