I think this is the only Basu Chatterjee movie I have seen, which is too bad because I know he has a lot of good ones. But this one is really really good, even if I had seen others it would probably still be my favorite.
It’s hard to remember, now that Anil is a Silver Fox, but back when he was young he was kind of dopey looking, Dopey, but sweet. His specialty was characters who tried to be tough but were marshmellow’s on the inside. And Amrita, now that she is the terrifying mother character (good or evil, she’s always scary), she used to be the smiling kind of goofy young woman. And what is really hard to remember, love stories used to be little silly things in which love at first sight was followed by sweet first dates, and little elopements, and then family blessings and happy endings. I guess we still get those movies sometimes, Luka Chuppi looks like it will be that kind of movie, but I wish we got more of them.
In this movie, falling in love and family objections and all the rest of it are just sort of funny. A little calm and common sense and everything can be brought to a happy ending. Which is the importance of Amjad Khan in this film, the calm wise voice that sees the adorable young lovers and gently guides them to their happy ending. They can fall over each other like silly little puppies, but Amjad Khan will make sure it all turns out okay, gently nudging them back on their feet.
It’s also kind of sweetly low budget. The clothes, the sets, the actors, they all look like people you would see on the street. Back when costumes were run up by the tailor down the street, not some international fashion designer. When the “gym” actors went to was a morning exercise routine, and dieting meant eating the food your mother made you (or your wife). Sure, they still look a little bit better than “real” people, their features are more naturally regular, their skin is clearer and paler, and they are neither over nor underweight. But it’s not impossible to achieve, just as their houses aren’t impossible to achieve, and their jobs, and their dates, and everything else. This is an aspirational movie only in that they fall in love, everything else in their life is achievable by anyone. Which means their love story could be achievable too, at least that’s what the film is saying, if you fall in love with the girl down the block, don’t panic and don’t worry, just get married and trust the law to protect you and your family will come around.
And our hero and heroine aren’t even that heroic! Amrita Singh is a delight in this, playing a not to smart heroine (held back twice, so still in school at 18) who is still very sure of what she wants and ready to go after it. Anil is similarly a bit sweet and dumb, he can fight, but he can’t plan. They start out pretending to be something else, to be the kind of usual cool and smart and romantic leads, and then it falls apart and they reveal themselves to be hardly perfect, but still in love. And that’s okay, Amrita can be petty and childish and stubborn, and Anil can be sweet and dim and passive, and they still deserve their happy ending.
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Anil Kapoor is a nice young man who lives with his brother and sister-in-law and is a devoted member of Om Prakash’s wrestling team. He is dedicated to his wrestling and plans not to marry until he is 40. But then his sister-in-law sends him to buy coal from the nearby coal dealer and he sees Amrita, the coalman’s daughter, and falls in love. He’s known her for years but suddenly sees her as different because she is all grown up now. She sells him the coal at cost and he knows she feels the same way. But he is shy and doesn’t know what to do next, so he goes to Amjad Khan, the local lawyer, for help. Amjad helps him write a love letter, Amrita gets it and takes it to her cool friend Rupini who helps her write a response insisting that Anil must have a plan to support her before it goes any further, and must take her out for a date at a fancy restaurant. On the date, Amrita panics when Rupini starts to flirt with Anil and bursts out with her real feelings. Now they are in love for real and everything is perfect. Only, her parents find out. Rupini (who is sympathetic and kind after all) takes a message to Anil, and Anil goes to Amjad. Amjad says that the only solution is to get Amrita out of her house and get them married. Anil hesitates because their families won’t be happy, but Amjad asks if he would rather be miserable his whole life for his family, or happy and married? Anil gets Amrita out of her house, Amjad arranges their wedding (even managing to trick her family wedding jewelry from her parents), her father and uncle bring goons to break up the wedding but Anil’s wrestling team fight the off, and Anil and Amrita are married. And then Amjad talks around both the parents so they get blessings after all.
It’s just the most delightful movie! In all the little moments. Like, the conversation Amrita has with Rupini about Anil’s love letter. Rupini is very clear that she must insist he have a job of at least 2,000 rupees a month, but Amrita begs and bargains her down to only 500 rupees. Or when Anil wants to take second place in a wrestling match so he can get the prize of a transistor radio instead of a bike. Or Amjad Khan convincing Amrita’s mother that she needs to give him the wedding jewelry so he can pay her daughter’s ransom. This isn’t a “high concept” film, they didn’t try to have some big idea and reinvent the wheel, they just took the same old “love at first sight” idea and then had fun with where it went from there.
The biggest change is that nothing is really taken that seriously. Amrita’s parents object to her dating someone out of their caste, try to force her into a marriage with someone else, and lock her in her room. And Amrita doesn’t sob and give up, she fights! Throws a big tantrum in the grand teenager tradition, and then recovers and goes back to smiling cheerfully as soon as she finds out that Anil is going to come for her. Anil is all heartbroken when he finds out she is getting married, and a little resigned to it, and then Amjad perks him up and he stops worrying. Everything is only a problem if you think it is a problem, is the lesson of the film.
Anil can trick and get Amrita out of the house. Amjad can talk to the parents and work them around to accepting the couple. A couple can get married with no money and no plans and trust that it will work out. All of the things that in other movies are the deadends, the things that cause misery and sobbing, are just little bumps in the road here.
And I guess the most important part is that our silly immature hero and heroine are given what they want. They may be silly and immature, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to their feelings. Or that the adults around them are any wiser. Amrita’s parents aren’t evil or anything, they are just stubborn like her and convinced on what they think is right, just like she is. Anil’s brother and sister are the same. Anil and Amrita aren’t perfect and saintly and wise, but no one else is either. Why not let them get married and be happy? No one else is wise enough to make a better choice for them, they deserve the right to make a choice for themselves.
We see that even with Amrita’s friend Rupini. She starts out seeming very sophisticated, she has had “many” boyfriends and graduated on time and is off in the world unlike Amrita who is still going around in her schoolgirl uniform. But she falls for Anil just like Amrita did. And once she sees Amrita’s jealousy and Anil’s true love, she is won over to helping them. Rupini doesn’t know any more than Amrita does, is just pretending she does, and eventually is able to change her mind despite all of her put on surety. And the same thing happens with everyone else who seems to know “better” than our hero and heroine. A little talking, a little convincing, and they are perfectly able to change their minds no matter how sure they seemed.
Really, it’s just the nicest happiest film. A nice small film about a nice small story with nice small characters who get everything they want because they aren’t afraid to try for it.