BawarchiBawarchi is simply a charming film and one that always makes me smile, even though it’s heavy on moralistic aphorisms and homely words of wisdom. Rajesh Khanna plays the cook who takes on the task of transforming a dysfunctional and argumentative family with his simple outlook on life; although there are numerous hints throughout that he may not be quite what he seems. The strengths of the film are the all-star cast who all fit into their roles perfectly and Gulzar’s well written dialogues that ensure the petty family disagreements are realistic and believable. Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s screenplay is based on Tapan Sinha’s 1966 Bengali film Galpa Holeo Satyi and Sinha is credited as the writer for Bawarchi. For anyone trying to track them down, both films are available on Youtube, although sadly the original Bengali film seems to only be available without subtitles.
The story revolves around the household’s transformation from an unhappy and argumentative group of people to a caring and considerate family. Along the way there are songs, a dance competition and even a romance thrown in for good measure. I love the opening graphics which use the cooking theme to good effect, but there are only a few before Amitabh Bachchan takes over, announcing the credits against a rather oddly static red curtain, and carries on with a voice-over introducing the various characters in the drama. Firstly there are the fractious Sharma family members who live in the ironically named Shanti Niwas.

BawarchiBawarchiThe never-ending conflict in the house means that the family cannot keep their servants, which in turn leads to further discord and argument. As the story opens the family are in the process of losing their last servant – the family cook – who has decided to move on despite his new job paying less. The family is ruled by the ageing patriarch Shivnath Sharma (Harindranath Chattopadhyay) who complains about his sons, his daughters-in-law and the lack of a decent cup of tea in the morning.

BawarchiBawarchiDespite his grumpy demeanour he is the only person in the house to think about the welfare of his late second son’s orphaned daughter Krishna (Jaya Bachchan as Jaya Badhuri). Harindranath Chattopadhyay is perfect here and his complaints are used to good effect to illustrate the trivial nature of most of the family disagreements. Krishna is at everyone’s beck and call, and yet she has a pleasant and sunny disposition which leads her to wait on everyone with a smile and not much thought of her own comfort. Just as well perhaps since no-one else thinks about her comfort at all.

BawarchiBawarchiAlso in the house are Shivnath’s eldest son Ramnath (A.K. Hangal), his wife Seeta (Durga Khote) and their daughter Meera (Mansiha). Ramnath is a harried clerk whose family life is impacting on his work. To combat his woes and possibly also to help him deal with his complaining wife and daughter he also drinks, although this actually makes him more pleasant to deal with, so perhaps it’s not entirely a bad thing. Seeta complains of her gout which makes her unable to help with the various household chores, while Meera is just plain lazy although she does get out of bed for her dance lessons.

BawarchiBawarchiShivnath’s third son Kashinath (Kali Banerjee) is a rather pompous school-teacher who lives in the house along with his wife Shobha (Usha Kiran) and their son Pintoo (Master Raju).

The last member of the family is Shivanth’s youngest son Vishwanath (Asrani) aka Babbu, a music director for films who, as Krishna so aptly puts it, copies English songs, adds Hindi lyrics and records them. It’s just one of the examples of tongue-in-cheek poking fun at the Hindi film industry which Hrishikesh uses to add some more gentle comedy, almost as if he’s letting the audience into a big filmi secret, even as he himself still sticks to type of BW conventions he mocks during the film.

BawarchiBawarchiBawarchi - ShobaBawarchiThe final two characters in the drama are Meera’s dance teacher Guruji (Paintal) and Krishna’s tutor Arun. Arun is Krishna’s love interest but their romance is only a small part of the story, although it does become more important towards the rather clunky end of the film.
The family squabbles are based on their own selfishness, and none of them wants to take on the responsibility of looking for new servants. Into this unhappy household steps Raghu (Rajesh Khanna) who just appears on the doorstep one day volunteering to be their new cook.

BawarchiBawarchiBawarchiBawarchiRaghu seems to be the answer to everyone’s prayers as he insists in a low salary, cooks amazing food and also has talents as a philosopher, singer, composer, and dance instructor to name but a few. Raghu seems to be a gift from the gods as his unfailing happiness and good cheer start to have an impact on the family, as does his willingness to tackle even the most demeaning of tasks.  This is a man who does the ironing – nothing else needs to be said!
Raghu does however seem to have an unhealthy interest in the large box chained under Shivnath’s bed.This happens to contain the family jewels, and added in to reports of a thief in the area makes Raghu’s sudden arrival more than a little suspicious. However his ability to cook and his constant stream of knowledge about anything and everything soon make him indispensable to the family.

Bawarchi - happy songsBawarchiBawarchiBawarchiRajesh Khanna plays Raghu as a cheerful and somewhat bossy servant and he uses this relaxed outspokenness to stop the stream of advice from becoming too preachy. Despite his constant chirpiness Rahgu never seems too sickly sweet to be true, something which is helped by the suspicion that he may in fact be a thief and is simply putting on an act. Most of the films I’ve seen with Rajesh Khanna have been romances, but there is something very special about those few films where he doesn’t play the typical hero. Here he has an irrepressible twinkle in his eye and such a beautiful smile as he guides the family to an actual ‘peaceful abode’. It’s a wonderful performance and Rajesh Khanna is definitely a large part of why I love this film.

Just as amazing though is Jaya Bhaduri as she portrays shy innocence and naiveté with ease, and yet makes Krishna a normal down-to-earth person, trying to do her best with the lot she has been given. She’s sweet and natural with her grandfather, properly demure and respectful to her aunts but cheekily mischievous with her youngest uncle.  It’s hard to believe that this was one of the early films in her career as she definitely holds her own with the rest of the more experienced cast.

I also love the sets here which make the house look homely and lived in.  The locked case is impressive in it’s ‘look at me – I contain something valuable’ obviousness but there are also some wonderful lamps and clocks and Babbu has some very cool looking records on his shelf.

Bawarchi - the caseBawarchi - clockBawarchi - lampBawarchiThe only let-down in the film for me is the end, which seems a little too contrived as Raghu creates a rather unsophisticated solution to the final family problems. I feel it’s a little too simplistic considering some of the earlier scenes and the way Raghu’s character has evolved. However it’s a small quibble, particularly when the rest of the film is so enjoyable.  Bawarchi is definitely recommended for those times when you want to escape into a wholesome family drama that’s guaranteed to make you smile. 4 stars.


Duniya Meri Jeb Mein

Duniya Meri Jeb Mein is kind of insane. But it sneaks up on you. It starts out all about family and brotherly love and then it drags in the circus, deception, murder, amputations and revenge. God knows what inspired Tinnu Anand who directed it. It’s also another Kapoor Khazana delight as it stars Shashi and Rishi Kapoor, plus Neetu Singh.

Beth wrote this film up some time ago, and I strongly recommend the LolBolly masterpiece she created.

Karan (Shashi) lives in a spectacular house run by Mrs Robins (Nadira), the mother of his dead friend Johnny. She looks after Karan as a means of keeping her son’s memory alive, and seems to be Shashi’s only friend. He is the sole financial support for his little brother, Vishal (Rishi), who is at a fancy college and believes that Shashi is a successful businessman (he pretends he owns the house Mrs Robins works in, and borrows fancy suits).

Karan is poor but honest only not really honest but he is dishonest for the right reasons so that’s OK isn’t it?

Vishal is a top student.  He turns down a scholarship as he believes his big brother will provide for him and so wants someone less fortunate to benefit. That’s a nice gesture, but it puts the pressure on Karan to deliver a scholarship to the USA.  Vishal falls in love with Neeta (Neetu) in the course of a chance meeting, and they spend a lot of time sneaking in and out of each other’s hostel rooms.

For most of the first half, Neeta and Vishal occupy the romantic comedy track with support from Paintal and assorted college personnel. It wasn’t my favourite element of the film, as I found Vishal bordering on the sleazy and entitled rather than boyishly charming. He never really considered the damage to Neeta’s reputation or that he may get her expelled. It was about what he wanted and the tricks he employed to get his hands on her. Neeta didn’t have to do much apart from chase Vishal around. Rishi got a spectacular spotty shirt which I did applaud.

Karan scrambles to keep up the deception about his finances as Vishal and Neetu are engaged and her family come to meet him. In an alcohol fuelled meltdown, he tries to tell the truth but the guests, including the house owner Diwanchand (Agha), just think he has a knack for metaphors.

Yes it is all a bit complicated. Perhaps they’re all stunned by the architecture. It must have been like living inside an Easter egg with all the curved walls, and I can’t begin to describe the art collection.

Karan has been funding Vishal’s lifestyle by working in a circus. He and Rawat (Ranjeet) are trapeze artists so be warned, there will be leotards (although Shashi looks more like he dressed for cricket).

Ranjeet is hired to break into a wealthy criminals abode. His employer thinks of everything, right down to detailed building models and a training course, and it becomes clear Ranjeet needs more assistance.  Or possibly a bit less Ranjeet as he isn’t terribly nimble.

Karan believes that they are breaking into the apartment to rescue a little girl. Sigh. I suppose that can be put down to being a good person, but the matching pleather pants are never explained. My DVD is terrible quality so it’s almost impossible to screencap the trapeze sequence between the buildings but it is great, especially with the cheesy disco soundtrack (thanks Rajesh Roshan!).

Shashi is betrayed and his life ruined in one swoop.

Ranjeet is hired to finish Karan off so he cannot testify, and he does seem to take to the dark side with ease. There is lurking and suspense, enhanced by dramatic lighting and camera angles. But Ranjeet isn’t a very skilful assassin, and the bed-ridden man with no legs manages to fight him off. It’s clear by now that Karan is hard to kill.

Karan sets out for justice and vengeance, which are sort of interchangeable in this film. There is a token police presence, Inspector Yadav (Sudhir), who is also out to solve the crimes. He doesn’t really add a lot of menace or suspense, but there is a law and order message in amongst all the shenanigans.

Some men might give up when faced with double leg amputation and the destruction of their dreams, but Karan is made of sterner stuff. Vishal decides to feel very hard done by. Yes, clearly he is suffering the most. In fact, everything is always about Vishal and he is quite tiresome as he feels sorry for himself, and then weepily apologises. I was especially irritated by a scene when he berated Karan for secretly working in a circus which meant that of course he was also a thief and a murderer. Not Rishi’s finest character choice. Shashi and Rishi have great rapport, and their brotherly relationship played out really well in the less fraught scenes.

Diwanchand sort of adopts the boys. While Vishal and Mrs Robins believe he is tucked up in his very stylish bedroom, Karan is really honing his sneaky carpentry skills (but how did he get the materials?). The last 45 minutes is where it gets crazy. Karan takes to the streets on his wheely board, searching for Rawat. Helen does her thing! Karan demonstrates an impressive near-vertical take-off which I put down to his circus training. Or something.

There are lingering doubts about some things. Things like why, when on the Conveyor Belt of Death, Shashi didn’t just roll backwards but you know, it doesn’t pay to overthink.

Neetu more or less disappears in the second half of the film. It’s all about the manly angst as the brothers fight about who will do the revenging, but then Neetu comes back as Ranjeet bait. There are more disguises and complicated scheming and…

The finale should be seen rather than described but naturally, evil cannot withstand a double Kapoor onslaught even if evil has a helicopter. Especially once the Kapoors stop arguing with each other.

I can’t help but enjoy this very silly film, and love that Shashi still gives a  committed performance. I also enjoy seeing Vishal cop a tight slap from Mrs Robins. I would have liked a better soundtrack, especially as Neetu was underutilised and more songs might have given her more to do. 3 stars!

Rafoo Chakkar

Inspired by the Billy Wilder classic “Some Like It Hot”, Rafoo Chakkar is a spirited romp that showcases the charm of the lead performers Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh.

The film opens with the nefarious acts committed by Ranjeet, Dev’s father, and Prakash his partner in crime.  To escape the taint of his acts, young Dev and his mother leave to live with her friend, who happens to have a son about the same age – Salim

Some years later, Dev (now played by Rishi) and Salim (played by Paintal) are poor but honest musicians working at a wedding. The bride, Neetu Singh as Ritu, doesn’t want to be sold off to an old man – coincidentally Prakash the associate of Dev’s long lost father- and escapes before the ceremony with the help of her friend Shanti.  Shanti has helpfully organised for Ritu to join a ladies orchestra touring Kashmir, far enough away to evade any parental pursuit.

Meanwhile Dev and Salim witness a murder (guess who the murderer is!) and are forced to flee for their lives. They come into possession of a couple of suitcases of ladies attire, Devi and Salma are born, and the boys run away to join the ladies orchestra.

It was quite fortuitous that the dresses fit the “girls”, especially as they have to audition for their place in the band as soon as they board the train taking everyone to Kashmir.  We have to say, Rishi looks particularly comfortable in the ruffles and wig.

Rishi falls for Neetu on first sight and once the band arrive in Kashmir, schemes constantly to be close to her.  Paintal meanwhile catches the eye, and the heart, of a spectacularly attired Smuglani (Rajendra Nath).

Ritu has told her new best friend Devi of her escape from an unwanted marriage and her plans to find someone young, handsome, loving and most important – filthy rich. Rishi, showing a level of manipulation and duplicity that is still oddly appealing, immediately assumes a new character – the knitwear and plaid clad loverboy Eknath Sada Shiv Omkar aka ESSO! As the owner of the large petrochemical company this new character is obviously rich enough to appeal to Ritu, and of course his wealth is only enhanced by Rishi’s other charms.

Paintal, who sounds eerily like Elmo at times, leads the wealthy and lonely Rajendra Nath a merry dance.  Esso can then take full advantage of Smuglani’s houseboats and other assets as he impresses the lovely Ritu with his wealth.

Of the two relationships, Salma and Smuglani seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company whereas Dev and Ritu are (at least initially) playing a game based on surface attraction and aspirations.  When Smuglani slips a diamond onto Salma’s finger and declares they are engaged, Salim explains to Dev that times have changed and that even he is entitled to his fairytale romance; citing a wish to have a dream wedding, house of his own and become a parent. Dev is understandably confused about this, and accuses Salim of falling for the diamond not the man. He also has to remind his friend rather forcefully that Salim is in fact not a girl, and that as such this romance will not last.

However Dev is not above stealing the ring to use in his deception of Ritu, which says something about his character’s assessment of female affections as well as his own flexible morality. But it is Salim who makes Dev see that he must tell Ritu the truth, if only to see if she loves the man or the money. It’s the unconventional couple that seems to have the real heart. Rishi and Neetu are young, attractive, and expect the world to deliver them the object of their affections. Their love is of the typical filmi instant variety.

Not quite truthfully, Esso tells Ritu that he has been disinherited and has nothing and if she still loves him they should meet tomorrow for a romantic duet in the meadows of Srinigar. They do, and warble convincingly of their undying love in the flower filled and sunlit meadows. Of course.

Disaster looms as the mob arrive to stay at the same hotel for a world crime summit under the auspices of the ‘Chief’ – and in search of Dev and Salim who are known to be in the area. After a hotel corridor scene worthy of any French bedroom farce, the “girls” find a hiding place…under the banquet table of the crimelords. They are forced to witness an item number and hear a rollcall of evil doing planned for the coming year. Then the crooks go too far – Prakash recognises Ritu as his runaway bride and tries to abduct her. Ritu and the boys escape and run to Smuglani for help and a safe place to stay.

Unfortunately Ritu recognises the houseboat and starts to question whether Esso was truthful. Heaping lie upon lie Rishi claims Smuglani must be the mythical brother responsible for disinheriting Esso. And then it becomes clear – Ritu has fallen for a cheat and a liar.

As she bemoans her fate, and her loss of wealth, Rishi strips off his wig and earrings to reveal that he is fact Esso/Dev and Devi. Ritu rushes into his arms professing her true love. Why she didn’t ask a few pertinent questions is anyone’s guess. But their characters are the ambassadors for Filmi Love and there is no place for analysis or foreboding.

The evil-doers have kidnapped the boys’ mothers to draw them out of hiding. More dodgy disguises follow as the good guys track down the bad guys at their lair. There are some confusing side plots as Prakash and Ranjeet try to assassinate the chief, and there appears to be an undercover police officer (Shetty!) in the mix.  A swashbuckling fight breaks out after the obligatory exposition dialogues and everyone finds out they are related to everyone else. There are sword fights, chandeliers, backflips, a stunt cat and Neetu bashing folk with a big stick. Classic Errol Flynn derring-do, done with Kapoor panache.

The two couples, because there are two, then sum up their relationships. Neetu and Rishi are happy in their puppy love and bask in each other’s beauty and admiration. Paintal and Rajendra Nath explicitly address the same gender issue before Rajendra pursues his loved one off into the sunset. Love is love, and this seems to be a rather progressive filmi moment.

Alls well that ends well – as Smuglani sums it up:

As an aside, we have often speculated as to how Ranbir Kapoor reacted the first time he saw his mother in feathers, ruffled knickers and fishnets, with his father in a matching outfit. We hope he was as delighted as we were!  We assume that moment would have happened when he first saw this film. But perhaps this just shows our non-filmi upraising!

Heather says: This is a riot of a film that just seems to grab you and pull you along for the ride.  Rishi and Paintal do look very comfortable in their dresses and make-up and are very convincingly feminine in some scenes.  The romance between Neetu and Rishi does feel very artificial, but they are both so effortlessly charming together that I can forgive them for that.  Paintal is wonderful as the friend who decides to make the most of his situation.

Neetu is scintillating in the songs, and the romantic duet is just beautiful, despite the rather loud jacket worn by Rishi.  At least he was easy to spot against the beautiful green fields.   Rishi Kapoor is one of my favourite actors, and I love to see him dance – even if it’s in feathers and a frock rather than one of his more usual sweater and pants outfits.  The final scenes seem somewhat rushed to me, and the conclusion a little confused, although the slapstick comedy works well.  This movie wins points for the fact that the two main leads spend most of the movie in drag, and for the picture of Rishi and Neetu together. I give this film 4 stars!

Temple says: This is a fun film, although not one that makes a lasting impression – despite the commitment to frocking up. The actors all make the most of their characters, particularly Paintal and Rajendra Nath who manage to make some ridiculous dialogues seem really heartfelt. Neetu plays the decorative girlfriend for much of the film and her role doesn’t have a lot of substance despite the promising signs at the start of the action. She is charming, bright and lovely but it’s a pity she only had a handful of scenes where acting of any sort was required. Her expression when she realised Esso was a fraud was devastating.  I am not such a big fan of Rishi as Heather is. Australian readers may understand when I say he bears too strong a resemblance to Daryl Somers for me to take him seriously as a romantic hero! Neetu and Rishi certainly had great chemistry in this, but I suspect that was personal chemistry on show. Dev’s manipulative and scheming behaviours were actually quite repellent and I couldn’t believe anyone would forgive him as easily as Ritu did. The songs are fun, the comedy is actually amusing, and the supporting cast give it their all. I give this 3 and 1/2 stars (points off for Dev being such a jerk).