Sachaa Jhutha (1970)

Written by Jeevanprabha M Desai and directed by her husband (Manmohan Desai), Sachaa Jhutha is a neat little tale of mistaken identity, thieves and honest men, and proves that dogs are smarter than most people.

Simple village musician Bhola (Rajesh Khanna) leaves home to seek his fortune in Bombay. His sister Belu (Naaz) had an accident in her childhood and has needed crutches since. He wants to get her married and having any kind of disability means she is expected to come with a hefty dowry. Through a series of unlikely but expected coincidences, he stumbles into a fancy masquerade party and the path of Ranjit Kumar (Rajesh Khanna) a cunning jewel thief. Ranjit sees the possibilities in having an exact duplicate of himself to parade around town so he dupes innocent to the point of being backward Bhola into perfecting his Ranjit act. Ranjit gets his minxy girlfriend Ruby (Faryal) to keep a watchful eye on Bhola, give him deportment lessons, and keep him from discovering his new BFF is a thief. Inspector Pradhan (Vinod Khanna) is determined to put Ranjit in jail but he can’t get the evidence he needs. He coopts a lovely young policewoman, Lina (Mumtaz), into playing a diamond heiress called Rita. It is well known that Ranjit cannot resist a pretty face or a sparkly rock. Bhola as Ranjit falls head over heels for Lina/Rita and his simplicity wins her over despite her misgivings. And then a flood devastates Belu’s village, killing her abusive stepmother too. She comes to the city with little other than her love for Bhola, a Significant Song, and the super smart and faithful dog, Moti. Will she find Bhola, or will she be found by Ranjit? What will become of these clueless bumpkins in the big city? Will Lina get her man? Will Inspector Pradhan get his?

Rajesh Khanna is quite enjoyable as Ranjit. He is suave, a narcissist, and wears some very snazzy outfits. He is never conflicted about his life of crime, and thoroughly enjoys his lifestyle funded by ill-gotten gains. As Bhola he overacts like there’s no tomorrow, grimacing and spouting proverbs to show he is pure and innocent. Bhola is a quick study though and it is amusing to see Ranjit getting a dose of his own medicine. Ranjit is a traditional filmi evil mastermind and he loves a needlessly complex plan so there are many silly hijinks to enjoy including a secret lair, tunnels, mysterious drugs that paralyse, disguises, and a gang of suited and booted henchmen. If you’ve ever wanted to see Rajesh Khanna fight a duel with himself, this is the film for you.

Mumtaz is gorgeous and bubbly as Lina/Rita. She seems like a competent young woman, and has a good head and a good heart. Question – were fancy chiffon sarees standard police issue? She is attracted to Bhola’s honesty and can’t reconcile her impression of him with her assignment of entrapping Ranjit the jewel thief. Lina doesn’t waste too much time sighing over her maybe potential slightly forbidden love, and just gets on with the job in the belief that the law will make her decision for her. She does get stuck with some silly “truth drug” shenanigans, but generally avoids the worst of the slapstick.

Vinod Khanna’s Inspector Pradhan is the driving force in the chase to get Ranjit. He is a little too good to be true. The perfect son to a doting mother, a genius police investigator, the golden boy. He has a strong sense of duty and what is right and he hates that Ranjit thumbs his nose at the law. There is nothing very real or interesting about the character but Vinod Khanna plays Pradhan with just the right degree of straight faced pomposity to make it funny yet still vaguely believable.

At first glance I expected to find Belu (Naaz) tiresome. But while people write Belu off as a cripple, and she herself would much rather not have a disability, she’s not completely passive. When a bunch of goons assaulted her she fought back with everything she had. When she came looking for her brother she made the most of the Desai coincidences that littered her path. Sure there was a lot of hobbling and crying but she isn’t pathetic, just overwhelmed. Naaz can handle the teary self-pity through to the more sparky repartee. She has a gentle presence that played well opposite the more extrovert characters in the ensemble.

But the real star and the brains in the family is Moti (Rexy). Moti protects Belu, fetches her crutches, fights off thugs, navigates Bombay traffic with heart stopping disregard for traffic lights, eludes gangs of armed assailants, and is generally a sound judge of what is going on. And when all else fails, trust Moti to sort the sheep from the goats.

The Kalyanji-Anandji soundtrack gives Mumtaz some opportunity to dance, but the duets are tailored to Rajesh Khanna’s awkward posturing so I felt there was an opportunity missed. And what lunatic casts Faryal and doesn’t include a dance number for her?

While the film is visually pleasing, it isn’t a blinged up special effects laden experience. The drama is generated by people, the confusion and near misses, the things we know that the characters don’t. It’s an undemanding and entertaining movie, stylish and fun. 3 ½ stars!

 

 

 

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Bawarchi

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.