Saturday, November 1, 2008

Talash - 1969

The movie came out in 1969, the IMDB informs me. My cousins were crazy about movies and I remember a lot of excitement among them for this movie. It was supposed to be uber stylish, lots of lavish sets and songs and such good stuff.

On Diwali, I was flipping channels and came across the movie airing on SAB, and stayed to watch. I had missed a few reels but could recall the scenes. The movie had opened with Sulochana doing the 'kapde see see' stuff. All Bollywood movies of the late 60s and early 70s started with a widowed mother sitting by a sewing machine and talking about having raised their kids by stitching clothes, and living in genteel poverty. Cut- and Rajendra Kumar (Raju) is a fresh graduate - BA mind you. Before you double up with laughter, BA in those days was equivalent to an MBA from IIMA. He is snapped up by Balraj Sahni for his 'Industries', right off the campus. Suddenly things are looking up and the young fellow is off to the snow capped hills (where?where?) to celebrate his newfound success with OP Ralhan as Lachchu. Err.. if the 'young' men look too old to be fresh-out-of-college-students, we are to turn a blind eye. After all, Rajendra Kumar was Jubilee Kumar and OP Ralhan was the producer/director/writer of the movie.

There among the hills, the hero finds amour. He runs into a village belle, Sharmila Tagore as Gauri and promptly falls for her. His 'sidekick' - OP Ralhan (Lachchu) also finds himself intrigued by Rita - a dancer. It is Helen, of course, and the audience heaves a sigh of relief, a few good cabaret numbers are in offing. So our lovesick birds sing a few songs and though our good hero would have made an honest woman of the girl immediately, he needs 'maa ka ashirwaad', another clever cliche to stretch the proceedings. He needs to go back, get MKA and return before the next pooranmashi. If he doesn't, the girl vows to throw herself off the cliff. They get engaged and sing another song - Juneli Raat ma.. which is a tribal song, and I had to avert my eyes each time RK appeared on screen in his sleeveless top (ugh) which is passed off as the traditional thing to wear for your engagement party.

Raju returns to Mumbai to find that his boss (Balraj Sahni) favors him immensely, despite him overstaying his leave. There had been some incident earlier about Raju returning the boss's purse after he had dropped it intentionally to test Raju's honesty. Now, honestly, which fool would keep a measly purse in exchange for a JOB? Raju finds himself elevated to a partner after he clinches a takeover bid for his boss. He gets an imported car and a big bungalow to live in. He also gets invited to the homecoming party for the boss's daughter.

It is Tan-tan-tan time as the perplexed Raju discovers that the boss's daughter, Madhu, is Sharmila in a brown wig with sea-green eyes that match Hrithik Roshan's. Herein lies the beauty of the film. It is a Romantic Mystery. Who is this girl? Is that girl from the hills with brown eyes and black hair the same girl? How is it possible? The hero stays for the party while a great song plays - a song that brings out the situation perfectly - Tere naina talaash karen jise wo hai tujhi me kahin deewane - sung by Manna Dey..

Raju rushes back to the hills to check out the girl again and finds Gauri blowing on the chullah. He stays a day and Gauri sings him this wonderful song - Aaayega re udke mera hans pardesi. Raju runs back to find Madhu where she was. Now comes a great track of love versus passion. Madhu woos him with her riches and glamor. She wears backless cholis, nighties with decolletage and gowns and drives fast cars and invites him into her bedroom and plays seductive numbers - Kitni akeli, kitni tanhaa si lagi, unse mil ke me aaj. Her father too showers his largesse on him.  Should Raju accept a life full of wealth and ease or give them up and keep his promise to the girl in the hills.

Alas, it was that time of the decade when movies had to be stretched to full 3 hours, melodrama had to be added in huge helpings, humour had to be pushed down the throats of the viewers. Hence we have to watch the parallel track of Lachchu, OP Ralhan, who hogs as much space as the hero, which is why I put 'sidekick' in quotes earlier - this guy is almost like a 2nd hero. Lachchu finds that wooing Rita has its complications, her father had murdered one of his mates and is being blackmailed by another. On top of that, Lachchu's father is a miserly fellow and wants him to marry a rich Parsi girl - Tuntun - (who looks lovely in a tight churidaar kurta and a bouffant). So the movie does not conclude until we have had the full dose of the dying mother, dhishum dhishum, car chases, missed planes and hero running after the heroine who is off to throw herself down a chasm.

I loved the movie for its simple story, compared to later potboilers when there had to be Great Villians, here the issue is really inside the hero, as he struggles with his conscience.

The songs are all good, the music was, after all, by Sachin Dev Burman. My top favorite is - Aaayega re udke mera hans pardesi.

The cabarets by Helen are scintillating - Mera Kya Sanam and Karle Pyaar karle. The indoor sets are definitely good, Balraj Sahni's office, the rich Sharmila's bedroom with its huge wardrobes and a large bed. The cars they drive are all top-down convertibles, which was a rage then. The outdoor shoots on the snow-capped hills are not too impressive, the scenes seem to have been shot in a single location.

Rajendra Kumar wears suits to hide his paunch. The actors then didn't think of their body as a temple. Balraj Sahni, with his slim physique, looks really natty. Though his acting skills are quite wasted here. Sharmila gets to wear some ethnic skirts for her tribal get up and glamorous sarees and maxis (ugh- I am glad we saw the end of this fashion) and nighties. Helen looks very pretty with her pout and bouffants and bows and wow legs.