Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mera Naam Joker - Pehla Ghanta

I have never ever seen Mera Naam Joker entirely.  It was panned by the critics who called it overlong, self indulgent and voyeuristic.  Raj Kapoor was no longer in the flush of youth and he did not look good here.  Maybe put off by all this, I have never watched MNJ.  I have caught bits and parts of it at times when it was being played on TV Channels.  I liked the first bit, which features Rishi, Manoj and Simi.  But it is not easy to watch a Hindi movie on TV.  There are commercial breaks after every ten minutes that last for further ten minutes.  You lose track of what is going on, and lose interest too, pretty fast.

Just last week, I bought a cheapo DVD which has Mughal-e-Azam, Pakeezah, Mother India, Mera Naam Joker and Mehboob Ki Mehndi (the last one is the odd one out really, even if it is an enjoyable movie).  After I was done with the others, I put on MNJ.  I skidded through the first song where he gathers all his ex-es, and jumped to the flashback - the pehla ghanta bachpan hai part.  Raju is a chubby, blue eyed, 16 year old, often teased by his classmates because he is clumsy.

They have a new teacher this year, a pretty young one who quickly gets very fond of Raju and often helps and encourages him.  It's the pretty Simi Garewal as Mary.

The teacher takes all the kids on a camping trip, and during this, she falls into water.  The rest of the class laughs to see this.  But not Raju...

He is struck by feelings he cannot fathom.  The teacher looks at his face, and feels abashed.

After the summer break, Mary returns with her fiance, David, a very handsome Manoj Kumar.  He is fond of Raju too,  and he knows exactly what is going on in his mind, when he catches Raju hovering around Mary.

    Mary is frightened by the thunder,

Raju can't help looking at her

David notices the look and talks to Mary about Raju.   He loves you, he tells Mary, with the love of a 16 year old who has just realised all the sexual feelings he has. How do you know all this? Asks Mary teasingly.  That is because I was 16 once, and know what it is like.  Inside I am still 16 and in love with a 20 year old teacher.

 Wah wah Raj Kapoor.  I have never seen such a beautiful 'coming-of-age' sequence in movies.  Before the childhood part ends, Raju has to give the bride away.  He is David's best man, and gets to kiss the bride.

                                                             Beautiful Mary as the bride

                                                       The best man gets to kiss the bride

This is the first heartbreak that Raju suffers, the one that was the most inevitable, and one where there was no deception.  Mary never was his, and never pretended to be.

I haven't seen the movie, but I know the story.  Raju falls for two more women, Padmini and Ksiena Rabiankina, who ditch him for other men.  Maybe I will watch the rest of the movie some day.  But nothing will ever take away the fact that this part of MNJ is so good.  Rishi Kapoor  won, very deservedly, a National Award for the best Child Actor.  It made him realise that he wanted to be an actor.  He had to give up his beloved steaks to lose weight and become the slim trim young man who could romance young girls on grassy slopes.  A fitting debut for a wonderful actor, a true legatee of the Kapoor khandan.