wacky misunderstandings + commentary on the illogical nature of English + Sharmila = goodness: Chupke Chupke
This movie is adorable. I want to shrink it down to pocket-size so I can keep it with me all the time to have it handy whenever I need a reminder that the world does have some levity and joy left in it. The last movie I felt like this about was Italian for Beginners. (Ah, Bollywood and Dogma 95 - who knew they had so much in common?)
Using an extended practical joke and identity mix-up as feature plot elements can be tricky. In my experience, most of these types of stories go one of two ways: either the viewer will think the whole thing is hilarious and go along for the ride, or the story will fall very, very flat, kerplunk, in exhaustion of trying to keep up with itself (yes, you, Hungama). Chupke Chupke did neither, I think because the wackiness was only part of the story, and it was paced so that by the point I was wondering if they could possibly do anything else with it, they ended it. I also liked that multiple people were in on it - it felt conspiratorial in an inclusive, giggling way.
The real point, to me, was watching a cute couple have fun together, and these were the best moments: Sharmila slipping Dharmendra her address, them holding hands through a curtain while she sings and he's not supposed to be either in the room or touching her, her pretending to be more excited by her husband in his pretend identity. Now that I write this out, I can see how this would sound silly, but trust me, it's endearing, owing entirely to the actors. This is my first and second viewing of Sharmila and Dharmendra, respectively, and I loved them both, especially her. I can see where Saif gets his ability to do earnest-yet-playful. It helped that not much depended on the outcome of their joke - while it was really satisfying to him to see her brother-in-law fooled, they key thing was that they were enjoying themselves.
The jokes about English were priceless - that's my kind of geeky - and now I know Hindi for "poo." I also really enjoyed seeing Amitabh be a different kind of character than I've seen before - light, silly, and not a serious thing about him - twinkly, even - and I got a sudden flash of "like father, like son" when he was bouncing around the garden pretending to be the botanist with Jaya.
The only downside of this whole thing for me was that there wasn't any dancing. The songs didn't strike me one way or the other, but I don't think anybody actually danced. It is very poor form indeed to set up a character so charming as a goofy English teacher and then not let him dance. Oh, and talk about teases - did you catch that Dharmendra and Amitabh mention their former musical glory in the college competition? I mean, we don't get a flashback or anything, but still! I'll have to add it, along with last week's Karisma-Abhishek-Akshay disaster, to my list of "almosts."
How odd that a movie from 1975 can claim the honor of "most sane outfits sported by a group of female students in a Hindi film." But it's true! Their bellbottoms and flared sleeves looked downright classy compared to the nightmares featured in more recent productions. All they needed were signs.