ignorance is bliss: Anari (the Shashi version)

[Contains spoilers if you try hard or if you've read other bloggers' reviews.]

Let's get something perfectly clear: if you are female, drink, smoke, and have sex before you get married, you will die. If, however, you are male and plan a murder, agree to kill someone, run an illegal gambling den, kidnap people, beat people up, or have sex before marriage, you will, at worst, be arrested or have your plot thread dropped. If I thought about Anari too hard - by which I mean "almost at all" - I would hate it. Fortunately my DVD was unsubtitled and stopped working in the final ten minutes, so I could skate through it happily soaking up its ishtyle, canoodling, and music. Apni East India Company helped me out with some of the dialogue and the loose ends at the end; between her writeup and Bollyviewer's, I think I can relatively safely say that I've got the sketch of this film enough to be confident in my assessment that the characters are sort of dim, they don't feel they have a lot of options open to them, the film leaves a lot of plot threads unresolved, I need to find more films pairing Shashi/Sharmila and Shashi/Moushumi Chatterjee because each is just so darn pretty, and, perhaps most importantly, more films should contain 70s studmuffin-offs.

Who's the choicest one of all?

In this corner, the medallion-toting, bearded bad-boy, the heavyweight champion Kabir Bedi (Vikram).

And in this corner, multi-round champion Shashi Kapoor (Raja/Amit), floating like a lovebird, stinging like a supafly.

Winner? The audience.

Like Khoon Pasina and Ram Balram, Anari has some good masala elements, and the writers put the characters in some compelling pickles; unfortunately, and perhaps in their best efforts to make things tense and complex, they also make it impossible for the film to resolve the way I usually want my masala to go. It is not fluffy, it is not heart-warming, and and it smacks down its heroine. Boooooo!

The first half hour is really good, right from the opening titles, which you see from the point of view of an angry, scheming Arjun (Utpal Dutt) driving through the streets of Bombay.

The role of good-hearted laze-about Raja gives Shashi a chance to be cheery and sweet, goofing around with paan-wallah Mehmood

and making eyes at neighbor Poonam (Sharmila).

The happiness is quickly over, as three blows of family trouble cause Raja great distress at home and he's forced to find some money fast - but not so fast that there isn't time for a little patented Shashi emotional attyaachaar.

I love when characters are so upset that actors feel compelled to clutch furniture - or, in Shashi's case, also the wall.

There are only four songs, but I really enjoyed three of them. Shashi and Mehmood have a cute little "even though we're not rich, we're so happy here" sort of song (no idea what the actual words are, though I think paan is involved). Poonam and Raja have one of the more unique and somehow very natural cementing-as-a-couple songs I've seen ("Hum To Jis Rah Pe Jaate Hain"). Failing to find some privacy in a park, they resign themselves to a seat on the sidewalk and watch another couple,

and then each one imagines them in place of the couple they're spying on.

It's worth noting, as Bollyviewer does, the difference in their fantasies. Her version is above - glamorous, snuggly - and his puts them in plainer, more traditional clothes as he covers her head with her pallu. Once both are out of the reverie, they do manage to share a moment as Raja shyly extends his hand and Poonam takes it - and the opportunity to get a little closer.

Everybody now: awwwww.
Building on the theme of their different aspirations, Poonam has a fantasy song drenched in material riches. The opening segment of "Thandi Pawan Hai Deewani" captures exactly how I feel when I stare at beautiful saris, wishing I could run through a forest of them and touch each and every one.

On the topic of music, I can't not include pictures of some background dancers in Vikram's gambling den. I'm not sure I've ever seen a lone male dancer dressed quite so much like he raided Helen's closet.

Somehow if there were a full fleet of him, like we might see in late 90s songs, I wouldn't think a thing of it. But on his own, he looks decidedly odd.

I don't have anything else to say about Anari that Bollyviewer and Apni East India Company haven't already said. From what I understood and have learned by reading, it doesn't seem to be a very strong film despite a solidly engaging start and some plot complications that reflect the economic realities of mid-70s India in a not-over-the-top sort of way. I hate its final message about women, and I'm not sure it says much heroic about Raja's character (that is, his moral fiber, etc.) either. I think the characters were written into a tight corner and there was no good way out for the leads, and for some reason no energy was put into tidying up the side plots. But I don't want to end on such a blah note, so let's look at some pictures.

The bridge where Raja makes his deal with the devil appears in one of my favorite songs in Parvarish, "Aji Thahero Zara Dekho."

Very, very humorously (though perhaps not deliberately so), Raja is unable to dishoom this particular member of Arjun's crew.

No contest.
More groovy clothes and other style!

When this scene came up, I said "I WANT THAT HAT. RIGHT NOW. GIVE ME THE HAT, MOUSHUMI. GIMME." Apparently I feel strongly about this.
And to end, such pretty, pretty Shashi in this film.

1975 is such a good vintage.

And yes, for real this time, I promise, the superb Chori Mera Kaam from this same year is up next. I think I just miiiiight need to watch it again before posting....


Anonymous said…
Here are a couple of Shashi-Moushumi suggestions, just in case you haven't seen them yet: Swayamvar (also starring Sanjeev Kumar and Vidya Sinha) and Naina (which was begun in the late 60's, with Shashi opposite Rajshree - who, after filming two songs in Venice, went off to the US to get married). Not great films, but not terrible either - and they have some nice music.

And oooh, I do love that last screen cap. He looks so dishy!
Anonymous said…
Awww. I have been dying to see this, but I want subtitles and it's not available with them (WHY? WHY???)...and based on the pretty, I still want to see it. I loved Moushumi and Kabir in Kuchhe Dhaage, which was also a good film about the futility of violence and revenge (plus, Vinod!).
"floating like a lovebird, stinging like a supafly"
perfectly echoes my feelings.

it was such fun.More fashions for Shashi and more screen presence for Kabir wouldnt have been amiss- and the handling of Sharmila's character- enough cant be said about that one :)
Bollyviewer said…
"if you are female, drink, smoke, and have sex before you get married, you will die." - that is pretty normal in 70s masala, especially if said sex is with someone other than the hero. Even rape victims were rarely spared! The only exception I can think of, right off, is The Great Gambler where Zeenat is a bad girl with a good ending - but her sex-before-marriage is more implied than explicit.

And a big fat NAHIIIN to the comparison with Khoon Pasina! That film was beyond awful - like a Prakash Mehra version of Shaitani Dracula with exactly that level of acting! Plus, nobody tried to plonk disgusting wigs on Kabir or Shashi here - and that in itself makes for an excellent film! ;-)

Your favorite bridge is probably the Vashi bridge that connects Mumbai to Navi Mumbai (New Bombay).

For more Shashi-Sharmila, I'd recommend My Love which is pretty nice in the first half and then goes South into trauma-drama-o-rama (yup, I am borrowing your word) territory so fast that you keep wondering what happened to the nice film! But Shashi-Sharmila look scrumptious and you can watch it for that alone.
Shalini said…
The discussion about "bad women" not having a high survial rate in Hindi films reminded me of a 60 Sanjeev Kumar, Nanda starrer, "Pati Patni" - or as I call it, "An ode to misogyny."

The only way I got through Pati Patni was by entirely subverting its message. My takeaway from the movie was: if you are pure and chaste like the heroine, you will suffer for approximately 2 hours and 55 minutes of the movie and end up with a husband who treats you like dirt, whereas if you're like the boozy, independent and promiscous vamp, you shall suffer for 5 minutes of the movie and end up with a man who loves you despite all your vices. When the film robs you of a happy ending, craft your own, I say! :-D
There is a name for this affliction of yours - it's called Shashi-itis :-) But seriously, it's interesting that you talk of the hero's moral fibre, very few heroes have it. They might appear like they do, by "societal" standards, but looker deeper, or as you say, think about it "at all" and you figure out they don't.
Anonymous said…
I haven't seen this movie but that pink hat is so cute!!

That one back-up dancer in red with the black belt. What kind of outfit is that?!!
2020 said…
Best Shashi post ever.
VERY sorry to be replying to these comments half a year late! Not sure how I missed them before.

dustedoff - I have seen Swayamvar but not Naina, which looks beautiful.

memsaab - Comprehension vs. subtitles: the eternal dilemma!

Shweta - You're right, Shashi is not very fly in this one, is he? But Kabir is stylish enough for both!

Bollyviewer - Oooh My Love. How have I not seent hat yet!

Shalini - Oh god, a whole ode?!? :) Clearly I will have to see it just so I can be outraged in an informed manner (and indulge in your strategy)! Does anyone say "izzat" in it? Because I'm tempted to go on strike against films that have "izzat" dialogues.

Amodini - We will have to take up this hero science with actual vigor! And yeah, I am most decidedly a victim of chronic Shashi-itis!

Miss H - :)

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