Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bahu Rani

This is my first Guru Dutt movie and I'm delighted to have seen it. Though communicating a clear message of justice and compassion, the movie refrained from being preachy and saccharine - thank goodness, because it less capable hands it could have gone horribly wrong. The visuals are similarly straightforward, yet they're full and beautiful too. The film is meaningful without being heavy, and I think much of this is owed to the sparky performances by the two leads (Mala Sinha as the titular daughter-in-law, Padma, and Guru Dutt as her simpleton husband, Raghu). They're fantastic - lively but subtle. The rest of the cast is also strong. Nasir Hussain nails the "stern but loving patriarch" type with real feeling (take note, Big B), Lalita Pawar* is convincingly icy as the scheming stepmother, and Feroz Khan creates a villain whose comeuppance is a treat to cheer for .

I watched this at Jaman and was interested to read a post on its discussion board about Mala Sinha's insistence on quality roles, because this was a role that seemed to suit her perfectly - and I'd like to see more examples of such writing for women in today's Hindi films. I'm interested to know if other viewers see this movie as feminist - I do, because for me feminism is about women getting to make choices, and Padma makes several bold choices, ones that benefit other people and uphold admirable values as well.

The music is lovely, and I found them really communicative even without subtitles. One of my favorite moments in the movie was the first song. (I'd tell you the title, but I have no idea.) Raghu arranges little animals in a table-top setting, and he seems almost one with the inhabitants of the happy world he has created. Such a joyful, cute song, but also with a tinge of sadness if we think of Raghu as being like his toys, placed in a world but without much to do or abilities of their own. Just one of many lovely scenes in this powerful, gentle film.

Bahu Rani


* imdb lists Lalita Pawar as having appeared in a staggering 338 movies in a career of almost 70 years, by far the most I've ever seen in a bio. Can anyone tell me anything about her career or best-known roles?

10 comments:

Eddie said...

Okay then, this'll be my next Jaman flick. I adore Lalita Pawar. What a workhorse! I first noticed her as the tough but sweet kelewali (banana lady) in Shri 420.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

She began as a child actor in the 20s, and by the 40s was playing a leading lady- when her eye accident happened, making one of her eyes slightly blind. One-eyed folks are considered traditionally evil/unlucky in India (yeah I know- bad), but this turned out to be a kinf od gift for her- she began to get roles as the vamp- most commonly "evil aunt" type roles. She is good in Khamoshi (1969) (based on Rebecca) and Shri 420 (1955).

Dushyant said...

Here.. after Shweta, i'd like to add that Lalita Pawar was born in Indore (M.P.), and who can forget the tough and sweet nurse in Anand.

Anyways her last days of life were so painful. She suffered poverty and loneliness. She died a few years back and no one from the film feternity attended her funeral. It was a pity.

Banno said...

Lalita Pawar. The terror of our childhood. Do watch more Guru Dutt films. My favourite is 'Pyaasa'

harvey said...

A good article on Laita Pawar can be read at:
http://www.screenindia.com/old/mar12/films4.htm

In the last few days I've often visited your blog. Quite a good one!
Agree with your response to Aa ab laut chale!

Beth said...

harvey - Welcome! Thanks so much for coming by and sharing that great link. I hope you find plenty more good reads :)

Sharmi Ghosh Dastidar said...

Lalita Pawar was very good in Sujata, Professor, Mr and Mrs 55, Ankhen and many other films. Do watch Guru Dutt in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (it has the ethereal Meena Kumari also)

Beth said...

I think I have a copy of Professor kicking around somewhere! I don't know why I haven't gotten to more Guru Dutt films yet - everyone recommends his work so highly.

rAjOo said...

Greetings
Don't post a lot, but just thought I would let you know that the first song is performed by Hemant Kumar - Kya Bole Dai Maa.

Bollywood.de and imdb will soon be updated with more details of this flick

Cheers and keep up the good work

rAjOo
more imdb plot summaries here:
http://www.imdb.com/search/title?plot_author=rAjOo%20(gunwanti@hotmail.com)&view=simple&sort=alpha

Beth said...

rAjOo - I about fainted when I saw your name in this comment! I have read SO MANY of your plot summaries on imdb - and relied on them when buying DVDs! :) So good to meet you!