Saturday, June 14, 2008

almost felled by the dreaded Curse of the Second Half*: Haseena Maan Jayegi

* term courtesy of Aspi

Cute, right? You can tell from the get-go.
Photobucket

So cute! Until just before the intermission, that is. And then it's a real let-down.

Just so you know which Haseena Maan Jayegi we're discussing, it's the 1968 one with Shashi in a dual role, Babita, and entirely too much Johny Walker (most of which is in isolated scenes and can be skipped easily).
Photobucket
Shashi plays Rakesh (left), the campus Romeo, and Kamal (right), an all-around good boy. It is very, very difficult to tell them apart; Archana (Babita) is harassed by one and attracted to the other, and even she gets them mixed up. She spends a lot of time in the first chunk of the movie making faces like this
Photobucket
Photobucket
trying to figure out which one is which. Rakesh is a real schemer and tries to impersonate Kamal whenever possible in order to get to Archana, even after she and Kamal get engaged. And that's where things start to tank. Moments before the marriage, we see this
Photobucket
but the movie cuts to intermission before we find out if the person being held is indeed Kamal, meaning that Rakesh is about to rape Archana on her wedding night. Yeah, I know. I los tmy patience right there. Without giving away the remaining arc, just know that identities continue to be mixed up, and many easy opportunities to identify whom Archana actually married are bypassed in favor of wild staring, tragic letters, and courtroom antics, all set against the extra-dramatic backdrop of a war with China.**

This may be the most egregious example of the Curse of the Second Half I've seen, not so much because the second half is horribly violent or regressive or boring or anything like that, but because the first part is so good and has so much going for it that what follows is a colossal disappointment. I knew little about Haseena Maan Jayegi before I watched it other than that it had an extra serving of Shashi, and based on the light-hearted, fab fun of the first hour, I figured I was in for some major cuteness along the lines of Pyaar Kiye Jaa. But no. Promise was not met. Promise was sent to its room, denied dessert, and forbidden to go out to play with the costumes, set design, and music. It's a real waste. At least the acting doesn't go flying out the window; Babita and Shashi manage to keep things relatively under control. Relatively. There's still some nahiiiiin-ing, and to demonstrate that he suffers mental anguish whenever he is reminded of blood, one of the Shashis is occasionally bathed in red light and makes tortured-looking expressions.
Photobucket
I should also say the plot kept moving along pretty well, even though what happens is stupid and unnecessary; I lost track of who was Rakesh and who was Kamal at one point (which is probably sort of embarrassing to admit, isn't it?) and was not sure how things were going to be tied up. But while Haseena Maan Jayegi could have been worse, I'm still not going let it off the hook because it squandered a lot of good potential.

I thought about calling this post "a surfeit of Shashi," but there's really no such thing here at BLB. There is a ton of Shashi in this movie, and there are many varieties on the menu. Shammi-like! In uniform! Thoughtful! Anguished! In leather! On horseback! Studious! Flirtatious! Bare-chested! In wedding finery! Transparent! Under water!



There's something for everyone. The major challenge of a dual role like this one is to create and maintain truly separate characters who behave, respond, and communicate in different ways, and Shashi meets that goal, no problem. He and the writer take their time in showing us which of the characters is going to be our hero, and because Shashi makes each one attractive but not initially perfect, it was fun to look for hints before it became clear how the romance would be paired. He's great in the first three songs (more on that in a minute), and even in the much more serious and trauma-drama-spiked second part, he's histrionics-free.

Babita too is quite good. This is my first movie with her, and I liked her very much. Her feisty and besotted Archana is a treat to watch. The costume designer and makeup artist for Babita, Meena Shivdasani and Belchar Pereira, deserve special mention for creating such a great style (except for the inexplicable blue Santa Claus suit she wears in one of the love songs); the visual impact of her character's look and her physical expression of Archana's personality are a major part of the film's appeal.

And Kalyanji Anandji's music! Oh! So! Good! Better in the first hour, of course, but still fabbity fab. Look at the album cover! You can tell! The dancing that accompanies is also superb to my untrained eye. And now we must mention "Suno Suno," in which Shashi plays five different characters, four of which are women. I don't ordinarily find drag particularly amusing; it's the lyrics and Shashi's delivery that make the scene funny.
PhotobucketPhotobucket
PhotobucketPhotobucket
PhotobucketPhotobucket
Everyone I show these pictures to has said something along the lines of "He's oddly unattractive as a woman, given how pretty he is as a man." "Dilbar Dilbar Kehte Kehte" is the standout song for me; it's been stuck in my head for a week, and the Shashi vs. self dance-off accopmanied by Babita's confused, cheerful shimmying (see third and fourth pictures from the top) are the stuff that superwow is made of.

My advice: do watch this movie, and do stop it at 1:26:47, and you'll have all the ingredients required to enjoy it thoroughly. Repeat songs and Shashi/Shashi scenes as needed. Perfection.

Update to post (June 26, 2008): I just saw a blog post about great filmi villains, and Shashi's evil Rakesh makes the cut!

** I'm not sure if this is supposed to be the 1962 war with China or a fictional conflict - I didn't catch any references to the date.

16 comments:

Amrita said...

Sorry, Beth, not even my Shashi love can make me go near this one. I saw it a very very long time ago and can hardly remember it and from the sounds of it, that's how it should remain.

Partly though, it's my dislike of Babita speaking. Something about her just rubs me the wrong way.

The only halfway decent movie of hers I remember (faintly. very very faintly) is this one crazy whodunnit in which she thinks she's killed someone (can't remember who - rajesh khanna? shashi? rakesh roshan?) and she even buries him only to find out that he's come back or something.

ajnabi said...

If I had to wear clothes like Babita's in this movie, I'd be making those faces too. ;-) I think I'll pass on this one.

Bollyviewer said...

This one certainly draws you down the garden path and then abandons you in a dirty maze! But still, there was beautiful Shashi and Babita had a few nice costumes (not too many, I agree) and the songs were super good. Plus, for once in a Hindi movie, the eve-teaser doesnt get the girl (hurray)! That and Shashi's costumes in the first song certainly make this a fun watch. (Check out my post for some more Shashi-in-fun-costumes.)

Beth said...

Amrita - I can respect that, I really can. In my head, I've been threatening the filmmakers that I'm going to rip this DVD and make my own cut of the movie, stopping about where I mentioned in the post, and distribute that version to anyone who wants to see the cool songs and cutey-pie flirting.

That Babita film sounds like a trip! Who can't get behind a story about the undead?!?

Ajnabi - To me, her clothes are for the most part fab! But in a very 60s way - not in a way most of us could pull off in our everyday lives (no matter how much we wish we could).

Bollyviewer - YES. Well said! It's a real slap in the face! Good point about the eve-teaser - that is a blow for progress, I agree.

Jasmine said...

Hi Beth

Once again my comment here is hardly to do with the movie you are currently reviewing!

After reading your and Carla's review of "Parvarish" esp Neetu Singh and Shabana Azmi's roles, I managed to find a copy in my local desi spice store.

I intend to watch it on friday evening!

cheers

Meera

Beth said...

Jasmine - Oh good! Parvarish is one of my favorites - do let me know what you think!

a ppcc representative said...

Hmm, Shashi as a woman + Bekhudi Mein Sanam? I'll buy that for a dollar.

And double roles, always hilarious!

Kanan said...

Beth, awesome stuff! I loved all the photos you've put up. They reminded me of the movie as I've watched it years ago. My favorite songs are "bekhudi mein sanam" and "chale the saath milke". As long as it's a Shashi Kapoor flick, I can watch any Bollywood masala in it. ;)

Btw, I am sure you've watched this but stumbled upon it today and totally fell in love with him all over again.

Beth said...

PPCC - I'd pay five for the first hour. The double role is fun, but it wears off when Shashi and Shashi are fighting each other in a lake at night that is clearly a swimming pool because the water is bright, clear blue and you can see the edge where the wall meets the floor. But at least someone pulls a knife.

Kanan - Thanks! And agreed - I'll watch Shashi in anything. At least, I haven't yet met a movie I'd turn off even though he's in it. I'm sure they're out there.

And thanks for the link - I hadn't seen that!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

you know what (of course not- I havent told u yet- heeh) but Shashi in the Kashmiri dress is SO like Sharmila from "Kahmir Ki Kali"- the same thin face , sharp nose, pretty eyes- :D

I am feeling v ambivalent about this- is sounds delightful, with 2 shashis, but the 2nd half fills me with fear- guess I wont really know till I see it!

Beth said...

Shweta - OMG I JUST finished Kashmir Ki Kali a few hours ago! And yes! I was cmopletely distracted from the story of that movie by how much Sharmila looks like a 12-year-old boy. I can hardly believe she's the same va-va-voom bombshell from later movies. It was like Saif in a wig. (Which is similar to the reaction I have to Ranbir Kapoor but in the opposite direction - Ranbir always strikes me as freakishly similar to his mother and somehow gone back in time to her early 20s.)

You should definitely watch this and turn it off where I advise. It's so good - but quit while you're ahead :)

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Yeah Saif-Sharmila= almost scary at times!
Ranbir somehow reminds me of the very very young Sanjay Dutt, from his "Rocky" days- maybe so Sanjay closely resembled his own mom at that time :) My theory is that Ranbir may end up looking like Sanjay- given 20 years and a million violent movies :D

Temple said...

hey Beth - I loved this movie - BOTH halves. Yes, the fluffy start with Shashi in multiple frocks and dancing like Shammi vs Cliff Richard did set my expectations to very high indeed. But the tortured, nahiiiin-ing, red light, who the hell IS THAT second half was still excellent. Shashi trying to kill Shashi with a stick, the bizarre decision to identify which Shashi on the basis of a timed horse-ride and a game of table tennis (must keep that as a possible relationship test option), the never ending courtroom drama,Shashi in a Tibetan outfit, Shashi with terrible plasticine scarface...It just had everything. And some nifty editing, some not so nifty, great performances from Shashi and the traditional great unanswered question. Why did no one ever seem surprised that 2 unrelated boys were identical? I can see the abrupt about turn in the plot might lose a few people but I can only stand so much romcom niceness so this kept me watching. And wondering. And occasionally nahiiin-ing!

Beth said...

Shweta - Ranbir/Sanjay is SUCH a funny concept!

Temple - Hahaha, understood! The Shashi vs Shashi fight is particularly enjoyable. And anything that elicits a nahiiiiiin can't be a total letdown! :) Do go read PPCC's review too - sounds like PPCC and you felt similarly about this film.

Temple said...

Thanks Beth - I have been having a fine time reading through P-PCC reviews. Alas, I am not always as intellectual as could be desired in my appreciation of things filmi. It can all come down o something as simple (yet complex) as the outfits. And the choreo. However, my must-watch list is now growing out of control.....Bollywood means never running out of stuf to look at and listen to :)

Beth said...

Temple - PPCC's call to the intellectual approach on films is stronger than my own, too :) Agreed on costumes and choreo. What do you think of Karz's choreography? I was disappointed.