Friday, June 20, 2008

Kashmir Ki Kali

Of the four Shammi Kapoor movies I've seen, the only one I've been able to write about (and extensively, at that) is Parvarish, where he 1) is not the star, 2) plays the dad rather than the lover-boy, 3) has his hair unyieldingly slicked back, and 4) doesn't dance.

Does this mean I lack the Shammi Appreciation Gene? Surely not! How can this be? I really do like Teesri Manzil even though I can never figure out what to write about it; I've even used it as a gateway movie for two different friends who both want to learn about Bollywood, figuring it's so fantastic that no one could possibly not enjoy it. Rajkumar was fun too - bunnies! Katrin loves Shammi. Greta loves Shammi. What is wrong with me? Kashmir Ki Kali (do not abbreviate!) started out okay, and it was full of general good cheer and pretty things to look at, but its second-half decline took it to the land of tiresome and silly and I just wasn't willing to go with it. I don't know why. There's nothing wrong with it, really:

  • Shammi is fun (though a few of those mad cackles were enough for me - that shtick repeated too many times), and who doesn't love a good Shammi-shimmy from time to time?
  • Sharmila is cute (though distractingly young-looking - I kept thinking she looked about 12 [and like a boy at that - baby Saif in a wig!] and therefore far too young to be in a love story with a 33-year-old).
  • Pran is deliciously oily, and his attempts at manipulating other characters elicited much boo-hissing.
  • So basically, the three major players are all in good control of their talents, which is always nice, especially when the story is no great shakes.
  • The songs are luscious, especially "Subhanallah Haseen Chehra," when I kept saying "This is GREAT" out loud, and "Yeh Chaand Sa Roshan Chehra," when I wanted to move into the song and hang out with Sharmila's friends, giggling on their boats in the background.
But:
  • Many people pretend to be something they aren't; off the top of my head, only Sharmila's ingenue is without a secret or ulterior motive.
  • The family melodrama in the second part careens among coincidences yet leaves one major question unaddressed (at least, as far as I could tell based on subtitles).
  • Shammi and Pran's fight scene at the end is excessive, and then the movie just stops with zero resolution.
I realize those are nitpicky, unreasonable concerns given the subject at hand - my grumbling makes it sound as though I haven't seen one of these things before! So why don't I like this more? The featured review on imdb (the one titled "Fantastic") gets at my ambivalence with this movie. The author says it "has lost none of its charm even to this day" and "ranks as one of the greatest achievements of the commercial cinema genre," yet "the storyline, the plot, and the rest of the stuff about this movie [are] just about average as can be expected in a commercial potboiler." So is it charming and successful or average? Both. Parts of it are truly cute and lovely to watch. Parts of it are dumb, standard in the "enh" way, and eye-rolly. Maybe if I had been in a different mood or had more energy, I would've gone along for the sun-soaked, sweetie-pie boat ride in the fresh mountain air. But, you know, enh. Pass the Pyar Kiye Jaa.

Update to post (June 23, 2008): Oops! Apparently I should not write at 2:00 in the morning, because the feedback in the comments on this post so far indicates that I wasn't being clear. Somehow I expressed that I do not like Shammi, but that is not what I meant. I do like Shammi, or at least non-old Shammi, in the three things I've seen him in. He's totally fun; his energy is amazing, his dancing vivacious, his vocal stylings creative, and his commitment to his portrayals admirable. (I have yet to see him in "you say lover boy, I say stalker" mode, though I've heard about it from various people, and I can't imagine I'd like it.) This movie may even be a worthy showcase of his talents - it's got dancing and fighting and wooing and tenderness and all that. However, the whole package of this movie did nothing for me, and in fact I found it tiresome towards the end, even though it is not notably different from lots of other Hindi films that I find enjoyable or even adore, particularly 70s masala, as Filmi Geek points out in her comment. [Shrugs.] I think Filmi Girl's and Memsaab's comments may hold the answer - that Sharmila's character here is not a sturdy enough foil for him in this particular setting.

So maybe I'll end up agreeing with Naseeruddin Shah - Shammi is great, but he never made a great movie. Teesri Manzil still ranks very high with me, and at this point in my Indian movie education, I'll gladly call it great. And to me that would be the litmus test Shammi movie (as evidenced by me loaning it out to people who are unfamiliar with Indian movies) - Shammi and almost everything/one else work really well, not just Shammi himself. That is, if you don't like Shammi when he is surrounded by a great cast, super music, and a pretty tight story, then quite possibly you won't like him anywhere. And anyway, as Memsaab says in her comment, differences are what make life interesting.

14 comments:

Filmi Girl said...

I'm quite fond of Shammi, but it's tempered by the fact that he tends to play the stalker-cum-loverboy in most of his big hits. Sometimes it works, like in Teesri Manzil, and sometimes it's just CREEPY, like in An Evening in Paris which I would not recommend to you despite the wonderfulness of BLOND PRAN.

Have you seen Professor or Junglee? Either of those might suit your tastes more. Saira Banu is really sharp and a great foil for Shammi in Junglee and Lalita Pawar is the same in Professor.

Sharmila comes across as too meek, I think, to withstand the full force of SHAMMI.

memsaabstory said...

It was Sharmila's first movie, and she was only about 16 I think. She's not one of my favorites opposite Shammi. I liked him with Asha Parekh the best (like in Teesri Manzil). I will tell you too that I did not board the Shammi bandwagon instantly; I saw a few of his films (including Teesri Manzil, which I LOVED, but not because of him) before I realized that I was nuts about him.

As Carla would say, Shammi is sui generis and his mad antics take some getting used to. So don't despair, and even if you never get on board, it's okay, that's what makes life interesting. I can promise that I will never understand what you like about Akshaye! :-)

Filmi Geek said...

I think you feel about Shammi a little bit the way I feel about SRK - which is to say, "All these smart interesting women whom I know all seem to find something irresistibly appealing in ... that? What's wrong with me?"

Don't be so hard on yourself - no one can be appealing to everyone. Stop fretting over not loving Shammi - it doesn't make you less of a serious fan of Hindi films.

I'd rather watch Shammi than SRK but even now he's not someone I will watch a film *because* of. I like the jelly-shaking thing because it's amusing in a 60s kind of way but I certainly don't find it anything resembling sexy.

And I do think if you don't love *Kashmir ki kali* then you just will never love Shammi, since it's one film in which I really enjoyed his antics. Complaints about the plot - I think that just shows how not into it you were, because it was no less stupid than a lot of the 70s movies you love. I adore *Kashmir ki kali* and I've seen it at least twice, maybe three times, and I don't even remember most of the second half. The plot is not the point. I feel bad because I recommended this to you so highly, figuring that your taste for masala meant you wouldn't mind the craziness of the story.

Finally it wasn't Sharmila's first film - it was her first *Hindi* film; she was in Satyajit Ray's *Apur Sansar* in 1959. And if you think she looks young in *Kashmir ki kali* you should see here there, all of 13 years old. :)

ajnabi said...

I've never seen a Shammi movie! Does that make me a Bollywood-lovin' poseur? The movie sounds pretty lame... Maybe you're right and a different mood would've resulted in a different take on it, though.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Omg- the songs the songs the songssss- I especially liked "Subhan Allah"- so fun! In itself, the movie is perhaps meh- but the songs make it worth a watch- plus Kashmir.

I think Shammi really needed Asha Parekh to live up to his full potential- theyre both crazy :) Sharmila was better off w/ Shashi :)

Ajanbi! you totally need to see a Shammi movie- a Shammi experience is v unique :D even if u don't end up a fan, try 1, ideally from the 60s for full effect- preferably "Teesri Manzil." (such broad hints, i kno)

ajnabi said...

Shweta, I'm looking up Teesri Manzil right now!

And, Beth, I don't have any response to your update, but I do have to say that I am drooling over your praiseworthy screencap of Abhi from JBJ. Good golly but he looks great. Okay, end fangirl.

Beth said...

Ajnabi - I higly, highly recommend it. It's totally zany fun. Check out "O Haseena Zulfonwali" on youtube for inspiration.

And fangirly thoughts on Abhishek are always welcome here.

gebruss said...

This is one of those films I have heard a lot about and always felt I ought to see, which is usually a good recipe for me ending up not liking the film. So, I am not sure whether I should dare to watch it, especially since I have never seen a young Shammi movie. Maybe I will pass and start with something else. It is not has if I haven't got a long list of unwatched classics.

Beth said...

Gebruss - I'll send you mine, if you want. And do definitely watch Teesri Manzil - even though it has some plot stupidity, the rest of it is mega incredible fun and stylish and fab.

ellessdee said...

hi beth i am new to your site. your enthuthiasm is killing. you love shammi the person and then shammi's films. he set free many a generation by his war cry 'yahoo'...you must also check out his directorial venture - manoranjan. zeenat aman never looked hotter. great costumes and high on the oomph factor. very funny too. enjoy. and keep up the fanaticism. :)

memsaabstory said...

beth, I just posted about junglee...with lots of screen shots :-) since I can't resist shammi...

:-)

Beth said...

ellessdee - Thanks! I had no idea Shammi directed - I'll check it out!

memsaab - I'm off to look now. I already love the soundtrack....

Hans Meier said...

I do agree that Kashmir Ki Kali's (not abbreviation here) plot is no less weird than other movies of its time.

To my taste, Shammi is a tad to clownesk in here. What i like though are heaps of outdoor shots including several dances, some even on Dal lake. Another plus is the *relative* absence of gross violence and horror figures (even though Pran's caused me pain).

Sharmila unfortunately doesn't have the Oooomph of later appearances and pales against Shammi, but still sweet she is.

Beth said...

Hans - After twice trying to watch it again but getting so annoyed I turned it off, I've decided I will never really understand this movie. :) Same with Hum Apke Hain Kaun - I've tried a few times to re-watch it as well and never made it past 40 minutes. But as I recall, I do agree with you that Sharmila is sort of a non-entity here, cute as she may be.