PASAND APNI APNI – AS YOU LIKE IT OR NOT IS AN ILLUSION
Director: Basu Chatterjee
Music By: Bappi Lahiri
Cast: Mithun Chakraborty, Rati Agnihotri, Utpal Dutt, Ashok Kumar, Atul Agnihotri and others
This alluring comedy by the Indian auteur Basu Chatterjee is stamped with his love of the trivial details and casual observations of everyday life in contemporary India. It is a humble piece celebrating the lives of the affluent and the working classes but its richness lies in its fiscal observations of the impoverished middle class and their struggle to survive, albeit Basu makes this a real blissful ride with satire and humour which are disguised as a very subtle but sensitive love story where the endearments are not uttered or sung by the characters in the absurd Bollywood manner, but rather evolve in the script as character development ,this simply make this endearing movie a treasure to cherish although it is as simple in aptitude as it is lacking in attitude.
The synopsis revolve around a struggling theatre actress who through a mischievous misunderstanding is assumed by her small time theatre company to be the amorously involved with one of the richest business tycoons in the country ,her domestic and fiscal milieu obliges her to exploit this opportunity and she doesn’t deny the allegation, obviously she becomes the toast of the rather trivial little theatrical troupe whose owner played by Utpal Dutt starts dreaming of getting the industrial giant adroitly played by Mithun as Sandeep to be their official art patron and starts heaping immense favours on the young belle hoping she will allure her alleged lover to support her artistic venture.
The playboy industrialist meanwhile gets wind of this mischievous conspiracy and out of sheer boredom decides to investigate the whole episode disguised as a common employee of his giant firm, as he reaches the theatre and encounters the gorgeous but innocent chanteuse played by Rati Agnihotri, he is intrigued enough to find out more of the veracity of this rather alluring situation and the Shakespearean comedy ensues in full splendour as the actress starts liking the small time employee who is actually the most eligible bachelor in town and he gets a taste of real India with the astonishing verisimilitude of the girl and her family who are living on a shoestring budget after her father untimely demise.
This is where the movie inspires you as the affluent and bored billionaire starts to actually respect the middle class virtues and the girl’s courage more then her beauty and the alabaster belle of his imagination becomes a dream to cherish and applaud.
The misunderstanding and its resolution is a comment on the lower middle classes of a country where the worker is stripped of all rights and exploited by the powerful as witnessed by the rise to stardom of the female lead once her name is associated with a celebrity, this is scintillating satire delivered in a platter of laughs with enough sophistication to make Bollywood proud but then Basu Chattrerjee is an authentic auteur and given the natural talents of Mithun and Rati, he wields his magic wand to create an extremely likeable and polished comedy.
Mithun has perfect comic timing with natural grace and here he plays his tycoon with a poise which will remind you of Cary Grant comedies ,his costumes enhance his spontaneity immensely whether he is in a casual sport jacket or in a traditional Indian dress, but his turn in a tuxedo will make his female fans ecstatic and I think he plays his true self as his performance is so casual it seems he is playing his own persona, but he is just as charismatic as Rati who is the moral beauty, at once naive, innocent, but caring and pragmatic who adores the young man as a friend but still will not cross the boundaries of decency, yet their silent love is adroitly expressed in their everyday encounters in their casual conversations and their intimacy is reflected by body language rather than touch, this is true cinema which doesn’t need any absurd dialogues or hackneyed comic episodes to convey its modern love fable.
The musical score is charming with five numbers of which the best is a simple dance in Sheraton with Mithun and Rati, there are two song which could easily be deleted as they seem to be forced into the script by the distributors but at least they are in the milieu of a theatrical setting and performed on stage, the editing is natural and propels the story whereas the costumes and cinematography is toned down to give the movie its genuine and realistic look very authentically and the director is to be credited for these whimsical but all important trivial details.
The credit is due to Basu and the plaudits are equally shared by the 2 romantic leads, with their flare for spontaneous histrionics and their absolute dedication to underplay their roles so the humour can shine bright and this is what sets this movie apart from the average sit-com, as for rom-coms I am not going to humiliate this effort by even suggesting the notion it belongs to that genre as it has more intelligence in its little finger then the whole embodiments of the Karan Johar so called rom-coms which drown themselves in their gigantic set pieces, gaudy costumes and overwrought melodrama.
Basu made other comedies like Shaukeen, Khatta Meetha and Baton Baton Main and they are equally good as they also are conceived out of observation about a common man and how people live in their modest two room dwellings in urban Indian metropolises and the joys that the human beings can derive from simple pleasures in everyday life, even when you are taking a crowded public bus or suburban train, while you can be equally miserable in a Mercedes or range rover if you are discontent in life genuinely.
This is a venture that puts that message across very affectively and convincingly in the profound manner of a Shakespearean play of mistaken identities but the wisdom of the bard and his comic sense of genius are retained in an astounding manner without resorting to clichéd Bollywood antics and acrobatic minus the mangled melodrama which make them so nauseating generally, but this is a charming exception and its humility makes it even more endearing than ever.
– Dr Usman Khawaja