Boredom. If Amitabh Bachchan tells you, in his on-the-cusp-of-being-successful-even-if-you-don’t-know-it-yet-since-it’s-1973 voice that Boredom is the malaise of the 70s, you believe it. Even if this boredom theory comes right after a student strike, which too, apparently, a lot of people, including our heroine Reena (Nanda) have participated in because it’s fun, and something to do, and life is so boring otherwise.
Of course, there are large chunks of life that are boring. One of the biggest existential questions is ‘how do you spend 24 hours in a day?’ You could organize hard disks into neat folders, thereby deleting all the data you want to keep and be left with files that do not open with any known application like I do. Or alternatively, you could have an affair, do social service, do your children’s homework and tie their shoelaces even when they are 15, eat too much, drink too much, or you could smoke and take drugs like Reena does in the film ‘Naya Nasha’ (Hari Dutt, 1973).
Well, I was thinking that if it were not for cable TV, Facebook, Twitter, and the likes, I am sure there would be many more of us lining up for the capsule that looks a lot like a Becosule from Rana (Prithviraj), the local villainous drug supplier, who lures college kids away from their studies into his psychedelic den where they can dance in the afternoons and take drugs.
Like Dhanno was getting bored yesterday afternoon. She gets bored not because she has too little to do, but because she has too much. She wanted to go dancing. I asked her if there are still any afternoon discos around in Bumm-Bumm-Bhole-Land. She did not seem to know of any. It seems like a pity. They were nice, these afternoon discos, which opened because a lot of girls did not get permission to go out at night.
But getting back to Reena: she is rich, lives in a lovely old house that makes me nostalgic for a Poona that does not exist anymore, (it could be a house in Bombay, but it reminds me of something in Poona). Reena does not like studies, she has parents who are never there, and a grandfather who drinks from morning. But she is chirpy, restless and just wants to have fun. I like that not too much emotional baggage is attached to her veering into experimenting with drugs. There is only the desire to fill up time.
Her doctor fiancé, is not much help. Ranjit Mullick looks really handsome, and has liquid brown eyes, but he also looks quite clueless.
Particularly in the song ‘Ao Kare Baatein’ he slinks off into the bushes as if he is going to take a leak, while Nanda woos him. Have a look.
Also, as a doctor, he takes too long to realize his fiancé and then his wife, is an addict. Even when she goes through the marriage ceremony and the suhag raat, high as a kite. And as a doctor, he actually believes for some time that his love will cure her, when all I want to scream is ‘Have you not heard of rehab?’ Reena needs her pill like I need my afternoon cup of tea, at 4.30. And in one scene, the good doctor actually hides all the clocks in the house, believing that time will stop, and the drugs will lose their power over Reena because she does not know it is 4.30. Reena meanwhile looks on, sad and completely unconvinced at his ability to cure her.
But to the good doctor’s credit, he is also completely non-judgmental about Reena’s behavior, and just wants her to get better, to get a hold on her life. Even when she gives birth to a deformed child, he remains quite logical in his dealing with her, really a medical man.
The film is rather ham-handed in parts, particularly in the delineation of Reena’s parents. Manmohan Krishna and Achala Sachdev remain caricatures of rich, bad people, who have no time from their social activities for any real relationship. They don’t even have time to visit their daughter for 10 days after she has given birth, and when they do, they manage to squeeze in 15 minutes. Rather unbelievable, that.
Then, there is the scene where Reena goes into a bookshop, buys a big tome that is covered with white paper and has ‘Morals’ sketched on it with color pencils. So yes, a girl who does not like to study, actually goes into a bookshop and buys the fattest volume there, which seems to be handwritten. In the next scene, she then throws the said book on the ground when the other girls ask her to go out with them to a party. Oh yes!
But somehow, despite all the funny business, the film does not really moralize much about Reena being a girl and taking drugs. Nanda holds the rather clumsy film together. She manages to convey this impression of a young, vulnerable girl, not particularly unhappy, but bored and wanting to having a good time. When the doctor does not have time for her, she tries a mild flirtation with a club singer, who rejects her in a ham-handed ‘You are a characterless girl’ way, but that does not affect her. She drinks whisky openly, and she laughs prettily.
The camera is in the able hands of Fatik Mazumdar. There are a lot of dissolves and multiple exposures. And many shots, the just getting trendy zoom-ins, zoom-outs into Nanda’s lips and her twitching fingers. She wears peach nail polish and peach lipstick that bodes well for the extreme close-ups, and I think it’s nice she has pretty hands.
The art direction by Gyan Singh adds more lovely kitsch, orange and pink bedrooms,
green and golden dens of vice.
Nanda is also dressed by Mani Rabadi, which calls for much happiness – 70s style maxis, and embroidered saris, matching jewelry and glass bangles.
So, yes, for most of us, Nanda will always be that sad, mysterious, beautiful woman singing ‘Ek pyaar ka nagma hain ..’ in ‘Shor’ or the slightly confused glamorous one in ‘Jab Jab Phool Khile’, but the only reason I bought the DVD of ‘Naya Nasha’ was because I was curious about Nanda smoking, and also because any Hindi film with ‘Nasha’ in it promises to be hilarious. And I was not disappointed.
Of course, if you are bored today, you can watch ‘Naya Nasha’.
And also before or after that, watch ‘How can I be happy?’ by Stephen Fry. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tvz0mmF6NW4
And to top it all up, go peruse some Mani Rabadi stuff at this blog post, ‘Who is Mani Rabadi?’
And I promise you, you won’t have to take a pill.
* Suhag raat – first night after marriage
* Nasha – intoxication