chashmebaddoor

Of course, we all talk in our heads to the people who have made us angry. We are angrier still when we were not able to make those ready retorts quite so readily when they were required. And angrier still if those people are people we never meet and can only have imaginary conversations with.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I am haranguing people in my head for days. Or months. Or years. “Huh, why? Huh, why? Huh, how could you have? Huh?”

And of course, this conversational brilliance on my part always leads to the person I am haranguing, being awed by my smartness, my humour and my conviction. Usually the person also says ‘Sorry’ for having overlooked what was so obvious to me.

Now, for the last 2 years or so, ever since I watched ‘Chasme Buddoor’ (1981) again, I have been talking in my head to none other than the director, Sai Paranjpye; not everyday, no, because that would make me quite weird, but every now and then.

I was enjoying myself as does everyone who has such fond memories of the film from 1981, oh, when I was 16, Jai (Ravi Baswani) and Omi (Rakesh Bedi), Siddharth (Faroukh Shaikh) and Miss Chamko Neha (Deepti Naval), Lallan Miya (Saeed Jaffri) and Delhi, tutti-frutti and paan.

Then comes the moment when Siddharth realises that Neha is indeed the girl who his friends were boasting about, who they claim has had trysts with both of them, in the park, at her house, when he discovers that indeed there is a photograph of her dead mother with a ‘chandan ka haar’ on the side table, and a green plastic shower curtain in her bathroom, and he storms off. She follows him to the gate, he turns and says “Tum jaisi ladki se bhagwaan bachaaye*”.

Yes, that’s it. That was the end of the film for me. It’s like when you were drinking sweet lassi at Poona Cold Drink House and you suddenly hit blotting paper.

I am absolutely infuriated by this “Tum jaisi ladki se bhagwaan bachaaye”. I wait and long and pray for something to happen in the film after that, that will redeem the sentence. But what happens in short is that the girl pines, the boy realises that he has misjudged her, she is not that kind of a girl, his friends have been lying, his friends realise that they have been jerks, they plan to get the couple back together, the boy gets to be the hero and rescue the girl from real goons and they live happily ever after.

But the “Tum jaisi ladki se bhagwaan bachaaye” continues to be a canker in my soul.

I say to Sai Paranjpye, who I did see often on Fergusson Road or at the British Council Library or at the Poona railway station in 1981, oh, when I was 16, but never talked to, I say to her now,

“You were such a glamorous figure to me, with your green eyes and short hair, your kaftans and your cigarettes that you brought out in the open, as if you had just walked out of your bedroom onto the road, with your divorce and your films, and living in the house your maternal grandfather built, on the road that was named after him. You seemed like a possibility to being a ‘Tum jaisi ladki’, exactly the kind from who ‘bhagwan bachaaye’, in that small, conservative town that Poona used to be. Then huh, why? Huh, why? Huh, how could you have? Huh?”

“So what if Jai and Omi were lying or not? What if Neha did go out with them? Maybe sung a sonnet or two in the park with Omi? Exchanged a kiss or two with Jai in her room? Why was she supposed to know that only Siddharth would be right for her? And why was she supposed to wait until she met Siddharth before she talked to any other boy or flirted with him or even thought, God forbid, that she was in love with him? And how would she recognise Siddharth if she had not met Jai and Omi first?”

“Even if this was what happened in 1981, if there were Siddharths and Nehas who behaved exactly the way they did, why could you have not told a different story, you with your green eyes and your short hair, your kaftans and your cigarettes, your divorce and your films? Who said that storytellers have to tell the stories that people want to listen to?”

I for one, went out with a lot of princes, even married one, before I finally found the frog I really liked to kiss. I would have liked a film about “Tum jaisi ladki”, that did not need an intervention from God. And even though no one could get away by saying to me “Bhagwan bachaaye”, a film like that could have helped me feel more right, less wrong about myself, could have made me feel more comfortable about the discrepancy between the idea of love that was floating around and what it really felt like.

So in fact in 2013, oh, when I was 48, I enjoyed David Dhawan’s ‘Chasme Baddoor’ much more, where the girl ran away from eligible prospects, where she didn’t care what other people thought about her, and where she gave it back to the boy for even presuming to not only suspect her, but judge her, where the girl is not a sweet, shy temptress chewing a flower, but the girl on the driver’s seat, and she also has a helmet, by God.

*Tum jaisi ladki se bhagwaan bachaaye – May God protect me/us from a girl like you.

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