chashme buddoor, old and new – or does God really have the time?


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.

18 thoughts on “chashme buddoor, old and new – or does God really have the time?

  1. My words!
    Well, I never had this conversation with Sai, but quite a similar one on Katha.
    At the end of the film, the cartoon shows the tortoise win the race, which is Leela Mishra’s parallel story line to the main story, i.e., Naseeruddin Shah wins Deepti Naval. The grandchild shouts, “to jeet kachuve ki huyi aakhir”, Leela Mishra sighs and, “…, ye bhi kya jeet!”. This because Deepti had spent a night with Farooque Shiekh!
    Yeah, this scene had me ranting with Sai since late 80s, when I saw the film DD.
    Thank you for making me feel I’m in good company with my conversations! 😀

    1. Ah, Harvey. Now that you mention it, yes, that line in ‘Katha’, it’s been years since I saw that film, but yes, rant, rant, rant. So do you have these conversations too, over years and months and days? 🙂

      1. Yes, this one with Sai.
        Many with Guru Dutt, particularly Kumkum’s line in Mr. & Mrs. 55.
        A lot with Gulzar too.
        Over decades, in fact.
        And the usual ones with strangers and friends, as you mentioned at the beginning of the article. 🙂

  2. I haven’t seen the ‘new’ Chashme Buddoor, but this makes me want to.

    Oh, and I agree with you and Harvey about that conversation with Guru Dutt. Why? Why that chaawal mein patthar-waali line? 😦 Or the sheer idiocy that Chaudhvin ka Chaand descends into.

    Come to think of it, there are lots of actors I’d want to ask: “Why did you act in this film? Was it just for the money? Or didn’t you see what a disastrous role this was going to be? Didn’t the director show you the script?”

    Etc, etc.

  3. You mean David Dhawan’s Chashme Baddoor is a good watch?! I have studiously kept away from it because, well because…

    I liked Sai’s film, and that line didn’t quite cut me as much as it did you. I do remember wanting to smack Farooque Shaikh upside the head at that point, and thinking that Deepti should have told him to go to hell, but if I were to ditch my boyfriend (now-husband) for every stupid thing he said to me, then I would have been leaving a slew of boyfriends (and no husbands) behind me. (And that goes for all the stupid things that I have said to him as well.) *grin*

    Yes, I have wonderful conversations (in my head) with various people. In all of them, people are in awe of my scintillating intellect. But then, they also follow my script and say what I expect them to say, and I’m very magnanimous in my acceptance of their grovelling apologies.

    Unfortunately, in real life, those philistines refuse to follow my oh-so-brilliant script. Uff! 🙂

    I agree with you completely about Katha. That spoilt the film for me. That scene (and dialogue) is also emphasised by the cartoon – the tortoise is given a bouquet when he wins, and as he watches the hare go hopping away, the flowers in his bouquet wilt. You really couldn’t get any more crass than that.

    Yes, to Harvey as well – Guru Dutt is one person to whom I would have loved to address a few (hundred) questions.

    1. Anu, well, I am a fan of David Dhawan’s work, it’ silly, crass and a lot of fun. Chashme Buddoor is silly and well-written, and surprisingly not vulgar at all. I enjoyed it. Of course, you won’t if you have Sai’s film at the back of your mind.

      I know, why won’t people follow the script one has written, when one is obviously so brilliant? 🙂

      1. Banno, I think David Dhawan is a great filmmaker. 🙂 I really enjoyed some of his earlier films with Govinda. They are silly alright, but there is a huge energy in them that makes me take the silliness and enjoy it thoroughly.

        I stopped watching him only when the double entendre became too much to take. Perhaps I should watch this new one since you say it is not vulgar at all.

  4. Wonderful. It’s such a pleasure to find someone being critical of sacred cows of Indian cinema. Yes I still loved it, but yes, it was jarring, some of the regressive stuff you rightly call out. And yes, while I can watch it again and again, the last half an hour or so is such a letdown. Although, I don’t think I can watch the newer version even after this review. Not that courageous.

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