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Miss Chamko returns to the big screen, three decades on
Tanushree Bhasin  6th Apr 2013

A still from Sai Paranjpye’s classic Chashme Buddoor

uniye Miss Chamko, aap deejiye apna demonstration" Farooq Shaikh (Siddharth) calls out to Deepti Naval (Neha) as he invites her into his flat. A young, innocent looking Naval then shows him how to wash clothes using the Chamko detergent she's trying to sell. Awkward and reluctant at first, Siddharth slowly begins to enjoy this unlikely meeting, eagerly singing Chamko detergent's tagline with Naval.

"Chamko... kapdo ke liye behtareen sabun, aazmaaiye baar baar, lagaataar, kapdon mein chakaachaundh chamak lane ke liye, khushbudaar, jhaag waala, Chamko!"

The five minute wait until the detergent worked its magic on the soaked shirt, is perhaps one of the most wonderfully crafted and written scenes in Hindi cinema. Unsure and self-conscious, the two sit there looking around, wondering what to say. Siddhartha puts on the radio to fill the silence and funnily enough, Hum tum ek kamre mein band ho starts playing. Horrified, he immediately walks to the door and pulls it wide open, just to be sure.

In the new Chashme Baddoor this lovely scene is reduced to a farce, one which is not even centred on the lead characters. Remakes are hardly ever as good as the originals. And when the original is Sai Paranjpye's cult classic Chashme Buddoor, any attempt to outdo it is pointless. This subtle and gentle work of art when placed in the hands of David Dhawan, whose repertoire includes the likes of Biwi No. 1 and Coolie No. 1, is bound to cause panic in the hearts of anyone who truly loves this film. Understandably then, a miffed Sai Paranjpye has completely distanced herself from the new Chashme Baddoor.

Curiously though, PVR has also released the restored version of the old Chashme Buddoor along with the remake. "It was amazing to attend the premier of the restored Chashme Buddoor at Juhu the other day", said Deepti Naval speaking to us over the phone, "and it was like a walk down memory lane for everyone who was involved in the film. Today's filmmakers might have progressed in terms of technological expertise, but when it comes to storytelling and capturing delicate moments, we in the eighties were far ahead."

Fans love the film for how it is rooted in the Delhi of the 80's. Wide, open roads; stubborn, malfunctioning scooters; khaadi kurtas and jholas; barsaatis in DU; and of course characters who were allowed to chain-smoke on the screen. "Those were simpler times and the fact that Sai's script reflected the sensibilities of the 80's is what drew me to the film. The story was so believable and I loved Neha and Siddharth's equation. The idea of romance has changed over all these years and Chashme Buddoor represents one of the few old films that reflect the reality of those years," said Naval.

The curious case of Sajid KhanADITYA MANI JHA

For many of us, who have only watched this 1981 classic on television, this re-release is an absolute delight. The recent love the film has been receiving in newspapers and online is not simply a result of nostalgia. Sai Paranjpye's utter genius can be seen in every sequence in the film. For instance, the characters she created were terribly realistic and nuanced. Jomo and Omi were your typical roadside Romeos, leching at and teasing every woman that crossed their paths. But their individual idiosyncrasies made them human and relatable. Though naughty and devious, they never came across as malicious. Siddharth too was an unlikely 'hero', lacking all attributes associated with typical leading men. He was shy, slightly nerdy and essentially a decent guy, and yet he falls in love.

How Paranjpye constructs Neha and Siddharth's love affair is another interesting aspect of the film. The film continuously ridicules 'filmy' romance, particularly in the Jomo and Omi's imaginary love scenes with Neha. They sit in boats or in beautiful parks in over-the-top costumes singing songs just like in the movies. In one scene, Neha wonders how silly it is for people in films to actually break into songs when they are in love. Given this criticism of conventional use of music in films, Paranjpye's clever and restrained use of songs in the film becomes even more striking.

Now that both the new and old are out in theatres, one can only hope that people will also go and watch the original. "If it were up to me, I wouldn't have touched the original. It's a classic and some things should never be changed," Naval said at the end of our conversation. Some things should indeed never be changed. Maybe someone should have given Dhawan this advice for his Chashme Baddoor is nothing but a shallow, mutated shadow of the classic.

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