Well, lets get the most obvious one out early. Chupke Chupke was not the biggest of hits when it was released but like good wine has matured the best of all its contemporaries. I saw this movie for the first time on Door Darshan’s famous Friday night shows when I was around 10, and have lost the number of times I have seen it since then. It also happens to be one of only 3 movies that Dad allowed us to watch on Friday night (yups….lights went out at 10 for us).
The movie starts with Dr. Parimal Tripathi (Dharmender), and Sulekha (Sharmila Tagore) meeting and falling in love at a Dak Bangla in Shimla. Sulekha is a botany student, who has come there with her fellow student on a study tour, and Parimal (how did they come up with such a kickass name!!) is a much revered botany professor. The movie keeps the courtship period short, but it’s much fun with Parimal playing the chowkidaar, and serving the girls. We then quickly move to Allahabad (beautifully pronounced as Illahabad), where a pandit-ji and Haripat Bhaiyya (another cool name!!!) played by David, fix the marriage. Now, Sulekha is in complete awe of her jeejaji (pronounced jijjajji rather cheekily by Parimal who gets a bit of a complex), but the jijjajji (Om Prakash) is not able to make it to the wedding. The fun begins when after marriage the couple gets an invite to jeejaji’s house in Bombay, and Parimal plays a practical joke in which he first arrives as a driver (PyaareMohan, really the names are such fun), who speaks pure Hindi because jijaji wants a cultured driver from Illahabad. Now the stage is set: A driver who speaks pure Hindi, and is then bent on learning English from the genius ji (mera matlab jijjaji), a flustered, frustrated jeeja who is driven to the brink by the driver’s antics, and later on is made to believe that her saali (Sulekha) is having an affair with that driver, another Parimal shows up (AB) and starts having an affair with jijiajis friends sister (JB), whole lot of confusion, hilarity and a satisfying conclusion.
The main leads Dharmender, and Om Prakash are top notch and have excellent support from Sharmila, AB, JB, Asrani, David and Kesto Mukherjee. Om Prakash was in the form of his career, from his initial reaction to Dharam asking his wife to call him Pyaare, to his frustration at Pyaare’s irreverent questions about language, to the point of a complete break down and then behaving almost non-chalantly is epic. Watch out for his lip movements when he is cursing Pyaare, but can’t actually make the words come out. Along with Pyaar Kiye Ja, this is Om Prakash at its best.
About Dharam, you can only marvel at the way he effortlessly portrays the role, how much fun he was having while essaying his character is evident in every scene. Starting from his interactions with Sulekha as the chowkidaar, to his banter with Jijjaji, to his flirting with Sulekha in front of the jijjaji as the driver, and as the mastermind of this elaborate scheme he is absolutely perfect. You would not believe this is the same person who a decade later be famous for the “Kutte” dialogue. I always wondered why he is better known for his action roles, rather than his more matured, romantic, and comic roles from Bandini, to Satyakam, and from Chupke Chupke to Dillagi. For all this he deserves a separate post altogether, may be some other day.
Back to the movie: Sharmila was adequate, although she did look a bit old to play a student (even a post-graduate one). AB was the surprise package, almost absent in the first half, he more than made up with his portrayal of a confused, flustered, always in a hurry Prof. Sukumar in the second half. I believe this was one of his earliest comic roles, and his fast-paced nervy dialogue delivery gave a new dimension to the movie. JB playing Asrani’s assured and bright sister Vasudha (“v.a.aSs.u.d.h.a, wo nai tu hai Ass,” this dialogue is etched in my memory) is a perfect foil for Sukumar who instantly falls for her. Every character is memorable, from James (Keshto), to Prashant (Asrani) to Haripat bhaiyya, all play characters that are enjoyable, but also easy to identify with.
All this is tied up with a simple, hummable score by Burman Sr. (Respect!!!). It never overshadows the movie, and at no time does it feel like an interruption (may be the JB song “Chupke Chupke” could have been edited, but minor complain in an otherwise perfect movie). Ab ke sajan saawan, is a nice ched-chaad song, whereas “Sa re ga ma” is joie de vivre. Dialogues by Shakeel Chandra are simple, contextual and he never tries too hard to make you laugh.
And of course for all this credit must go to the ultimate mastermind of this scheme: Hrishikesh Mukerjee. He never loses his grip on the story, and even when towards the climax when so many things are happening at the same time he never let them fall apart. What is left when the credit rolls, or in this case Om Prakash says ‘Namaste’ is a sweet and a satisfying after-taste.