Thursday, February 28, 2008

Movie Review: Sharaabi (Drunkard) (1984) (Hindi film)

Prakash Mehra and Manmohan Desai are the duo directors who most contributed to AB’s image in the early years and he is ever grateful to them. You wont find either PK and MD making movie classics. They made pure masala movies. And you just have to leave your brains aside when you see their movies. This movie is PM’s contribution to the growing of the legend that is Amitabh Bachchan.

So to turn to ‘Sharaabi’: AB is a soppy mess of a man who at 30-35 years of age (presumably) still yearns (in an overly sentimental way) for the love of his father (actor Pran) who is too busy acting the life of a businessman. And so the child turns to drink at the age of 10 or so, we are led to believe. Om Prakash stars as the ‘Munshi’ caretaker of the baby Big B who inexplicably allows (or is unable to stop) the child from turning to drink. So you find AB in an eternally inebriated tone through most of the movie.

But a little aside here on the character artiste Om Prakash. Many mimicry artistes would bless him since people such as him, Pran, AB himself, Utpal Dutt, Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Nana Patekar have provided rich grist to the mill for these poor artistes. With each of them and their unique dialogue deliveries, voice modulation and idiosyncratic ways they provide a rich variety of Bolly-personalities. Nowadays in Bollywood however, each girl or boy is just a pitiable clone of the next girl/boy in line. Sad……

Jaya Prada, the South Indian beauty plays AB’s love interest. By now you would already have guessed the happenings in the movie. Well the father starts loving his son again, the son turns away from alcohol, AB’s love for JP is consummated……that’s about it really.

Surprisingly this movie works for me, works very well in fact. You could find fault with almost every aspect of film-making in this movie: the story, the dialogues, the music, the choreography, the editing, the direction…… name it. The crowning glory is watching the villain Ranjeet in drag on stage, dancing to the backdrop of the pyramids and Sphinx. It doesn’t get better than that. But then there are a lot of things that work delightfully well, as well.

It’s its overstylised nature that raises the movie from the depths of ordinariness to classicity. In going over the top it suddenly given an unexpected aerial view that delights. Supported by a very competent cast of Amitabh, Jaya Prada, Om Prakash, Pran the movie is a minor classic: for Bollywood at least. It’s a power-packed performance by AB. And the chemistry between JP and AB is as good as it gets.

I always feel that Hindi cinema tries to propagate those noble truths/ideals and feels the need to shout it loudly from the rooftops. Hence the tendency to go over the top. To be ‘gross’ as opposed to subtle. Those gentle ideals such as the unity of all religions, equality of man, honouring the elders, expressing your joy and sadness openly without embarrassment, not pandering to the ego, for the elders to keep aside their ego when dealing with youngsters, for the young to recognize the wisdom that comes with age, cultivation of the nobility of character, mothers who are the epitome of purity of thoughts and deeds…………etc.etc. And ‘Sharaabi’ in its own way propagates various such noble ideals.

A better writer/blogger might be able to convince someone better why this movie is a minor classic. But till such a time, take my word on it.

And so to turn to the other strong point of the movie: the music and the songs. The music director being Bappi Lahiri (he of the kitschy looks) the master of kitschy music.


  1. Accompanied by some kitschy lyrics, the songs and music makes a deadly combination. Watch ‘Mujhe Naulaka Manga De Re, O Saiya Diwane’ (Buy me a Naulakha (a type of ornament), O Besotted lover) sung with verve by Asha Bhosale. This song is the very kitschy standard image of Bollywood that any Westerner would carry. Watch it, it makes great entertainment. If nothing else watch it for Jaya Prada dancing in the clichéd courtesans dress, a standard fare of that era. Jaya Prada of whom Satyajit Ray (winner of the Lifetime Achievement Oscar award and the famous Bengali (‘art’) film maker) said she was the quintessential Indian beauty. Watch it for some wonderful dance moves (alas all of them go the way of the film extras) including the ladies in the background prancing with sitars. It’s a very moving experience; believe you me. But it is AB and JP who lend a strong integrity and credibility to the song. Any lesser actors and you would have had an unremarkable laughable song. That’s what makes this song a minor classic

  1. ‘Jahan Char Yaar’: AB manages to enact the most stupid of lyrics and dance moves with such sublime ease and sincerity that you are left gaping. No wonder the masses fell in love with him; from India to Egypt. This is still the period when AB can make silly exaggerated faces without looking silly. He has long lost that ability: watch his recent movies and you will notice the difference

  2. Inteha Ho Gayi Intezaar Ki: a riotish mishmash of music and dance styles. Wonderful!!! The trouble that any westerner watching this would find is that the dance moves would be totally alien, silly and funny to him (assuming he is not quickly able to relate the subtitles to the dance steps). But to a person who understands the language, the choreography would gel with the lyrics with no asynchronicity.

  3. Dedey Pyar De (Give me Love) is performed twice, once by JP and then by AB: this marvellously kitschy song alone is worth its weight in gold. Watch out for a lot of funny dance steps, music and expressions. The honey-dripping voice of Asha Bhosale is an extra. As for some queer disco noises, this is Bappi at his best

  4. Manzilen Apni Jagah Hai, Raste Apni Jagah: a surprisingly marvelous song from Bappi-da. Sung in the rich soulful voice of Kishore-da


Screenplay: Laxmikant Sharma

Dialogue: Kader Khan

Lyrics: Prakash Mehra, Anjaan

Music: Bappi Lahiri

Produced: Satyendra Pal

Story and Directed by: Prakash Mehra

To summarize: A towering performance from the Big B in what could easily have been just another inane Hindi film. And Bappi-da’s music is the icing on the cake

1 comment:

Daddy's Girl said...

I love this review - it somehow summarises how a really kitschy and almost nonsensical masala flick can also somehow simultaneously be something deeper, stronger and better. I absolutely love the music of 'Sharaabi', Kishore Kumar is excellent on 'Jahan Char Yaar', and as you've said, AB interprets the song wonderfully in his expressions. There is so much to bemoan and complain about in this film, from the ridiculous and really gross bloodstained hankerchief to the sheer silliness of the storyline and the 'OTT-ness' of many of the dialogues, but as you've so well noted, there is something noble and lovely about it as well. And definitely enjoyable and worth watching. I agree, definitely a minor classic.