It evoked a remake. What a futile exercise! “Chashme Buddoor” belonged to an era that cannot be recreated or revisited. There was certain innocence even in the mischief that Rakesh Bedi and Ravi Baswani brought alive on the screen. The third character of the trio, Farooq Sheikh, was the sobering element in the classic that this movie was. Can you ever forget Miss Chamko, the petite salesgirl, promoting a brand of washing soap and falling in love with a man who put his clothes only to laundry!

The movie fittingly opens in a Defence Colony barsati with Mehdi Hasan’s immortal “Ye Dhuaan Sa Kahan Se Uttha Hai” wafting through the smoke-filled room where three bachelors, Siddharth (Sheikh), Jai (Baswani) and Omi (Bedi) pursue different careers. Siddharth is the studious type, who avoids the company of girls but Jai and Omi have a roving eye, always on the lookout for ‘shikar’ (prey) with a lovable paanwalah Lallan Miyan (Saeed Jaffrey) following their exploits, sometimes assisting them, and bringing class to the comedy, memorably when he loans his saaikil (cycle) to one of them to go and hunt or when he refers to one of them as ‘bulbul’.

Those were times when stalking did not exist. As Bedi remarked recently, “Terms like voyeurism were unknown then.” When Jai exclaims ‘ladki’ there is no malice in his intent. He and Omi have their agenda in place even as Siddharth consistently desists them. Their banter is the highpoint, the room-sharing experience a lovely throwback to days when it was a necessity in student life, the cigarette-passing acts so naturally portrayed by these actors who were all looking to make a mark in Indian cinema. That there was room for such a movie, that such a movie was so well-received, was a tribute to the actors and that wonderful filmmaker Sai Paranjpye. She captures the essence of bachelor life so beautifully.

It was not Sheikh’s first movie. But it was the first to bring out the lighter side of an accomplished performer who had films like

“Garm Hava”, “Shatranj ke Khiladi”, “Gaman”, “Noorie” and “Umrao Jaan” in his repertoire. With stars from the stage like Bedi and Baswani, the movie rose to become one of the best light-hearted offerings in times when serious cinema attracted as large an audience as the commercial one. Sheikh and Deepti Naval, who plays Neha, the washing soap agent, appeal as an ideal pair, restrained in their delivery, hesitant yet assertive, their dating scenes so typical of times when you waited for the other to make the move.

The hero, an aspiring economist, wins over his girl, an ambitious singer, with simplicity that this generation may find out of place. The thin traffic at Mandi House, where Siddharth picks Neha after her music class, is such a pleasant reminder of Delhi in the 80s. The movie is a tribute to Sai Paranjpye’s excellent understanding of a subject that has remained close to the hearts of everyone associated with “Chashme Buddoor”, from the actors to the audience.

“Chashme Buddoor” saw Deepti cast for the first time with Bedi and Baswani. She had known Sheikh before the movie but the other two were stars from the stage. She delivers superbly, not to forget Jaffrey, who wins your heart with his diction. Baswani and Bedi carry the movie on their shoulders, as they mock at each other, and revel in superb humour. The film has music too. A mindless “Pyaar Lagaavwat Pranay Mohabbat” number involving the three protagonists is compensated by two classical numbers, “Kaali Ghodi Dwar Khadi” and “Kahan Se Aaye Badra”. Bedi also gets to sing “Is Nadi Ko Mera Aaina Man Lo” with Deepti, who walks away with a lot of appreciation for her performance.

Sheikh’s role is subdued compared to the rest but he comes off strongly. His is a multifaceted character, a serious student and a possessive lover but a reluctant romanticist; Sheikh is at home in every scene, not as compelling as he was known to but good enough to earn raving praise for this movie.

“Chashme Buddoor” has been restored in digital form to relive the magic that Sai Paranjpye created. It is worth watching for its simplicity. Watch the original and beware of the remake, which is a needless and unsurprisingly failed attempt to corner glory. “Chashme Buddoor” belongs only to Farooq Sheikh, Deepti Naval, Saeed Jaffrey, Rakesh Bedi and Ravi Baswani.

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

Genre: Romantic-comedy

Director: Sai Paranjpye

Cast: Farooq Sheikh, Deepti Naval, Rakesh Bedi, Ravi Baswani, Saeed Jaffrey, Leela Mishra, Amitabh Bachchan, Rekha, Vinod Nagpal, Vini Paranjape

Story, screenplay and dialogue: Sai Paranjpye

Music director: Raj Kamal

Lyricist: Indu Jain

Box office status: Silver jubilee hit

Trivia: Vinod Doshi, Deepti Naval’s father in the movie, was the Chairman of Premier Automobiles Limited. Remade in Malayalam in 1984 directed by Priyadarshan