Blast from the past Friday Review

Meri Biwi Ki Shaadi (1979)

CAUGHT IN DILEMMA Poster of "Meri Biwi Ki Shaadi"

CAUGHT IN DILEMMA Poster of "Meri Biwi Ki Shaadi"   | Photo Credit: 29dfr meri biwi ki shaadi1

The legend of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee has inspired many a filmmaker to adopt their distinctive style of filmmaking –– humour-laden and light-hearted while depicting the trials and tribulations of the common man in a sensitive manner. While their cinema was a part of the wider ‘alternate’ genre of filmmaking, which was sweeping Bollywood in the early seventies, they primarily dealt with situations that were city-centric.

Rajat Rakshit, who directed the 1979 surprise hit, “Meri Biwi Ki Shaadi”, was clearly inspired by the genre of film craft popularised by the veterans. To be fair to Rajat, he handles the baton of direction quite effectively in terms of the performances he is able to elicit from the main cast and crew. But then, he had the acumen of Amol Palekar and Ranjeeta Kaur at his disposal, both of whom had established their credentials in such type of roles by now.

Palekar, after his dream debut in Chatterjee’s 1974 “Rajnigandha”, had given a string of hits, including “Chitchor” and “Chhoti Si Baat”. He had carved a niche for himself, which was new, and unique in the annals of Hindi film cinema since its inception –– of a common, city based man, modelled, maybe, on RK Laxman’s dhoti clad, balding caricature, with a bushy moustache. Although the physicality of the two is poles apart, at times their angst and concerns are similar.

Ranjeeta Kaur, who had made an incredible impression with “Ankhiyoon Ke Jharookon Se” and “Laila Majnu” and was enjoying a high for her histrionic prowess and box-office success, was pertinently picked up by Rakshit to pair against Palekar, although Palekar’s stint with the affable Zareena Wahab and Vidya Sinha in earlier films was highly appreciated by audiences and critics alike. Nonetheless, Palekar and Ranjeeta make an endearing on-screen couple, with their boy/girl next door image suitably complimenting their chemistry.

However, despite his best efforts, there are patches where the editing falters . Also, Rajat should have strived to keep Palekar’s mannerisms (at times seemingly stunted) under check as the unnecessary use of hands to convey anxiety is a tad laborious and out of place. Even the music, composed by Usha Khanna, to lyrics by Ravindra Jain and Asad Bhopali, is lacklustre and fails to enthuse, expect, perhaps, for Suresh Wadekar sung “Mujhe Meri Biwi Se Bachao” filmed on Ashok Saraf, for whom this was one of his initial Hindi movie roles. As a drunk lawyer, he plays the role with aplomb, where someone else could have tripped on the fine line of overacting.

As for “Meri Biwi Ki Shaadi”, remake of the 1964 Hollywood movie “Send Me No Flowers’’, starring Dorris Day and Rock Hudson- it revolves around the anxiety of a 41-year-old chronic hypochondriac, Professor Bhagwant Kumar Bhartendu (Amol Palekar). He is particularly perturbed when one of his colleagues, of the same age, dies of heart attack. The good professor is deeply in love with his wife, Priya (Ranjeeta) and is despondent on what fate has in store for her, were he to meet his end. He starts experiencing nightmares on the pitiable situation Priya might land in. His fear of sudden death from cardiac arrest is compounded when he overhears his family physician, Dr. Bhatt, discussing some other patient’s case with a renowned cardiologist, Dr. Merchant. That patient is diagnosed with a severe heart condition and is likely to die within a short span of three months.

Bhartendu thinks this to be his case and is totally upset, his hypochondria jumping by leaps and bounds. He stops going to college and sits at home inhaling a medicinal tube and complaining of chest pain. Simultaneously, he starts spurning all romantic advances of Priya, which leads to a doubt geminating in Priya’s mind about his fidelity.

Meanwhile, Bhartendu decides to find a solution to the likely problem in his own lifetime, by finding a suitable groom for Priya and getting her married. Hence, the title of the film. Thereon, Bhartendu visualizes a groom in every eligible man for Priya. The situation is compounded when Priya’s childhood friend, Achint Sharma (Dilip Kulkarni) comes to stay with them. Although Bhartendu dislikes Achint to the core, he encourages the two to spend time together by going to watch movies or go shopping. The beans is finally spilled when a drunk Venkat Vyas (Ashok Saraf) gets into a nasty fracas with Achint.

How the ensuing misunderstanding between the estranged couple ends, forms the dénouement of the film.

Genre: Comedy

Director: Rajat Rakshit

Cast: Amol Palekar, Ranjeeta Kaur, Ashok Saraf, Birbal, C. S. Dubey, Jankidass, Dilip Kulkarni, Nilu Phule, Raju Shrestha

Lyrics: Ravindra Jain and Asad Bhopali

Music: Usha Khanna

Box office status: Hit

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Printable version | Oct 1, 2020 8:03:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/Meri-Biwi-Ki-Shaadi-1979/article14513230.ece

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