Dear readers, I have been very tardy about writing new posts, lately. (It’s mostly the fault of the hot Delhi summer which makes it very uncomfortable to use my laptop.) So, when Ruchi, a regular Masala Punch reader, told me of her tragic encounter with a doormat (of the reel type), I immediately spotted a blog post in her and made every effort to encourage her writing. In the end, it turned out to be a joint effort, since neither of us had the time or the energy to do all the research on our own. Today we have for you a list of five filmi doormats and how we wish they had turned out. Over to Ruchi:
I still remember the days when I was completely hooked on to Dhoop Kinarey, a Pakistani tele-serial that held my imagination with the brilliant romance of the impetuous Zoya with the oh so serious Ahmer Ansari. So when I recently came across a ‘new’ (new for me i.e.) Pakistani tele-serial on You Tube – Humsafar – which had apparently been a hit in Pakistan, I was immediately interested. The beautiful Khirad (Mahira Khan) and her blossoming romance with the handsome Asher (Fawaad Khan), the understated melodrama, so unlike what the likes of Ekta Kapoor are dishing out on the Indian TV screen, was seductive. So what if Khirad had a tendency to cry every episode, she was khuddar (self-respecting), we knew that from the very first episode. And anyway she did cry with such panache that you just had to admire it. And yes, Asher couldn’t stand up to his manipulative father but you can’t quibble with every tiny thing! The story had to start somewhere!
So I remained hooked and continued to watch and wait for the real action, which when it did come let me down so horribly that even a week later I am still writhing in pain. Why oh why, did Khirad have to be such a doormat? Why after being insulted, abused and ignored, could she not shout some abuses at the highhanded manner of the hero? Why did she have to ruin the whole series for me? There were still so many episodes left; I was so looking forward to watching them! All the various times when a story with potential has been ruined for me because of the doormat heroines, flashed before my eyes and I writhed further in pain. Hearing of my pain, the very sympathetic Bollyviewer advised me that perhaps writing would be better than writhing and invited me to share my pain with her readers, most of whom have themselves suffered from the doormat heroines ruining potentially good movies. So here I am with a list of 5 doormat heroines that randomly come to mind and the makeover I would like to give them (and the movies they are in) to relieve my film-watching misery!
1. Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1961):
Pyare miyan (Rehman) and Aslam miyan (Guru Dutt) are ‘till death do us part’ friends. Into their love-story comes the radiant and perky Jameela (Waheeda Rehman). While Pyare falls for her radiance after a chance viewing, Aslam is dazzled by her perfect beauty after (unintentionally) marrying her. When Aslam realizes Pyare’s desire for his wife (Pyare doesn’t know the woman he desires is Jameela), like any true friend, Aslam only thinks of how he can hand over his wealth (i.e. his wife) to his friend without letting the friend feel he has been handed charity. As he goes from being an appreciative admirer to an indifferent husband, all as part of a plan to transfer his wife to his friend, the perky and radiant Jameela sings in pain, as only a true doormat can, Badle, badle mere sarkar nazar aate hai (So transformed, my lord appears to me…). The movie enters a finale, when Pyare sees Aslam with Jameela, realizes he has been coveting his friend’s possession, and promptly ends his life, so Aslam can eventually keep Jameela.
In my mind however, there is another scenario. As she sings Badle, badle… Jameela wanders to the grimly flying curtains and glances out of the window. Her breath catches in her throat. There, in the garden, looking up into the window is a man, his handsome face shining in the moonlight. Jameela can only gasp and before she knows she is singing, Chaudavin ka chand ho ya aftaab ho, jo bhi ho tum khuda ki kasam lajawaab ho (Are you the full moon or the sun, whatever you are, I swear to God, you are incomparable). The man looking up is none other than Sharif miyan (Dev Anand), another childhood friend of Aslam and Pyare, just returned from vilaayat (England) and came by to say hello. But one glance at each other and Jameela and Sharif are totally, hopelessly in love. There and then they decide to forget lok-laaj (fear of the society) and maryaada (honour) and elope. In the final scene, Pyare comes to Aslam’s house and spies him holding a note in his hand and crying in front of Jameela’s life-size picture, “Bhaag gayi, meri biwi bhaag gayi”* (run away, my wife has run away!). He turns, and cries when he sees Pyare, “I had such plans of giving my prized possession to you! Now I can’t show you anymore what a true friend I am.” Pyare hugs Aslam, also crying, “So, what friend? After all we both are alive and together and that’s what matters!” THE END.
*Dialogue adapted from the film Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd
2. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995):
The over-the-top Raj (Shahrukh Khan) and the simpering Simran (Kajol) meet on a holiday in Europe and fall in love. But Simran’s hand is already pledged in marriage to the son of her father’s friend in India. All of Simran’s pleas to her father to let her be united with Raj fall on deaf ears. When she is whisked away to India, Raj follows. Knowing that her over-bearing father would never change his mind, Simran pleads with Raj to take her away, so they can build a life together. But does he do that? Oh no! This movie was hatke (different). Raj not only wants the hand of the fair maiden, he is also determined to win over the fair maiden’s father’s heart. And all Simran does, in true doormat tradition, is cry and wait for her father and Raj to decide her fate between themselves.
How I wish it was something else: Simran sees her father and her suitor stand in the field calling ‘aao, aao’ (come, come) to the pigeons. In their white kurta and dhoti, the two men look so similar, so full of themselves and their self-righteousness. Simran suddenly realizes that it was not love but the desire to get away from the shackles of her present life that had attracted her to Raj. But in getting together with Raj she will just be substituting one man who knows what is best for her with another, her life would remain the same. Her mother’s words, the pledge her mother had taken when Simran was born, ring in her mind, “I do not want my daughter to live like I did, subservient to a father, a brother or a husband. I want her to live her life on her own terms, make her own decisions.” “Ma”, Simran pledges silently to herself, “your tears, your silent suffering and your sacrifices will not be for nothing! I, yes Ma, I, will fulfill your dreams! I promise you Ma. Even if I have to give up my life for them, I will fulfill your dreams! Maaaa!”
The very next day, Simran escapes to London and there starts an organic poultry farm, which soon becomes very successful. Raj settles in India (Simran or no Simran, he was determined on winning the father’s heart) and becomes a supplier of high quality grains from apne desh ki dharti (earth of one’s motherland) for Simran’s farm. The film ends on a happy note, with both Raj and Simran satisfied at the course life has taken for them.
3. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998):
What can I say that Bollyviewer hasn’t already said before? I would have loved to see the version sketched by BV.
Rahul (Shahrukh Khan) and Anjali (Kajol) are best of pals till Tina (Rani Mukherjee) comes on the scene. Tina is petite, pretty and feminine, while Anjali is tomboyish and regularly beats Rahul at basketball. Rahul and Tina fall in love, get married and have a daughter whom they name Anjali. Meanwhile, a heartbroken Anjali disappears from their life, to mope for the next decade, till a widowed Rahul and Anjali Jr. come to save her from a marriage with Aman (Salman Khan). In BV’s version, Anjali did NOT spend ten years weeping over a lost teenage love. Instead, she grew up, fell in love and had a happy life.
By the way, I recently came across this interview of Karan Johar (2.07 – 2. 15 min) who was actually admitting that the film was silly!
Off to Bollyviewer for further additions:
4. Parineeta (2005):
The movie is based on a novel written by Sarat Chandra Chatterji in 1914. Filmed more than once, the 2005 version is set in the 1960s. Vidya Balan plays the lovely Lalita, an orphan brought up in her maternal uncle’s family in Calcutta. Her neighbour is the rich, spoilt Shekhar (Saif Khan) who’s bossed her since childhood, and generally takes her for granted. When wealthy, vilaayat-returned Girish (Sanjay Dutt) enters the picture and is clearly smitten with Lalita, Shekhar is consumed with jealousy. He is nasty to poor Lalita! Then, the two do declare their love to each other. Just when Lalita thinks happy days are here again, Shekhar reverts to his nasty self – repudiating their love, calling her names and sinking the poor girl into the very depths of despair. And all because he chooses to believe his evil father about Lalita having an affair with Girish, without ever asking Lalita for an explanation. Does Lalita stop crying over Shekhar and accept Girish’s marriage proposal, instead? Of course not. She is a good Bhartiya Naari, she is. She will never stop being Shekhar’s doormat!
If I had written Parineeta, the story would play out very differently: Lalita accompanies her sick Uncle, Aunty and cousin Koel to London where Girish arranges medical treatment for Uncle. Uncle is admitted to London’s best hospital, under the care of the eminent physician, Dr. Carlisle (Peter O’Toole). Lalita, the dutiful niece, is always by Uncle’s bedside, and meets Dr. Carlisle often. He is struck by her sense of humour (she thinks pompous physicians need to be brought down a peg or two, and never shirks her duty in that direction), and her affectionate nature. She is mesmerised by his blue eyes (and his beauty, of course!). Within a week, she’s forgotten all about Shekhar and her thoughts are filled with Gordon Carlisle. Six months later, Girish returns to India with wife Koel, to wrap up her family’s affairs. When Shekhar, now sorely missing Lalita and willing to give her a chance to explain her “affair”, asks Girish about her, he is told that “Lalita? She is happily married to Dr. Carlisle and well settled in London!”
5. Devdas (1955):
Another film based on Sarat Chandra’s book, this one has two intelligent, interesting and beautiful women breaking their hearts over the selfish, spoilt Devdas (Dilip Kumar). Interesting woman #1 is Paro (Suchitra Sen), his childhood sweetheart, whose love he rejected and then regretted his decision. Paro, displaying some modicum of self-respect, refused to mope over him, and decided to be content with her elderly husband and his household. With Paro lost to him by matrimony with another, Devdas takes to moping and visiting interesting woman #2 – the lovely courtesan Chandramukhi (Vyjayanthimala). Every time he sees her, Devdas is vocal in his contempt for Chandramukhi, her profession, her character, her clothes, in fact, everything about her. Instead of taking umbrage at his unwarranted insults, Chandramukhi gives up her profession (yup, filmi courtesans are free to do that!) and becomes Devdas’s willing slave, taking care of him and listening to him moping about his Paro.
Naturally, my Chandramukhi would have more self-respect and pride than Sarat Chandra’s! And Paro would also be happy. Devdas? He’ll drink himself to death a lot earlier in the film! So here’s what would happen in my version of Devdas: circa 1970s. The legendary actress Chandrabala is telling her film-director daughter, Ketaki (Aruna Irani), about her early life and how she came into the acting profession. “It was all because of Devdas, dear. He made me realise that being a tawaiyaf is not at at all the thing. Not only do I get exploited by gross, entitled, spoilt men, I also have to put up with daily insults from drunken weasels like Devdas! There and then I decided that I deserved better. I heard that a new director, Anwar Sajid (Rehman) was looking for someone to play the title role in his film on Umrao Jaan Ada. I got Chunni Babu (Moti Lal) to arrange an audition for me. Of course, Anwar was dazzled, and so were the audience.” Flashback to 1950s and the Devdas-Paro-Chandramukhi story. The film ends with gracefully ageing Anwar walking in on his wife and daughter – he and his “Chandra” exchange a fond look of mutual happiness as a Lata-Rafi version of their romantic duet – O albele pancchi – plays in the background.
Did I mention that Paro was to be married to a rich, elderly man, but he died before the marriage rites could be performed, and Paro was married to a young cousin of his, Sumanta (Prem Nath), instead – naturally they lived happily-ever-after, too.