Guest post: Makeover of the filmi doormats

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.

23 thoughts on “Guest post: Makeover of the filmi doormats

  1. I am a big fan of Dhoop Kinare – marina khan and rahat kazmi – 2 famous TV actors of Pakistan – I think they were popular long ago and this TV drama was made some time in the early 80s. I remember watching all the episodes (courtesy my Pakistani fellow batchmates/ friends at my campus) on video in the early 90s. A few yrs later I saw a few other Pakistani TV dramas – can’t remember the names – they were good too – one of them was set in Sindh of a feud between 2 landed families and another one was of a girl coming from a large middle class family married off to an older well off divorced business guy with 3 kids – the story is all about the relationship bet the kids and the new mum. Haven’t seen any since then. Humsafar seems to be a new one.

    Coming to the make over of the movie you have discussed, I found the parineeta alternative hilarious! Bollyviewer is re-writing a sarat Chandra classis – chuckle – good thing that there are no book world fanatics to declare a fatwah on u ! – LoL

    Haven’t seen chaudvi ka chand and am not a fan of bewada devdas. As for the other 2 movies I think these are “spur of the moment” kind of movies to be enjoyed in the season and forgotten. I did enjoy the songs in KKHH and agree that Anjali instead of remaining single for a decade and dithering about her feelings for her fiancé Salman should have been happily married and enjoying life.

    • Dhoop Kinare was awesome! It aired on PTV in 1987, but was immensely popular for the next few years, as well. In school back then, if you saw a cluster of girls animatedly discussing something, most of the time it was Dhoop Kinare! I was in a Kendriya Vidyalaya where majority of the students came from armed forces families and had lived near the Indo-Pak border at some point. I’m not sure if it was equally popular in other schools. But you could get video cassettes of Dhoop Kinare and other classic PTV dramas even in Bombay in the 90s. Have you seen Tanhaiyan – another Haseena Moin drama from the 80s. They did a sequel to it recently – Tanhaiyan Naye Silsile – which was also co-written by Haseena Moin. The one episode that I watched did not seem very interesting…

      good thing that there are no book world fanatics to declare a fatwah on u !
      But I am only trying to improve Sharat Chandra’s writing. Besides, BBC changes things in classic fiction in the name of modernizing, all the time! So why not Masala Punch?

      As for the other 2 movies I think these are “spur of the moment” kind of movies to be enjoyed in the season and forgotten.
      I think DDLJ has the distinction of being the longest-running movie in some theatre in Bombay – 18 years, if I’m not wrong! And I’ve had friends who bought DVDs and still like to watch it! So it’s not easy to forget that film. Or KKHH for that matter – all my SRK-loving friends (that would be almost all of my friends!) adore that film while I gnash my teeth over the “romance”!

      • what a coincidence – I too am from Kendriya Vidyalaya with tons of friends from diff parts of India from an army, navy and airforce background. Yep I guess the folks who lived in Ambala cantt etc would have a chance to see those TV dramas. One of my pakistani friends here in Sydney told me a few yrs ago that now a days Indian soaps are more popular due to access to star tv network – so unfortunately the ekta kapoor kind of trash is also finding viewers across the border – sad. I will try to find that TV drama you have mentioned. As I said, I have seen a couple of Pak TV dramas some time in early 90s – nothing after that.

        I have seen DDLJ only once in the theatre when it released as I was in India at that time – 95 dec or 96 jan can’t remember. Haven’t revisited it and keep wondering what is so unuusal about it to run for so many months!

        Mohabatein is one movie I hate with a vengeance and almost lost my respect for AB snr – fortunately that didn’t happen coz of subsequent movies

        • Mohabatein is one movie I hate with a vengeance
          I can so sympathise with that sentiment! Though I should also add that I had lots of fun watching it with some friends, years ago. One was a Pakistani woman, who did not understand the meaning of parivartan (change) a word that was repeated over and over again in the movie. We told her it means: open a door and girls come in! It fitted enough with the plot of the movie that she nearly believed us that in Hindi we have a word for such a thing! If I remember it right, the whole movie was dedicated to opening the door of the “school” to let girls come in.

  2. Hehe! Good post, both of you. 😀 I enjoyed that, and certainly wish you could actually redo some movies – really wipe out my memories of so many doormats (and not just women, either) I’ve come across in movies.

    • Thanks, Dustedoff. So glad you enjoyed it. We had tons of fun re-writing the endings. Doing the ‘research’ was, obviously, painful! Ruchi had, somehow, missed watching all these films and had to do the homework. She threw in the towel after DDLJ, KKHH and Chaudhvin Ka Chand! Luckily for me, I’d seen all of them before, so no need to slog it out again. 🙂

      certainly wish you could actually redo some movies” O well, I hope producers will wise up now – shoot multiple endings and let us choose which one we like best. Give us menu options like “feminist ending”, “male chauvinist ending”, etc. And maybe the Censor Board can rate movies not just on adult content, but also on misogynist content! (I know… Mungeri Lal ke Haseen Sapne!)

      • Yes, it was fun to imagine the change in the plot of some of these nearly impossible to bear story lines! Over the years I have anyway developed a tendency of changing the movie plots to suit my fantasy as I watch them (I should clarify – this is only with movies, I am a very normal person in real life, can accept reality as it is…I think) but with some movies even this does not work! I completely second Bollyviewer’s idea of a misogynist rating to be displayed on the movie poster, just as an age-related rating is!

        By the way Dusted off I can’t think of any men being doormats…wimps, yes, who just allow the women in their life to be ill-treated but actual doormats (I will only cry and suffer in complete silence and keep on being a faithful husband/ son-in-law even if I am insulted, beaten up and not allowed any say in decisions made about me?)

  3. Heh. Nice post. 🙂 I like your captions as usual. To think of the yeoman service you both are providing to countless viewers! 🙂

    I hated DDLJ with a vengeance. I didn’t mind KKHH when I first watched it, though I still remember rolling my eyes at Kajol turning into the quintessential girly girl and SRK therefore falling for her. Funnily enough, what got my goat in that film was that KJ had Kajol lose the basketball match to SRK when she used to whip the living daylights out of him when they were in college. The movie is so-so and the 8 letters and get them both together stuff was so OTT, but I remember turning into mush at the gazebo scene. Now that was sheer romance! (And heh, I would have gladly chosen Salman. *grin)

    She threw in the towel after DDLJ, KKHH and Chaudhvin Ka Chand!
    She watched them one after the other? Poor woman. I wonder she didn’t want to hang the doormats out and thrash the misogynistic dust out of them!

    • She watched them one after the other?
      Impressive, isn’t it? 😀 It was more of a speed-watch though. I had seen bits and parts of the movies earlier and now only wanted to catch the defining ‘doormatty’ moments!

      It is a wonder how all these movies become such big hits! And all going a bit backwards too, with more women being independent you would imagine a more emancipated movie plot, but no! The old Parineeta for example, had Shekhar (Ashok Kumar) mouthing to Lalitha (Meena Kumari), when he realises she might get married, something like “oh, if you are gone, I’ll become completely helpless. You know exactly how I like my things, none of the servants can help me.” In the new one we have Shekhar (Saif Khan) calling Lalitha (Vidya Balan) dirty names and then hitting her when he thinks she might be married to Girish!

      By the way, having done (part of) the post, I am only more in awe of all the lovely blogs you people maintain – hard work it is!

      • Very impressive, Ruchi. 🙂

        Actually, I found the earlier Parineeta a much stronger character. I didn’t really see her as a doormat. I thought Vidya did a wonderful job in the newer version, but I hated her character arc. I thought the newer version was far more regressive.

        Yes, blogging regularly is hardwork. And as you can see, my blog is stagnating for want of attention.

    • The PTV drama Filmbuff is thinking about the one with the girl married to an older guy with three kids is Aanch. Shafi Mohammad was the older guy. His Chand Grahen is very good and so is Marvi if you are still watching ptv dramas. Have you seen Haseena Moins Parodsi ?

      It is sooooo enjoyable to see you back in full form Bollyviewer. Though I have watched the movies you review years ago, you make them so much better and fun with your witty remarks and the best captions, I have more fun watching these again 🙂

      • Thanks Neeru. My sister saw Chand Grahen – long ago sometime around 95- she liked it very much. I have only seen 3 PTV dramas – dhoop kinare, Aanch and another one set in Fiji or South Africa about rivalry between cousins (not so interesting). These was during the VHS days loaned by Pakistani friends. I haven’t seen any Indian TV serials either except the one directed by Ramesh Sippy long ago for Doordarshan – Buniyaad based on partition. That was interesting indeed.

        • Filmbuff, Indian TV series from the 80s and the early 90s were quite good. The best ones are hard to come across now, though. I did find Shyam Benegal’s Yatra on youtube a while ago. It was a lovely series set in the train journey from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and back. People come and go and bring their stories into the train compartments. Then there was Trishna – adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, and several other good romantic dramas that I cannot find anywhere now!

      • Neeru, thank you so much for your kind words! * BIG grin *

        I still love PTV dramas and will definitely check out the ones you recommend – I haven’t seen any of them. The new Pakistani dramas (I have only seen the HumTV and GeoTV stuff) have much better production values but seem more regressive for their times. They are still better than Indian TV series, but I wish they’d stuck to being ahead of their times in the twenty first century, too.

  4. Thanks for this reco. Are you able to see this via TV networks in India? I heard that Zee TV has started a separate channel to air Pak TV series. Just curious. I wouldn’t know where to source these overseas.

    • Filmbuff, you can find most of them on youtube, like Neeru suggests. Or you can try hunting up the DVDs on ebay, Amazon, etc. Zee TV has started a new channel (Zindagi) to air Pakistani dramas in India. They have, so far, only shown new ones (made in the last 3-4 years). Some of them are quite good, but nothing like classic PTV dramas.

  5. Thanks i will try the you tube route first. Bolly, agree about Indian TV series from 80s and 90s being good. I too remember watching one or two episodes of “Yatra” on a visit to India. I remember watching a few episodes of Trishna too – i think kitu gidwani and Tarun Dhanrajgir (from Hyd) acted in that series if i remember right. Ramesh Sippy’s Buniyaad was very good and I wish the Sippys release it on DVD as Doordarshan’s darshan is really door were classics are concerned!

    • Doordarshan’s darshan is really door were classics are concerned!” 🙂 So true!

      I did not realise Buniyaad is not out on DVD. It was replaying on DD last year, so I thought there must be DVDs around, too. Some episodes seem to be on youtube. You can check it out. Yatra was commissioned by Indian Railways. But neither Shyam Benegal, nor the Railways kept copies, and DD apparently lost theirs. 😦 The youtube version was from some kindly soul who had recorded Yatra when it was originally telecast, and digitised and put it on youtube. It was missing the last episode, though. All the serials that I do NOT want to re-watch (they weren’t watchable even the first time around), seem to be out on DVD – Chanakya, Fauji and all the mythological and historical serials. But not a trace of fun series like Trishna, Intezaar, Kashish, Kakkaji Kahin, etc.

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