Feeling nostalgic for the days when I absolutely adored Anil Kapoor (when I was a child), I rummaged amongst my video collection and pondered whether to watch "Mr. India" (which I have seen too many times) or
"Karma" (the videotape is wearing thin with this one too). But hiding behind these films in the cabinet was a movie that I had not viewed for ages and that was "Chameli Ki Shaadi". I decided to pop this one into the video recorder instead. A comedy of sorts, I was instantly reminded how delightful this film is.
Anil Kapoor is Charandas, a young man in a village who has no aim in life except to be a dedicated pehelwaan (wrestler). His teacher, Mastram Pehelwaan (Om Prakash in an extended cameo) attempts to guide Charandas to the true ways of a pehelwaan´s life. He makes Charandas give an oath that he will not court or marry a girl until he hits the age of forty. According to Charandas´ teacher, a pehelwaan can only lead a dedicated life to his profession if he abstains from thoughts of love or lust. Unfortunately, just after he undertakes this oath, Charandas just cannot get rid of his thoughts about the opposite sex. Whereas before he may not have bothered much about his non-existent love life, the oath has made him take a sudden interest in the forbidden.
For as soon as Charandas takes his first walk on the streets thereafter, his eyes begin to wander onto the attractive girls´ faces. Uh oh. There is a dispute at home regarding coal and its price. Charandas goes to the coal shop to sort out the situation with the shop-owner. There he meets Chameli (Amrita Singh), the daughter of the shop-owner, who in his brief absence is taking care of the shop. Charandas tries to control himself but he is instantly attracted to this schoolgirl and after an animated conversation with her, he feels the pangs of love. Through a series of letters to each other, a relationship develops.
Charandas and Chameli want to get married but everybody seems to be against their union. Especially Chameli´s parents who lock her up in the room and expect her to marry a middle-aged lawyer who goes by the name of Makkan. But help is on the young lovers´ side in the form of Vakil Bhaiya (Amjad Khan) and Chameli´s saheli, Anita (Tabassum). All´s well that ends well as Charandas and Chameli finally get to go round the mandap at the end despite a series of obstructions standing in their way.
While reading the synopsis, the plot seems like a slight affair and indeed that is true. But, most comedies tend to have thin plots as it allows room for verbal gags and slapstick. Maybe an exception is the sub-genre of "comedy of errors", which relies on the mix-up of several characters and the confusion of a few sub-plots. This is a rib-tickler all the way through (apart from a couple of misguided melodramatic scenes where Chameli receives a thrashing from her parents). Basu Chatterjee has often specialized in the small town brand of humor and indeed his "Chameli Ki Shaadi" is no different. The story is set in a village and is about down to earth characters.
Prakash Mehra was heavily involved in the making of this film. Mehra and Chatterjee both collaborated on the screenplay and Mehra also joined Anjaan in penning some of the song lyrics. It must be said that with a light story, Prakash Mehra and Basu Chatterjee have done a wonderful job on the screenplay. They keep the film crackling along and retain viewer interest as the story goes along. Dialogues by Om Prakash Sharma are another important aspect. There is one very entertaining sequence early on in the movie where Chameli and Charandas exchange letters with the help of their close friends. Vakil Bhaiya starts it off for Charandas when he gets ready to write a piece of poetry for Chameli on Charandas´ behalf. His face drops when Charandas tells him that they met "koyla ki dukaan main (in the coal shop)". He then proceeds to write a sher trying to use the word koyla lyrically and in a metaphorical sense. The dialogues here really shine.
Anita writes letters to Charandas on Chameli´s behalf and has to put up with her friend's constant interruptions. Anita, who has a ´glass-is-half-empty´ view on life, concludes that Charandas is a possible fraud (without actually meeting him). When Anita dictates short and straight-forward messages for the letters, Chameli wrinkles her nose at her friend´s comments because her heart desires to write mushy and poetic letters (including starting off her letters with the sweet introduction, "Mere Charandas"). Vakil Bhaiya senses the apprehension of Chameli´s saheli through the letters and advises Charandas that when he meets the two girls, he should try to sweeten Anita up and win her approval. Thus seeing Anita´s quick change of heart when she meets Charandas is hilarious. Chameli struggles to try not to let the previously skeptical Anita steal her Charandas. Another funny scene follows where the trio share a taxi and each seem to harbor their own thoughts and worries.
I´d better stop because if I carried on mentioning all the funny parts, then there would be no need for you to watch the film! Performances, on the part of everyone, are excellent. The skinny frame of Anil Kapoor´s body does not exactly befit that of a pehelwaan but he does adopt the body language of a wrestler through the way he walks. His strength has always been to play the straight man in comedy and he does that with aplomb. The goofiness side of it all is given to Amrita Singh who is great as a bubbly and gutsy girl who is still at school at the age of 18 due to failing all her tests. Om Prakash, Amjad Khan and Tabassum shine in all their supporting roles. Amjad got a break from his villain roles and this movie shows his comic talent. Pankaj Kapoor, too, leaves an impact as Chameli´s witless father. The film is not perfect as a couple of Kalyanji-Anandji´s lacklustre songs are unneeded. Huma Khan makes an appearance in one song and it is quite horrendous to watch. Two songs should have been taken out and three hummable songs left in. Anil has himself sung the number,
"Chameli Chameli" (that is played over the rolling opening credits) and his voice is not bad! The other better songs are "Tere Sapno Ki Rani" and "Tu Jahan Bhi Chalega Chaloongi" (both by Asha Bhosle). "Tere Sapno Ki Rani" is amusing to watch due to Amrita´s appearance as a wrestler beating up Anil in the wrestling ring.
So, it is with a sense of satisfaction that I finished watching the sweet and humorous movie. It is a pity that it had to end. But, hey, I can always take the film back out of the video cabinet and sit through the movie all over again.