"Yeh Jeena Hai Angoor Ka Daana...Kuch Kacha Hai Kuch Pakka Hai...Jitna Khaya Meetha Tha Jo Haath Na Aaya Woh Khatta Hai..." If there is ever a motto in life, the earlier line perfectly comprehends that motto. The above line is not only the title song of Basu Chatterjee┬┤s "Khatta Meetha" but also forms the crux of this message-driven plot. Khatta Meetha, one of the most enjoyable movies of Basu Chatterjee, continues in the same vein and style as Basu Chatterjee demonstrated in his earlier movies like Chit Chor, Rajni Gandha, Priyatama amongst many others. Inspired by the Hollywood flick "Yours, Mine and Ours", Basu Da uses his trademark simplistic approach and explores the social issues and human relationships in his decorous style that we all love so much.
The movie starts off with a tribute to the Parsi community on account of the influence and valuable contributions they have had in India over several generations. The movie revolves around the lives of two Parsi families, one headed by Homi Mistry (Ashok Kumar) and the other by Nargis Setna (Pearl Padamsee). Homi Mistry, a widower, rents a small house with his four sons and single-handedly runs his family. Each of the four sons have individual likings, first being Fali (Ravi Raaj) a car mechanic, followed by Jaal (Devendar) a musician, then Russie (Ranjit Chowdhary) interested in becoming the next Sunil Gavaskar and the youngest Tilu (Master Raju). On the other hand, Nargis is a widow and lives with her 2 teenage sons, Firoze (Rakesh Roshan), Fardeen (Vimal Sahu) and daughter Premi (Preeti Ganguly). Her siblings are as well involved in their own likings and Nargis has to run even the smallest of errands in her house.
Through a common acquaintance (David), Homi Mistry and Nargis get to know each other. Considering their needs, they get married and move into the same house, the one belonging to Nargis. But to their dismay, their respective siblings don't get along with the other party and that leads to a series of some hilarious moments in the movie. In spite of their reluctance to live in the same house, the two parties do share some light moments and that is where the bond of human relationship starts to build. Firoze is in love with Zarine (Bindya Goswami) who studies in the same college and they get married without the approval of Zarine┬┤s industrialist father (Pradeep Kumar). Homi Mistry falls prey to the influential connections of Zarine┬┤s father and that costs him his job. From here on it is how a Parsi family lives together through the ups and downs in life and how every event tests the individuality of each person and provides an answer, even when sunk in melancholy.
The screenplay and the dialogues are written by Basu Chatterjee himself, and it comes to no surprise as he has always been known for depicting his subjects with simplicity using his evergreen candid style. Here, he is once again successful in re-creating the aura in the exact same manner. His inclination for subtle comedy out of simple situations or his manner of presenting straightforward yet convincing solutions for problems seen in day-to-day life are all evident throughout Khatta Meetha. Basu Chatterjee also illustrates the essence of the so-called middle class dreams, humble and modest dreams that a common man can identify. These dreams and hopes of a common man are encompassed brilliantly as seen through "Thoda Hai...Thode Ki...Zaroorat Hai...Zindagi fir Bhi Yahan...khoobsurat hai", the excellent poetic verses of Gulzar. Of course, there are several sequences that one might find typically filmi and unrealistic, but it is the treatment of Basu Da that needs to be relished. Umesh Mehra┬┤s Sanjeev Kumar-Rakhee starrer Humare Tumhare had a very similar plot and though it was enjoyable, that Basu Chatterjee stamp was seen missing.
Basu Da has been characteristically known as the man making the so-called middle-of-the-road movies. Once again here, he is successful in combining a message-driven content with real life problems as seen through the life-like characters without any unnecessary hysteria or loud melodrama. Given the subject in Khatta Meetha, Basu Da uses his trademark style and puts forth an authentic milieu of a lower-middle class family in an urban Mumbai and has captured the ambience of that Parsi family (or say the community) with utmost detail. Most of the characters including the ones played by Ashok Kumar and Pearl Padmasee look authentically defined such that they can be easily identified in a typical Parsi community.
Technically the movie is nothing great, but that is never a necessity for Basu Chatterjee movies. The music by Rajesh Roshan is absolutely delightful and might rank as one of his best ever. Rajesh Roshan has given some of his absolute best to Basu Chatterjee movies and it can be seen through their collective work as in Priyatama (Koi Roko Na...Deewane Ko..), Baaton Baaton Mein (Kahan Tak Yeh Man ke Andhere Chalenge and Suniye Kahiye...Kahiye Suniye), Man Pasand (Main Akela Apni Dhun Mein Magan) and superbly supported by the evergreen rendition of Kishore Kumar and many other artists. Once again, each and every song in Khatta Meetha stands out with some great singing by Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar and evergreen lyrics by Gulzar. The pick of the lot being, "Thoda Hai, Thode Ki Zaroorat Hai", "Humko Mila Tha Pyar, Kuch Ache Naseeb Se", "Yeh Jeena Hai Angoor Ka Dana". The other ones, " Rol Rol Makonisa" and "Ghunghat Tale.." are also equally enjoyable.
Ashok Kumar as always delivers a great and absolutely natural performance. Practically, there might not be any role in Hindi cinema that our Dadamoni hasn't tried. Whether comedy or emotional scenes, Ashok Kumar would be a live example of the character Homi Mistry. Ashok Kumar has teamed up with Basu Chatterjee many times (Khatta Meetha, Shaukeen, Pasand Apni Apni and many more) and each time the result has been an enjoyable and rib-tickling enterprise. Pearl Padmasee is simply marvelous as the jovial Nargis. Being her first movie, she is extremely natural and also has the spontaneity that is seen throughout her performance in the movie. She teamed up with Basu Chatterjee once again with the Amol Palekar-Tina Munim starrer Baaton Baaton Mein and the result was equally enjoyable. Rakesh Roshan is also good and looks comfortable in most of the sequences, be it romance, comedy or the emotive sequences. He was never the big star as Hrithik Roshan, but far more natural and effective on the screen. Going by his last several performances, it might be worthwhile for Hrithik to still revisit some of Rakesh Roshan┬┤s performances in movies like Khatta Meetha, Khoobsurat or Kaamchor.
The rest of the supporting cast is also decent. The pick of the lot is Ranjit Chowdhary as Ashok Kumar┬┤s cricketer son. He remains one of my favorite comedian(s) and is a laugh-riot in Khatta Meetha. His mannerisms at his ┬┤introduction┬┤ scene will have you in splits and many such more throughout the movie. He was seen recently in a very inconspicuous role in Sanjay Gupta┬┤s Kaante. Bindiya Goswami looks good. Deven Verma does his ┬┤Mummy O Mummy┬┤ act and lends support as he does in other Basu Chatterjee movies. David, Keshto Mukherjee and others also lend support.
Khatta Meetha is one movie that I have enjoyed with undiminished interest over the years and along with Baaton Baaton Mein remains my favorite Basu Chatterjee movie. Unlike the sugar-coated melodramas seen these days, Khatta Meetha provides clean entertainment with a credible plot, genuine comedy, superb music and natural performances. Above all, it manages to tackle some real life problems and human relationships. Watch this movie for complete entertainment with ┬┤Indianness┬┤ flowing through every frame of the movie.