Sunday, October 13, 2013

Raaj Kumar Week: Waqt (1965), or another film I like mostly because of Raaj Kumar

Raaj Kumar Week continues at Filmi~Contrast . . . 



 . . . and might continue throughout the next as I have another Raaj film coming in the mail and it would be a shame if I wasted the opportunity. 









Waqt (1965). What can I say about you without feeling a little guilty? I thought that my masala-loving heart would be suitably warmed by your presence, and yet, I was left a bit cold.

At the end of the day, despite it's good points, good cast, and early masala flavor (catastrophe separates mother, father, three sons  . . . until circumstances throw the family back together 20 odd years later), I just didn't love this film. I wanted to, I really thought I would, but somehow, I just didn't.

Why I thought I would love it (and why you just might): 


(A) It's got lovely 60's mod-style (one can always count on Yash Chopra's production team to deliver sumptuous, trendy, and so-good-they're-almost-edible sets and costumes). 





(B) It's got Shashi being wooed by a refreshingly modern Sharmila.

Sharmila teaching Shashi how to drive a stick. For reals. 


























I really want this view,  the sarcastic Shashi of this scene, and whatever autumn-toned garments Sharmila is wearing. 

(C) It's got three pretty memorable songs/picturizations.

*Ai Meri Zohrazabeen (Manna Dey): a tribute to long-committed love that DDLJ later re-used to offset the extreme personality deficiencies of Amrish Puri's character...


*Din Hai Bahaar Ke (Mahender Kapoor and Asha Bhosle): an adorable boat song with Shashi. What more do you need to know?


*Aage Bhi Jaane Na To (Asha Bhosle): A smooth nightclubby number . . . which contrasts sharply and masterfully with the building tensions between the various characters in the scene. (I LOVE it when Bollywood films do this sort of thing. That one sequence from Muqaddar ka Sikander comes to mind.)



(D) It's directed by Yash Chopra, and he REALLY knew what he was doing back in the 60's and 70's.

This scene, right before the catastrophe, is brilliant in so many ways. I'll never look at a chandelier the same way again.

(E) Because of the screencaps I saw elsewhere of THIS scene with Raaj Kumar.

I know I've posted this shot before, but I don't care. It's the scene that pulled me into watching the film in the first place.  And you have to congratulate a film that can do that with one, unforgettable moment alone. 

Why I didn't love it:


1. The pacing, the pacing, the pacing: alternating between manic and lazy. It reminded me of Kabhi Kabhie that way. Strong beginning, decent ending, but a confused middle that doesn't give you enough landmarks to let you know where you are in the story. (Wait, what's going on? Why are we seeing this scene? Why do we care?) Despite some spectacular sequences, if I hadn't conned my brother into watching some of this with me, I probably would STILL be stuck somewhere in the middle.


2. Sunil Dutt and Sadhana's characters, mostly. They did improve a bit in the last 30 mins, but still. Grrr.
 I get it! They're young! They're foolish! They don't care about anyone except themselves until things get serious! I guess that's realistic for their on-screen age, but when they didn't care about anyone except each other (thoughtlessness and discourtesy from so called "nice characters" really irritates me) and still managed to hog so much screen-time (they WERE billed first, so I should have known), I found it hard to care about them.



3. For a masala film, I felt too removed from the characters's struggles and related feelings-thereof. Perhaps because of the number of leads (it reminded me of Desai's AAA) the story was told in too much of a third-person perspective. Maybe the film just lacked in close-up cinematography, or the screenwriting didn't set up the personalities in ways that made me care about them, but I know I should have felt the masala knife-to-the-heart more often, considering the heart-string-jerking plot summary alone. It certainly wasn't a problem with the cast--who by and large, did wonderful things with the material and time they were given.

Amitabh, I'm your favorite on-screen Maa, so be honest. Do you think your character ate up screen-time and kept Amar and Akbar from ever getting proper three-dimensional arcs?

A note on my personal subjectivity and other people's opinions: 
I admit I have yet to fall into a good rhythm with 60's films. I'm nearing 50 films-watched from the 70's and simultaneously feel I am edging towards fluency in the decade's story-telling style. It is possible that once I've seen a couple dozen from the 60's, I will be more attuned to the language of the cinema back then . . . the particular blend of storytelling ingredients that one sometimes needs to acquire a taste for. . . and maybe then, I will return to Waqt and it will speak to me. If you want more on the film by people more enthusiastic and expert-y than I, well then. . . for another fashion flavored, Shashi-centric and masala-focused review, go here. And for an extensive review and discussion of the plot, go here.

So on to the saving grace of the film (for me at least), my blog's resident fascination, Raaj Kumar. 


To be fair, Raaj Kumar really does get the most interesting character (on paper) in the film. He's the oldest child, so he has the most significant childhood storyline (one that shows his general resourcefulness and self-respect). Then he grows up to be both a thief AND (we think) a good person. So, he gets to be naughty, and you still empathize with him. Yay for gray areas!

My brother saw this and shouted, "This just never happens in Hollywood. One guy sneaking into another guy's bedroom? It just doesn't happen! But Bollywood doesn't think twice." 
*Spoiler* He doesn't end up with the girl (I'm pretty sure Vinod Khanna ended up being cast in this Raaj Kumar role in later masala films, ad infinitum). And we feel bad for him, but at the same time, Sadhana's character is kind of a useless sugarpuff princess in this film, so we don't feel TOO bad. (Sunil Dutt can HAVE her.)

His character is smart and pretty darn self-assured . . . UNTIL he meets Sadhana, and loses his brain for a while, who knows why. Realistic tho, for self-proclaimed *ahem* brainy types. You want to know how I know? Uhh, no comment. 

No, Raaj honey, she's singing about your younger brother. Don't get too excited. 

Raaj's character did seem to be the only son out of the separated three that inherited their father's poetic inclinations.

This role gives Raaj Kumar the chance to do what he does best . . . brooding, gravely sarcasm, potential for violence despite a veil of gentlemanly etiquette . . . all while projecting the general sense that he's smarter and more aware (and more cynical about the world) than everyone else around him. I thoroughly enjoyed him in this film.




Overall, now that I know what I'm in for, and can suitably look forward to the right ups and downs of the plot, I think Waqt may be better upon re-watching than it was in the initial experience. Sometimes masala is like that. Plus, I can always just throw back a few cold ones and tune out all the happy-go-lucky courtship stuff and just enjoy Raaj's (he's the proto-Vinod character, so who else would I root for?) various turns as thief, scorned-lover, jealous criminal, sacrificing brother, and tearful bhaii-bhaii revelation-keeper. That's probably worth coming back for.


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