Casually Filmi: 5 films with a permanent place in my re-watch pile

It's Milestone week . . . and I am thinking back on my first 100 Hindi films.  

I'm not the kind of person who watches a film, really likes it, and then never feels the need to return to it again. It goes without saying, then, that on the way to a 100 Hindi films, some have found their way into my DVD player more than once. And maybe surprisingly, I have found that it is often the flawed films that I find myself returning to for an easy evening's entertainment. Maybe it's because I don't have to get all dressed up to go out on the town with them. They meet me where I'm at. They aren't masterpieces, and that's ok, because sometimes masterpieces are hard on the dil.

"What do you mean by telling me I'm 'not super re-watchable'?!"  (Junoon , 1978)

There's something wonderfully . . . uncomplicated . . . about films with the following qualities:
*Films that aim to entertain first, and preach (if at all) later.
*Films that lean toward the cheerful side of melodramatic, a sweet spot I've always enjoyed.
*Films in which exotica abounds, chemistry pervades, and yet manage not to be so scandalous that I couldn't watch them with my mother (who maintains rather Victorian sensibilities) if I wanted to.
*Above all, films that put me in a good mood--which is no small thing.

"I CAN BE relaxed, honey, I swear! I'll try harder. You'll see." (Masoom, 1978)

Anyhow, this is my list. Every one of these films is, pardon me for saying it, "lazy" in some way. Maybe "casual" would be a better term. They're all films that sit at the back of the class, forget to do their homework, rarely suffer the teacher the time of day, but at the end of 3ish hours of run time, squeak by with an A- against all odds. Eventually, each of these films deserves an individual post, but for now, THESE are the films that (for me at least) succeed without trying.

5. Shehzada (1972)

Shehzada is a solid, Capra-esque fable about the things that actually matter in life. But I'll be honest. When I re-watch this movie, I mostly skip all the"warped, frustrated old woman" grandmother scenes. The real gem of this film is the onscreen relationship between Rakhee and Rajesh's characters. They're funny, a little crazy, refreshingly playful with one another, and their dialogue and song picturizations practically crackle with chemistry.

Although the pale/half-naked jaunt above is mostly played for humor, overall, the romance in this film walks the perfect line between sexy and hilarious. Just when you feel like it might be getting too serious, too melodramatic, the rug drops out and Rakhee and Rajesh's characters start having some hilarious squabble over hypotheticals. If you need proof, look no further than the rain song: Rim jhim rim jhim dekho.

4. Lal Patthar (1971)

I think I already spent quite a bit of time hyping this movie. Mostly, I'll say, when I'm in Aristocrat Exploitation Flick Mode, this perfectly hits the spot.

Also, in other news, Raaj Kumar is officially my choice for "Best Celebrity to Spend an Afternoon Smoking Hooqa With."   I'm also completely obsessed with this song--and the obsession doesn't seem to go away no matter how often I watch it. But since I've posted that before, I'll leave you with one of the many delicious love triangle/quandrangle songs: Meri sej sajaa do.

3. Caravan (1971)

Gosh, this one is soooo good. I watched it recently, so I can't say I've had a lot of time to re-watch it--but considering my general reaction of overall satisfaction, I think it's going to stay on this list.  The plot isn't anything special--except for the fact that it takes normal tropes (woman escapes from murderous husband, hides in plain sight among societal outcasts, vamps go from bad to repentant, etc.) and manages to infuse new life into them.

I ADORE this song

It's possible that my low expectations going into this one made it all the more special. But then again, I'm trying to think if I've seen some of the things this movie does anywhere else . . . and I'm coming up cold.

Exhibit A, B, and C to support this? This well-known song of course: Piya tu ab to aaja . . . or the "Monica! Song " as one of my friends calls it.

Asha Parekh and Jeetendra are supremely amusing and in their best tongue-in-cheek comedic mode, Helen is perfect as usual, and yet . . . Aruna Irani's stark-raving mad gypsy routine upstages the whole film . You really have to see it to believe it.

Yeah, that was pretty much my reaction, too, Asha. Here's a longer taste: Dilbar Dil Se Pyare

2. Alibaba Aur 40 Chor (1980)

I've seen/read half a dozen adaptations of this story (hasn't everyone?) . . . but I never enjoyed it before the way I enjoy this Disco Soviet Masala version.

It's got oodles of fun performances from Zeenat Aman, Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Prem Chopra, a see-through Cave Jinn (from the notoriously unreliable Cave Jinn Casting Company, I suppose), and a bunch of hairy Uzbek actors + Mac Mohan as the titular 40 thieves. 

Some people go to Satta Pe Satta to fill their hairy men quota, but I go to this film. They also seem to be acrobats. 

Hema and Dharmendra are also in full domestic cuteness mode around 1980 . . . which amounts to the cinematic equivalent of curling up with an afghan and a cuppa in front of the fire.

And each of the songs is super memorable. . . especially the Zeenat & 40 Chor in a fabulous disco cave scene . . . nonsense lyrics never sounded so good! Khatouba Khatouba  . . .  And the rather similar song in the tavern--only this time, Zeenat allies with Hema to keep all the hairy men distracted with song and dance . . . Sare Shehar Mein . It's extremely catchy, and you can't complain about a song with BOTH those leads.

[Note: I always think of this as the MEAT song. It's so rare to see it at all in Hindi films (given the general hegemonic attitude of vegetarianism) that I literally felt nauseous seeing so much blatant evidence of meat-eating.]

Also, I never get tired of seeing Zeenat seek out revenge (or wear fancy headdresses, for that matter).

Don't expect this film to say anything important or meaningful, other than, "Please watch me with copious amounts of alcohol in your system." This a perfect film for a lazy Sunday morning, or an *ahem* sharab-filled evening with friends. Plus it got brother approval, which puts it a notch ahead.

1. Hera Pheri (1976)

This film is my ultimate definition of entertaining and easy to be with--it's like the perfect boyfriend in filmi form. It's a groovy masala romp with a satisfying twist on the usual tale of friendship and betrayal . . . painted on a paisley canvas made of flares, very short-shorts, and a whole lot of incense (burned both in earnest and in fun). 

Sure, I never really talk about it. That's the first sign of something being super important to me, I guess. Still, when anyone asks me for the name of my favorite Hindi film, if I'm feeling honest, I answer, "Hera Pheri."

I suppose that this movie probably has a lot of flaws. But I'm really bad at seeing them. I guess the female leads are super forgettable, and there's some laziness in the production department. However, I don't care. I take a cue from Vinod Khanna's character, roll my eyes, and just enjoy the madness.

This has got to be one of my most re-watched Hindi films (maybe up there with Daag and Kaala Patthar) and I still love it like the day I first saw it. Albeit that day was months ago . . . but in the span of Hindi movie watching time, it's held its own. It was my favorite then, and it's still my favorite now, so be careful what you say about it in my presence ;)

I'll leave you with what I see as the ultimate "casually filmi" song. There is nothing here that should add up to perfection . . . it really should be stupid, by all rights. And yet--it manages to be perfect, without trying, as Amitabh and Vinod disguise themselves as ascetics and pull a fast one on their rivals: Waqt ki hera pheri hai.

Which films do you re-watch the most? Which films always meet you where you're at?


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