I have raved about Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s directing and Jaya Bhaduri’s acting more than once on this blog… so you can imagine my delight when I recently came across another film starring Jaya and directed by Hrishida (my fifth, after ‘Abhimaan’, ‘Bawarchi’, ‘Mili’ and ‘Chupke Chupke’). The icing on the cake is that ‘Guddi’ also stars my hero, Dharam ji, playing himself. It was an absolutely delightful find, especially in view of my recent discovery of Jaya’s remarks on Dharmendra on ‘Koffee with Karan’ (thanks again for letting me know, Sanket!)
‘Guddi’ is the story of Kusum (her pet name is ‘Guddi’, which means ‘doll’ – a very clever symbol in this film), a young schoolgirl who is in love with the movies, and especially with her favourite movie star, Dharmendra. She is so in love with him that she doesn’t want to marry a sweet, sincere young man who’s in love with her. However, through a series of visits to Hindi movie sets, she comes to discover that her ideas of glamour and perfection in the movie industry and its stars are nothing but a smokescreen, and that beneath the glowing surface, there are blemishes: inequities, crushing and monotonous hard work, disenchantment, and even callousness. She realises that the love her suitor feels for her (and which she, unbeknownst to her, returns) is real; while her love for Dharmendra is a mirage… and of course it all ends beautifully (I love the final scene so much, it’s so charming).
Gulzar’s script is a beautiful tapestry of metaphors, themes and esoteria – I love the way he intertwines expositions of ideas as varied as the role of the press in the movie industry, the team effort involved in film-making, and the awkwardness that lies in the gap between girlhood and womanhood. It’s all expressed through beautiful music (the stand-out tune is ‘Bole Re Papihara’) and lovingly sketched scenes with just the right amount of sweetness (I love the use of the ‘statue’ game), fantasy (I must admit I was totally fooled by one of the two fantasy scenes), comedy (Asrani’s scene with his mother is hilarious), and social commentary (as found in Dharam’s scene at the old studio – the commentary is totally inoffensive and sincere, and never goes over the top – which I guess is one of the biggest achievements of this film).
I love the ‘mirroring’ effect Mukherjee creates between what’s ‘real’ and what’s not in this film. The lines appear unclear sometimes, but then you realise that what’s being reflected is the magic of the movies as well as the ‘realness’ of the people who work within the movie industry. There is an appealing heartfelt, self-effacing tone to the entire film, especially the ‘movie-making’ part – I am not sure anyone but Mukherjee could have made it work so well - I think with most other film-makers it would have come off as very patronising and preachy. It’s sheer genius – it all appears really simple, but there’s an appealing ‘meatiness’, a hidden complexity beneath the surface.
And Jaya Bhaduri’s performance as Guddi is absolutely marvellous – she captures the conflict within this girl on the cusp of womanhood brilliantly. The transition of her character is subtle and realistic, and it’s expressed through slight changes in her manner, appearance (props to the costumiers and make-up people on this film) and demeanour – absolutely beautiful. I love her acting. Jaya is supported by Samit, Sumita Sanyal, Utpal Dutt, and G. Asrani (one of Hrishida’s faves, here in a memorable little role as a deluded young man consumed with dreams of starring opposite Sadhana or Sharmila).
During the film-set scenes, there’s also a range of stars making special appearances, (for some reason I found those sequences quite moving). Among others, there’s Ashok Kumar, Vinod Khanna (rocking some hot long sideburns – couldn’t get a good pic unfortunately), Rajesh Khanna and even Jaya’s future husband:
Now for a few screencaps… Jaya looks absolutely stunning in this film (those eyes!), and her evolution is great to watch – I love her first sari scene, her walk is ever so slightly and unselfconsciously awkward – I just think she is such a brilliant actress.
I love that her character never loses her ‘girlishness’, her sense of fun and liveliness – one thing you find sometimes in Hindi films is that the girl suddenly becomes sombre, boring, lifeless and even repressed when she transitions into womanhood. This doesn’t happen with Guddi – she matures, yes, but she doesn’t lose her gutsiness, vivaciousness, warmth and spirit. I love that.
I love the way she laughs – this scene reminded me so strongly of her laughter during ‘Shava Shava’ in ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’.
I also think she makes such a sweet couple with her co-star, and I love their playful, charming chemistry together:
And of course, there’s the obligatory funny subtitle:
This review wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention my dear Dharam’s role – playing yourself must be so hard as an actor (the divide between sheer hubris and crushing awkwardness must be difficult to straddle), but he does it with such grace, (apparent) humility and… cuteness. Through his efforts, Guddi loses her girlish crush on him in the course of this story, but I’m afraid this movie has had the opposite effect on me. It’s only made me love him more… so I must now crave your ‘forgivance’ – permit me to indulge my Dharam-love just a little bit…
Guddi’s Dharmendra scrapbook – I love how she’s crossed out his co-star’s face – such a typical fangirly thing…
This scene was fabulously done – it looked just like you’d expect Guddi to imagine it:
Sach, Dharamji?! Bahut bahut shukriya… that means so much to me!
I simply have to find a place for this picture on this blog…
April has been pretty quiet on this blog – not because my Bollyworld has been quiet, but because blogging time has been in short supply – I’m hoping to liven the party up a bit in May though. Up next… a review of the awesome ‘Awāra’, my first Raj Kapoor film – or I should say my first Raj Kapoor starrer, because I have seen a film he directed ('Satyam Shivam Sundaram'). 'Awaara' was very kindly recommended by Rajnish ji, in a comment on my ‘Mother India’ liveblog. On the contemporary tip, I’m also working on a lil’ something about Bollywood’s ‘bunny boilers’. Should be fun.