Sunday, November 1, 2009

Madhumati - Deja Vu All Over Again!

This is another old review of mine! Bimal Roy's Madhumati is perhaps the most Bollywood-esqe of all of his films. Featuring a virtuous Hero, an evil Villain, and a pure Heroine, it's a charming and entertaining film! Just a note - I gave away the whole story, so if you like to be surprised, you might want to hold off on reading this until after you've seen the film.


Madhumati opens with Dilip Kumar taking shelter in an old abandoned mansion during a thunderstorm. He hears a haunting melody and his past life comes rushing back to him; the rest of the film is all flashback to Dilip Kumar's previous life.


Anand (Dilip Kumar in a past life) is the kind of guy who doesn't pay attention to large FORBIDDEN signs. He walks right past them. This lack of concern is only for arbitrary rules; it doesn't extend to things that are important - like honor on the job.


How honorable one can be when one hires Johny Walker is questionable....


Anand is middle class. He doesn't like the attention of the big landowner of the estate - PRAN!! - and he angers the old regime with his emphasis on not stealing from the company and doing one's work in a timely and accurate manner. While he's negotiating the waters of his new employment, Anand keeps hearing a haunting melody....


He traces it to the source - a mysterious girl! (The song "Aja Re" that won Lata the Filmfare award.)


The girl continues to follow Anand around until he corners her and demands her name - Madhumati! They slowly fall in love. Pran is jealous and wants her for himself. It's understandable. Madhumati is adorable. She also can sing and dance like nobody's business. He cooks up an elaborate plan to lure Madhumati to his mansion by telling her that Anand is there and in trouble. When Madhumati pulls back the covers, what does she find?




Madhumati disappears. Anand decends into madness and melancholy.


But wait! Here is a girl who looks exactly like Madhumati! Her name is Madhavi and she (kindly) agrees to take part in an elaborate charade to implicate Pran in Madhumati's disappearance. They stage a production worthy of Karz or Om Shanti Om.


Is it really Madhavi who shows up? Hmmm.... (I love double roles!)

There is so much to love about Madhumati:

* The acting is wonderful for one thing. Dilip Kumar goes from uptight to love struck to kind of crazy. Vyjayanthimala is amazing as Madhumati/Madhavi/Radha! She is sure to make each character distinct. Pran is always great. My favorite moment of his was when Anand comes bursting into his lair demanding to know where Madhumati went. Pran gets this great "Oh shit!" look on his face that conveys both "Oh no! I'm busted" but also "I feel kind of guilty about taking his girl away."

* The direction is beautiful! The story unfolds so leisurely you get a chance to feel everything. And while Johny Walker has some comedic moments, they aren't overwhelming.

* Bhoot! I love the treatment of Madhumati's ghost who expresses herself through song and ghostly sounds. I also love that she makes her first appearance at the beginning of the film. Future!Anand is remembering the whole story, so of course things are going to be fated to happen. I also love the ending of Anand's story and that he doesn't care for Madhavi despite the fact that she looks like Madhumati. Here's to men falling for ladies because of their personality!

Watching Madhumati you certainly get a sense of where current Bollywood ghost stories are coming from. I could see shades of Bhool Bhulaiyaa and Om Shanti Om. Although, if OSO had taken Madhumati's ending, it might have had a more interesting second act!

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I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

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xoxo Filmi Girl