Sunday, July 31, 2011

From the Vaults: Bheegi Raat

Another blast from the past, the other Kalidas film I've seen is Bheegi Raat (1965). I also wrote this one years ago when was going through a Ashok-Meena phase and this was, unfortunately, not quite the film I wanted it to be.

And a warning: SPOILERS AHEAD since this was before I learned how to write posts without them.





Meena Kumari plays Neelu, the most pathetic creature on the face of the planet. She is an orphan who runs away from home when one of her 'uncles' tries to sell her virginity to the highest bidder. It gets better!! Neelu is taken in by a crippled woman who is charged with watching her brother's daughter because his wife has died and in his grief, he has taken himself away to London.

The movie I wanted to see had the brother (Ashok Kumar) returning home, falling in love with the lovely - if extremely melancholy - Meena Kumari and then there is a happily ever after. That is not what I got. Oh, Ashok returns home and falls in love alright, but Meena Kumari is forced by the script to proclaim her love for an extremely unappealing Pradeep Kumar, instead.

Here's what happens - Pradeep and Meena 'fall in love' and Ashok is jealous. Ashok's crippled sister dies and Pradeep heartlessly insists that Meena show up to an engagement party that he planned for them or else it means that
she doesn't love him. Ashok is kindness itself and tells her to go and not to worry about him. BUT ON THE WAY THERE SHE IS HIT BY A CAR! Can things get worse for Neelu?! Of course!! Meena Kumari wasn't called the Tragedy Queen for nothing, yaar!

Meena Kumari is now crippled and Ashok is taking care of her despite all the gossip circulating about him living with a woman 'in sin.' They don't know that there's no hankey pankey going on here! Pradeep disappears, although sadly not forever, because he didn't get the message that she was in an accident. He thought she didn't show to the party because she was going to marry Ashok.

Finally, Meena Kumari agrees to marry Ashok because she loves him - not romantically, but in a familial way. Still, it is love and it's really wrenching when Pradeep comes back on the scene to taunt her for ditching him. Is their romantic love really more important than the family Meena Kumari built up with Ashok? The film would say yes, but my tears said NO as Ashok walks out back to London after fixing up Meena and Pradeep and
giving them his daughter.



(Dadamoni has the right idea.)

See, the thing that makes
Bheegi Raat so terrible is that Pradeep Kumar plays a character that embodies all the WORST and most macho traits of a Bollywood hero. Allow me to make my case:

*Pradeep's character is supposed to be a dashing young playboy who balks at his father forcing him into marriage. Pradeep Kumar was about 40 years old and
very out of shape when Bheegi Raat was made. While a young man may be charming despite his unwillingness to go along with his father's ideals for a good life, a man of 40 is always going to appear extremely unattractive while acting like a petulant child. There is no way around it. I may have cheered the rampaging elephant who almost takes Pradeep's life halfway through...

*Not only is he a petulant man-child of 40, Pradeep's character is also a big macho jerk who
makes plans for an engagement party without asking his bride-to-be and then emotionally blackmails her into showing up.

*In an even worse crime, he pretends to agree to marry the fabulous Shashikala only to substitute the biggest loser in the world at last minute so that
she marries a guy she didn't want to!!! And this is played for laughs!

*His final crime is to show up at Meena Kumari and Ashok Kumar's engagement party - one that the bride-to-be planned, mind you - and taunts her. WHY? Just to be a jerk. If he
really loved her and thought she loved Ashok Kumar, then he should have just let her be. That's what Dadamoni does!

With that out of my system, I have to admit that there were some great moments in
Bheegi Raat.



Shashikala was
fantastic!!



I loved her two gay sidekicks and her lap dog and the way she bossed her (unwanted) husband around. More Shashikala, please!



One of the dance numbers was this odd deer-themed dance that had the lead dancer getting killed by a snake -
just as Pradeep Kumar shows up! Obviously that means he's slimy and can't be trusted. RIGHT? sigh My subtext reading totally failed here.



Oh, hello, Anoop!




Dadamoni and Meena have
such great chemistry. There are all these wonderful moments where you can see him almost touch her but then pull his hand back or she'll look at him with those big, teary eyes and I just melt. At the end, I just know she doesn't want him to leave...

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