Expresso Entertainment Feature on Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s “Chupke Chupke”

Here’s a feature on Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s “Chupke Chupke” from the Indian Express at 9:00 p.m. on May 21, 2022

You are listening to the Expresso Entertainment update. Here’s a special feature on “Chupke Chupke” by Hrishikesh Mukherjee presented by The Indian Express.

We live in a time where mainstream filmmakers assume audiences aren’t smart enough to understand what’s being implied, so we’re getting an overdose of sound effects, multiple takes showing who the hero is (as if we’d otherwise forget) and Every beat of the story is pounded into our heads over and over again. The cinema space is as competitive as ever, but nuance has left the building. With films like KGF 2 and RRR being the new benchmark for success and suggestions that they brought back the 1970s Hindi film hero, it’s probably the right time to actually examine what the 1970s was about .

Of course, the 1970s was the era of the “angry young man,” but it was also the era when every “larger than life” hero masala offering was balanced with a subtle, almost relatable movie. Each Deewar was accompanied by a Chupke Chupke (both from 1975). The Hrishikesh Mukherjee film is one of the director’s most popular films and has gained a loyal following thanks to its many satellite runs. Looking back at the Hrishikesh Mukherjee classic, it’s evident that the director had a clear vision of the kind of situation comedy he was trying to create.

For the unsaved, Chupke Chupke stars Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Sharmila Tagore, Jaya Bachchan, Asrani, David and Om Prakash in significant roles, and the film balances its cast so that each character has something to offer to the main plot.

A remake of the Bengali film Chhadmabeshi, the film is well remembered for Dharmendra’s and Amitabh Bachchan’s comic act, which took place the same year as the all-time blockbuster Sholay was released.

In short, the story is about a newly married man, Parimal, who has to visit his wife’s sister and brother-in-law. The relatives could not come to the wedding, so this meeting is of paramount importance. The brother-in-law is a pompous but gorgeous man, so Parimal decides to pull a prank. He lands at her house and disguises himself as the new driver, Pyare Mohan, and the comedy of mistakes begins.
Like many other comedies, the plot on paper is all about who knows what. The comedic parts start with the plot point – “Who knows he’s Parimal and who thinks he’s Pyare Mohan?”, but the way Hrishikesh Mukherjee explains it to his audience is none despite the large cast of characters room for confusion.

Amitabh Bachchan has shared in many interviews that Hrishi Da, as he was affectionately known, was a simple man. He just built two walls, didn’t build elaborate sets, and shot even the most important scenes in the simplest of ways. Neither were the costumes or the looks of its performers of paramount importance. Bachchan once recounted that actors sometimes ended up in front of the camera wearing whatever they appeared in because none of it mattered to him. And it’s that kind of simplicity that is clearly visible in Chupke Chupke.

The film gets the most laughs when the characters on screen pretend to be something they are not and the audience is already caught up in the joke. The scene where Amitabhs performs Sukumar Parimal and Jayas teaches Vasudha botany is a classic while mumbling around trying to distinguish between “gende ka phool” and “gobhi ka phool”. The many scenes where Dharmendras Parimal, pretending to be Pyare, asks questions about the etymology and pronunciation of English words are another hilarious bunch.

With all-out slapstick comedy that becomes the only type of comedy we often see in mainstream movies and even on TV, audiences are spoon-fed how to react. Hrishikesh Mukherjee stayed far from that trope, even though this was the era when “dishooms” in movies fell like leaves in autumn.
Like most Hindi films of the time, Chupke Chupke had a melodious music album composed by SD Burman with lyrics by Anand Bakshi. The songs may not have helped the story in any way, but their imagery underscored the relationships the characters shared with one another.

It is noteworthy that both the main characters, Prof. Parimal Tripathi (Dharmendra) and Prof. Sukumar Sinha (Amitabh Bachchan) have love marriages. And that was at a time when arranged marriages and courtship were all the rage. Even today, many parents insist that their children marry the person of their choice.

Another example of the creators’ forward thinking can be seen when Sulekha (Sharmila Tagore) hands Prof. Tripathi a note with her contact details. It is significant because Hindi films have taught us that if we are ever to fall in love, the first step must be made by the man. If he doesn’t, it undermines his manhood. However, Sulekha breaks with this stereotype. That was a welcome change, because a woman can also start a relationship without being called “easy”.

The obsession with the English language has been a concern for decades. Many still suffer from the colonial hangover and judge a person by the language in which they converse. In this film the situation is reversed. Raghav (Om Prakash) is looking for a driver who can speak ‘Shudh’ or plain Hindi. Also, he must be from Allahabad because drivers with well-spoken Hindi are not to be found in Mumbai. Yet the film promotes no language over the other. Indeed, during a phone call between Tripathi and Haripad (David Abraham), a thought-provoking dialogue takes place. Tripathi tells him that he feels guilty for making fun of Hindi. To which Haripad replies, “You are making fun of a person, not a language. The language is so monumental that it cannot be mocked!”

Hrishikesh Mukherjee was one of the finest filmmakers of his generation and with comedies like Chupke Chupke the director proved that simplicity is the key ingredient in good comedy.

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