In the year 1983, Coolie grossed millions riding on the sympathy wave generated by Amitabh Bachchan’s injury during its shoot. 1983 also saw Jeetendra dancing Tathaiya Tathaiya Ho all the way to the bank for his Himmatwala. In that same year, a little known gem also released; a gem called Katha directed by Sai Paranjape.
We live in an age where DVDs of Hollywood are an essential ‘research’ for most Bollywood movies. But here was a slice of life drama-comedy which was based on the simple premise of the fable of hare and the tortoise; the hare being the inimitable Farooque Shaikh and the turtle being the ever dependable Naseeruddin Shah.
The story is simple enough. In a chawl in Mumbai (then, Bombay) lives Rajaram Purushotam Joshi (Naseeruddin), a clerk who just become ‘permanent’ at a shoe company. Altruistic, conservative and shy, Rajaram spends his days working overtime in the office, helping out everybody in his little world and secretly loving his next door neighbor, Sandhya Sabnis (the effervescent Deepti Naval). In comes Bashudev Bhatt (Farooque) who is the diametric opposite of Rajaram, not just in virtues but also in vices. He is fast-talking, quick thinking, selfish, cunning and confident guy who knows how to live the good life.
Bashu not only takes over poor Rajaram’s room (kholi) but also gains a foothold into his office by getting close to his boss, his boss’s wife (the wonderful Mallika Sarabhai) and daughter. As if these heartburns weren’t enough, Bashu causes heartache for Rajaram by getting close to Sandhya. Finally a day comes when Sandhya’s parents ask Rajaram to play matchmaker and ensure that Bashu and Sandhya get married. How does a free-spirit like Bashu react to this? What happens to Rajaram? And in today’s day and age, does the tortoise really beat the hare? For knowing all these, you will have to check this film out.
The cast of this film was the real hero. Three eminent talents of 1980’s so-called parallel cinema were deftly complemented by a vast array of character actors (some of whom were residents of an actual chawl in Mumbai; Salunkhe Chawl). All the characters and instances in the movie are easily relatable to almost any average Indian’s life. We all have a Rajaram and a Bashudev in us and no matter how much we love the former, we hate being him and no matter how much we detest the later, we know that he is the one who will eventually succeed in life. The movie even boasts of two highly hummable songs ‘Tum sundar ho’ and ‘Maine tumse kuch nahin maanga’ composed by Raj Kamal.
It is such a pity that this movie never really got its dues. Under the desert of mediocre superhits of 1980’s, there are many such gems waiting to be rediscovered. Go ahead and get yourself its DVD. Maybe you will become more forgiving of the 80s, maybe.