A second Guru Dutt movie, this time Aar Paar.
And it’s hard to snark about an amusing and breezy Bombay trifle so shall we take an amiable PG romp through it?!
We start with a police station where it is punishment for petty crims day and all the wicked sharps and sleazes are milling around awaiting their ten lashes and gruel. Amongst them a naïf sort is worried he is in for it thanks to sneaking a few smokos. He is soon before the Man and it turns out his name is Kalu Birju (Guru Dutt). Uh huh, shall we rechristen him KB?! The Man turns out to be a soft sort who has decided to send KB back into the world on account of his good behaviour. KB pretty thrilled and soon establishing that he is the smart aleck tapori sort that you only find in Bombay movies. Before he leaves Qaidi No 114 draws him aside and asks him to go and meet the Captain and deliver the message, Kaale Badal Mein Bijli, Badi Tasveer Saaf Kar Dena. That’s totally my next password.
Out in the world he meets up with his ex taxi boss who has sent him to the slammer for nothing worse than an accident. Ex taxi boss unrepentant so KB all shaking fists and shaanya lines. And then jauntily off only to trip over someone fixing a car. KB being an abrasive sort pulls out the trousered fellow only to discover it’s a very pretty girl Nikki (Shyama). KB all taporiness and Nikki all annoyed but of course also a little smitten-I totally get her falling for that fur cap (!) and knotted kerchief. Cue random construction worker song and urchin dancing - haven’t we all been thus romanced - yay for the singing peasantry of India! Soon Nikki drives off and KB goes to meet his sister. But the B-i-L is all huffy about KB’s prison stint so KB has to leave. Then KB runs into one of the dancing urchins who rejoices in the name Elaichi Pehalwan (a young Jagdeep) –awesome we are so keeping this name! - and soon they have exchanged hardscrabble tales and are sleeping under Bombay’s smoky sky.
The next day KB spots Nikki’s car and wanders in and is all lippy with Nikki’s Punju dad for KB’s coat is in Nikki’s car. Time for Nikki-KB sparring that is so going to lead to sacha pyaar! KB, smart lad, also pataoes the Dad and soon has a job and a bed at the garage. Now KB off to meet the Captain. But who cares about the Captain when you have the Moll (Shakila)! Especially when the Moll is in a dress that crosses flounces and chiffon with a tight Bavarian choli! Time for the vamp item number and time for strong, sensible men to be reduced to blithering idiots! But the Moll is looking at KB and totally thinking that is one delicious cupcake. A delicious cupcake with a mean fist and a wicked mouth i.e. After bashing up a patron putting the moves on the Moll, KB is also all No Captain, No Message and walks away from her.
The next day the Moll along with sidekick Rustam (Johnny Walker) is at the only garage in Bombay, namely Nikki’s. The Moll wants the car fixed. Uh huh sexual innuendo time! Moll all like can you thoroughly check out, rehaul and tune all my parts – way too much sex in Hindi movies! - KB the tease only checking the car plus Nikki and Moll catfight is in the air. Rustam, good man, still has his eye on the job and transfers the car contraband to a taxi but the Moll decides to leave the car in the garage for repairs.
Nikki’s Dad likes long running chess games with a Qazi. And so Nikki having a lot of time for pyaar vyaar! See Nikki teaching KB English (bizarrely the words are FAT.GIRL.LOVE)! See Nikki and KB fixing fuses! See Nikki and KB whistling! See Nikki and KB singing a song! See Nikki looking like a saucy little minx in mechanic overalls and KB looking like a sinfully delectable cupcake! Watch them as they are prettily framed by the car! And watch as KABOOM they are in love and kissing behind a column! But oh no sprung by Dad who inexplicably wandered away from the chess game. But KB lad all unrepentant and quite quite lippy with Dad. So KB back on street and out of a job. Time for a bed under the stars with Elaichi who promises to be his cleaner once KB gets a taxi to drive. Also KB's chances with Nikki further nixed as the police drop by the garage on a tip off to check the Moll’s car. And Dad and Nikki now know that KB has taken in some jail air. So that’s that no more kissing behind columns.
Finally the Captain (Bir Sakhuja) is in the Building! And looking like a suited greasy stockbroker bhav copy in hand. No wonder the Moll wants a KB tuning! Captain annoyed with his flunkeys including No. 1 and No. 2 for botching the last bank job. Also Captain is being tailed by the police thanks to the car left in Nikki’s garage by the Moll that has been traced to him. Now KB turns up yet again to deliver Qaidi No. 114’s message. Time for Rustam’s Parsi Patois comedy routine! Then a door painted with decadent Victorians (I so don’t need a Fat Flashman reminder!) and into the Captain’s lair. Lippy lippy KB uh huh Boy has Bombay Attitude in spades! But also stupid stupid KB for Captain offers him a taxi on the condition that it is available when required by the Captain and KB agrees. Also Moll can’t wait to eat the delicious cupcake that is KB but the tease is still not putting out!
Now KB has a taxi and Elaichi a cleaning job. KB goes off to give lady love Nikki a spin but she is not giving the time of her day to a crim. So KB hauls her off to the police station and the Man assures her he is a good sort and gives him an actual character certificate. Clearly the golden age of policing. Now a spin through the streets of Mumbai and car song and Nikki all remorseful and KB all petulant before being manoed. A man can get away with so much when he is a wicked sweet cupcake!
KB now consorting with the Captain and his crims – his taxi is the getaway vehicle - and in a heist dry run that is quite, quite botched up by No. 1, No. 2 and Rustam. Captain is thunderous and furious and we must do better! But inexplicably now time for Nikki to perve on a shirtless KB by arriving unannounced at his house only to find him bathing. Nikki not doing the horizontal tango with shirtless KB (where is the Moll when you need her!) but inexplicably only making plans to set up house. Also inexplicably KB confesses his desire to marry Nikki to the Moll who suggests he elope if the Dad does not agree. And indeed Dad all deeply annoyed at KB’s marriage proposal. So naturalment KB all attitude, lippy and annoying and making poor Nikki chose between him and Dad. So Nikki plans to elope with him at midnight - always a good hour for elopement! But Dad at his never ending chess game interspersed with comments to prevent daughter’s elopement like Nikki is such a dutiful daughter, discussing lafangas who left their lovers etc. So Nikki not going anywhere and KB’s plan chaupat. Time to take himself off to the Moll but Moll singing a song on The Secret Pain and Unhappiness of Molls. KB totally not taking this opportunity to be the Moll’s Comfort Pillow for the sweet cupcake is still a little in love with Nikki. Awww!
Time for another random song in which KB gets to sing love murdabad with various women. Whatever. Also time for more of the Rustam Parsi Patois comedy track where Rustam, the girlfriend, the fat mom, and siblings go to a zoo and Rustam has a very difficult time getting some nookie time before managing the Johnny Walker Item Song. Whatever. Meanwhile another heist and contraband being thrown off a suburban train, no less! And KB finds a few bullets in contraband! Man is in deep shit but oblivious, however Elaichi is doing his best to get him back on track and lands up at the Captain’s adda Nikki in tow. Where KB is lounging around with the Moll – it appears that the Moll Tuning is finally going well! So well that KB spurns Nikki for spurning him and Nikki is singing the Sad Version of Happy Song.
KB now investigating further and finds that boxes thrown from trains totally do not contain Lifebuoy even if this is indicated on the carton but may contain bullets. Tubelight KB! Now KB as usual being lippy and showing attitude to the Captain and announcing he is walking away. Captain is all my darling sweet cupcake you ain't going anywhere and has him trussed up and orders Rustam to kill KB. Rustam very unhappy because this means a lifetime in the slammer sans his sweetie with the fat mom and annoying siblings. And the Moll is all over her trussed up cupcake and suggesting they elope, she seems a bit fixated on elopments eh! But KB is all I am a wicked sweet delicious cupcake that shall be touched only by saucy Nikki’s lips. Now the Moll is totally over the fool and suggests to the Captain that kidnapping Nikki may be the way to get KB to get on with the heist as opposed to ummm killing him. Because it’s just so hard to find a driver! So Nikki and Elaichi are kidnapped! Nikki and Moll are now in a farmhouse 30 miles away while Elaichi is quite trussed up and No. 2 is left in charge.
Time for another amateur bank robbery heist with KB in the getaway car. But Rustam decides to turn straight so off he goes with KB to rescue Nikki. No. 1 and henchmen give chase but Rustam is quite the match for them. As he is for the farmhouse crims. Good Man Rustam! Nikki and KB now reunited! But the Moll escapes and now Captain is around too and time for jungle shootout that empties every bit of ammunition the Captain has ever had! Also oy here’s to a Moll gaily shooting at the object of her spurned affections as opposed to copping a few of her own saving him! Meanwhile Elaichi has given No. 2 the slip and is here with the Police who arrive just in time in the last frame of the film! So it’s off to the slammer for the Captain and the Moll though the Captain is so going to work the Kaale Badal Mein Bijli, Badi Tasveer Saaf Kar Dena messages. Now Nikki’s Dad is here too and all contrite so here we are at the end and its curtains and sexy time for our saucy minx and hot and delicious cupcake!
And with that, I have exceeded my normal quota of Hindi movies by about 4. So next review break ke baad!
A tiny dedication - this post for my grandfather, who is much missed.
I am not sure if Aar Paar is the first of the kind of movies that are familiar in Hindi cinema. It's release date of 1954 suggests that its liberal employment of Mumbai patois and its mix of big city noir, gangster culture, the shootout climax, inventive framing of shots and youthful romance must have been a fresh take for its time - and it retains this freshness. Its possibly the first of the crim-com genre and pretty much most of the cast is on good form here and the songs for the most part are pleasant, infectious interludes. This is an exuberant if slight film that is essentially a love letter to Bombay (it’s possible the streets were cleared for shooting but the city looks spacious and empty) and entirely different in tone from the films that Guru Dutt made later. It gets so much right that its faults are best ignored.