Movie Review – KATHA (Hindi, 1983)
Genre – Comedy
Director – Sai Paranjpe
Cast – Naseeruddinn Shah, Farooq Shaikh, Deepti Naval,
An amazingly hilarious true-to-life portrayal of the lifestyle of some simply gripping characters based among the common yet captivating gentry in the chawl tenements of suburb Mumbai, engaging us with some rare ordinariness. The everyday commotion nuances, although based in a different bracket of social ethos, seems to be not too different for the rest of us middle class brethren who have gotten to experience the same kind of typical situations and camaraderie within our own close-knit community life at some point or the other.
The ordinary and uncomplicated life of Purushottam Rajaram Joshi (Naseeruddin Shah) is running in smooth gear amidst the bustling and buzzing chawl society until it is disrupted by the sudden and unexpected entry of the zippy Pashu (Farooq Shaikh) whose omnipresence brings an electric zing in the lives of the residing inhabitants.
At first, Rajarm is pleasantly surprised at the arrival of his childhood friend. But when Pashu announces his decision to guest, a reluctant Rajarm, nevertheless, decides to accommodate even as he barely manages to hold on to his meagre albeit disciplined and prudent lifestyle. Life in the chawl brightens up as the sunny Pashu mixes and mingles with everyone and in no time, wins the hearts of the residents with his sunny charm. Trouble begins when the layabout begins to eat into Rajarams’ resources and doesn’t think twice about sweet talking his way to a neighbours door for a free lunch and dinner. The charm of the devil doesn’t spare even the secret crush of Rajaram – the deceptively docile Sandhya (Deepti Naval). A simmering but diffident Rajaram slowly begins to sense the con in his friend but strangely finds himself putting up with him.
Pashu, looking for easy ways to come up, first impresses Rajarams’ boss with his guile to get into the firm, and then uses Rajaram to get his things done while he himself dilly dallies, finding time to flirt with the office staff. Alongside, he has the impunity to go after his boss’ daughter from his ex-wife even as he goes about seducing his bored but young and beautiful second wife. Things heat up when Pashu, in his quest for easy money, even agrees to marry Sandhya. Things continue to spiral uncontrollably with the occurrence of some shockingly unexpected events leaving a dumbstruck Rajaram in a state of sorry predicament.
While Naseeruddin Shah is absolutely redoubtable as the subdued and servile Rajaram, and Deepti Naval carries her act as the sweet and chirpy Sandhya with due competence, the shining gem of the movie without doubt is the beguiling charmer with the gift of the gab, Pashu, played by Farooq Shaikh. Endearing rogue that he is, you can’t help wanting him to escape from all the nervy situations he’s gotten himself into with alarming audacity. And without harm. That is the magic of a rogue charmer. His condescendence at his friends’ plebeian lifestyle, his brazen shamelessness while living the freeloaders’ life, the pleasing smile, his wily yet endearing ways without which his neighbours cannot do, and his calm collectedness even in the most anxious of situations, all come together to create a most lovable character you strangely end up rooting for. In fact, you can’t blame his surroundings for falling in love with him.
The life and style of the quintessential chawl resident is brought out in such pure detail, it truly is engrossing fare. A lazy mornings’ tea time, hot samosas and warm vadas evening time, the getting together for night time gossips, is all so wonderfully comely. The people going through their daily routines which they all seem to enjoy in togetherness, their unfailing camaraderie even in the most trying of times, their insignificant quarrels, and their minuscule joys all come through well magnified through the expert vision of the enterprising and sapient lady director Sai Paranjpe who manages to diligently capture the seemingly mundane activities with extraordinary attention to the minutest of detail. The rest of the cast playing the innumerable residents of the chawl display their finesse in getting under the skin of their respective characters which makes the depiction of the setting all the more real and authentic.
An experience not to be missed ever, and a creation that merits a sequel for us viewers to know what further has happened in the lives of those very ordinarily interesting people.
Suraj D. Shetty