Read Editorial with D2G – Ep 451

Chhoti Si Baat

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Meanings are given in BOLD

The arrival of Basu Chatterjee on the Hindi film firmament, with the 1969 Sara Aakash upended ( set or turned on its end or upside down ) the elements popular cinema was packed with: Loud dialogue, high-pitched melodrama ( a sensational dramatic piece with exaggerated characters and exciting events intended to appeal to the emotions) , and characters who lived in la-la land. His films were rooted ( establish deeply and firmly ) in the here and now, and were about people like you and me.

Along with Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Bhattacharya, Chatterjee created a road map to celebrate ordinariness, humaneness, empathy. And he invested his middle-of-the-road cinema with such zest ( great enthusiasm and energy ) and joy that it spilled over. There were sombre ( having or conveying a feeling of deep seriousness and sadness )  moments, too, but his films never drowned in faux ( made in imitation; artificial )  sentiment, they made their point with a lingering  ( lasting for a long time or slow to end ) lightness of touch.

Some of his best loved films ( the ’74 Rajnigandha,’76 Chhoti Si Baat’,’79 Baaton Baaton Mein) dealt with issues impacting a middle-class India which had never been visible on the big screen before. Tongue-tied, shy lovers, the sparkle of newly-independent working women, the rough and tumble of office politics, buses and trains that ran late — all was gently-observed grist ( useful material, especially to support an argument )  to Chatterjee’s mill, and the bustling ( (of a place) full of activity ) ’70s was as much marked by his cinema, wonderfully fronted ( make an appearance; turn up )  by an actor who exuded ( (of a person) display (an emotion or quality) strongly and openly )  a special man-next-door ordinariness, as it was by the films of a lanky ( (of a person) ungracefully thin and tall), towering volcano.

If Amitabh Bachchan’s angry heroes railed ( complain or protest strongly and persistently about )  against the system, and used their fists ( strike with the fist ) in retaliation ( the action of harming someone because they have harmed oneself; revenge ), Amol Palekar’s self-effacing ( not claiming attention for oneself; retiring and modest ) gents spoke up for the men who wore their thin, tentative moustaches and large collared bush-shirts with growing confidence, and for the ladies they loved.

Some of Chatterjee’s not so well-remembered titles like Chameli Ki Shaadi, Kamla Ki Maut, and Swami, touched upon class and caste, pre-marital sex and suicide, marital discord and other tricky subjects. But it was all done in the distinctive ( characteristic of one person or thing, and so serving to distinguish it from others ) style of a man who celebrated life in all its hues ( character or aspect ) , layered with the songs still hummed. That’s what’s called timeless.

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