Thursday, April 12, 2012

Buddha Mil Gaya (1971)

Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Salim-Javed never collaborated on a movie. In the 1970s, these were two institutions of the Hindi film industry that operated in different spaces altogether- and yet were able to enthrall the same audience with their distinct approaches to telling a story on screen. Both were prolific, and both were big brands. At the start of the decade Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed Buddha Mil Gaya’, comedy-thriller that is funnier than most out and out comedies of that time, and also has more thrills than most out and out thrillers of the period. And the striking thing about the movie is its almost ‘Salim-Javed’ian plot treated by Mukherjee in his own trademark manner. Also, it is one of those rare non-art-house Hindi movies in which the hero of the show is an old man- essayed by the inimitable Om Prakash. And what makes it more unique is that the old man here is not shown as frail or dependent on someone. The man here fights his own battles and takes everything head on, while not losing his sense of humor even for a moment. This elderly fellow is younger than most youngsters at heart- he is quick, he is nimble, he is charming, and he is brave. And he is remarkably entertaining.

The movie stars Deven Verma and Navin Nischal as slackers who do a bit of photography to earn their daily bread. Tenants to a kind yet fiery old lady and her granddaughter, the two guys are forever hard pressed for money. Then one day they see an advertisement announcing for a missing old man to report himself to his corporate partners in the next fifteen days, or else be at the risk of losing all his money to them. The two of them wish to catch hold of this old fellow and apprise him of this news. They think that this might lead them to a handsome sum of money. In a happy coincidence they spot the old man in one of the photographs they had clicked a few days back and very soon run into him at the same place where they clicked it. They request the man to accompany them to their home, and the man agrees because of a personal reason. The two however are unaware that this old fellow is on a grave mission to rest the ghosts of his past. Within no time they too get well and truly embroiled in the dangerous game of the old fellow. What follows next is what the movie is all about.


There are slight cinematic liberties that Mukherjee takes in the movie, especially in the first half. But all in all he has a taut script at hand which he executes with great dexterity on screen. It looks like the making of the film was a joyride and that fun and frolic gets reflected in the way the characters perform. The humor in the film is clean and sans any innuendos (as you expect with any Hrishikesh Mukherjee film), and it is remarkable the way the director derives genuine laughs in the most simple and innocuous of situations. The two heroines opposite Deven and Navin are Aruna Irani and Archana. The exchanges between the two couples are most deftly designed and it is ensured that none of it is the run of the mill stiff.

When the old man enters their lives and Deven and Navin get involved in his affairs- the two of them form a pair not far off from the Amar-Prem Jodi from Andaaz Apna Apna- two not-so-smart people led by the slightly less duffer but vastly more articulate fellow on the trail of something intricate. Both the actors do a fine job, more so Deven Verma who lights up the scenes with his flair for comedy. However, the life and soul of the film is the performance of Om Prakash. He is effervescent on screen and completely owns the second half of the story. The way he expresses himself in the ‘thumri’ he teaches Archana is simply amazing. It is pretty evident the man knew that he would never get many such opportunities to play such a flamboyant character- and thus makes the most of it. The story and the intentions of his characters in the film are kept as suspense till the last few minutes, and this adds an additional dimension of intrigue to the narrative.

The music by RD Burman is superb- two of the songs are quite popular. ‘Raat Kali Ek Khwab Mein Aayi’ is one of the timeless romantic numbers created by the maestro. There is also one slightly weird comic dance number with Om Prakash as the center of the attraction that comes towards the end of the film and works well in the context of the narrative.

Parting Note: Buddha Mil Gaya is the closest Hrishikesh Mukherjee gets to the Salim Javed brand of entertainment. But what makes it a must watch is his own trademark touches that ensure lots of fun throughout the film. I would place it slightly ahead of Bawarchi in the list of my favorite Hrishikesh Mukherjee films- a list that is led by Golmaal, Anand, and Chupke Chupke. 

9 comments:

  1. Odd, that while this is one of the few films you've reviewed that I have watched, I remember very little of it. I do recall Navin Nischal and his friend wanting the prize money for Om Prakash, but had forgotten the rest of the movie. Saw it years and years ago. Time for a rewatch!

    Slightly off-topic: Archana did act in at least another film. I'd forgotten what it was called, until I went searching for its best song, which had stuck in my mind all these years. This one, from the 1970 film Umang:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBSow4QCrPY

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    1. I bet you will enjoy the rewatch! Thanks for posting the song- it's great how you can remember such a lot! Actually I just discovered that there are two imdb pages for Archana-

      1. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0962482/
      2. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0033610/

      And on the first one only Buddha mil Gaya is listed. Thanks for pointing it out- will edit :)

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  2. I don't visit for sometime and suddenly you have a plethora of posts! To me, Buddha Mil Gaya is on par with the other Om Prakash starrer - Annadata directed by Asit Sen. This one was more humorous, though.

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    1. Good to see you here, as always. Actually haven't done a post in 40 days- have started the first job of my life and it hardly leaves me with any time to watch movies. Things should settle a bit in a month or two, and hopefully I will be able to resume my usual prolific routine :)

      Hadn't heard of Annadata. Will check it up. Thanks!

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  3. Arre Piyush, I found this piece on internet while searching for actress Archana. No information about her on the net. I have seen the movie but have totally forgotten the story.

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    1. Hi Chacha! Nice to know that this blog came up high in the search results :)

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    2. Yes, I share your curiosity. Its amazing that such a quiet and lovely actress should get lost in history. Please do inform me if you come across any information. I hope she married a prince somewhere and lived happily ever after.

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  4. Before the titles itself there is a person turning a reel on the projector .Is this Hrishikesh Mukherjee himself in a cameo role a la Hitchcock ???

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    1. Interesting observation. Looks like you are correct :)

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