Monday, July 30, 2012

Mr. Romeo

(Housekeeping note: I don't understand why Blogger does such weird things with image alignment these days, but I've tried to fix it and have only a headache to show for my efforts. Sorry!)

If you have ever heard anything about the apparently uncelebrated Mr. Romeo (1974), it's probably that R. D. Burman's soundtrack is super fly. Exhibit A:
Any movie that introduces Shashi Kapoor by having him drive his gang of friends in a red convertible to a nightclub, then get a hero's welcome by the whole crowd, then dance like a Muppet toddler on a sugar high (so...Elmo?) while three different skankily-clad women fight over him is a movie for me. 

A bit of plot summary: Shashi is the older son of a cranky Utpal Dutt—is Utpal Dutt ever not cranky in masala films?
—and is a bit of a cad, as the title suggests, partying all night and sneaking back home through the bathroom window. 
Scientific proof that no man looks good with bare legs and black socks. 
A surprisingly cute Kiran Kumar is the younger son, and he is a very good boy indeed.
His mother (Achala Sachdev) feeds him grapes while he rests his head in her lap. He is a university graduate. Indian mama's boys will be the death of me.
Utpal and his family are the mortal enemies of Rajan Haksar and Narendra Nath for reasons that do not remotely matter, and they decide to take revenge by tempting goody-goody Kiran into a life of debauchery by sending Narendra's moll (Sarita) to seduce him. (It is possible that she is one of the women in the big nightclub number above, but I'm not sure.) The seduction of this man-child, who cowers in fear after accidentally seeing the woman's bare shoulder and knees as she steps out of the bath in a little towel suit and then seems utterly panic-stricken when they go on a dinner date, is hilarious
but effective. 
Shashi, meanwhile, falls for Rinku Jaiswal, who at first mistakes him for a would-be rapist, tries to run him over with her car, feels sorry when she sees him pretending to be strung up in casts in a hospital bed, and then eventually falls for him (and he for her). 
This love story takes up a significant portion of the first...I don't know, 60% of the film, before we finally get to the villains' revenge and a mustachioed—and therefore morally bankrupt—Kiran
and Shashi's attempts to both make a nice little life with Rinku and save his brother. Basically, the brothers' roles reverse, and the older brother finally becomes the responsible clean-nosed householder (-ish) that he probably should have been all along. 

A momentary tangent about the film's morals: because I saw this without subtitles, I cannot speak with certainty about Shashi and Rinku's living arrangements and any subsequent moralizing or lack thereof. They live together in a little house but are not married, and I don't think anybody's parents said a word about it...or if they did, they didn't get terribly upset. We never see them in the same bed, which of course contrasts perfectly with Kiran and his girlfriend, who do sleep together and he thus instantly falls into a life of drug addiction and she is eventually murdered before he is reunited with his family. Because, you know, woman has sex before marriage= death; man has sex before marriage when tempted by aforementioned bad woman=all is forgiven. The fates of Shashi/Rinku and Kiran/Sarita seem to contradict one another starkly in a way that suggests the film isn't out to preach to anyone but also isn't making a huge departure from the typical vamp plot arc. If you have thoughts on this topic, please do share them in the comments. 

Moving on. If Shashi had been a good elder son all along, we wouldn't have gotten that fab nightclub song, so I'm definitely in favor of being shown both ends of his reformation. Shashi is aided in this quest to rescue Kiran by Ranjeet, of all people, who acts a bit like an adopted brother. 
They even do a qawwali in disguises.
And the film wraps up as you expect.

Like Kalicharan a few days ago, Mr. Romeo is nothing more and nothing less than an enjoyable timepass. This one, however, lacks any sense of masala rollicking, in my opinion, due largely to the overly long development of Shashi and Rinku's love story. The plot is weirdly paced, the performances are kind of meh (with the exception of Ranjeet), and no one demonstrates much heart, providing little other than the superficial to care about.

But oh what superficials they are. While neither Shashi's initial personality nor his romance is handled as well as it could be, their telling gives us so many treasures, like this scarf, which is so froo-froo it seems to have come from another century,
romantic advice (here I believe he is demonstrating how to put one's arm around a girl, though it does look disturbingly like honking a car horn),
Note that the scarf looks fine when worn in a contextually appropriate manner.
Rinku's fantasy sequence that imagines Shashi in all sorts of silly situations, 
Shashi: I am so suave that you've already fainted.
Rinku: I am....Little Orphan Annie?
No Big Birds were harmed in the making of this film.
Other things: I can't remember if there's an actual Sari Turning Point in this film, but I do love what Rinku wears when Shashi's mom comes to visit. 
I watched this movie with Amrita and Antarra, and during the big fight at the end, Amrita said "I hope Ranjeet shows up to save the day! Wow, how often do you get to say that?" Here he is in the dishoom-dishoom, which occurs in a warehouse where the villains use dolls to smuggle drugs. He is basically giving this guy a look that says "You call that a pike?"
This scene also has a combat technique I haven't seen before: Kiran holds Shashi's legs around his waist and somehow spins him around parallel to the ground while Shashi punches henchmen, who obligingly stand in a circle. And look who's on the cover of Kiran's copy of Life magazine!
Will this be the closest I ever get to Shashi Kapoor and Paul McCartney in the same film?

If you don't need to see more pictures of prime vintage Shashi Kapoor, you may safely consider this post over. In fact, that criterion applies to the whole film: there is no real reason to watch Mr. Romeo unless you are a Shashi or Ranjeet completist. For those of us who fit the former description, it serves up moments of wild over-acting, good songs, and frequently incredible hair. Here are a few more completely gratuitous pictures to prove it. Mwah! 
Siiiiiiiiiiiigh.
You can enjoy in-motion, unsubtitled Shashi for yourself thanks to Rajshri here.

6 comments:

memsaab said...

I have this but hadn't gotten to it yet (the mood for no subtitles must be just right)...but now that I know Ranjeet plays a GOOD GUY (who is still HOT) in it I'm going to be all over it! :D Thanks.

Beth said...

Oh Greta, yes, you must see it. You will appreciate all the clothes too. Do be warned that Ranjeet is not in it very much, and only towards the end.

As for subtitles, Amrita never felt the needt o explain anything while we were watching this, so I'm assuming there's nothing too complex. I _would_ like to know more about the living in sin thing though!

(Laura) said...

If more nightclubs looked like the nightclubs from 1970's Bollywood movies (slides!), I would probably do nothing but go to nightclubs.

Sharon said...

HIS HAIR.

(actually now i have this unfortunate mental image of SK with his hair in curlers...)

Shalini said...

I loved Mr. Romeo! And I'm not a Shashi fan (actually thought his was the only phoned-in performance in the film). A large part of the love is due to the fabulous music but I also adored Rinku's character.

I liked how casually her independence and autonomy is presented. It's taken for granted that she has agency and should get to make her own decisions. I mean how often does a Hindi film heroine get to go off to Kashmir with the hero for a romantic vacation - pre-marriage, unchaperoned and without seeking the permission of her parents? And yes, I think they're definitely intimate(that point is made explicit in the song they sing in Kashmir - "na soyenge na sone denge" translated as "I won't sleep nor will I let you sleep, we'll meet the whole night"!).

Amaluu said...

I got all excited for a second because I thought you were reviewing the Tamil movie Mr. Romeo starring 2 Prabhu Devas + Shilpa Shetty and the girl from Roja. I suppose Shashi will do ... ;-)