March 20, 2011

Parbat Pe Apna Dera

Title: Parbat Pe Apna Dera (My home is in the hills)
Year: 1944
Cast: Ulhas, Vanmala (Susheeladevi Pawar), Shanta Rin, Kamal, PL Samant, Kanta Kumari, Suman
This isn't one of V Shantaram's earliest films, but yet, it turns out it is one of his least known- there is no mention of it on IMDB, and most of the actors aren't featured on the website as well. It was made about the same time as his more famous "Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani," but while that ran on the lines of a biography, this is a fable about paradise lost and regained, a modernized Indian myth. The film utilizes a sound stage throughout with one exception where the outdoors were absolutely necessary, in typical Shantaram style
Warning: I tend to refer to the actors by their own names, rather than the characters, so do not be confused.
The film opens with Vanmala, her dad PL Samant, her maid, Shanta Rin and the man of all work Kamal out visiting a temple to pray. They have a lot to ask for: Vanmala lost her sight in her childhood, and lost her mum at the same time (bit much to lose at the same time thought- isn't it?), and since then, since "all" the doctors have pronounced her case as hopeless, she comes to temple to pray for her recovery. While leaving, the group hears a man's singing coming from a distance, and hearing from the priest that it is that of a sage who prays atop the nearby hills, they rush there, oping to gain some peace by visiting with him.
The priest, Ulhas, isn't too pleased to see them. He doesn't like people in general- they distract from his prayers, and so he likes to chuck rocks at them (!).
However, he is moved by Vanmala's own singing, and her entourage's general begging...
... so much so that he has the cure for Vanmala's eyes. Just a week's worth of eyedrops that his teacher bequeathed him, that he must administer to her for a week. Yay! Must say she looks a bit scary while receiving treatment- but no matter.
However, all this treatment is turning on Vanmala a fair bit- she keeps clasping his hand while he goes about his work, which turns him on and makes him more than a bit uncomfortable.
Again, no matter, because true to Ulhas' promise, Vanmala is well within the week, and so they are all really happy... her happiness, she does an awkward ring-around-the-roses with her maid too..
... all in all, she is super happy, and looks very pretty too...
Amidst all the happiness, we have a inkling that this is as happy as anyone is going to get, since Kamal is reading a newspaper that is humorously titled Sansari Gadbad (Wordly Problems).
Having fixed her eyes, Ulhas turns out her and her entourage double quick- he has had enough temptation, and needs to get back to praying.
But he cant fool himself- he misses Vanmala, in romantic hero style...
.. so that when Vanmala begins visiting the cave he lives at to help out, he lets her, after the initial obligatory nay saying. One day he ventures out for a walk on the hillside with her, but fellow priests and mendicants make fun of him for dallying with a girl. Utterly disillusioned and hurt and messed up, he begs Vanamala to take her away from it all. Now this seems a bit quick- if he is that devoted, he would dig in his heels and n0t care what people say and keep at his praying- but the story may then halt to a standstill- so never mind.
Vanamala doesn't need much urging, and happily takes Ulhas home, who requests her dad and the household to forget he was ever a sage- he is just a regular guy now, and never intends to go back to his home in the hills (what? never? even if the hills have eyes?? - oh I kid , I kid).
Ulhas get used to things quickly,
...learning to shave with a "European" razor...
...getting fitted for new outfits...
...and flirting leeringly with Vanmala.
Soon enough, their society wedding is announced!
Done with the festivities, the newlyweds take off for their honeymoon, and are boating down a lake/river in the moonlight,...
... when they come across the ravishing Kanta Kumari in her own boat, singing beautifully.
Ulhas is smitten instantly,
..and Vanmala idiotically does NOT get the hint when, at the end of her song, Ulhas JUMPS from their boat to Kanta Kumari's!
Soon enough, Ulhas begins to hold regular trysts with Kanta on her boat,
... fooling his wife,
... the darned 2 timer!
and drinking Johnny Walker! This has to be the oldest sighting of Johnny Walker whiskey I've experienced- sending this to Sitaji asap.
He is finally caught in the act by Kamal and Vanmala's dad, and frightfully embarrassed...
..but her father decides to not tell about it to Vanmala to spare her feelings.
In vain, because Ulhas next catches sight of the florist who comes to deliver flowers in their temple...
.. and begins to make out with her in the temple itself!
Vanmala, who has been feigning ignorance till date cannot ignore what she sees and is properly hurt.
But Ulhas is all the more encouraged- now that his wife knows his truth, he openly flirts at that evening's Dussehra festival celebrations.
He pursues his wife's friend, played by Suman, and attempts rape.

But Suman is too smart for him, and THROWS a burning firecracker at him..
..straight into his eyes, which blinds him! Vanmala has no clue- she has been crying at home, and when YUlhas reaches home, the servants throw him out.
Till this point, the movie was entertaining enough. From here, withers into run-of-the-mill tripe. Vanmala hears of Ulhas' blindness from a little blind girl played by Baby Nalini, and leaves her dad to eventually find Ulhas in his old cave in the hills.

So what will happen? Will the couple reconcile? What will happen to Ulhas' vision? Will the hills, at least, have eyes????
Its good stuff, is what it is. Vintage Shantaram.