Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi
Director: Satyen Bose
Music: S.D. Burman
Translation – That Which Moves is Called a Car
I have learned to keep my distance from Bollywood comedies like I would a
wrecking ball in motion. They just don’t hit my funny bone for the most part
– too broad and too foolish for my taste. Nearly all their films have
some comedy relief in the form of various specialists – Johnny Lever, Johnny
Walker, Mehmood and others who are brought into a film for this purpose and
to my mind can bring a film to a grinding screeching halt with their antics.
But I wanted to see more of Madhubala and took a chance on a full length
comedy. What doesn't kill you will just make you stronger. And it was wonderful.
Delightful, sweet, touching and yes . . . funny. Not fall down funny but
often amusing with a twinkle in its eye. Just good natured without being
sophomoric. The humor was based on situations and characters with the comic
interplay between the actors crisp and clever with perfect timing. Which
is probably due to the fact that they are brothers. Three of them.
Manu, Jaggu and Brijmohan are three middle-aged brothers who own a car repair
shop. They have one rule to live by. No women! Not even photos of them. Not
a smell of them. Don’t talk to them and never fall in love with one. Love
can only break your heart. It is working just fine until late one night in
a pouring rain the soaking sari clad Renu needs help with a stalled car.
The car may be stalled but not Manu’s heart which is banging out a rhythm
of fast syncopated beats. She is the daughter of a wealthy man and so there
is no chance that they will get together – other than the fact that this
is a Bollywood film. Their chemistry is enchanting and very appealing though
they don’t really want to voice it because of the difference in their status.
The older brother Brijmohan is dead set against this liaison because as it
turns out he nearly killed himself over a girl who ditched him for a wealthy
man years ago. The films falls into melodrama later when her father tries
to marry her off to a Prince who not surprisingly turns out to be a swine.
But most of the film is as light as air with some excellent songs coming
from S.D. Burman. It is all resolved in a way that will put a bit of a lively
hop in your step.
The three brothers are played by real life brothers – Ashok Kumar, Kishore
Kumar and Anoop Kumar. They are great fun – part the Three Stooges, part
the three Musketeers – one for all and all for one when they are not hitting
one another. Ashok is of course the big star of the three – called the First
Superstar of Bollywood – but Kishore was a well-known actor but even a better
known playback singer. One of the best in the business with no voice training
at all. His singing is very playful with yelps and yodels thrown in when
he felt appropriate. He sings nearly every song in the film. Having an actor
who could sing his part is very unusual in Bollywood - almost all of them
have playback singers that they move their mouths to. It has always surprised
me that they never developed actors who could do both. Kishore began as an
actor and it was discovered that he was a hell of a singer too. The third
brother Anoop is the least known but appeared in many films but never became
Ashok generously hands the film over to his two brothers in particular Kishore
who runs with it. He is great and his female counter party is Madhubala who
could charm a snake back into its basket. The two of them were married two
years later but the fact that she was Muslim and he had to convert caused
some family issues. Playing the main villain is K.L. Singh who has now shown
up in three straight films. A very good bad guy. There is also a traditional
item dance number from Helen and Cuckoo. This is the Bollywood comedy to
see if you ever have to see one.