Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Ab Aayega Mazaa – an odd (and oddly enjoyable) little relic of the 80s

After Farooque Shaikh’s passing late last year, I watched some of his old work – Gaman, Saath Saath, other reasonably well-known (by “parallel cinema” standards) movies. But a few days ago I found a DVD of the 1984 Ab Aayega Mazaa lying about (I think I had bought it after Ravi Baswani died a few years ago) and started watching it, only to be gobsmacked by what an unusual little film it was.

It begins with the actor Raja Bundela dressed in a black cloak, prancing about a graveyard with a crucifix, talking about how the dead have to reserve their "plots" in advance because things are getting crowded. This is revealed to be a nightmare: the film’s hero Vijay (Farooque Shaikh) awakes suddenly to find he has overslept and is late for office as usual, and wouldn’t you know it, his old grey scooter isn’t starting again. While waiting at a bus-stop (this, boys and girls, is what people used to do in the pre-liberalisation days – you know, before India became all shiny and Lamborghinis and iPhones dropped from the sky into the backyard of every house) he meets a sweet girl named Nupur (Anita Raaj). She lives in Golf Links and has three phones in her house (in 1984 even the prime minister didn’t have three phones) while Vijay occupies PG quarters in Patel Nagar, which is a pointer to their very different social statuses. But romance begins, as it did in those distant days, with a glass of water bought from a roadside stall, and an argument with a vendor who doesn’t have change for 50 paise

At this point Ab Aayega Mazaa seems set to be your regular early 80s middle-class romance centred on two of the most un-starry leading actors of the time. But the story soon heads down a garden of forking paths, and it turns out that the dream scene in the graveyard wasn’t an anomaly – it was representative of the film's overall madcap tone.

For anyone interested in the non-mainstream cinema of the time, this movie’s title credits have many points of interest. It was the directorial debut of Pankaj Parashar, who would helm the popular TV show Karamchand shortly afterwards, and go to make Jalwa, Peechha Karo and (the relatively big-star, big-budget) Chaalbaaz, all of which had traces of the manic energy one sees in Ab Aayega Mazaa. More amusingly, this very youthful film was co-produced by two actors who would soon acquire an “old man” image through their work in television: Alok Nath, who would play Haveli Ram in Buniyaad (and who has been enjoying a late-career resurgence recently, after being the subject of Twitter jokes about his “babuji” image), and Girija Shankar, the doddering, self-pitying Dhritarashtra in BR Chopra’s Mahabharata (a good performance, but one that annoyed my generation of viewers who wanted to watch battle scenes instead of endless self-mortifying conversations between the blind king and Vidura).


Shankar acts in Ab Aayega Mazaa too, in a part that reminded me a little of Pankaj Kapur’s oily Tarneja in Jaane bhi do Yaaro: he is the boss in an advertising agency that is really a front for the wicked activities of a Godman who uses incense sticks to peddle drugs. Which is a logical (or illogical) extension of the more straightforward early scenes that detail corruption and self-interest in the advertising industry: someone even proposes a soap made of adrak because consumers appreciate “natural” things. (“Zaroorat ke hisaab se aadmi ko phasao”. Cheat a man according to his needs.)

That isn’t the only JBDY connection: the tone of this film – especially in the scenes that play like deliberately thrown together college skits – is often similar to that of Kundan Shah’s movie. And that probably has something to do with Satish Kaushik writing the dialogue (and also playing a small, amusing part), as well as with the presence of Ravi Baswani, whose excellently over-the-top America-returned accent and defective Hindi makes Satish Shah’s DeMello seem like a Bharatiya ladka. Rajesh Puri is here in a short role too, and the young Pawan Malhotra – an assistant on the earlier film – has a weird little part as one of the Godman’s minions, who wears a bright purple robe and sits atop trees commenting on proceedings. There are funny sight gags (like a lamp that switches off and on if you make a coughing sound near it), throwaway lines (a “dying” man tells his friend “Meri motorcycle bech kar apne scooter ko paint kara lena, dost”), and some non-sequiturs, as in the scene where Sidey (Baswani) creeps up on a saucy ayah thinking she is Nupur, throws his arms around her and asks her to guess who he is (“Main tumhaara bachpan ka saathi hoon”), and she exclaims “Badri? Par tum toh aam ke ped se gir ke mar gaye thay.” Little moments like these make up this salad bowl of a film.

Ab Aayega Mazaa is hit and miss, but a notable thing about it is how it takes many of the clichés of mainstream Hindi cinema – the lovers separated by an authoritarian parent, the foreign-returned swain who becomes the third corner of a love triangle, a villain trying to pinch diamonds hidden in a statue, even a lost-and-found narrative involving a daughter who went missing in an accident years earlier – and treats them with a mix of parody and homage. On one hand there are many droll, deadpan scenes where it is obvious that the film is winking at its audience. On the other hand, it does seem to wholeheartedly throw itself into some of the tropes of commercial cinema: straight romantic songs (gaane bhi do yaaro?), a scene in a bar where Farooque Shaikh has fun playing a Bachchan-like comic drunk, a couple of fight scenes that are milked for humour (but that could simply be because people like Baswani are doing the
fighting). There is some tongue-in-cheek “filmi” dialogue too: those who are used to standing in bus lines get a cold when they travel by AC cars with rich people, says Vijay sadly, when his love life turn sour. And though Nupur’s father - another Tarneja-like character - is a slight figure who speaks in a mannered tone, he says the sorts of things that would sound beautiful in Amrish Puri’s booming voice. “Insaan sab se jeet ta hai, par haarta hai toh sirf apni aulad se. Tumne mujhe jeete jee maar diya. Aaj ke baad tumhaara ghar se nikalna, sab bandh.”

Actually, given that much of this story is about how to “present” or “advertise” yourself (Nupur, who works with a theatre company, points out that "Zindagi mein bhi toh hum acting karte hain" – we behave differently depending on whom we are with), one could suggest that this low-budget film with lunacy in its DNA is occasionally disguising itself as something more mass-audience-friendly. That results in a tone so erratic that it definitely isn't for all tastes, but much like the Jaane bhi do Yaaro crew they must have had a grand time putting it together.

19 comments:

  1. I remember watching this movie.. and I remember liking it. In fact, I find this much much better that 'Peecha Karo'

    The Alco..... guy

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  2. Jai,
    Where do you buy these DVDs from?

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    1. Ashish: this was a random find at one of the Musiclands most likely - and I don't think I have seen the DVD again at any shop.

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  3. And to think I'd never even heard of this film. Sounds delightful. I should check whether Induna stock it.

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    1. The full film is on YouTube apparently - not that I can ever recommend watching that way, but it's an option...

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  4. Ah, I saw this one after my 10th boards. It is a very uneven movie, but still a very fun watch, and much much funnier than most comedies made recently. This one and Peechha Karo, very very underrated and absurdist.

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  5. What a find. I remember actually watching it in a cinema..I was all of 9 years old and your write up brought back vivid images of that day - it was a memorable day since we were sent to the cinemas by my parents to keep us away from some horrid news that they were dealing with (Union Carbide, Bhopal - enough said). This was the movie that was playing in a nearby single cinema hall and voila we were thrown into the madcap zany world of this movie. I remember loving it then, and now desperately looking for an online print. Thanks for the rekindling of the memories.

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    1. Good heavens, if this film was released in the Bhopal week, I can't see many people going to see it and having a relaxed time, and getting into the required mood. Seems a bit like Oye Lucky Lucky Oye flopping because it had the bad luck of coming out in the week of the Mumbai terror attacks.

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  6. The cable wallah used to play it in late 90s fairly often and I quite enjoyed this one as a 12-13 year old. Saw it again a few years back and found it was not really up to the mark.

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    1. Rahul, give yourself another 10 years and you'll find you love it again!

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  7. "a good performance, but one that annoyed my generation of viewers who wanted to watch battle scenes instead of endless self-mortifying conversations between the blind king and Vidura"
    Sigh. Satyavachan.

    And a wonderful post. I vaguely remember this movie, or at least the title. Should watch it sometime.

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  8. Thanks for writing this post and reviving some childhood memories,., as Pankaj Parashar's nephew, its nice to see some still appreciate this rather underrated work... Cheers Avneesh Parashar

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    1. Good to hear from you, Avneesh, and glad you liked the post. Hope these films get a proper DVD release soon...

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  9. Never seen or heard of this movie but will def. Watch it on YouTube now

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  10. Set in Golf Links? Then I must see it! Does it really have GL scenes?

    I remember the movie name, though not the movie. We used to pun it with the mango drink Maaza.

    I was thinking of Farooque Shaikh over the weekend. The occasion was watching a restored print of Shatranj Ki Khiladi. Great print, so-so trending to bad movie, but Shaikh is very funny in his small role.

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  11. Tipu: think I saw someone mention during another internet discussion that the film was actually shot in a house in Sunder Nagar. Not sure though.

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    Lovely film. I still remember watching it many many years back at my Uncle's place in his VCR. In those days the video-cassette-wala used to come to his house with a bag full of video cassettes almost every other day. He would then choose from the collection. And sometimes he would ask me to pick one. As a child it used to be my happiest moment when I had the freedom to choose my own favourite film. Thanks for writing this Blog-Post. It reminded me of those golden days...

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    1. That's a great story! Thanks for sharing.

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    There is one more thing. Please notice how AB AYEGA MAZAA is written on the poster along with the inverted Heart-Shape. This inverted Heart-Shape also resembles someone's bottom...

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