Of small matters on Valentine’s day

On the occasion of yet another valentine’s day passing by (now I know what it feels like to watch a 5 test cricket series that ends without a result), I got a phone call from a girl. Her english was impeccable, she was courteous while speaking and she sounded kinda cute too. A little too harsh of me then, that I refused. “Ma’am I don’t want another credit card, I already have 3 from the past three years.” Heart-breaking for the lady, I know, but what to do. There is only so much joy that you can derive from having a credit card and not crossing your limits every month like your committed friends do.

So what do you do to shrug off the effects of the pink vapors pervading the atmosphere everywhere around you around 14th of Feb ? Like my awesome self, you can go bag 2 high-profile client meetings in a single day, tell the boss with a crack of the knuckles that it was just you warming up for the year ahead and walk off in to the sunrise (night shift you see). Not everybody’s cup of tea though. How about buying one of those men’s magazines that tell you about fitness secrets to ‘explode’ your arms, reading and re-reading that body language article to discern what that cutie in the cubicle across yours might be hinting at from the day you joined. Still doesn’t sound right no ? I know, I know. It usually ends up in a round of drinks in a friend’s house. What starts as a celebration of the single-dom of 4-5 men usually culminates in a re-assessed narrative of each one’s love story (one, that like Dodda Ganesh’s test career, never really took off).

Here is what I did. I lazily debunked all those theories about ‘locus-of-control’ from my MBA days and settled down for one of those balmy movies that remind you of how delightful Indian cinema used to be.

Chhoti Si Baat‘ is one of those Basu Chatterji gems that is perfect for a long afternoon.

Arun Pradeep – the Protagonist

Arun (superbly portrayed by Amol Palekar) is a shy, unassuming young man who is smitten with Prabha (Vidya Sinha, ethereal) whom he sees everyday at the bus-stop.

Conditioned by circumstances and his own personality, he fails at

Prabha – the woman of Arun’s dreams

every attempt to woo the woman of his dreams. The hurdles are his own inability to confess his feelings to Prabha, a rival – Nagesh’s (Asrani) superior social skills and a woeful lack of confidence. He ends up consulting roadside soothsayers, horoscope and personality building magazines before packing up his bags to engage the tutelage of Col. JNW Singh (played by Ashok Kumar, a show stealer in every scene and a delight to watch). Col. Singh, realizing that Arun’s love is pure and innocent in its intention and consummate in its devotion to Prabha, little by little, polishes off Arun’s insecurities and turns his feeble personality around.

Turning your life around is an art – so says the Colonel

The second half of the film, where a very changed Arun comes back and wins over Prabha is a sheer delight in the way it contrasts his previous attempts (his lunch date, his duels with Nagesh over table tennis and chess, the comeuppance of  the swindling garage owner) to win over Prabha.

This film has immense replay value and the reason behind its timelessness is a question I’ve pondered over, many a time. What stands out for me though, over the refreshing humour, the inherent simplicity in Chatterjee’s handling of the script and the chemistry between all the actors, is inspiration. The importance of believing in oneself and the ability to change oneself in order to win something.

While Chhoti Si Baat does seem to heavily draw inspiration from School of Scoundrels, it is in no measure inferior to the original. Wonderful acting all round,  with lilting music and tightly paced narration, it is no wonder that the film is a classic of Indian cinema. What delights me even more is watching the story unfold against the glorious backdrop of a South Bombay when it was not the teeming metro it now is. From the iconic BEST buses and bus-stops, to Chicken a La Pouse at Samovar restaurant in the Jehangir art gallery, to the Gateway of India and the office spaces (reminds me of my dad’s western railway office at Churchgate) – it is a little bit of a tribute to the beauty of Bombay as well.

Ah well…another 14th Feb and another blog post down. Till the next blog post then.

P. S.: You can watch the entire movie on Youtube here.

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