Rishi Kapoor returned to India, from the US, after winning a battle with cancer. A short period of rest, and he plans to resume shooting the films lined up for him.
As a welcome back tribute to one of the finest actors in the country, a look at one of his good films, that, for some reason, has slipped through the cracks of memory. Released a decade ago, the film titled Chintu Ji, part tribute to the star whose pet name it is, and part parody of the Bollywood star culture, the film deserved more attention than it got. An understandably miffed Rishi Kapoor, though the producer and distributor killed the film.
It was very sporting of Kapoor, not just to play himself, but portray his screen version as a pompous, badly behaved man, when the real Chintu Ji is known for his charm. Directed by Ranjit Kapoor (eminent theatre director and writer of the cult comedy Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro), this cleverly Indianised The Man Who Came To Dinner, is set in an utopian town, which is disrupted and corrupted by the arrival of the star, followed by a film crew.
In the film, the star decides to try his hand at politics, and to gather the support of his potential constituents, he visits the place of his birth, called Hadbahedi. The small town is in the back of beyond, where one train stops and electricity is erratic.
Chintu Ji arrives by chartered plane and plants his foot right into dung…things can only go downhill from here on. The star is ill-tempered and demanding, even as the townsfolk bend backwards to please him. A fall leaves him bedridden and unable to return home for a while. The harassed producer of his incomplete film (Saurabh Shukla) lands up with his unit to try and complete the actor’s remaining scenes in the town, clearly unequipped to handle the resulting chaos.
While he is there, he plans to endorse a booze brand, in exchange for a hefty sum and a plot of land in the rival town of Triphala, full of vice and evil. Meanwhile, the almost saintly people of the host town, put up with his tantrums in the hope that his celebrity will lead to Hadbahedi being pulled out of the dumps of backwardness and obscurity.
The script uses bits of Rishi Kapoor’s real life, and adds on several layers of wicked humour and a cast of colourful characters that include a journalist played by Priyanshu Chatterji, the star’s PR girl (Kulraj Randhawa, who committed suicide, tragically young), and Anil Rastogi as the doctor who has a fat script the immobile star is forced to hear.
The satirical story has a lovely cameo by Mera Naam Joker’s ‘Marina’ (Kseniya Ryabinkina), who comes in as a catalyst for Chintu Ji’s redemption. It also has the weirdest ‘item’ song ever (picturised on Sophie Choudhry), with lyrics made up of directors’ names : “Akira Kurosawa, Vittorio De Sica… Coppola Coppola.”