Basu Chatterjee’s Baton Baton Main completes 42 years since it released in 1979. The story, woven around the daily life of people in Bombay (now Mumbai), is like a love letter to the city. It is filled with images of rustic alleys you can still visit and the familiar sight of Bandra. The film’s protagonists — Tony Braganza (played by Amol Palekar) and Nancy Perreira (played by Tina Munim) meet each other in the Mumbai local and romance at the city’s picture postcard destinations — Bandra and Churchgate.
Chatterjee’s Baton Baton Mein assumes more significance as the the beloved city seems to have to come to standstill owing to the resurgence of the pandemic. The film appears as a first hand experience of millions of Mumbaikars who form the beating heart of the place, taking trains every day and forging lifelong relationships during the journey.
In Baton Baton Mein the love story originates in a local train and as the film unfolds, it traces the familiar haunts of lovers in the city, culminating in a climax shot at the promenade of Bandra’s bandstand.
The film showcases nuanced performances by Amol Palekar, an actor whose brand of acting paved the way for performers such as Ayushmann Khurrana. Palekar, an unlikely hero was relatable as Tony. His image of wearing bell-bottom pants with stylised shirts and sporting a French beard remains enduring. A young Tina Munim, on the other hand, played a true blue Bandra girl, soft spoken but steadfast. Her style, much like the place she belonged to, was understated but not plain.
What also stands out in Baton Baton Mein is its portrayal of the Christian community residing in Bandra. The depiction was far from stereotypical. It was a departure of the “maka-pav” kind of representation of the community in Hindi films. The detailing of the household was exquisite, informing and familiarising at once. Rosie Perreira (the inimitable Pearl Padamsee) is the quintessential single mother in the search for the perfect groom for her daughter Nancy. Basu later explored a similar theme in Khatta Meetha. Ranjit Chowdhury as the music-loving Sabhi is yet another beautiful touch to the story.
Performances by Asrani and David (David Abraham Cheulkar) enlivened the film, adding lightness to it.
The melodious compositions by Rajesh Roshan in Baton Baton Mein remain etched in every cinema lover’s mind. Songs like Suniye Kahiye, Kahiye Suniye’, ‘Uthe Sabke Kadam’ remain evergreen. Here’s a playlist to rejuvenate your music-craving soul: