Chashme Buddoor was Ravi Baswanis first film,but nothing in the way he plays it suggests a novice. Thats because Baswani,who passed away this week at 64,was an experienced theatre hand when he did Sai Paranjpyes delightful film about three young fellows and their peccadilloes.
The big ticket name was Farooque Shaikh,the mandatory good boy with his head stuck in his books all day long. Ravi Baswani and Rakesh Bedi are the two lafangas that he rooms with,in one of Delhis barsaatis. They are the ones who smoke half-stubbed cigarettes and keep an eye on the pretty girls in the colony. That this a Delhi film,you can have no doubts: apart from all the parks that star in the movie (Lodhi Gardens has a major role),Baswanis aptly-named Jomo wears an SRCC ( Sri Ram College for Commerce) jacket and dreams about hajaar girls. If you went to DU (Delhi University) in the 70s and 80s,you said hajaar with an emphasis on the j.
Chashme Buddoor beautifully captures the laid-backness of those times when you could gainfully spend all day doing nothing,or at most bumming single cigarettes off your neighbourhood paanwala,which Saeed Jaffery plays to the hilt. And Baswani is the quintessential Dilli ka ladka,chasing free fags and girls with equal gusto,carefree yet caring.
In Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro,his superb timing is on full display,never letting Naseeruddin Shahs light dim his,never letting the effort show. He is Sudhir to Naseers Vinod,two photographers looking for work at a time when you needed a license to cross a road (the film released in 1983),who discover that honesty is a very bad policy.
This Kundan Shah film reads like a roster of all those who were the bright sparks of alternative Hindi cinema at the time (Pankaj Kapoor,Neena Gupta,Satish Shah,Om Puri,with honorable mentions of Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Sudhir Mishra). And there has never been a comedy which has been blacker and sharper than this,equally relevant in these times when greedy,incompetent builders create weak girders and collapsible flyovers.
Shah never made a better film,and Baswani too never got his due,reportedly because he was very choosy about what he did. He was working on his first directorial venture when he passed away: we will miss his manic gleam and his irrepressible smile.