Kanti Shah and TLV Prasad, two of the masters of the craft of celluloid, have stiff competition.
There’s a new camera-slinger in town. And she is taking no prisoners.
Say hello to my not-so-leetel friend—Kalpana Lajmi who delivers an M-class (Mithun) movie with “Chingari”.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the whole of India was awaiting “Chingari” with bated breath. After all this was the movie where Mithun-da allegedly inappropriately touched Sushmita’s appendages during a rape scene. This was also the movie where the hero, Anuj Sawhney claimed that Sushmita sexually harassed him by intentionally messing up her love scenes a record 36 times so as to repeat the intimate sequences again and again.
And would you believe that the actual culprit behind the rumours was none other than the movie producer Vikas Sahni who thought he could recover some money by spreading such spicy canards?
Frankly I was a bit apprehensive about the movie—would Kalpana Lajmi, the uber-feminist be able to bring out Mithun-da’s true potential, honed through acting with some of the most noted anti-feminists in world cinema like Kanti Shah ( whose dialogue from “Loha”: ” Chatri hoti hain kholne ke liye, chadar hoti hain udne ke liye aur chokhri hoti hain cherne ke liye” led to worldwide protests from bra-burners)?
But now I can tell you the answer: Yes.
Adapting a story as original as any B. Subhash could think of, stacking it with dialogues Kanti Shah would be proud to sign off on and extracting histrionic performances from the protagonists in the same subtle way patented by TLV Prasad, Kalpana Lajmi has truly entered the pantheon of Gods.
Starting from “Classic Dance of Love”, Mithun-da has gradually cast himself as a “religious villain’ in the process perfecting the art of Sanskritized vulgarity—leching and molesting in Kalidasian style. Throughout his life, Mithun-da has played the hero, bringing much grief to his screen sisters who have never been able to go past the fifth reel alive or unmolested. And so in the twilight years of his reign, Mithun-da has decided to cross over to the dark side—-doing onto others’s sisters what had been done to his through the years.
“Chingari” opens with a sequence Kanti Shah would have wholly endorsed. Cast as Bhuvan Panda, the all-powerful, hyper-fornicating village priest, Mithun-da’s baritone pierces the pregnant silence with a primal “Aiyeee Mahakali”.
A naked virgin sits on the lap of Mithun-da, as his voice, dripping with unbridled lust calls out:
“Nirvastra ladki mere jaang ke upar baithke mere vasna ki aag bujhayegi”.
Amazing. Kanti Shah, for all his genius, may have made Mithun-da say:
“Naam hain mera Bhuvan Panda, Ghumta hoon haath main leke danda”.
But I doubt whether despite meaning roughly the same thing, it would pack the same punch as the one in “Chingari”.
Demonstrating that Ms Lajmi has her finger on the ahem hearts of the male population, the next scene is a catfight between two scantily-clad female extras, their bodies intertwining in a way some lesser souls may find vulgar. (I did not). And Sushmita Sen, playing the role of prostitute Basanti is introduced into the mix dramatically as she cheers the fighters along while shouting “Chinaal”, “Randi” and other assorted terms of endearment.
Truly a “woman of substance”.
The cause of the dispute: the two fighters had engaged in a threesome with a client (yes this is the typical North Indian village) and they were fighting for their share of the revenue (like the Ambani brothers) while Ila Arun, the golden-hearted madam who no longer has to ask “choli ke peeche kya hain” since she knows it is saline solution or sand , derides the customer for “eki ticket mein do do maaja” [Pay for one ticket, enjoying two movies])
In this rather functional world, comes an innocent postman Anuj Sawhney who falls in love with Basanti. This is the cardinal crime in the village because Basanti is Bhuvan Panda’s mistress. But that does not stop the postman who keeps on writing love letters to the prostitute—using the knowledge he gleaned from Pablo Neruda.
Sorry wrong movie—no Neruda here.
But there is an effeminate gay tailor (arent they all?)—Chintoo Darji who has a photographic memory for the vital statistics of all the denizens of the house of ill repute.
Mithun-da and Sushmita’s sex scenes are what hold the movie together. While lesser directors might have tried to make such scenes exploitative of women, feminist director Kalpana Lajmi turns the stereotype on its head. Though she does give into commercial considerations and lovingly follows Panda’s lascivious glances over Sushmita’s sand castles, such aberrations are mercifully brief.
For most of the time it is Mithun-da who exposes more than Sushmita as Kalpana Lajmi uses innovative camera angles to capture Mithun-da’s ample man-breasts. Verily it is Mithunda who shows more skin than Sush and honest to God, it took my breath away.
But what took the cake for sheer eroticism was the almost-conjugal pillow talk between Mithunda and Sushmita –samples of which are provided without translation.
Sample 1. Mithunda :”Tera kaam bistar pe charna, cycle pe charna nahin”
Sample 2. Mithunda: “Manoranjak Kutiya”
Sample 3: Mithunda: “Kitne doorgandh a rahi teri shareer se”
Sample 4: Sushmita: “Noch loon teri aankhen, kaat loon teri jib”
It would have been very tempting to let Mithunda walk away with all the command scenes. But like a true feminist director, Kalpana Lajmi allows Sushmita Sen her time in the sun. This is truly Sushmita’s movie and she elevates herself to M-dom (Mithun-dom) by not only attaining the “top” but by going over it by some distance.
Eyes rolling, lips frothing, hair swinging, hollering and whispering Sushmita does to method acting what the Boston Stangler did to door-to-door salesmen. It is solely due to her histrionic abilities and Kalpana Lajmi’s inspired direction that “Chingari” becomes a horror movie at the very end (kind of like “From Dawn to Dusk”) when Sushmita penetrates Mithun-da (with a trishul—what were you thinking?) after playing the drums and subjecting him to a crazy war dance.
If this movie does not arouse the audience into action, then nothing else will.
Let me conclude by describing a small scene that crystallizes the essence of “Chingari”.
A client comes and offers Sushmita Sen (Basanti) five rupees for service.
While in a by-gone era when men ruled, Gabbar might have said ” So ja beta so ja nahin to Gabbar Singh a jayega” in Kalpana Lajmi’s brave new world it is Basanti who holds the phallic whiphandle.
Hence Basanti says to the stunned client:
“Let ja, Basanti a rahee hain”
Yes–it’s that kind of movie.