The weather in Bangalore is hot and miserable. And, as always in summer, power supply is down, water supply is a luxury, vegetable prices are up, and so are tempers. Furious with the elements, locked in at home due to the heat, and sick of watching re-re-re-runs of Friends on the telly, one decides to cheer oneself up by watching Padosan, the classic comedy from our youth.
I first saw Padosan at Rupam Talkies, Sion, during my MPharm days. After that, I made it a point to see it wherever it ran in Bombay. And in the 21st century, after CD’s became affordable, the first movie CD I bought was Padosan.
Padosan is one of the best comedy movies ever made. Forty years after it was first released in 1968, the movie still makes modern audiences laugh, and laugh heartily. Almost all the actors from the original cast are long dead, but they can still make you split your sides laughing.
There is a sweet innocence about the movie, a cheerful, uncomplicated niceness that takes one back to better times. Life was so much simpler then.
Except for some outdoor sequences, Padosan was shot in Mysore, on a single set with just three cameras. This low-budget movie was Mehmood’s first attempt as a film-maker and he had little money to spare. And yet, in spite of its spartan production values, in spite of its cheap sets and minimalism, and in spite of being almost half a century old, Padosan can still do what Chennai Express does not – it glues you to your chair for three hours, it respects your intelligence and it makes you happy.
That’s because, unlike Shahrukh Khan, Mehmood understood what drives a movie fan to leave his home, stand in a queue to buy a ticket and sit in a theater for three hours. It’s not ultra-tech special effects, or digitised villains, or Priyamani’s cleavage. It’s simply a good story. Movie making is nothing more than story telling and that’s what we really need – one good story.
Based on a Bengali tale called Pasher Bari, Padosan had a nice, funny story about a village simpleton who woos and wins his city-bred neighbourette. The story was complemented by shrewd casting by Mehmood and the director, Jyoti Swaroop. They assembled the best comedians of the era – Kishore Kumar, Mukhri Ali, Keshto Mukerjee, Raj Kishore, Om Prakash, Agha, Sundar and Mehmood himself. Sunil Dutt as Bhola, the village bumpkin and Saira Banu, as Bindu, the haughty neighbour were the perfect choices for the lead pair.
Although it was a hit in Bombay and other parts of India, Padosan was not well received in Tamil Nadu, and was banned in Madras. Tamilians were not amused with Mehmood’s role as Master Pillai, the bungling Madrasi music teacher who competes with Bhola for Bindu’s hand. But the movie poked gentle fun at north Indians as well, with Om Prakash in the role of Kunwar Pratap Singh, Bhola’s elderly and lusty uncle, and Kishore Kumar as Vidyapati, the wily nautanki who helps Bhola in cheating Bindu. Master Pillai was in fact portrayed as an honorable man who politely backs out at the end, to allow Bhola marry Bindu. It was all in good humor, and eventually the ban on the movie was lifted.
The humor in Padosan was clean and spontaneous. No sleaze, no below-the-belt jokes, no dangerously low necklines, no clinging wet sarees – except for a brief bathtub scene involving Saira Banu and some strategically placed foam.
Padosan has very good songs. The highlight of the movie is the singing competition between Kishore Kumar and Mehmood. Playback for Mehmood was provided by Manna De, who was unhappy that he was shown as losing to Kishore Kumar and refused to sing some verses. Those verses were sung by Mehmood.
My favorite song from Padosan is this clip. This particular song was not in the original list. The original scene had Kishore Kumar giving love advice to Sunil Dutt, in the form of humorous dialogs. In his typical spontaneous style, Kishore Kumar insisted on singing his lines and the story goes that he composed the tune on the spot and had RD Burman create the music for it.
Enjoy then, this funny sequence from Padosan, and cast your blues aside.