Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Worth The Wait---Arth

Oooohhh, Arth is an incredible film!

Every bit worth the wait it took it get my hands on a copy that actually played (Special thank you to Nicki for sending me one--you're a sweetheart, girl!), Arth was probably one of the best Hindi films I've ever seen. First of all, it stars not one, but two remarkable women in Indian cinema--Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil. Need I say more?

The Plot

The movie is about a woman named Pooja(Shabana Azmi) whose husband, Inder (Kulbhushan Kharbanda)is having an affair with a film actress(named Kavita, played by the late Smita Patil!). When news of Inder and Kavita's tryst comes to light, Pooja finds herself alone and abandoned. With nowhere to go, she ends up living at a women's hostel, having to learn how to support herself as a newly single woman. She finds solace in friendship with Raj (Raj Kiran), a musician who appreciates what Inder did not.

A stunning Shabana Azmi--who would cheat on her?

Sounds simple, right? Well, actually it is. Unlike most Bollywood films, there aren't many plot twists or side stories going on in Arth--for the most part, it manages to stick to the issue at hand. And that's when it really shines, thanks to the smooth, controlled performances from the three leads!

The Women

I've wanted to see both Shabana and Smita onscreen for quite some time, but hadn't really seen anything until now (If anybody has any recommendations on these two, please do share!). Both women were deliciously good in Arth. There's a scene when Pooja confronts Kavita and Inder at a party, and let me tell you, sparks fly! Its one of the most effective scenes in the film, and fortunately, in Arth there are plenty.

Smita'a performance as the glamorous yet insecure Kavita rang so true that I really felt worse for her character than I did for Pooja. Pooja was strong-willed, and I knew she would recover once the pain of losing Inder lessened with time. But as Kavita unraveled, she showed true fragility despite her fame and beauty. Moreover, her guilt in having "stolen" Inder from Pooja haunted her to no end, turning to psychotic paranoia that prevented her from the life she had wanted so badly in the first place. She was also extremely passionate--there was a scene where she literally licks Inder's tears. As I watched Smita at work, one thing was clear--I finally understood just what a loss the untimely death of this talented actress was to the Indian film industry!

The legendary Smita Patil.

The Loser

Though he was more often than not overshadowed by the two actresses, Kulbhushan Kharbanda's understated portrayal of Inder was just what Arth needed its leading man to be; He had to convey just the right amount of emotion with saying and doing very little. He did a perfect job of this--Anything more from him would have been too much given the intensity of the two women.

Kulbhushan Kharbanda looks so young!

The music

The music of Arth was not you typical Bollywood fare. Most of the songs were woven into the story, since Raj was a musician and liked to sing to Pooja. Overall, I enjoyed the songs very much; They were few and far between, but welcomed nonetheless. Yet it was the eerie melody that played during the opening credits that reeled me right in--I knew trouble was ahead, and I was at the edge of my seat with anticipation as the story began to play out. It was almost as if I was watching a thriller or a horror film! Funny, isn't it? Sometimes the actions of humanity are scarier than monsters and murderers.

The Ambiance

In addition, the film had a sort of sepia tone, which added to the unshakable sense of foreboding. I'm not sure if this was the director's intention, or the quality of the actual film being used, but it worked.

The Backstory

After watching Arth, I found out it was supposed to have been based on director Mahesh Bhatt's real-life affair with yesteryear actress Parveen Babi. First of all, I was already intrigued with Parveen Babi after seeing a couple of her films with Amitabh, because she was just so fascinatingly beautiful! But after reading up on the stories (whether they are true or not), I learned what a sad life she is said to have had. Her issues with paranoia and schizophrenia bore an uncanny resemblance to Kavita's...

Kavita loses her mind...

Second of all, the fact that Mahesh chose to focus on Pooja's character, Pooja's strength, and Pooja's fate said a mouthful. If Mahesh was in fact trying to tell a story based on his own actions with Parveen, he certainly humbled himself enough--Inder ended up looking like a big fat loser up to the very end.


It was a no-brainer that Pooja would end up with our Teddy Bear Musician, Raj, by the end...but, wait....she didn't!?! Nope, that's right folks, even in 80s Bollywood you don't need a man to feel good about yourself(well, that's rarely true in Indian cinema, but let's just enjoy it here, shall we?)! Pooja's rejecting of Raj in the final scenes showed her strength and sensitivity at the very same time. She didn't need to replace Inder to make herself feel complete, and she wasn't going to be unfair to Raj by using him as a rebound boyfriend. Hooray!!!

(****SPOILER END****)

Have I convinced you to see this film yet? It's truly amazing, and I'm so glad I didn't give up on the search!


Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat March 3, 2009 at 5:35 PM  

Smita smoulders here, and its such a hard choice between her and Shabana- I love them both! If you havent, see "Mirch Masala"- she is really brilliant there.

Also, Shabana should have just kept puppy-eyed Raj Kiran- ah well :D

Bhargav Saikia March 3, 2009 at 6:02 PM  

I totally agree. Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil together in one film, is an incredible achievement in itself! Thanks for sharing this review..I'll re-watch Arth all over again :)

bollywooddeewana March 3, 2009 at 6:14 PM  

I still haven't seen this, i can't believe a bolly classic like this, is hard to get in the Uk. I'm gonna have to ship it in from the states

Its one of Indiatimes Must watch Bollywood films


Anonymous,  March 3, 2009 at 6:47 PM  

Other movies where shabana and smita appear together include - Mandi, Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hain, Aakrosh?

Scribbler March 3, 2009 at 11:03 PM  

For Smita Patil's best work, see Jait re Jait... her first film. It's in Marathi, but I'm sure subtitles will be available :)

Nicki March 4, 2009 at 7:17 AM  

Yah!! Nida's back!!! So glad to read your review and you enjoying the film. You're very welcome...it's no problem. Just sharing my Bollywood love.

Not sure if you knew or not the Bhatt's also has done one more film related to Praveen Babi - Woh Lamhe (Shiney Ahuja, Kangana Raunat), where it focus on Praveen's mental illness.

Just wanted to share about Vikram Bhatt. He filmed Ankahee (Aftab Shivadasani, Esha Deol, Amisha Patel) - same storyline as Arth with Esha being the "other" woman, portraying Sushmita Sen. Ironic since Amisha was the other woman in real life in Vikram's life.

memsaab March 4, 2009 at 8:30 AM  

Mandi is a lovely film with them together.

I need to see this, still haven't, thanks for the review.

Filmi Girl March 4, 2009 at 10:06 AM  

Ooo! This looks good! I need to see this one! :D

Nida March 4, 2009 at 12:13 PM  

Shweta--Thanks for the recommendation! I agree--I loved Shabana and Smita both so much, it was indeed hard to choose between the two! And, although I applauded the message at the end (about not needing to jump into another relationship just to have a man), I sure was sad to see her let Raj go!

Bhargav--I already can't wait to watch this one again--tee hee!:) Thanks for stopping by!

Bollywooddeewana--Thanks for sharing that list! Yeah, I had a terrible time finding this one, too! As you can see, a friend of mine gave me this copy, otherwise I'd still be searching--Though if you see my post titled"Arth DVD--Help!!" I received a lot of good recommendations from readers on how to get a reliable copy. Here is the link:
Good luck!Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous--Thank you soo much for the recommendations and dropping a comment!:)

Scribbler--Wow, sounds interesting! Thanks for the recommendation--the search begins!:)

Nicki--Aww, you're the best! I want to see Woh Lamhe? Is it any good? And what's the deal with Vikram and Sush? Did he have any affair with her and Amisha?

Memsaab--Thanks for the recommendation! I'll definitely have to see that one now--and you should watch this, I'd love to hear what you think!

Filmigirl--It was soo good!! You should see it--Can't wait to read your review!

Rum March 4, 2009 at 12:49 PM  

I was sooo happy with the ending, it made me feel so happy and empowered! I think the madness of Kavita's character seemed to be a bit too obvious that mahesh based it on Parveen, which i dunno kinda made me feel sorry for her!

Nida March 4, 2009 at 12:58 PM  

Rum--As I read more and more about Parveen, I felt so sorry for her, too! I mean, way to air the dirty laundry, Mahesh! And I agree that the ending was very empowering, too--though I felt bad for poor Raj!:)

Nicki March 4, 2009 at 5:37 PM  

Hey Nida. Yes, Vikram was married and had an affair first with Sush, then Amisha. I liked Woh Lamhe...but I do like Kangana a lot too. Shiney's in the movie too. Hotness.

Anonymous,  March 4, 2009 at 5:53 PM  


Yes Kangana Ranaut is a very talented girl. She did a very good job in "Fashion" and got the recent Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. She was also good in Life in a Metro and Gangster.

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Sanket Vyas March 5, 2009 at 11:30 AM  

This is one of those movies where people go 'why don't they make movies like THIS anymore'? In addition to the movie being just phenomenal it's the backstory that makes it even better. Apparently there was a big professional rivalry between our two stars as Shabana was the established queen of parralel cinema and Smita was the newcomer trying to wrest away the title. I remember reading Filmfare Magazine (the Entertainment Weekly of India;) about it and their onscreen confrontations reportedly did not require too much 'acting'. I love Shabana and Smita equally and think alot of their genius lies in their subtelities of their actions as you pointed out in your review. Cheers!

ajnabi March 5, 2009 at 9:14 PM  

This sounds sooooo good. It's not in my queue, even though I know I've heard of it before. Great write-up, Nida!

Daddy's Girl March 10, 2009 at 1:57 PM  

I love 'Arth' - Smita and Shabana were AWESOME in this film, and it has such a strong, empowering message. Such a great film. I didn't much care for the teddy bear musician though (cruel as it may sound!) He kinda got on my nerves a little - every time he came on with the puppy-dog eyes and wistful love songs, I wanted to go 'Next!' Just wanted more of Smita and Shabana - the women definitely were the centrepiece of thsi film. I might be a little more charitable towards Mr. Teddy Bear the next time I watch 'Arth' though... speaking of which, reading this review has made me want to whip out my 'Arth' DVD and watch it all over again!
On a related note, I love Shabana Azmi's work - Carla from www.filmigeek.net got me sold on her, and I've loved just about every movie of hers that I've seen so far... check out 'Masoom' if you haven't seen it yet - apart from a very different (but equally strong, IMO) performance from her, it also has Naseeruddin Shah in a role that was just tailor-made for him. And of course, Mira Nair's 'Fire' (with Nandita Das) showcases another amazing performance by Shabana.

Kshitiz Anand March 19, 2009 at 7:38 AM  

Arth is definitely one of the classics in Bollywood Cinema.

Shabana Azmi is at her very best I think.

Sujoy Bhattacharjee March 20, 2009 at 2:56 PM  

Kulbushan Kharbanda these days makes movies like Aloo Chaat!.

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