Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rose Petals! Rain! Rishi!...Chandni (1989)

Maybe there's hope for me and Yash Chopra after all.

There was so much rain in Chandni!

Chandni. My Chandni! How skeptical I was about you and how you managed to be just what the doctor ordered after an exhausting (yet fun) day of trekking around town with two bouncy preschool girls...Yash-ji, how did you know that at the end of the day, what I'd really,really need would be a handful of rosepetal showers and a couple of dances in the rain?

It started as everything the DVD jacket claimed it would be: "Softly lyrical, throbbingly beautiful". While I personally wouldn't categorize all Yash Chopra romances that way, the music and imagery were just that. Chandni (Sridevi, rapidly climbing the scales of my heart), meets Rohit (Rishi Kapoor, in some serious sweaters!), and the two fall in love. Rohit worships the ground Chandni walks on, showering her with rose petals and even putting up an almost-shrine to her in his bedroom (See below--In a Lifetime movie, this would be called stalking, but Chandni doesn't seem to mind). You know the drill--it starts off so perfect, something terrible, horrible, tragic is just bound to happen, right?

Of course!

Bollywood Hero or Obsessive Fan?? Oh, right...Bollywood Hero.

But let me point out before going there that, while it sounds like the same ol' song and dance, Rohit and Chandni's romance wasn't nearly as boring and redundant as I expected it to be. In fact, it was pretty gosh darned entertaining, thanks mostly to Sridevi's ability to maneuver from being whimsically playful to full of panache. And though at first I was put off by how much Rishi had aged in the seven years since Yeh Vaada Raha, sooner or later I found him teddy bearishly cute with more than a few traces of chocolate left in his hero box. Apparently Chandni agreed with me--she even made a fat joke to his face!

Gee, Chandni, I know this isn't the most flattering sweater Rishi's ever worn, but...did you really have to call him fat?

Ordinarily, I find fat jokes offensive and rude, and I hate that they're so often used in Hindi films. But for some reason, it didn't bother me here; To me, it showed how comfortable Rohit and Chandni were with one another (and proved Rishi must have had a sense of humor about his weight gain).

Of course, the couple wasn't without their share of problems. For one, Rohit's high class family despised Chandni from the beginning. They felt she wasn't good enough to enter their home as a bride, and told Rohit so without any reservations. The only person in Rohit's family who seemed to understand was his brother in law, Ramesh (Anupam Kher--with hair!).

Maa seems to think choosing a wife should be akin to furniture shopping.

With all this negativity in the air from Rohit's family, you can almost smell disaster in the air. And of course, tragedy does strike. Rohit is left paralyzed, and Chandni powerless to do anything but love him. Of course, the pressures from his family and feelings of inadequacy related to his disability force Rohit to make the unthinkable decision: He must give up Chandni, freeing her from the burden he thinks he's become and allowing him to wallow in
bitterness. He breaks up with her coldly and abruptly (even painting over her photographs!), leaving her heartbroken and leaving me a weepy, mushy, mascara-racooned mess.

In happier times. How COULD you, Rohit?!?

Intermission goes by unannounced, and Chandni tries to be strong and pick up the pieces of her broken heart (she's stronger than I am at this point, because I still haven't stopped crying). She gets a job at a travel agency and guess who her boss is--Vinod Khanna (as Lalit)!! Things are looking better already. Rohit who?

Lalit, as Chandni discovers, comes across all business-like, but is really as soft as a grape on the inside. He's been nursing a broken heart himself, after losing the love of his life, Devika (Juhi Chawla looking deliciously seductive in a rain song--Go on and say it, Bollywood Fan), to some tragic illness we never know the name of. Poor Lalit, every time it rains he is reminded of his beloved, and since it rains a lot in this film, well, you can just imagine.

Meanwhile, it rains over by Rohit and he has a mental breakdown, realizing he has been a fool to let Chandni go (duh). I started crying again. As he washed the paint off Chandni's photographs, it felt like my heart was actually pumping out tears instead of blood, but I was loving every minute of it--yes, folks, this is the sort of emotional roller coaster ride I tune in for!

Soon Lalit (with the coaxing of his maa, Waheeda Rehman!) finds himself attracted to Chandni, and asks for her hand in marriage. Chandni accepts, and BAM!!! Guess who shows up again?


What will Chandni do? I've taken you pretty far in the plot, but don't consider any of this spoiler material since its all spelled out pretty clearly on most DVD jackets (at least the ones I've seen, anyways). The real question remains: Who will Chandni choose? Sensitive, well-established Lalit (bonus: Waheeda as a mother in law who adores Chandni)? Or spontaneous, lively Rohit (evil mother in law included)? Who would you choose? If you haven't seen Chandni you should stop reading now, because I'm now going to reveal her decision:


Of course, she chooses her true love, the one she's clearly loved from the very beginning of the film. This was all fine and dandy, and I even wanted things to end up this way, but two nagging thoughts kept this from becoming a perfect film for me. One, Rohit NEVER apologizes. Not once. Considering all the heartless things he said to her so stoically when he was dumping her, you'd think he'd have to beg and gravel for forgiveness. Instead, he prances into Chandni's apartment like a king, and gets all defensive and reverses the blame when he finds she's engaged to someone else. Red flags went up all over in my mind.

Secondly, what about poor Lalit? His last line in the entire film is just depressing. The least they could have done was killed him off so he could be reunited with Juhi. Geez.

****SPOILER END*****

Despite my qualms discussed in the Spoiler, I really did love this film. The music, the sarees (maybe even better than Sush's in Main Hoon Na) , Sridevi, and yes, the rain! Its definitely put Yash Chopra in my good graces again, though I still remain a bit skeptical about Lamhe and Kabhi Kabhie. Thoughts?


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