Many years back, esteemed blogger Meera Gopalkrishnan had raised a question in one of her blogs – Is money the most important thing ? Well, this question raised by her was not at all a new one. It has been being asked and answered for centuries and every time the Indian culture furnishes the same answer – No ! It is not the most important thing. The noble values of life are superior to it. It’s to be man’s slave and man should not allow it to enslave him. With the prevalence of liberalization and consumerism, now the thoughts of the people have somewhat changed and are changing continuously to negate this assumption further. However the spirituality embedded in the soil of this country, i.e., India will not allow the Indians to acknowledge the superiority of money over the values and virtues of life for a long time to come. This issue has been discussed in the movie under review too which is Pardesi Babu (1998).
Pardesi Babu (gentleman coming from outside the place) is a rom-com in its pre-interval session which turns into a love triangle in its post-interval session. The Pardesi Babu of this movie is Raju (Govinda) who migrates from his village to Mumbai to make it big in his life. He comes across a runaway bride who is actually a rich girl being married against her will. She is Cheeni (Shilpa Shetty). Soon, both fall in love. However as usually happens in the life of lovers, the difference in status becomes a wall between Cheeni and Raju. Cheeni’s father (Rajeev Verma) agrees to marry Cheeni to Raju upon the condition of his earning a sum of Rs. one crore in the span of one year. Raju gets disappointed but all of a sudden he finds a suitcase containing a sum of Rs. 10 lakh. Now he feels that he can meet the condition put up by Cheeni’s father and get the love of his life.He moves to Darjeeling with his friend and associate Happy Singh (Satish Kaushik) to buy a tea estate and manufacture tea in line with the formula devised by an unsupported scientist (Veerendra Saxena). Here he comes into contact with Karuna (Raveena Tandon) whose father (Deepak Qazir) has gone insane after failing to get his daughter married. Gradually the proximity of Raju and Karuna increases and one day Raju comes to know of something he was hitherto unaware of. That knowledge throws him into severe guilt-complex and instead of returning to Cheeni and her father after one year (he has met the condition of earning Rs. one crore), he decides to marry Karuna. However, Cheeni reaches Darjeeling as Raju did not return as per the information given by him through a letter. Karuna and Cheeni happen to meet and both of them come to know of the fact that the man of their dreams is common. This love-triangle gets resolved in the climax after Raju faces the charge of theft of money belonging to Cheeni’s father whereas the real culprit is Narendra (Mohnish Behl).
This movie is an entertaining one with all the regular Bollywood formulae of ill-treatment of the lead character by his stepmom, his migrating to the city to make it big in the life, romance, comedy, songs and dances, villain’s conspiracies, fights etc. being embedded in the script because the hero of this movie – Govinda was considered Jack of All in his heyday. Other than his marvellous comic timing, he could romance, he could dance, he could fight, he could emote; there’s nothing beyond his reach as far as entertaining the audience was concerned. He was indeed the biggest entertainer of Hindi cinema for around a decade, being recognized as the uncrowned comedy king of Bollywood. This movie came when his magic was waning. However he has left no stone unturned in entertaining the spectator of this movie by his all-round performance supported by a reasonably good script.
The comedy-soaked first half of this movie is actually the build-up for its emotion-packed second half, especially the climax. The highlight as well as the best part of this movie is its climax only containing the emotional outburst of Govinda underscoring the fact that in today’s materialistic world, money is considered supreme and given precedence over anything and everything. He asks the same question whether money can take the place of the values and virtues of life. Should the piety of the things like Sharada Ka Sitaar, Murli Ki Taan, Ganga Ka Paani, Saavitri Ka Daaman etc. etc. etc. be considered as lacking that special something that is contained by the ‘piety’ of money only ? He expresses the deep-seated pain in his heart by telling to all and sundry present there (the marriage venue) that his (step)mother’s hatred was better than the love of theirs and asserts to go back to his village (in Raj Kapoor’s style – Hum To Jaate Apne Gaaon, Apni Raam Raam Raam). That’s a stunning emotional performance by him. Mesmerizing ! Unforgettable !
Writer-director of this movie – Manoj Agrawal has taken cinematic liberties aplenty but presented the story very well on the screen. The movie gets better and better only alongwith the progress of its narrative and appeals emotionally to the heart and conscience of the viewer in the climax. He has been able to extract admirable performances from a major part of his star cast. Except Mohnish Behl whose talent has been spoiled by most of the directors of Bollywood, all the characters including Shilpa Shetty, Raveena Tandon, Satish Kaushik, Deepak Qazir, Veerendra Saxena, Rajeev Verma, Avtar Gill, Asif Sheikh etc. have delivered up-to-the-mark performances. And Govinda ? He’s simply outstanding.
The beauty of the tea-gardens of Darjeeling has been spread very well on the screen (during the post-interval session). Some comedy sequences during the first half appear to be forced into the narrative, else the director has not allowed the length of the movie to go beyond the reasonable limit. Choreography and action aspects are also in order. Background score is satisfactory according to the changing moods of the movie throughout its duration.
Musical score prepared by Anand Raj Anand is satisfactory. It Happens Only In India was a chartbuster song when this movie was released. However in my view, the best song of this album is Kuchh Khona Hai Kuchh Paana Hai, Jeevan Ka Khel Puraana Hai. Jaave Sajna, Main Nahin Karna Tera Aitbaar is also a good sentimental song. Other songs are all right. I feel that the songs are too many and a couple of songs could have been done away with.
Pardesi Babu was a flop and brushed aside by the reviewers too. However since I liked it, I recommend it as an entertaining flick not only to the fans of Govinda but the movie buffs in general also. For those who get impressed by the dialogues and performance of Govinda in its extra-ordinary climax, it has a repeat value. Otherwise also, it is a decent one time watch.
Coming back to the original question, I simply lament the money-mindedness widespread in today’s society by quoting Govinda’s dialog from the climax scene – Kabhi Paisa Insaan Ke Haath Ka Maill Samjha Jaata Tha, Aaj Insaan Ke Haath Maill Mein Paisa Dhoondhte Hain (once money was considered as the dirt of man’s hand and now the scenario is that man’s hands search for money in dirt).
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