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Birthday special: 6 Basu Chatterji films you should revisit

The filmmaker is best remembered for his light-hearted films. On his 90th birthday today (10 January), we go through six of his best feel-good films.

Sonal Pandya

1. Piya Ka Ghar (1972)

After making his feature film debut with Sara Akash (1969), Basu Chatterji directed Piya Ka Ghar for the Rajshri banner. Starring Jaya Bachchan (formerly known as Jaya Bhaduri) and Anil Dhawan, the film followed the struggles of a newly-wed couple who are trying to find some time for themselves in a small, cramped flat with 10 other relatives. Piya Ka Ghar detailed the village girl Malti’s (Bachchan) attempts to adjust to the fast-paced and claustrophobic city after living in an open environment all her life. The film also contained what The Hindu newspaper called “the Basu Chatterji trademark –– every character getting importance to flourish.” Character actors like Mukri and Keshto Mukherjee had memorable roles in Piya Ka Ghar. The songs ‘Piya Ka Ghar’ sung by Lata Mangeshkar and ‘Yeh Jeevan Hai’ sung by Kishore Kumar all composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal still live on.

2. Rajnigandha (1974)

Based on the Hindi story, ‘Yehi Sach Hai’ by Manu Bhandari, Rajnigandha was a dual honoree at the Filmfare awards of 1974. It won the Best Film Award, as well as the Best Film Critics Award. This was the first of many collaborations for Amol Palekar (in his first Hindi film) and director Chatterji. Vidya Sinha, who was also making her debut with Rajnigandha, played Deepa, a young woman torn between two different men, Sanjay (Amol Palekar) and Navin (Dinesh Thakur). They are like chalk and cheese, but Deepa is drawn to them both. Chatterji lays down her dilemma in a straightforward way and doesn’t burden the film with alternate distractions. The film has a minimal soundtrack — just two songs by Salil Chowdhury which are sung by Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar.

3. Chhoti Si Baat (1975)

When one thinks of Chatterji’s Chhoti Si Baat, the words sweet, delightful and nostalgic come to mind. A simplistic tale of an innocent love triangle, Chhoti Si Baat is centered around Arun, played by Amol Palekar, who falls in love with a girl, Prabha (Vidya Sinha) at a bus stop. The painfully shy Arun cannot express his feelings to Prabha when all of sudden he has to compete with his polar opposite, the confident Nagesh (Asrani). Arun takes up the assistance of Colonel Julius Nagendranath Wilfred Singh (Ashok Kumar) and transforms into someone who Prabha can fall in love with. Chatterji won his second Filmfare award for best screenplay for the film produced by BR Chopra.

4. Khatta Meetha (1978)

Chatterji’s Khatta Meetha (1978), inspired by the Henry Fonda-Lucille Ball comedy Yours, Mine and Ours (1968), was a charming and comedic look at a widower Homi Mistry (Ashok Kumar) and widow Nargis Sethna (Pearl Padamsee) who decide to remarry. Their children, naturally, get up in arms about this when the engagement is announced. Chatterji wrote and directed Khatta Meetha with a large ensemble cast that included Rakesh Roshan, Bindiya Goswami, Raju Shrestha, Deven Verma, Preeti Ganguly, Ranjit Chowdhary, Iftekhar, Pradeep Kumar, Keshto Mukherjee, David and Sulochana. This was one of the few films in Hindi cinema that highlighted the Parsi community.

5. Baton Baton Mein (1979)

In his own home production, Baton Baton Mein, two eligible young people Nancy Perreira (Tina Munim) and Tony Braganza (Amol Palekar) meet while on their daily commute (the 9.10 am local) and tentatively decide that they might be right for each other. However, family apprehensions and past events play a part in separating the couple before getting them back together again. Palekar, the Chatterji veteran, was acting with a relative newcomer, Tina Munim, who previously only acted in one film. The songs of Baton Baton Mein are hummable classics with ‘Uthe Sabke Kadam’ sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Amit Kumar an eternal favourite.

6. Chameli Ki Shaadi (1986)

The 1980s brought Chatterji an underrated film, which didn’t do well at the box-office, but which was appreciated by critics and is still remembered by Hindi film buffs today. Set in a small town, Charandas (Anil Kapoor) has aspirations to become a wrestler and remain a bachelor till he’s 40. That is until he meets the feisty Chameli (Amrita Singh) and all his well-made plans fall by the wayside. The young couple has opposition from all sides but somehow try to make their union work. Rumours of a remake have been persistent as Phantom Films had bought the rights to the film; Parineeti Chopra and Diljit Dosanjh were suggested at one point as the lead characters.