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45 years of Chupke Chupke: 5 reasons why Hrishikesh Mukherjee's film is a classic

While tastes in comedy change with every generation, the popularity of Chupke Chupke, starring Dharmendra, Sharmila Tagore and Om Prakash, has endured over the years.

Suyog Zore

Chupke Chupke (1975) by Hrishikesh Mukherjee is considered a comedy classic today even though the film was actually a remake of the Bengali hit Chhadmabeshi (1971), directed by Agradoot, a name used by a collective of filmmakers, and starring Uttam Kumar.

Chupke Chupke's plot is basically a practical joke pulled off by Dharmendra's character on his wife's brother-in-law. Dr Parimal Tripathi (Dharmendra), a botanist and professor, falls in love with Sulekha (Tagore) and they soon get married. Sulekha is in awe of her brother-in-law Raghav (Om Prakash) and can't stop praising him and his intelligence. Raghav also brags that it is impossible to fool him.

Irritated, Parimal decides to prove to Sulekha that her brother-in-law is not as smart as she, or he, thinks. To prove this, Parimal designs an elaborate plan and enlists the help of his wife and his friend, professor Sukumar Sinha (Amitabh Bachchan). Chupke Chupke not only received critical acclaim, but also became a hit at the box office, going on to become an eternal favourite with film fans.

On the 45th anniversary of the film's release (Chupke Chupke hit the screens on 11 April 1975), we look at five reasons why Chupke Chupke remains an undisputed comedy classic.

1. Dharmendra's comic chops

Dharmendra, the one-time He-Man of 'Bollywood', was better known for his macho roles in films like Sholay (1975) and Dharam Veer (1977). Because of the popularity of these films, Dharmendra got typecast as an action hero. Though he usually also had a few comic scenes in these movies, they were not something people remembered him by and the action scenes and angry dialogues would win out each time.

Now and then Dharmendra attempted to prove his versatility by doing romantic or comic roles. In Chupke Chupke, Dharmendra got a golden opportunity to prove that he was no slouch at comedy and that he possessed impeccable comic timing.

From the very first scene, where the star dresses up as an old caretaker to welcome the female biology students in class, to his banter with comedy veteran Om Prakash in pure Hindi, Dharmendra makes it impossible for the viewer to take her gaze off him. His act as the loudmouthed driver Pyaremohan Ilahabadi who hates the English language will leave you in splits. This was arguably one of the best performances pf Dharmendra's long acting career. Sadly, he was not even nominated for a Filmfare award for this terrific show. (Sanjeev Kumar won the Best Actor award that year for Gulzar's Aandhi while the Best Comic Actor award went to Deven Varma for Chori Mera Kaam.)

2. Outstanding supporting cast and simple yet funny dialogues

You can sometimes get away with not-so-good artistes in action or horror films. But in a comedy, it is imperative that along with the lead artistes the supporting cast be equally good. No matter how hilarious the script is, if an actor can't land a joke, the film will fall flat.

Hrishi-da assembled some brilliant artistes for the supporting cast of Chupke Chupke. Amitabh Bachchan is just as hilarious as Dharmendra's friend, Sukumar Sinha. Though he gets very little screen time, he makes an impact even in that period with an outstanding performance. Also, Dharmendra and Bachchan have really good chemistry in whatever little screentime they share (something fans saw the same year in Ramesh Sippy's blockbuster Sholay as well).

The song 'Sa Re Gaa Maa' is testament to the fact. But the scene-stealer is the veteran Om Prakash. He completely owns the role of Raghav who is frustrated with Pyaremohan's constant bickering in pure Hindi. He is also worried about the growing fondness between Sulekha and Pyaremohan. Dharmendra's scenes with Om Prakash are the highlight of the film. Though Sharmila Tagore and Jaya Bachchan don't get much screen time as compared to their male counterparts, they make up for it with their performances.

3. Subtle comedy

Today we have become used to over-the-top comedies which rely more on double entendre and improbable situations. The Hindi film industry churns out a lot of comedies every year, but few, if any, leave a lasting impact. Chupke Chupke was the antithesis of everything we get to see in films today in the name of comedy.

The film had simple dialogues but the situation itself is funny and the way the artistes delivers those dialogues makes the film a hilarious affair. Despite being two hours 30 minutes long, Chupke Chupke does not bore you even for a minute and the lion's share of the credit goes to the simple yet engaging screenplay by Gulzar and DN Mukherjee.

Generally, comedy films don't enjoy the status of a classic. One of the main reasons is that audience tastes for comedy change over time. What we find funny today may not be so 20 years later. Also, comedy is subjective. Despite these odds, Chupke Chupke enjoys the status of a classic. 

4. Memorable music

Music doesn't normally play a big part in comedy films. But over four decades ago, music was an essential part of any film irrespective of the genre.

Staying true to the norm, Mukherjee's Chupke Chupke had four songs. All four were composed by legendary music composer SD Burman with lyrics by the one and only Gulzar. SD Burman was known for his melodious tunes and here, too, the maestro does not disappoint the listener. All the songs are good, but 'Sa Re Gaa Maa' and 'Ab Ke Sajan Sawan Mein' leave a lasting impact.

'Sa Re Gaa Maa', picturized on Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan, is a treat to listeners as the song has been sung by two legendary singers, Mohammed Rafi and Kishor Kumar. Despite being the shortest song in the album it leaves the most impact. Dharmendra and Bachchan's antics add to the fun factor of the song.

'Ab Ke Sajan Saawan Mein', sung by Lata Mangeshkar, is another winner from the film. The romantic number remains etched in the memory of music lovers.

5. Hrishikesh Mukherjee

The final and probably most important factor for Chupke Chupke becoming a classic is none other than its director. Hrishikesh Mukherjee is best known for his slice-of-life comedies and over the years made several successful films on some very trivial issues that ordinary people face. There were simplicity and warmth in his films which was rare in those days when films with action and drama were the biggest money spinners.

Chupke Chupke had all the qualities of Mukherjee's films along with two of the biggest stars of that time. Again, the filmmaker was known to cast big stars known for their larger-than-life images and present them as everyday human beings. In Chupke Chupke, he cast Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan, the former who was at the peak of his career and the latter who was rising fast to become Hindi cinema's superstar.

Despite casting Dharmendra as the hero of the film, Mukherjee does not give him any of the heroic tropes that were common in those times. Parimal Tripathi is a professor, that too of ghaas-phus (plants and herbs), as the old caretaker says repeatedly in the film, and just a simple guy like the rest of us. That's why we connect with the story more.