Two strangers sit in awkward silence. She, prim in a neatly draped saree and he, unshaved in unkempt kurta. They stare at the soapy, bubbled water in a bucket in front of them. Their eyes meet and move away. To break the silence, he quickly picks up a packet of detergent powder, and states the obvious, “Chamko."
She responds mechanically, " kapdo ke liye behtareen sabun, baar baar lagataar, Chamko kapdo mein chakachaundh chamak lane ke liye.."
He joins in,"khushbudaar, jhaagwala Chamko"
This is the most hilarious scene of two people attracted to each other and trying to connect the best way they know. A detergent powder helps break the ice and how! This became an iconic moment of the film Chashme Buddoor, written and directed by Sai Paranjpye in 1981.
This small charming romantic comedy warms our heart for reasons other than the story. The story is simple but as fresh as a clean towel washed with Chamko powder. It is the detailing in their absolutely ordinary, daily lives that makes this film very special.
Three young, unemployed men: Siddharth,Omi and Jomu share a room in Bombay. They live on numerous packets of shared cigarettes. This is the only source of their joy in their humdrum life in a four wall room covered with posters of half naked women, a fantasy shared by two of them, Omi (Rakesh Bedi,)and Jomu(Ravi Baswani,hilarious debut.Siddharth (Farroque Sheikh) is the other extreme. He has a few pictures of Gandhi on 'his' wall'. The only time he displays passion is when he talks about reading Economics books with the enthusiasm of a James Hadley Chase fan.
When the three run out of cigarettes, they share leftover cigarette butts. The local supplier, Lallan Mia (Saeed Jaffery, irrepressible)has a roadside store with the once common slogan written on it, "Relax! Have a Charminaar.".The friends are a bit too relaxed about paying their unpaid bills piled over months. Every time Lallan Mia demands payment, they sweet-talk him into bumming off more cigarette packets out of him. The exchange over their mounting debts also reflects bonding, humour and warmth; a reflection of Sai Paranjpye's amazing treatment of her characters and screenplay.
Lallan Mia's constant demands for payment sounds more like a doting dad willing to let go. A small moment between Lallan Mia and Siddharth reveals our hero's secret. He hopes that some day he will meet a girl who will ask him to stop smoking. That will be his last cigarette.
In contrast,Omi and Jomu spend all their time loafing around on a bike, looking for girls.."shikaar", whistling at them, thinking of ways of wooing them with lost handkerchieves and failing at it. There couldn't be worse losers than them. Yet, Paranjpye shows them in such a way that they come across as innocent and harmless and totally likeable even when they try to ruin their friend's budding romance in a fit of jealousy.
It is this slow transportation into the world of these friends, the gentle romance between Siddharth and Neha (Deepti Naval) over coffee and Tutti Frutty icecream; an old ,loving grandmother(Leela Misra) struggling up the stairs to the untidy bachelors' pad, staring at poster pinups, picking up Playboy magazine accidentally and simply saying, "Bhagwaan ki ek tasveer to laga lete";the simple and honest conversations that tug at the heart and make you laugh at the same.
The simplicity of the script is topped by brilliant performances by each and everyone makes this a movie a memorable experience. That includes the waiter who serves coffee to the two lovers and also heralds the interval in way that leaves you chuckling. Deepti Naval who looks simply divine in her debut film, is forever etched as Ms Charming Chamko.
Music and lyrics continue to tell the story instead of interrupting it. The motorbike for which Neha always waits, is lovingly used in a song "kaali ghodi dwaar khadi" by lyricist,Indu Jain.
Watch the digitally restored Chashme Buddoor for this beautiful blend of Charminaar and Tutii Fruity, a flavour of friendship, romance and comedy that stays and lingers forever. Chamko is the cherry on top.