Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Andaz (1949)

Although I think I have some depth of knowledge when it comes to cinema, there are certain areas in which I admit I am relatively ignorant. The vast beast that is Indian cinema is a case in point. I have probably seen most of Satyajit Ray's films, a selection of other "classics", and a few of the multi-coloured all-singing, all-dancing, modern extravaganzas. However there are many on my "famous" list which I have yet to view. These titles tend to be culled from personal critics' selections from Sight and Sound's 'top 10' poll every ten years.

"Andaz" is considered to be one of the all-time classics and although I can see why it has achieved this status, I didn't really warm to the film. Its English titles include 'Misunderstandings' and 'A Matter of Style' and its underlying message appears to be that Indians who embrace a Western lifestyle do so at their peril. It is basically a love triangle starring Nardis (whom I know from "Mother India"), Dilip Kumar, and Raj Kapoor. She is the spoiled daughter of a wealthy industrialist whose life is saved when Kumar stops her runaway horse. They become good friends and it is obvious that he is falling in love with her, but she neglects to mention that she is engaged to Kapoor who is currently overseas. Her father does warn her that she is tempting fate by continuing this relationship and partying. After her father's death, Kumar helps her regain her enthusiasm for life and she rewards him by making him her partner in her father's business empire. It is only when Kapoor returns that Kumar becomes aware of the depth of her feelings for her 'god', her only one true and lasting love.

However, the situation becomes impossible for all of them, even after her marriage and the birth of a (singularly Western-looking) child. Kumar mopes about and Kapoor begins to suspect the worst concerning his wife's past behaviour and fidelity. The story continues with some irrational behaviour on the part of all three protagonists and ultimately tragedy. In the traditional Indian style, the action is interspersed with love ballads, many of which I understand have become classic favourites. Perhaps it is my unfamiliarity with this music and the singular melodramatics of the plot that stopped my full appreciation of this film. It was also not helped by the introduction of Kapoor's idiotic 'guru' who became an immovable houseguest and whose behaviour was probably intended as comic relief -- which just didn't appeal to my Western tastes. Yes I'm happy to have seen this film and to be able to cross it off my list; I only wish I could say that I thought more highly of it.
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