I found Lamhe (directed by Yash Chopra) for free with subtitles on YouTube… I watched it mainly for the two leading actresses, Sridevi and Waheeda Rehman, and also because I had been made kind of curious by a scene/song in the movie that I’d seen before, “Parody,” which referred to a number of much older Hindi movies (more on that later on). And I know it got some awards and good reviews and was well liked abroad, even if it had flopped in India. It was well put together and well paced and Sridevi gave a good performance (given the character roles she was playing), and Waheeda Rehman was good too (nice to see someone from the old films I’ve been watching still alive and active 30 years later, and almost as lively and attractive as she was then). So, it kept me watching until the end. But by the end, I knew this was a movie I could definitely live without.
I know that some people have been creeped out by the main plot… It starts when a guy named Viren (played by Anil Kapoor) falls in love with a woman, Pallavi (Sridevi), who’s engaged to someone else (Siddharth, played by Deepak Malhotra)… Much to the heartbreak of Viren, the couple does end up getting married, and Pallavi becomes pregnant with Siddharth’s child. But then the couple gets into a car accident and Siddharth is killed right away. Pallavi gets to live a little longer, just long enough to give birth as she is dying in the hospital. But Pallavi’s new daughter, Pooja, doesn’t land in some orphanage; rather, she ends up in the care of Viren’s former guardian, Dai Jaa (Waheeda Rehman), so that even though Viren and Pooja don’t really see each other for so many years, they are always kept aware of each other’s existence. Eighteen years down the road, Viren, who is now in his mid-late 30s, has an anguished romance with the newly/barely grown-up Pooja, who looks just like Pallavi (and is also played by Sridevi, of course). Pooja, meanwhile, has fostered this love for Viren since the age of five, as he was this great mysterious figure throughout her childhood whom she never really saw, but who always sent her birthday gifts…
So, we end up with this romance at the center of the movie that not only involves a huge age difference (which we have seen enough of in Bollywood films through the years) but is also strangely incestuous…
And if you want to see more discussion of that problem, there is a great post over at Post Punk Cinema Club. Actually, in a much funnier (and probably better written) way, it says a lot of the same things I have. But no, I am not copying them – it’s just that I came to some of the same exact opinions, as I’m sure a lot of people did. As PPCC says:
Lamhe (Moments) is just wrong. Sorry. It seems the film divides people into two camps: those who don’t mind the mother-man-daughter love triangle, and those who do. Unfortunately, while the PPCC considers itself pretty tolerant, we fall into the latter camp. We just found it… nasty.
But now I’d like to move onto another aspect to this film that put me off, especially when viewed in contrast to the Golden Age classics that I’ve come to love. And that is, I got really weary of seeing the main characters’ fancy houses and affluent lifestyles, especially considering that there was no other kind of lifestyle shown in contrast, even for a brief time.
There is some reference in the beginning part of the film to class differences, because Pallavi is marrying someone from a much poorer background. Also, Pallavi must experience some downward mobility herself as she loses the right to a great amount of wealth (including the initial setting of this movie, their big mansion in Rajasthan) due to the fact that her father had lost a law case (which event also gave him a fatal heart attack). But Pallavi and her husband are killed off soon enough in that car crash, so we don’t even have a chance to see them living by modest means or struggling to get by. And then Dai Jaa and Pooja end up living in a nice, elaborate house again. (Is this part of the same old mansion? I honestly can’t remember the circumstances surrounding their residence – maybe I dozed off during that part.) Meanwhile, Viren lives under some pretty generous circumstances in the UK. And then, later, all the characters end up living in that very big, comfortable suburban English house. And when the love affair really gets underway, we see our hero and heroine romping around in helicopters and private planes(?!)… As one commenter on YouTube wrote, “I would also like to be rich and play around.”
I really began to miss some of my old, favorite Golden Age movies during that song “Parody” – which I guess was the intention to some extent, but not to the extent that it hit me…
In this scene, Pooja and Viren’s friend Prem perform a bunch of Golden Age songs to cheer up our hero, because Viren supposedly loves old Hindi movies. (Though I don’t think there was any mention of that fondness until right before this scene began – in the middle of the movie (unless, once again, I dozed off or something) – and we never hear about it again.) The scene is amusing, and it gets better when Waheeda Rehman joins in the spoof and performs a song that she actually had done back in the old days. But the whole scene – taking place by the suburban house, the garage the fountain, etc. – also reminded me of certain qualities of the older films that this 1991 film definitely doesn’t have. And one is the social consciousness. In those older movies, there was some soap opera too, and people did get lost in their love affairs, but there was also an awareness about the surrounding world, with all its problems, that extended beyond the characters’ romantic brooding – or else overlapped with that romantic brooding in an interesting way. Several of the films referred to in this scene – such as Baazi or Shree 420 or Pyaasa - contain a lot of strong social content and a political-philosophical message or theme. In Lamhe, as far as I can tell, it’s nowhere to be found. These rich people just seem to get lost in their obsessions over their emotional relationships without having to think at all about the political and economic conditions of the world. And for me, personally, their affluence becomes more dreary to look at when it’s transported to the UK. At least it’s interesting to look at old Indian mansions and palaces, and there is nice scenery in everybody’s home state, Rajasthan. But do I want to watch affluent people cavorting around in suburban houses and shopping malls? There are reasons why I got so drawn to classic Indian films after more than 40 years of exposure to western media. If I want to see this kind of setting, I can turn on my TV any time or go to the suburban multiplex.
Oh, well, I think I’ll go look for another ’50s movie now.