classic film

Sai Paranjype’s ‘Katha’ is a fabulous fable about the most charming chawl in the world

The renowned filmmaker’s 79th birthday is the perfect excuse to revisit one of her loveliest films, starring Naseeruddin Shah, Farooque Shaikh and Deepti Naval.

In a community of defined roles, men go to office and buy vegetables on their way back home. Wives cook and make pickles. Children attend school, play cricket in the courtyard and caper in the common verandahs. Dim lights, poor water supply and common toilets add their greyness to Bombay chawl life. Here, a female graduate’s hope is only for marriage and a male post-graduate aspires only to be head clerk.

The grim stuff of many a bleak film gets a surprising lift in Katha (1982), in which director Sai Paranjpye touches this lower middle class chawl with her wand of wit and gives a dry spin to the fable of the hare and the tortoise. The animated credit sequence at the beginning shows the director’s name beneath a bright- eyed cat flexing its claws – clearly, every character in Katha is up for jabs. However, each little dig of humour, no matter how irreverent, is delivered with an affectionate twinkle.

Play
The song Kaun Aaya from Katha (1982).

A nagging wife never knows that her seemingly attentive husband’s ears are plugged with cotton wool reinforcements. Chinnakka (meaning little sister), the largest and most rotund resident of the chawl, is always encircled by vessels similar to her own shape and size. Bapu (father) is the bell-ringing invalid who cheerfully interrupts anyone at any time – whether to change a radio station or to have a bottle of churan handed to him. For all the bickering of nosy neighbours and for all the shortages they may endure, no one is ever shortchanged. They are, after all, a family of bhaus, bhais, akkas and mais.

There is much to love in Katha over and above its stellar cast – Naseeruddin Shah, Farooque Shaikh and Deepti Naval – each at their endearing best.

Innovative techniques capture individual quirks. Conversations cleverly summarise socio-economic details – jobs, education, money, conveyance, even the census – while the soundtrack remains focused on the pulse of the story and the chitchat of the chawl.

Ticklish class and cultural obsessions are tackled tongue in cheek. The chawl secretary (his room is kitted out with space-saving furniture, a refrigerator and a television thanks to a son settled in Canada) accentuates his Hindi speeches with English synonyms (“ekta” and unity, “manoranjan” and entertainment ) and has an unread Time magazine to display. At a higher society party, all conversations begin with an identically vacuous “How are you?” as if everyone is recuperating from a mysterious disease.

Women’s liberation gets both a smirk and a nod, but as a refreshing and humorous alternative to sexual harassment, there is a dream-sequence temptation of Adam – apple and serpent included.

Naseeruddin Shah as Rajaram in Katha (1982).
Naseeruddin Shah as Rajaram in Katha (1982).

The two male protagonists have significant names. Naseeruddin Shah is Rajaram Purushottam, the king of men and the best among men. Generous, kind and painfully shy, he proudly walks the straight and narrow. Even though he is almost ridiculous in his sobriety, we root for him from the very beginning.

On the other hand, there is the gleaming eyed Farooque Shaikh (Vasudev), a thieving magpie who steals money, rings, hearts and thunder. Vasudev prefers to be called Bashu and not by his real name, thus cautioning us that he is a confidence trickster. From the desi cigarettes with which he fills Dunhill cartons to his tall tales of being the grandson of a dewan, Bashu is a charming cheat. From Dadi Amma (Leela Mishra), the seniormost member of the chawl, to mothers of runny-nosed children and the children themselves, Bashu knows how to play to the gallery. His repertoire extends to the impertinent daughter (Winnie Paranjpye) and the trophy wife (the glamorous Mallika Sarabhai) of Dhindoria, and finally, to Dhindoria himself.

Farooque Shaikh as Vasudev in Katha (1982).
Farooque Shaikh as Vasudev in Katha (1982).

Deepti Naval is the vulnerable and inexperienced Sandhya who stands between Rajaram and Bashu – in doorways and otherwise. She must choose between the glib and the good. In choosing one she realises how much she has taken the other for granted.

Paranjpye’s film is not about teaching lessons, but about happy endings for all. Rajaram wins his well-fought day. Sandhya, at first stirred silly and then shaken wise, is not doomed to disgrace. And Bashu whizzes out to conquer new horizons with his chutzpah. Katha is still about those who win – through foul means or fair.

Katha may lose out on flashy foreign locales, item numbers, chartbusting songs and super-speed storytelling. But the hare and the tortoise do not really need to run the same race.

Deepti Naval as Sandhya in Katha (1982).
Deepti Naval as Sandhya in Katha (1982).
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content  BY 

These GIFs show you what it means to miss breakfast

That monstrous roar is your empty stomach.

Let’s take a glance at your every day morning routine. You crawl out of bed, go for a quick shower, pull out and wear your neatly ironed clothes at the speed of light and then rush out of the house, making sure you have your keys and wallet in place.

Giphy
Giphy

You walk into office, relieved because you have made it to work on time. Stifling yawns and checking emails, you wonder how your colleagues are charged up and buzzing with energy. “What is wrong with these people” you mumble to yourself.

Giphy
Giphy

Slowly, you start to change. You start snapping at colleagues and start arguing with your computer. You take out your frustration on anything or anyone in sight.

To add to the aggressive behaviour, you’ve completely lost your focus. After some time, you simply forget what you were doing.

Giphy
Giphy

Unable to bear the hunger pangs, you go for a mid-morning snack. It is only when a colleague asks you for a bite do you realize that you have developed into a fully formed, hunger fueled, monster. Try not to look at yourself in the mirror.

Giphy
Giphy

If only you had spared not even twenty or ten but just 5 minutes in the morning and not skipped breakfast, your story would look completely different - as you will see in this video.

Play

The fast dip in your mood and lack of focus is because your body has missed its most important meal of the day – breakfast. Research has shown that skipping a meal, especially in the morning, worsens the mood because there is a drop in the blood sugar. This in turn affects the levels of serotonin and dopamine, the chemicals produced in the brain that control our moods and feelings. In simpler English, not having breakfast is going to make you really cranky and confused!

Morning is also when the body needs maximum nutrition to function efficiently through the day as you’ve just woken up from a full 7 hours of no food (and if you’re sleeping less than that, that’s a whole other article).

So in short, having a breakfast could make you go from looking like the earlier GIFs to this:

Giphy
Giphy

But with changing lifestyles and most people hard pressed for time, a healthy breakfast is taking the backseat. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. MTR has come up with a range of widely loved Indian delicacies like Poha, Upma and Halwa which can be made in (hold you breath) just 3 minutes! All you have to do is add hot water and wait for 3 minutes to get a delicious and filling breakfast.

Giphy
Giphy

These amazing and delicious breakfasts can be made in a jiffy and consumed with the least hassle, even in the midst of your frenetic morning routine. So grab your #MTRbreakfastin3 to start the day on an awesome note.

Click here to make breakfast a part of your morning routine.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of MTR and not by the Scroll editorial team.