Badsha (1963)

Poor ? 

This is a controversial judgement. If I take it (I can as well do it) as a children’s movie, I may assume they will enjoy it. But if I take it as a normal one, it is very badly made.

I was influenced to buy and try the movie due to the cast. Kali Bannerjee and Sandhya Rani are good actors, in addition we have another excellent actor Bikash Roy and a not too bad in Asitbaran. But what prompted me more in attempting this misadventure was the director (or the director combine), Agradoot, whose movies by and large had been above ordinary. But then they must also have thought to prove the rules through exceptions and they did that.

Now had it been their first movie, I would have overlooked the (as I did the first tries of Tapan Sinha – Upahar was quite bad, despite there too having excellent actor combination (Uttam, Manju, Sabitri, Kanu). However finally the movies being mainly the director’s baby, they make it or break it. Just like Upahar too had a good skeleton this movie Badsha too didn’t lack it.

The story is by Dr Nihar Ranjan Gupta. This gentleman’s name rings a long forgotten bell in mind. He as far as I recall was more into the so called “Kishore Sahitya” i.e. the novels for the boys (not the political boys will be boys, but actual ones). We have the Shishu (Infant)-balya(Child) – Kishore (boy/ girl), Yuvak (youth) steps before one could deteriorate to a man (or woman).

If this story belonged to these Boys/ Girls then of course I shouldn’t be very critical, since at that age I too would be lapping over these novels without bothering of the logical part.

In fact when I analyse the preparation, the ‘Masalas’ that went into the curry, it has inhuman-humans (criminals and police), human-humans (families, especially mothers, with children), human-inhumans (so called animals, monkeys, dogs, etc), a bit of adrenalin and endorphins and of course there would be associated pathos, and most important, which prohibits the entry of youth (or beyond) in the cinema-halls is lack of romance. Sex of course is any way out of question, the criminals would be all nice criminals, involving in theft, robbery, pick-pocket even murders but with no eyes on women, except for snatching handbags or chains.

The Hero of this movie (Kali Bannerjee) is one such unknown named person (all call him Ustad) and he is the “King” of the underworld. The police of course is in desperate search of him, but they could get a few pawns, once in a while, but never a major piece, leave alone even putting a check on the ‘King’.

In this board, there  is no queen, I will advice the other villains too should think over this aspect. Since the queen in these chess-board is not the strongest piece who would go all the way to protect the weak and immobile and scared king. If not fully immobile, at least almost so, and scared since in face of a threat, even the pawns would kill and get killed, but the king will escape or close their eyes and expect some one to come to their rescue. The “King” on board defines the “Queen” in the other board ? ! And due to this the Queen will be the weakest link in King’s army (and armour).

This is a warning for all the villains (of movies), if you can’t keep her under maximum security, don’t have her. Despite all these high security, sometimes still they may back stab. They had been quite notorious for these, the Mona Darling and the equivalents had been more often than not falling for the hero and becoming instrumental in overturning the poor Loin‘s cart (even in Hollywood,  it is common, say any Bond Movies).

Anyway luckily as I noted, there are nothing weak, at least feminine, in this link, not now, nor ever.  Our Ustad (Kali bannerjee) is the dread of the whole city (I assume, and it does look like Calcutta), so he is a big and notorious Karim Lala of Calcutta. 

As all these extortion and criminal activities heat up the ambience, our Ustad decided to cool down a bit, may be for a hill station vacations. Obviously he can’t spend money for it, and gets a Sethji to do that. This Sethji was a long time associate (probably may even  be the channel for disposal of goods).  But this financing, wholly and only by him, is something he couldn’t swallow, and instead of financing Ustad’s sojourn, Sethji thought instead getting financed for it. 

He heads to police station with details, for the reward that was on the notices and newspapers. He must have thought that through this Ustad and the Police, both would get some much deserved rest. After the rest-interval, the game could restart with renewed vigour. In the meanwhile, if he gets some cash for it, what’s wrong? Don’t people sell their ideas for money? Sethji too was doing that and instead of taking if from Ustad, which Ustad should be paying at least half of it, being half the beneficiary, he was taking the whole from cops.

Based on this logic, the Sethji leads the police to Ustad’s evening out (at some Baiji’s den). But obviously Ustad didn’t see eye to eye with him on this matter. He escapes easily jumping off the roof, after showing his disagreement, with help of a  knife through Sethji’s heart.

The police chief of course is alarmed at the cry of the (would be soon) dead and rushes over to the edge of the roof, from where the knife thrower, Ustad, had jumped down. He waits for Ustad to go sufficiently far away and only then tries to shoot him and blows the whistle calling the cops. 

As the cops chase, the Ustad gets rescued by a river, which was there for him to jump in. After swimming he lands up in one of his known (but doesn’t look like associate) Tarun Kumar and another one, Raja, who is one of those monkey-men who shows the skills (of animals) on the streets and the money gathered by these shows are used to keep them and their animals alive. Since the Ustad wanted some vacation, so he now goes underground here, and even takes a pseudonym, Badsha.

This is where the Doctor (Bikash Roy) comes in. Very money minded forever squabbling with the patients for the fees and the medicine charges, unwilling to forego even a pie off his charges (and that includes special charges for night and odd hours). And after all those rough and highly insulting behaviour he would treat almost free, putting the visiting and even sometimes medicine charges on the credit. 

Once fit Ustad goes back in business, and he choses his first activities at the famed Gangasagar Fair, where lakhs of Pilgrims congregate for the holy dip.These Gangasagar fairs (held on the Makara Sankranti, 14th January) is a huge human congregation (may be overshadowed only by the Kumbha). Ustad had an obviously laudable intention, to help these pilgrims shed some of their maya (money) and hence be nearer to the Moksha, though as usual people don’t appreciate the good intentions, and look with coloured prism.

Here of course before he could do much a storm ravages the fair (they quite often do) and  while walking through the collapsed tents, the Ustad hears a sound of a child crying, and meets his achilles heel. He finds a body washed ashore, and beside that a child crying. Since the child had some ornaments on him, Ustad first takes him away to safety, before divesting the child of his weight. But while doing all this somehow the boy attaches himself of Ustad and that’s the end of Ustad. 

He takes him back home, to find raja dying and the next morning dead. But the boy, who too was running fever due to the thorough soaking was made to survive by the doctor (Bikash Roy).  Now with no other skill than the professional skills, Ustad gets into a major moral dilemma.

He had to now take care of set of performers a goat, a monkey and a dog and a non performer, boy, without performing what he was adept at. He first tries his hand as ‘Coolie’ , but then he takes care of the “Raja”‘s business, with help of this boy, on street.

The boy’s original family unfortunately didn’t drown in the boat capsize. We come across Asit baran (the father) and Sandhya Rani (the mother), weeping her hearts out at the loss.  This was the child, born after a long wait. They got him after praying at Ganga Sagar, and as the fulfilment of the wish, they were coming to the temple for puja, when on the way the boat capsized.

“It was Ganga’s child, and she took him” could only be borne by Shantanu, and he too didn’t take that too well, at least for the necessary period. Had he avoided the confrontation, which he had avoided till then, just one more time, he would have saved himself of the divorce (separation) and they would have lived happily ever after.  But then the whole Mahabharata would have to have a make-over.

In this case too  no one really says that, except as a consolation to the grieving mother, and a greater consolation is given by her brother. He gives one of his own sons to her, to bring up as her child.  No nefarious design here, other than may be getting rid of one of the naughty children amongst a handful. The brother wasn’t shown to be a slum dweller or poor. The child was gifted willingly by both, brother and sister in law, as a compassionate gesture, seeing the sister’s state. The sister and especially her husband wanted it to happen, but didn’t know how to say, or how the brother would treat it, when the brother himself gifted the manna in their lap.

The naughty boy is brought up to become more naughty and a bit headstrong by the doting foster parents, while their own child, unknown to them (or rather given up to be dead) toiled on streets, dancing with the wolf (Alsatians are technically one) along with monkeys and goats.

Once, when the Badsha was sick (with fever) one of the dance sessions takes place at his own home, but unfortunately the bond of the blood (which we so often see in the movies when the infant lost in Kumbh fair after growing up pulls the mother like a superconducting magnet) seems to be weak there, and except the normal behaviour we don’t see anything special.

The boy at the end of the show, was thirsty and asks for water. He is given one, by the servant, of course by mother’s order, with a piece of sweet. That is traditional and nothing extraordinary, in Bengal, it isn’t customary to offer plain water, even if one asks for it. The water that the boy drinks is not  off the glass but through hand (Anjali), as one would give to a street boy. So there is nothing of a motherly instinct at play here.

Meanwhile the villain lands up (there had to be one). One of the ex-gang members of Ustad spots Badsha and recognises him. He had some pending salary (portion of some loot) and wanted that to be paid, in full and cash. The weak attempt of Badha to deny his Ustadi is obviously not bought by him, and he decides to get the back wages from police. The price of the head was still there. However before he could, predicting the opponent’s move, Badshah disappears, with the kid and animals to another locality. He logically should have relocated to another city but he doesn’t, had he done, how would the boy meet his long lost parents and vice versa?

With Badsha sick, no money for medicines, the boy now tries to look around and finds the necklace and the other ornaments that Badsha got off him in Gangasagar, but never sold off. Now he goes to sell it and of course is assumed to be a thief or associate. In the chase, he is rescued by the father and taken home.

The mother recognises him as the street juggler, and despite being presented with evidence (the locket etc) still not as the long lost son. The assumption was son is dead and these were taken off the body, or the son is sold off somewhere as beggar.  May be justified, no one would assume that the person who got the child would bring up as his own son, with affection which was clear by the way the boy talked of him. But then the visit to the Badsha’s hut clarifies and the lost family meet.

But the son wasn’t ready to be their son and remains aloof (whether biological or not, he is my father)., but he is practically kept under house arrest, may be they correctly assumed that he would try to escape back to Badsha. 

The Badsha is meanwhile very sick. His address is again traced by the ex-employee and the police is on the way and the boy is in house arrest. The only who could do something were the nonhuman-humanes.

As a children’s movie it is OK, provided one refuses to think logically. But the moment one starts thinking, the movie could be cut to shreds. Even if it is a children’s movie, why one should go logic-less? There is really no need of that. If you are bent upon being illogical, go for fantasies, fairy-tales, where all the illogics become logical due to special powers granted to fairies and witches. 

This movie could have been at least made to an average level, not a poor one. Except Biksh Roy in fact nothing impressed me. Sandhya of course had very small presence so I won’t give a negative point to her.  Except Bikas (and the animals) not a single person impressed. The boy… well considering his age, I could award a consolation mark to him.