Tere Ghar Ke Samne fiftyfiftyme category: Major
I was about 12 when I first tried kulfi and I spat it out in disgust. If anyone had told me then that I would come to love it, I would have dismissed the idea as inconceivable. But perhaps that word does not mean what I think it means, because something similar happened with this film.
I have a real issue with Dev Anand. I don't get why he's viewed as some sort of legendary "it" man of Hindi cinema, and I really, really hate the egotistical narcissism that oozes from him in the films of his I'd seen before this one. In Kala Bazaar and especially in Guide, I get the overwhelming impression that Dev & Vijay both think Dev IS a god, and so he preaches and preens his way through them. Just thinking about his role in Guide is enough to make me mad, so it was a big challenge for me to take the plunge and buy this movie, largely on the strength of recommendations from filmiphilic friends, especially Carla at Filmi Geek. I am in their debt, because I can now say of a Dev Anand film something that I would have thought inconceivable just a few weeks ago: I love this film!
Tere Ghar Ke Samne is like good kulfi, sweet, light, with a melts-in-your-mouth deliciousness that simply compels one to smile. But that's what makes this such a remarkable film in my opinion. Sweet, happy Hindi films are about as rare as rice, so why does this one make such an impression?
The answer lies in what's missing: Drama. Many, if not most, sweet and happy Hindi films incorporate some element of drama, some darkening of the horizons with clouds of gloom. Those clouds might be family opposition, an unwelcome arranged marriage proposal, or any number of other impediments to the inevitable happy ending. Although most of the films I like are oldies, two of my favourite films from this century, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na and Jab We Met both follow this revered and time-honoured filmi convention - make them sad before they make us glad. Adding this sort of element only makes sense, providing something against which the ultimate happiness can be contrasted. Without it, a film should be a sappy mess, unrelentingly, cloyingly sweet, like Hum Aapke Hain Koun...! I like HAHK, but it is, as one IMDb commenter aptly said "just a shaadi cassette".
Somehow, Tere Ghar Ke Samne pulls off the remarkable feat of being almost drama-free yet remaining an engaging, involving film to watch. That's what makes this a special, remarkable film for me - it's basically pure confection, but it's not sickly sweet. How it manages this is what I've been trying to figure out since I watched it, and I've come to the conclusion that it's chemistry.
Someone who is much more knowledgeable about films than I am said recently that "chemistry" was really mostly just a matter of good script and and good direction. That's paraphrasing, but I do largely tend to agree with the the idea that films are, after all, about acting, and that if the director and writer(s) have done their job, any onscreen pair should be able to have chemistry. Nevertheless, some films prove that casting is an important part of the mix, and that there is an elusive intangible that can make a movie either more or less than the sum of its parts. I'm a huge fan of Audrey Hepburn, but I prefer the Harrison Ford remake of Sabrina because he and Julia Ormond clicked in a way that Audrey and Bogey didn't - he was awful for that role. Tere Ghar Ke Samne is definitely more than the sum of its parts, and I say that with conviction because I dislike some of its parts.
I've long thought that Vijay Anand was an enabler, facilitating his brother's ego and letting him make their films all about him, so that in every film it was Dev onscreen, not whoever he was playing. You can't forget it's Dev because he doesn't want you to and won't let you. In the modern era, this phenomenon is most clearly seen in Shah Rukh Khan - it's always SRK onscreen, not his character. Somehow, the Anand brothers managed not to do that with this film, and so even as a devout anti-fan, I really liked Rakesh. He wasn't Dev being a preachy self-righteous self-appointed (reformed) Messiah figure as in Kala Bazaar, or Dev being a preachy self-righteous self-appointed Messiah figure as in Guide, he was Rakesh, a suave, charming and funny character, quite irresistibly likeable. The scene where he's cutting back forth between his family and Sulekha's, staging carefully modulated dialogues to give each group the impression he wants, had me in stitches. The same star, the same producers, the same director as in films I intensely dislike, but the chemistry transformed it. Which brings me to Nutan.
She was perfect! It may have been a light role, not requiring a lot of range, but that presented its own challenges. How could she bring something to the story when there was no dramatic arc involving loss, separation and/or personal growth? She owned the role by providing the perfect amount of mock flounce. For me, one of the best examples of this is in the superb song above, dil ka bhanwar. The song itself is a gem, but the picturisation was a triumph. Not only did I, for the first time, see why some might find Dev "all that", but Nutan played off him perfectly. One of my favourite scenes in the song is when Rakesh is singing "aaj mere sa.ng to guu.Nje dil kii aarazuu, tujhase merii aa.Nkh jab mile" - very traditionally filmi, but the way she "met his eyes" was both funny and very sweet. If Nutan can help me really enjoy a Dev film, when a favourite of mine, Waheeda, could not, that marks her as very special.
Dil ka bhanwar provides an example of something else that raises this film from more recent candy floss films - the songs. A major difference between then and now is the quality of the songs, and this film illustrates that perfectly. I have liked Dil ka bhanwar for several years, and listened to it often, not having any idea that it came from a Dev Anand film(!) Then there is the title track, which has to be seen to believed. The combination of good music and engaging lyrics add substance to the froth of the film, and fact that the songs advance the story, rather than interrupting it for a pointless trip to some epilepsy-inducing nightclub, further sets this film apart from more modern fluff pieces.
Perhaps chemistry really is another word for casting, because certainly the cast in this film all added to its charm. Dev and Nutan were great together, and the supporting cast simply were their characters. Om Prakash's bluster was so wonderfully proto-Puri and Harindranath looked disconcertingly like all the photos of I've seen of my stern, remote grandfather, making his performance very believable.
I have gushed enough about this film: Old is gold - watch it! If you're looking for a film to make you smile, maybe even laugh, a film that shows that it is possible for Hindi cinema to do a perfect sweet soufflé of a film, then you really don't have to go far, just look to the house opposite.