Saturday, June 4, 2011

Kapoor Khazana: "I'm Bobby. Mujhse Dosti Karoge?" - Bobby (1973)

Quite a tricked out poster RK!
I don't know quite how to sum up Raj Kapoor's Bobby (1973). There's been plenty of discussion about the celebration of youth, the boldness of fighting class and religious differences and the spirit of innocence that marks Bobby as an important film in the evolution of commercial Hindi cinema. And when it released, it certainly caused a ruckus between the ideas it presented and the skimpy outfits Dimple Kapadia wore in the film. But I can't help but feel like there's more to Bobby than that.

The basic summary: Bobby is the story of Raju Nath (played by the incredibly young and baby-faced Rishi Kapoor). Born to wealthy, status-obsessed parents who essentially ignore him, young Raju finds himself thrust into a world of pushy, self-important adults. When he (literally) bites back, his parents (Pran and Sonia Sahni) immediately blame his loving ayya (governess, if you will) Mrs. Braganza (Durga Khote) and fire her. Soon after, Raju is sent away to boarding school. When he returns, his parents continue to be too busy for him. Then at his birthday party, he lays eyes on Bobby (played by an adolescent, adorable Dimple Kapadia), who had stopped by the house with her grandmother Mrs. Braganza to drop off Raju's favorite cake from his younger days. Raju falls in love at first sight. When he finds the cake and goes to find Mrs. Braganza, he is shocked and delighted to find the girl of his dreams there. The two teenagers develop a sweet and innocent friendship which quickly turns to a mutual fascination and love. Neither pay any attention to the cavernous class difference between them - he being a wealthy industrialist's son, she being the daughter of a simple fisherman.

When Raju decides to introduce Bobby and her father to his family, things fall apart. Mr. Nath is convinced that Mr. Jack Braganza (Prem Nath) has plotted to capture their money by making Bobby pursue Raju. He insults Jack and drives him from the house. Jack is furious and refuses to let a dubious Raju and Bobby continue seeing each other. Meanwhile Mr. Nath and his apathetic wife decide to arrange a marriage between Raju and a business associate, whose daughter (Farida Jalal) happens to be mentally disturbed. A socialite, dancer and friend of the family (Aruna Irani) sees all the underhanded arrangements happening within the family and takes pity on young Raju. She encourages him to run away from the claustrophobic and false life he has at home and take Bobby with him.

Creepy doll alert!
Seeing his parents' absolute indifference to his feelings, Raju runs away and tries to find Bobby. Jack has sent Bobby and her grandmother to their home in Goa. Raju heads to Goa but finds a new obstacle -- Mrs. Braganza. Feeling guilty that Raju has left his family and afraid of the consequences, Mrs. Braganza prevents the two young lovers from fleeing together, locking them up separately. Meanwhile Mr. Nath has confronted Jack Braganza with the police, accusing him of kidnapping his son. Both parties head to Goa to find their children, only to find that Raju and Bobby have managed to escape from the house. Jack now turns on Mr. Nath, insisting that Bobby is only sixteen years old and therefore it is Raju who has kidnapped a minor.

As their fathers chase after them with the police, Raju and Bobby fall into the hands of a rogue gang led by Prem (Prem Chopra). Jack finds them in the hands of the gang and fights them to the best of his abilities, but then Raju is taken hostage. Jack pleads with them to spare Raju's life, and when Mr. Nath hears this, he realizes the folly of his ways (GOD, I LOVE when I get a chance to use that phrase!) and steps in with the police to apprehend the goons and save both his son and Bobby. However in the scuffle, Raju and Bobby run away and jump from a cliff into the churning waters below. The final scenes have the fathers saving each others' children and leave us with an ambiguous sense of a happy ending.

Now obviously, Bobby became a sensation for being so completely fresh, youthful and optimistic. As Shah Rukh Khan is quoted as saying, "Before Bobby, Indian cinema was about men and women, but after Bobby, it became about boys and girls." Bobby titillated crowds with both it's daring approval of relationship between such a young pair despite a deep class and cultural divide, and it's display of Dimple's skin. But really now, love between the rich boy and the poor girl, or vice-versa, was that really new in Indian cinema? Not at all!

So what is it about Bobby that sticks with us? I just re-watched the film, and stepped away with a brand new view of the film entirely. This isn't a film about young love. It's not a film about the young girl Bobby Braganza, as the title suggests. This film is really essentially about a disillusioned boy, neglected and hurt, who throws himself wholeheartedly into something (and someone) he can believe in. The title Bobby itself suggests that her character would be the more prominent one, but I don't find this to be the case. So for me, the title Bobby indicates that Raju has taken his life of loneliness and abandonment and found his release from it all in his love. Bobby is his rebellion, his flight, and his salvation.

In this re-watch I felt Raju's plight more than ever before. I found myself particularly touched by Rishi Kapoor's innocence and bewilderment throughout the film. His inability to understand how his parents could treat him the way they did was beautifully rendered. I could practically hear him saying "Aren't parents supposed to love you? Aren't they supposed to only want your happiness? Why don't they love me?" and I just bled for him. The small bit of warmth he finds in Mrs. Braganza is ripped away from him at a very young age, and the tender moments where they find each other again really resonated. This is a boy that wants desperately to be loved, and when he finds it, he cannot bear to let it go.

This new focus made me enjoy the film in a completely different way. The young lovers separated by rich, mean parents is a story we've seen time and time again. Echoes of it exist in so many popular films - Love Story, Maine Pyar Kiya, etc. But a film about a young boy being abused -- because really, neglecting a child IS abuse to me -- and left yearning for love is something far more gripping for me.

We're all raised to believe that our parents love us, that they'll do anything for us, that if they do hurt us it's inadvertent and they only want what's best for us. But sometimes it doesn't work that way. Sometimes parents are selfish, or just plain checked out. It's interesting to see how Bobby is fresh not only in its portrayal of romance, but also in depicting shades of grey with parents. It doesn't follow the tropes of the perfect Sati-Savitri Maa or the Devoted, Heroic, Martyr Father. These parents pretty much suck. Mr. Nath is so consumed with his wealth and status that he's not really paying attention to his wife or child.

Poor Raju! His 'friend' just made him realize that his parents don't love him!
Mrs. Nath is an interesting character to me -- she's the "checked out" parent. She seems to have some latent maternal instincts buried deep underneath her resentment of her husband, her bitterness towards her role in 'entertaining' his business clientele, and her unwillingness to break free of the life of wealth and social status. She seems to have become complacent about her role, and whatever emotions she might have towards her son, she clearly stifles them and blames her husband, claiming he hasn't "given her the opportunity to be a mother" because of her obligations as a socialite first. I don't have much sympathy for her though, even when she does lash out at her husband after Raju runs away from his impending engagement. She leaves Raju to suffer through his young life alone, and then offers no support when he seeks out happiness for himself. Her small bursts of support seem like too little too late.

Honestly, it's easy to see why Raju would rush headfirst into his friendship and romance with Bobby. She is everything his world isn't -- sweet, innocent, honest, open, etc. Right from the moment he lays eyes on her, he can see that she doesn't belong in his world. I think it is this that draws him to her more than anything else -- that she's different! That she isn't one of the society that pulls his parents from him. She isn't part of the wealth, status and socializing that he associates with his parents, who have disappointed him so deeply.

You! You're my ticket outta this hell hole!
Mrs. Braganza is also an interesting figure for Raju. She is the closest thing he has to a mother in his life, and she supports their relationship through most of the film. But then suddenly when Raju turns up in Goa, having finally broken away from his unhappy life with his parents, she fears for their future and tries to harden her heart against him. I can understand being worried for Raju and Bobby, being that they are so freaking young! But to pull away support from a boy like Raju, just when he needs it most ... really, I don't know how she had the heart to do it!

Jack Braganza is a great character! He's jolly and good-hearted but can be tough and curmudgeonly when the situation requires it. It is incredibly ironic that Mr. Nath accuses him of 'selling' his daughter to trap his son, when Nath himself pretty much tries to 'sell' his son to his business associate by marrying him to the disturbed (and creepy) Farida Jalal. But Jack Braganza does end up being one of the most sympathetic characters in the film. You can clearly see how much he loves his daughter and how much it hurts him to see her so devastated. His motivations in trying to protect her are evident. And really, what parent would WANT to send their innocent child to be a daughter-in-law in a household like that, with people like that? His pride is endearing, and his ultimate kindness in wanting to save Raju makes him a real hero in this film.

In case you didn't notice, the Braganzas are Christian.

And then there's Bobby herself -- who to me is actually the weakest character of the film. Dimple Kapadia is certainly young, fresh and cute, but beyond that I felt very little to Bobby's character. She calls herself a 21st century woman and has a streak of pride (that I suspect she inherited from Jack), but really is just a child! She doesn't show any real conviction, and it's difficult to believe that what she's experiencing is really love. I mean there's a scene where the parents send the kids up to Raju's room so they can talk, and the kids actually start playing 'Blind Man's Bluff' or whatever you call that game. They are truly KIDS. So I actually kind of appreciate the ambiguous ending RK gives us here, because we can imagine that she went on to college and maybe remained good friends with Raju, but possibly didn't marry him. Bobby just seems to get carried along with the flow of everything, and while she of course cares for Raju, her life experience seems so limited that I don't know that she can develop the same kind of attachments that the scarred and vulnerable Raju can. Or perhaps it's just because Dimple, being only 16 years old during the filming of this movie, wasn't able to really ACT yet.

I should definitely also mention Aruna Irani's role as the socialite/dancer friend who supports Raju and convinces him to run away. I've always liked Aruna Irani and found her to be a really lovely actress, and she is wonderful in her role! Also - I love the scene where she first meets Raju ... she bursts into his room and catches him literally butt nekkid. There are shades of this scene in the first meeting between Prem and Suman in Maine Pyar Kiya. It also reminds me of Rishi's son Ranbir Kapoor's famous towel dance from Saawariya.

A few side notes about the movie - because everyone loves anecdotes. I think almost everyone knows this story, but it's worth mentioning because of how personal it feels! The scene where Raju first visits the Braganza house and Bobby unknowingly wipes besan batter in hair, whining "Jaldi bolo, mera tel jal raha hai!" is based on the real life moment when Raj Kapoor first went to meet Nargis at her house. Very sweet.

Also Rishi Kapoor apparently chose his own wardrobe for this film -- which is delightful! I love his style in this film! Particularly the dark rose velour pant suit he wears in 'Hum Tum Ik Kamre Mein Bandh Ho'!

One final piece of gossip about this movie is that Dimple up and got married to Rajesh Khanna during the filming of this movie -- there's a particular scene in 'Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai' in which she is wearing mehndi on her hands. She was also supposedly pregnant with Twinkle during the shooting of this song. I love this song, it is just so evocative of teenagers in love!! It reminds me of first love and those phone calls where you each keep saying "you hang up first" "no YOU hang up first!"

And since the soundtrack of this film is so popular and has remained in the hearts of filmi fans for decades -- I have to post the two other major hit songs from this film:

It's also interesting to note that it seems like most people who have seen Bobby more recently dislike the film, or just fail to connect with it. I'm not sure if Bobby only worked within the context of the timeframe it was released. Perhaps fans who grew up with the film and the songs simply feel a strong sense of nostalgia when it comes to it. But I actually really enjoyed it as a film on it's own in this most recent re-watch. There were whole new layers to analyzing Raju's character, perhaps influenced by my own love for Harry Potter and sympathizing with the neglected young boy. But I definitely still liked it! I'm also curious if these same folks who disliked Bobby would feel the same way watching Maine Pyar Kiya, which has a strong late 80s early 90s vibe to it. Or if they would feel differently if Raj Kapoor had stuck with his original plan of having Raju and Bobby die tragically at the end?

Ultimately I'm glad RK decided to give the film an optimistic ending. Perhaps he had learned from the failure of Mera Naam Joker and sought to provide the commercial 'happy ending'. But I believe he did far more than create just a 'teenage love story' ... he told a sad, bittersweet but hopeful story of a young boy that was searching for love.

Aaaaand Dimple pic-spam! For fun and fashion!

For more blog posts about the illustrious Kapoor Clan, be sure to visit Katherine of Totally Filmi's KAPOOR KHAZANA links!


  1. I've seen...half of this film and I'm not sure why I abandoned it, because I remember enjoying it, and particularly LOVING Jhoot Bole Kauwa...

    This is such a lovely, thoughtful write-up, it definitely makes me want to revisit the film and actually finish watching it this time, particularly having just seen MNJ and starting to explore some of Raj Kapoor's other films. I really like your point of view - how the film is essentially about Raju and how his parents have failed him - sigh...that's so sad, though.

  2. Good review! It's true, the movie is about a young and rather lost lad, not about Bobby (remember this was RK's vehicle to sponsor his his young son, so obviously its about him rather than his female lead). The movie was iconic when it came out, especially to my generation who were young teens at that time. And though the music isn't what I would call excellent, the associations my gen have with them makes it unforgettable.
    BTW I love 'curmudgeonly', I am plotting some word-plagiarism here :)
    If you are interested, have a look at my music-review for Bobby

  3. Great Review , I felt the same while watching it again recently, and the whole look and aesthetic of the film is to die for, one of my all time favourites and here's to amny more blogging years ahead, i've been away from the blogospshere but i realised you turned one a while ago.....xx

  4. It's totally time for me to watch this film.

  5. Now I really can't wait to see it in July :) I'll definitely be back to tell you if, as a representative of generation X-Y, I was able to enjoy it in the same way people did when it came out. Young Rishi is sure to have my approval, that I can already tell, and my, does Dimple look young and sweet!!!!

    Can't wait! Thank you for the write-up!

  6. Great review, def. adding it up to my to-watch list :)

  7. I'm with Ness - this is a great write-up and talks about things I've never heard mentioned about this film before! I know I'll have a lot to think about next time I re-watch it.

    Message notwithstanding, I still think Raj Kapoor is a creepy old man (among other things). He can contextualize it however he wants, but he still gets his lady(girl?)-skin. :D

  8. Thanks for your comments guys! For those of you who haven't seen it, or for those planning a re-watch, please do let me know your thoughts afterwards!

    Beth - if the skin shows in RK Films bothers you, I don't recommend Ram Teri Ganga Maili. :-)

  9. HAHAHA No, it doesn't actually bother me. I just think it's funny that he got away with it :)

  10. Hello Amaluu,
    Well, I don't mind saying I'm a RK fan (I know Beth isn't :-) And I would like to thank you for making me want to see that one ASAP! Plus I believe it's rather simplistic anyway to reduce RK to his creepiness, even if it's there. There's more in his movies than ogling, surely.