Pushpak ( the mythical flying vehicle )
Genre : Comedy, Thriller, Romance, Silent movie
Year : 1988
Writer : Srinivasa Rao Singeetham
Music : V S Narasimhan
Pushpak is a film that breaks the stereotype of the mainstream Indian Cinema, and amazes you with its simplicity and depth.The movie is silent, with no dialogue whatsoever, yet it deals with a complex and realistic plot. It manages to pull this off, thanks to the acting genius of Kamal Hassan. Many consider it as the greatest Indian movie ever made (IMDB rates this movie at 9.1 out of 10, which is quite high) even though it did not do well in the box office.The only thing that seems to tarnish an otherwise wonderful creation is the inclusion of a couple of toilet humor scenes for cheap laughs.
The plot deals with the adventures of a struggling, unemployed young man in Bangalore, who is able to step into the shoes of an extremely rich man by chance. In this guise, he finds love and material happiness, but discovers the other unpleasant aspects of being in that position. Finally, he realizes his folly, gives up his masquerade and returns to his old life.
The movie tries to present a number of real life issues which plagued the urban youth in the 80s, and still continue to do so, in spite of the the growth of the country after the economic reformation in the 90s
- The divide between the rich and the poor in India.
- The problem of the impoverished youth, who despite having education cannot find employment.
- How wealth can dilute the morals of honest people.
- The question of whether love can transcend the barrier of social station and wealth.
How does one tell a story without dialogue?
Background music is a very important part of Indian films in general. In this film, it is used in a very creative manner to stitch together the narrative.Each character is associated with a particular musical theme, which sets the mood and provides a template for understanding him or her.
For e.g. the theme that plays in various forms in the romantic scenes, is also incorporated as the tune of the heroines car horn. Whenever Tinu Anand, the psycho, appears in a scene, he is accompanied by ominous techno music. The character of the rich drunkard is built up with a lazy, slow and humorous tune. You can draw parallels with the way music tells the story in some dialogue-free cartoons, although to western ears the musical vocabulary would sound unfamiliar.
The action and suspense sequences also help keep the narrative moving fast, and there is no sense of dragging on. The regular doses of comedy also help to tone down the seriousness of the narrative. Finally, the film ends neither like a fairytale, nor like a drama, but rather like real life itself.
Instead of just giving away the entire movie, I will just describe a few interesting scenes:
- In the opening scene, the hero has just woken up. He lives in a tiny room in a cheap dilapidated community lodge . The chaiwalla's boy delivers tea to all the tenants and carefully measures out half a glass. In the opposite room, a tenant raises his full glass of tea in a sort of toast (to gloat that he can afford a full glass). The hero is frustrated, looks around, and spies a crow which gives him inspiration. He takes out a box filled with pins, coins and buttons and proceeds to put them into his tiny glass, until the level of tea has risen to the top. He then he raises his glass in toast proudly, and drinks the tea, satisfied.
- Our hero, totally broke, loiters over a bridge, when he spots an old beggar sitting on the sidewalk. Not wasting the chance, he immediately takes out the sole bit of money he has left, a rupee coin, and starts flaunting it, tossing and catching it, giving the beggar a patronizing look of oneupmanship. The beggar grins, and starts extracting his collection of money from various places - behind his ear, his rolled up shirt sleeves, shirt collar and so on, dropping note after note on the sack on which he sits. The heroes expression grows more and more pained until the beggar parts the two halves of his sack, revealing a complete layer of currency. Thereupon the hero is suddenly very interested in the traffic flowing below the bridge, and turns away.
- Soon after he arrives in front of a huge five star hotel, where he first sees the drunkard. The drunkard is eating an ice-cream cone (which the hero would never be able to afford) and throws the half eaten cone on the road. He hails a taxi, fumbles with his wallet dropping a bunch of money on the ground, and picks it up erratically. One note he misses, and it lies just under the wheel of the taxi. Before the hero can exclaim, the vehicle drives off, the note sticks to the rear tire and is gone, spinning around and around. The hero, despondently shifts, until his shadow is aligned with that of the hotel emblem (a pair of wings and a circle). The combined shadow makes it look like he has wings and he reaches out with his hand until its shadow grasps the fallen ice-cream cone.
- Much later, the hero has assumed the identity of the rich drunk, and faces moral qualms about his ill-gotten gains.He happens to walk over the same over-bridge, and finds that the beggar has died. The city workers are removing the corpse and a small crowd has gathered around to watch. A worker picks up the old sack and attempts to shake the dust off it. Immediately money flies like confetti all around, the crowd dives in and everyone is scrambling to grab the money. Even the workers carrying the corpse drop it on the street and plunge into the mad fray. Then the hero understands that the greed for money makes anyone compromise their principles, and resolves to do the right thing and return back to his old life.
- In the film, the girls father is a stage magician, who is played by the real life stage magician K S Ramesh.
- Sameer Khakkar plays the rich drunkard, his other famous role was in the popular Hindi TV serial Nukkad where he played the part of Khopdi, also a perpetual drunk.
- Although the movie is silent, it was released in various states under regional titles. Each version simply changed the background audio in a particular scene where the hero and heroine are in a movie theater, and another where a radio is playing a song.
- A large part of the movie was filmed in the Windsor Manor hotel in Bangalore, which became iconic after this movie was released.
- The musician for this movie, V S Narasimhan has recently released an acclaimed fusion album Resonance ( Fusion music combines Indian classical music with western instruments and scales )
- Director Singeetham has directed a number of light comedy movies which have met with good success - Kadhala Kadhala, Little John, Mumbai express, Ladies Only. He recently celebrated his 75th birthday.