Lakshmi in Pink

Lakshmi (Shabana Azmi) started well enough in Amar, Akbar, Anthony'(1977), enterprising, feisty, in bell-bottoms. Luring eager, lecherous men into dark corners to be hit upon by her stepbrother (Ranjeet) and his goons. Turned out that she didn’t really want to do this work. Her grandmother meanwhile protected a set of gold earrings from her stepmother (Nadira), and Inspector Amar (Vinod Khanna) was convinced that Lakhsmi was a good girl. Promptly, he invited her grandmother and her to live in his house, and promptly they agreed.

The next we see her, she is wrapped up in a sari, demure, picking Amar’s washing from the clothesline, while he swings on a hammock, book in hand. She looks longingly at him, he sings of love, looking not at her, but at the sky. Though later, he does consent to sit back to back with her on the porch, while it rains outside.

The next we see her, she happens to be on the same road where her stepbrother is kidnapping Jenny (Parveen Babi). And like all true blue Hindi film heroines, she runs towards trouble and not away from it. She hides in the trunk, to be caught moments later by her smarter stepbrother.

The nexShabana in pinkt we see her is as a reluctant bridesmaid to a reluctant bride, Jenny.

And in the end again, demure in a sari, family photo time.

For a fortnight, the vision of that bridesmaid would not leave me. Every time I closed my eyes, I would see a woman in pink. Shocking pink. A pink gown, a pink train edged with white frills trailing behind her, a pink veil pinned on  her head, with bunches of pink lace flowers on either ear. She looks trapped, helpless, in a state of shock, very, very unhappy in her pink dress. She looks like a kid who has been told that the school bell is never going to ring again, and she will never be let out of the classroom. She looks like she is about to burst out crying like my brother Rolu on his first birthday, hot and scratchy in too-much-finery.

She has reason enough to cry. She’s pitched against Parveen Babi, who looks glamorous in whatever she wears, lemon yellow, or postbox red, with matching hats, handkerchiefs, purses and shoes. And Neetu Singh, who couldn’t care less what she’s wearing. Shararas and burqas are not a big deal for her, since she’s even carried off checked shirts and high waisted polyster pants with her bubbly charm.

I wondered how long I was to see this pink before my eyes. Until I saw blue.

Lily (Sonia Sahni) in Andaz (1971). Now Sonia Sahni  was a glamour icon for me in childhood, and I longed for the day I could wear dresses with holes in the unlikeliest places like her. Sadly, that ambition was fulfilled only once.

Anyway, so when she appeared at Badal’s (Roopesh Kumar) party, wearing a gown made of blue Banarasi silk, I grinned with pleasure. The halter back was pretty tame, as also a small round hole on her belly. But what had my eyes popping out were the slits on both thighs that almost touched her waist. While she lurched around drunkenly and even cavorted brazenly on the floor, I went into super-protective Mom mode, wondering where are the shorts? Is she actually wearing a thong for this number? I hope she doesn’t flash.

Badal however remains indifferent to her seductive charms, since he has 2 firangi babes on his arms, and even one firangi girl serving drinks, and several other firangi couples smooching around the room. Fed up of her throwing herself at him, he pushes her across the room. However, the next morning when his pal Satish walks into his bedroom, as people in Hindi films usually do, Badal in bed, with a girl snugly ensconced on either side gives a super-quick glance under the blanket and asks: “Where’s Lily?”

What? Or what?

I’m wondering what I made of this when I saw this otherwise sweet, family film at the age of 6.

But at least, the woman in blue has made the lady in pink go away.



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