The one film I knew I absolutely wanted to re-watch during Sridevipalooza was Mr. India (1987, dir. Shekhar Kapur). And I have. Several times. And no matter what I do, the only thing I can think of to write about Mr. India is this:
OMG! THIS IS ONE OF MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE FILMS EVER! I FREAKING ADORE THIS FILM!
Which isn't going to do much towards contributing any kind of thoughtful analysis of the film for Sridevipalooza.
Problem is, what do you say about Mr. India that hasn't already been said? Shekhar Kapur's only commercial Bollywood film (he is probably known more for films like Elizabeth and Bandit Queen). Terrific performance by Sridevi, notably in the picturisations for "Hawa Hawaii" and "Kaata nahi katate" (perhaps the ultimate wet sari sequence). Amrish Puri's classic villain, Mogambo, with his most memorable of lines: "Mogambo khush hua" ("Mogambo is pleased.")
And Anil Kapoor as Arun, Mr. India himself, the sweet and unassuming everyman who cares for his orphans and yet manages (with the help of a gadget that renders him invisible) to find his inner superhero and save India from evildoers.
Not to mention the dependable cook Calendar (the always delightful Satish Kaushik), the raggle taggle band of adorable orphans, justice meted out using a golden statue of Hanuman, and a cockroach.
Then I read the post by Lindsey Baker entitled "Technicolor Fashion: The Wizard of Oz" over on the Colourlovers blog. I was mesmerized and fascinated. In it, Baker discusses how the use of colour and costume design create characters and generally enhance the experience of watching the film for the viewer.
After reading that post, I immediately knew I wanted to do something like this with a Bollywood film -- and quite honestly, I had it in mind to look at Farah Khan's Om Shanti Om. And to do it much later in the year, to give myself some time to play with the idea and do some research.
But after watching Mr. India for about the umpteenth time, I decided that maybe it deserved to be the guinea pig for my curiousity about colours and characters.
Now, I cannot possibly begin to match Lindsey Baker in trying to apply this idea to Mr. India -- partly because I just don't have the knowledge required to do what she's done. I did go searching to see if I could find out who had done the costumes for the film, but either there was no particular person assigned to them, or the information never made it into the credits, or the end credits for the film either never existed or the manufacturer of the DVD edited them out (it happens). A search of Wikipedia and IMDb shed no further light on the subject. The best I can do is look at who did the Art Direction, in this case Bijon Das Gupta, and wonder if he contributed anything beyond the sets (though I think the sets here probably contribute as much at times as the costumes do).
But still -- for me, it's an interesting exercise, and I'm willing to share my thoughts and what I've played with as I've looked at the film.
The costumes for The Wizard of Oz, writes Lindsey Baker, "serve firmly to establish characters as particular individuals", and I think the same can be said for those of Mr. India.
Take the film's classic villain, Mogambo:
Shades of silver, gold, black and red, symbolizing power, wealth, violence. Mogambo is dressed like a ruler, because that's his ultimate aim: to rule the world.
Then there's the dependable Professor Sinha (veteran actor Ashok Kumar in a small but key role), who provides Arun with the key to his invisibility:
The professor is dressed in shades of brown and grey, proving he is reliable, conservative, intelligent -- in fact, everything a good scientist should be.
Color by COLOURlovers
And then there's Mr. India himself, Arun Bhaiyya:
Color by COLOURlovers
Here's the thing about Arun: much has been made over the fact that he's a superhero with no costume, and that his outfit for the entire film consists of black slacks, tweedy jacket, and a taupe canvas hat. But Arun's costume suits him perfectly: again, the colours show us he's practical, dependable. And he's dressed like the everyman he really is: Arun is one of the little people, like the people he tries to help and defend in the film. Dressed as he is, the viewer can easily identify with him and his cause. When we cheer for Arun, it's because we can put ourselves in his shoes. Even if he has the fabulous bracelet of invisibility to help him.
And here's another thing about Arun: he may be colourless, but his life certainly isn't. The colour in Arun's life comes from the orphan children he cares for:
And also from the old fashioned car he drives:
Arun may be a festival of dependable neutrals, but his life is dotted with red and yellow to represent the love and optimism he exudes And he really deserves a second colour palette to represent that:
Now. In a post in honour of Sridevipalooza, there's been a decided absence of Sridevi. But quite honestly, Sridevi's Seema deserves a post all of her own. Stay tuned for Part Two of Mr. India.