As Nakhrewali pointed out in the comments, Betaab certainly has had me thinking a lot of "thinky thoughts", which is probably one of the reasons why I really do like it so much.
So many 'thinky thoughts" that I decided that I'd devote one post to the topic of "Betaab: Ten Things I Like About You".
(See what I did there? Hee.)
So, without further ado:
1. People, it's written by Javed Freaking Akhtar!
That's not to say every single thing Javed Akhtar has written has been gold, but seriously, even Javed Akhtar on a bad day can write circles around a lot of people.
And if I agree that Betaab maybe doesn't have the most original plot, or that the Shrew device isn't the best choice he could have made, I still have to argue that the script is solid, often compelling, contains a few twists I didn't expect. Sunny gets a "classic line" -- well, okay, maybe not so classic, as it really didn't stick, and was replaced by more defining dialogues as his career progressed. Ideas are seeded at one point in the film, and they are returned to later (for example, early on, Sunny tells his mother he understands her worrying about him, she's his mother after all -- and that exchange comes back later in the film, when Sunny is angry at his mother, and she justifies what she did for the love of him, telling him she couldn't help it, she's his mother after all. It's a nice touch).
There's the device of Roma's scarf that wends its way through the film, finally becoming the banner of their love by the end of the film. It's also nice touch.
And there's the letter Sunny writes to Roma to tell her he's coming to rescue her and take her away to marry her. It is so poetic and so romantic, and it made my heart go "ping".
2. The Music is by R.D. Burman, and it's fabulous.
And that's all I have to say about that.
3. The film's setting is GLORIOUS.
More beautiful than Switzerland. Take that, YashRaj!
Right from the film's opening frames, I fell in love with its setting. I'm not alone. After the film's release, the valley in Kashmir where Sunny's farm is set became such a popular tourist destination that it's now known as the "Betaab Valley". I'd go there in a heartbeat if I could, it's so lush and so beautiful. And I'll get another chance to see it on film again sometime this year, when Imtiaz Ali's film Rockstar (with Ranbir Kapoor) is released, as some of it was filmed there.
(Yes, you can infer from that that the reason I really want to go see Rockstar is neither Imtiaz Ali, nor Ranbir Kapoor, but the Betaab Valley.)
4. The film throws up some very interesting visuals.
Apart from the beauty of the landscape itself, so crisp and bright you can almost smell the fresh Kashmiri air, I found the camera work in Betaab kind of interesting. Things shot from lots of interesting angles made the film more visually interesting than I actually had expected it to be. The other thing I found kind of intriguing is that I found the film *very* difficult to screencap, and I think it's because there's so much motion in the film -- not only in the action scenes (always hard to screencap), but just throughout the whole film.
I didn't find it jarring to watch -- but I do ask myself if all that motion gives the film a kind of energy that suits the film's youthful stars. Just something I considered, and in any case, it made the film more enjoyable for me to watch.
5. I said it before, but really Annu Kapoor is quite lovely in this film.
I almost love him more here than I did in Mr. India.
6. Sonu Nigam plays the young version of Sunny
7. BUT! AND ALSO! The film has BUZO THE WONDERDOG!
You know, I'm so not a dog person that normally I'm immune to the appeal of them, but not so here in Betaab. Sunny's dog, Buzo, is one of the best characters in the film. I find it so sweet that Sunny is constantly playing with the dog, that the fact that Buzo seems very comfortable with Roma signals to Sunny's mother that there's more to the relationship between Sunny and Roma than meets the eye.
THE DOG GETS HIS OWN ACTION SCENE!
I am not kidding. Sunny has gone to get the priest for the wedding, the baddies turn up to kidnap Roma, and Buzo? Not only chases after them, HE FIGHTS WITH THE VILLAINS, ON THE MOVING BUGGY, AS THE VILLAINS ARE SPIRITING ROMA AWAY!
Seriously, I can't even show you a photo, because the dog was just EVERYWHERE, TRYING TO TAKE DOWN THESE VILLAINS AND SAVE ROMA!
I love the dog.
8. Prem Chopra's villain was more subtle than I've seen from him in other films, and? He's stylin'....
I am totally not kidding about this. The fashions in this film deserve a whole post to themselves (not unlike the brief one I did devoted to Sridevi's clothing in Mr. India). You may not be a fan of 80s styles, and having lived through them and worn them once, I'd say I probably don't want to do it again. No, I *definitely* don't want to do it again.
But -- and in complete and utter seriousness -- one of the things that strikes me when I watch some 80s films is how very, very fashionable and up-to-the-minute the styles are for the time. It's always really hard to judge fashions in retrospect, and really easy to poke fun of them, and I'm occasionally guilty of that myself.
But this is what we wore in the 80s -- or what we really, really, really wanted to wear, if we wanted to be considered fashionable. Roma has clothes in this film that I actually owned myself, or that I would have *died* to own IN THE 80S.
9. And while I'm on the subject of the 80s...
Despite its flaws, I really do think Betaab is another one of those films that adds weight to the argument against the 80s as a total Decade of Doom with respect to film-making. It's not going to be a film that will find its way on to everyone's favorites lists, and with time, its flaws perhaps tend to overshadow what is good about the film.
But Betaab was a massive hit in 1983. The only film that was bigger at the box office that year was Manmohan Desai's Coolie. It made Sunny Deol a star, and it nabbed him a nomination for a Filmfare Best Actor award (along with Kamal Haasan, Om Puri, and Rajesh Khanna -- all of whom lost out to Naseerudin Shah).
And I like to think that's because the film had some things going for it, and that, as a result, it doesn't deserve to be relegated to some kind of 80s wasteland.
10. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
Betaab occupies a place in my heart not unlike that of Karan Johar's Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. KKHH is a film that I kind of hate, and yet, I adore it all at the same time.
I hate the first part of the film. I hate the filmi college setting, I hate the fact that Rahul is so insensitive towards Anjali, I hate the fact that he cannot see how much she loves him, and that he ends up with Tina. The first half of this film just gets on my nerves so badly that I cannot even begin to express it.
And then? Kuch kuch hota hai. Something happens.
In the case of KKHH, I love the film from the moment it gets to the train scene -- you know what I mean if you've seen the film, the moment where Anjali decides to leave college and Rahul and Tina go to the train station, and nothing changes, Anjali leaves, and yet. Everything changes. Kuch kuch hota hai. And from that moment on, no matter how silly the film gets, or no matter what cracks I can still see in it -- I adore this film.
And there's something about that in Betaab for me. From the moment Sunny and Roma start working together and fall in love, something happens for me as a viewer, and no matter what else I feel about the film, it will always be made better by whatever the mystical, filmi something is.
Ah, yes. I've told you what I like about this film, but I really, truly haven't told you why I absolutely and unequivocally ADORE it. Yet.