Dongri nights

“Moosa’s hashish was black and soft, small balls dusted lightly with a pearly fungus. It swam you instantly to narcotic depths – Dost swore it was at least a quarter opium – and quickened the mind, ideas, inferences, images, feelings, connecting at fantastic speed, too fast for tongues to keep up.”

“An hour, or maybe minutes, went by. My body felt as if it had acquired an aura of cool blue light. A huge joy surged right through the street, transfiguring it. A scrawny red cockerel on a roof opposite puffed out its chest and scraped up a hearty cry. My worries had vanished. It no longer seemed anything but natural and delightful to be sitting in this grimy alley, drinking tea. Two old muslim gentlemen were taking a walk, neat skullcaps offset by impeccable spade-shaped beards (wagging as they talked). Their shaven upper-lips made them look Mesopotamian. A blind beggar approached. Loose curls, sightless eyes like a Homeric bard. My thoughts were scattering like the flights of pigeons above Moosa’s,fighting the wind – up, up – banking and circling, in a sky that was turning royal blue. A hand grabbed at my foot and I jumped. A small boy was crawling under the bed to retrieve a marble. I watched him fire it off, bending his middle finger back like a medieval arbalest. A group of ragged girls squatted in a gutter, setting light to some paper. It twisted and slowly disintegrated into flakes of flame, that were lifted by tiny currents into the air…At some point, a goat climbed onto my charpay and lay there chewing, watching me with malevolent yellow eyes”

“‘Give me one fact and a goli of Moosa’s,’ Dost used to say, ‘and I can infer the world.’”

Raj Kapoor in Guru Dutt’s “Main nashe mein hoon” (1959)

Gloriously out-of-sync clip from Guru Dutt’s classic 1959 movie starring Raj Kapoor. The great man is so drunk that he can’t keep in time with his own lips. The playback singer is Mukesh and the song by Shankar-Jaikishan. Bhalu heard this playing incessantly in the Dongri bazaars during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. 

Zãhid, sharãb píné dé, masjid méin baith kar,

yã wõh jagãh batã dé jahãn par khudã na hõ . . .

Mujhkõ yaarõn maaf karna, main nashé mén hoon

Priest,  let me  sit here in the temple with my liquor-pot,

Let me be, or else show me some other place where God is not . . .

Forgive me  friends, I do believe  I’m rather worse for wear

Rajesh Khanna and Asha Parekh in “Kati Patang” (1970)

Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai  makes no appearance in The Death of Mr Love, but it is a song (another bar, another girl, another drunk) that Bhalu would have known well as it was everywhere during his Dongri period.

With this clip you also get a couple of minutes of the film, setting the context. It’s in Hindi, so here’s a translation.

[Title sequence] 0:00:00-0:00:21

Madhavi [Asha Parekh] is ushered into Kamal’s house by Kamal’s faithful old retainer Shabbu.

Shabbu: Come.

She sits.

Madhavi: Shabbu uncle? Your boss goes out every night?

Shabbu: Yes, I keep tackling him about it, but he doesn’t listen. All day he’s caught up with his work and in the evenings he gets restless. Sometimes he’s in a club. Sometimes in the jungle, wandering about, trying to drown his sorrows in drink.

Madhavi: So he drinks alcohol too?

Shabbu: He didn’t used to touch it at all. He lived in England for five years and never touched a drop. But now…

Madhavi: What’s happened now?

Shabbu: Look at it one way nothing, look at it another what hasn’t? His reward for virtue   was to be deceived. Since then he’s been little  crazy.

 

Madhavi: Who deceived him?

 

Shabbu: A woman.

Madhavi: Woman?

Shabbu: Yes, my dear, what should I hide from you? His father wanted him to marry this girl. Without even seeing her he got ready for the wedding.

Madhavi (quietly): Then what happened?

Shabbu: Something inconceivable – his bridegroom’s procession reached the bride’s house to find that the bride had run away.

Madhavi (suspicion dawning): This… what is this you’re saying?

Shabbu: He was like a young god. That girl must be a demon from hell, who without even seeing him, broke his heart.

Madhavi (horror struck): Where was this wedding?

Shabbu: In Gangapur.

Madhavi’s eyes open very wide. Slowly she rises from the table. She is horrified, her chin trembles, her face registers a dozen varieties of misery (0:01:44-0:01:53) as the experiences the shock of realisation that Aristotle calls anagnorisis.

Cut to Kamal in a bar, knocking back a whiskey. CUE SONG.(0:01:54)

CUE SONG (0:01:55)

An amusing summary of the plot of Kati Patang

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