Rating: 4/4 (Absolutely heartwarming and funny! Jaya Badhuri is endearing!)
After years of prodding from friends I am slowly discovering the wonderful world of Hrishikesh Mukherjee. I saw Bawarchi (बावर्ची) and was completely mesmerized by this heartwarming and funny yarn. The movie is set in the house of a retired postmaster where he lives with his large joint family of 3 sons, daughter-in-laws and grandchildren. The family members squabble a lot and do not help each other resulting in mutual problems. The house requires a cook and no person they hire for this job seems to capable of bearing with their bickering for more than a few days.
One day, a stranger named Raghu (Rajesh Khanna) walks into this racket house and volunteers to become their cook. They are initially suspicious of him, but he wins them over with his genuine charm, good humour and prodigous talent. He soon becomes like a family member, brings an end to their tiffs and makes them experience the genuine joy of helping each other out. But not all is what it seems, when we discover that Raghu is a conman who has his eye on the chest of valuables that belongs to the postmaster.
It is hard to watch Bawarchi without being overwhelmed by warmth and joy. Based on a Bengali play, Hrishikesh Mukherjee's tightly written script tugs at the heart strings. Freshness, good natured humour and hidden irony are all pervasive in the movie. The songs are few and pretty good, but the one which really stood out for me was the sad Tum Bin Jeevan Kaisa Jeevan? (What kind of life is it without you?).
Everyone has given stellar performances, but Rajesh Khanna outshines as the do-all know-all cook. He gets so much into the skin of this character that it is unimaginable to dream of anyone but him as the bawarchi. Very notable for me was Jaya Badhuri as Krishna, the orphaned grandchild of the post master who is ill treated by the family. From her very first appearance in Bawarchi, I was completely blown away by her angelic demeanour and beauty. (I have seen the older Jaya Bachchan in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, but this is the first time I saw her younger self!) It may seem odd given how old this movie is, but I am now so impressed with Jaya that I am eager to catch a few more of her movies! Bawarchi is a highly recommended movie from the Hrishikesh Mukherjee universe!