Review: Souten

Posted on April 2, 2006


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Mahima Chaudhary hits rock bottom in a love triangle with women in bikini tops.

APR 2, 2006 – BEFORE THE DAYS OF INTERNET PORN, adolescent males of all ages could be found loitering in front of theatres screening films very subtly named Khuli Khidki or Nashili Jawani. One look at the poster – typically, a buxom no-name biting her lower lip – would tell you all you needed to know. Plot-shot be damned! It would essentially be a series of sequences that could be described thus: buxom girl takes a bubble bath; buxom girl wears white sari and gets caught in the rain; buxom girl wears skimpy top and jogs towards camera in slow motion, and so on. By no stretch of imagination could this be categorised as cinema, but these movies had a noble social function to perform and they performed it without pretensions.

For a while, Souten – The Other Woman looks like it’s going to be one of those films. Mitali (Mahima Chaudhary) is unhappily married to Ranbir (Gulshan Grover), a Rajasthani royal who has no time for her. So when she spots young neighbour Raj (Vikram Singh), who’s returned after completing his MBA, she begins hoping that that could also mean Male Body Available. She’s so lonely and so unsatisfied, it doesn’t matter that this Raj has the personality of a plate of curd rice. The next thing you know, they’re behind gauzy curtains, going at it like rabbits. (Or should I say camels, considering the desert setting and all!)

At this juncture, the screenwriter clearly had a crisis of conscience: Why stop with one heroine with bad taste in men when you can have two? And so we have Sapna (Kiran Rathod). She’s Mitali’s stepdaughter, and she turns up about the time Raj realises the futility of an affair with a married woman. (That big rifle Ranbir constantly carries around may have had something to do with this decision.) Raj and Sapna fall in love, and she shows how much she cares for him by revealing parts of the female anatomy not seen on the silver screen since Mandakini came under a waterfall in Ram Teri Ganga Maili.

In case you haven’t realised, this maabeti lust-triangle – which, in all fairness, should have been titled Souten – The Mother Woman – is a sleazy reworking of The Graduate. (There, Dustin Hoffman was advised to take up a career in plastics; here, considering all the frantic lovemaking, the material of choice would clearly be rubbers.) If that isn’t depressing enough, Shakti Kapoor, as Raj’s brother, informs us that he does wear underwear. Then Sapna goes missing in the sea, and Raj tries to find her by shouting her name – presumably because her underwater sense of hearing is most acute! After a point, it isn’t even campy fun anymore – especially not after hearing the Gayatri mantra being chanted in the background, or seeing all those lovely Rajasthani locales being put in service of such a laughable movie.

We’re meant to care about how Raj, Mitali and Sapna sort out their sordid relationships, but how can you take anything seriously when Sapna says she wants to pursue higher studies in… Goa! (Hey, why merely study when you can study in a bikini top?) This is when you realise you’ve got to respect the likes of Khuli Khidki and Nashili Jawani. They’re sleazy trash, all right, but at least, they don’t pretend to be anything else. This, on the other hand, wants to dole out skin as well as sentiment; it wants to leave you teary and titillated all at once. I guess you can tell how much thought and effort went into this movie by the fact that its name is subtitled with the most obvious English translation: Souten – The Other Woman. (As opposed to what? Souten – The Pomeranian Next Door?)

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Posted in: Cinema: Hindi