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Rabbit and Tortoise
Dec 18, 2004 02:47 PM 4507 Views
(Updated Dec 18, 2004 03:05 PM)





We all probably have been educated with that story of a race between rabbit and tortoise. A persistent and wily tortoise defeats an overconfident and supercilious rabbit in an otherwise inequitable marathon. If life were to be a marathon can the tortoise defeat the rabbit!

In an ideal world, you would think so. But in today?s world where everyone vouches for shortcut to success and where definition of success is amount of wealth, can the tortoise overtake the rabbit!

Definitely, Sai Paranjape thinks so and hence the movie Katha (1983). The story is situated in a lower middle class chawl of Mumbai and deals with lives of ordinary Mumbaikars. People of the chawl are like a one big family, who cherish each other?s success and share the failure and grievances.


Rajaram P. Joshi (Naseeruddin Shah) is a tortoise, who left his aging parents in a village for Mumbai in search of a better life. He is an idealist packed with typical village qualities such as loyalty, hard work, honestly and ethics. He loves a girl next door, Sandhya Karnik (Deepti Naval) but cannot express his feelings. He works in a shoe company as a clerk and believes road to top is being right at the right place and at the right time.

Bashudev (Farooq Sheikh), Rajaram?s fast talking friend comes to visit from out of nowhere only to make himself home. He is our rabbit, who believes road to success is easy and anything can be achieved by deceits and lies. And believe it or not, he manages to get a bigger position in Rajaram?s organization by lying about his past experiences. He also starts wooing Sandhya and soon she falls for him. The Karniks decide to marry Sandhya and Bashu much to the misery of Rajaram.

So, who wins here? The rabbit or the tortoise? Of course, it is a movie and it has to have a happy ending, right? Bashu?s affair with his Boss? wife (gorgeous Mallika Sarabhai) is exposed and he is fired. His lie to Karniks is exposed and he leaves the chawl on the day of the marriage. And predictably, Rajaram gets promoted at his job and agrees to marry Sandhya, who had already shared intimate moments with Bashu and is pregnant with his child.

My dream Cast

Farooq Shaikh, Deepti Naval and Naseeruddin Shah ? a dream star cast. Naseeruddin Shah, a fantastic actor, has done a remarkable job. But it is Farooq Shaikh who steals the show. For the first time, I saw him in a character with negative shades. He usually excels in the role of a hapless onlooker in most of his movies, but in this one he attempts a different character of a twisted charmer and is surprisingly stupendous. Deepti Naval has hardly anything to do. Mallika Sarabhai does what she is supposed to do, look sexy.

Paranjape?s direction is kind of akin to a stage play direction. The movie moves from one scene to other just like a stage play. The storyline, screenplay and dialogues compensate the basic movie setup. The music (Rajkamal) is easily forgettable and can be fast forwarded.

The Crux

Bottom-line is that good wins over evil. An honest, straightforward person like Rajaram succeeds in a highly challenging and deceitful environment and that without compromising with him ethics and principles. Is it possible in reality? Honestly, my personal experience says otherwise. All through my life of 25 years, I have seen cheaters, thieves and backstabbers win and make it big. An honest person is penalized to stand up to his principles.

A personal example ? my father has been in construction business in Ahmedabad for past 36 years. He has built some of the most fabulous structure in the city including the famous Trade Center and Center Point. Never ever in his career did he compromise with honesty and ethics in an otherwise extremely mucky construction industry. What did he get in the end! The developers refused to pay dues in the end. He failed to get any project for a period of time because he could not match the absurdly low bids by other contractors, who were happily ready to play with concrete mix proportions to get the job and make money ? to hell with public safety.

But hey, it?s the tortoise which wins, right? The earthquake of January 2001 vindicated dad?s firm position. Several buildings fell and several hundreds died. Not a single building built by my father failed, a remarkable achievement and guess what, the phone started ringing again!

In the end!

Hard work always pays. Road to success has many twists and turns, many bumps, rivers and crossings. There will be traffic jams. There will be reverses. But does that mean, we compromise with the principles and ethics! I cannot certainly think of doing that. At the end of the day, you have to give account of your deeds, at least to yourself.

In my 70s, if I think I am guilty of cheating someone, deceiving someone, I probably will not have a smooth transition from life to death. A dignified death is as important as a dignified life and that can be achieved only by standing up to the principles and ethics.

As for the movie, if you are into a realistic cinema, if you like watching offbeat, non-masala movies, Katha is right for you. Otherwise, you can let it pass. There is a subtle element of comedy and heavy dose of emotional moments. For me, I would hate to miss a Farooq Shaikh, Deepti Naval movie.

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