I grew up in a township with dozens of other kids - and not one day was dull. But as we turned into teenagers, I saw to my horror that my friends, with whom I had always been on the same wavelength, were turning into movie-buffs. They spoke incessantly about movies and songs and Anil Kapoor's moustache and Madhuri Dixit's smile. I could speak volumes about Mark Twain and the Mahabharatha, but my friends would have nothing to do with a girl who thought that "Chandni ribbons" looked like mosquito nets.
It got worse. Childish giggles turned into dreamy sighs as I saw my once-sane friends walking around looking moonstruck and claiming that romance had entered their lives. A bunch of them claimed that the love in QSQT was the purest of them all, while two others were in love with the love in Maine Pyar Kiya. Some of them swore by Roja. And on top of all that, they asked me, ME, which movie introduced romance to me. I offered a tentative "Errr... The Sound of Music?"... and it sealed my fate further as the girl who doesn't know anything about Bollywood.
I have never been much of a movie-goer, but there were some movies I loved. Some brought laughter, some brought tears, but "Romance"? What was that?
And then, one night, Doordarshan screened Papeeha. And Romance, with a capital R, tiptoed into my life.
Papeeha is a wonderful, little-known, movie, made by that fabulous film-maker Sai Paranjpye. Winnie Paranjpye plays an anthropologist who goes to the forests to study tribals. There she meets the dashing Milind Gunaji, who plays a forest officer. In the course of the movie, they fall in love, and after a brief misunderstanding, they get together again. A simple, sweet, love story.
But the movie totally swept me off my feet. It was a strong, heady feeling, and it made me feel that I was the heroine and it was I who met the hero and fell in love with him. I saw myself in the dainty shoes of the very charming Winnie Paranjpye, she of the sparkling eyes and impish smile. I went with her to the forest, and was overwhelmed by the presence of the brooding, serious and handsome Milind Gunaji. I was a part of their witty conversations, recognized their love before either of them acknowledged it, agonized over their misunderstandings, and exulted at their reunion.
I don't know what did it. It might have been the unlikely location for the story - a forest, a village. It could have been the absence of complications - no villains, no strict parents, no interfering relatives, no slapstick comedy, no atrocious makeup, no grandiose settings. It could have been the stark contrast between the energetic, loveable and sweet heroine and the arrogant, egoistic, carelessly stylish hero. Oh, it could have even been that both the hero and the heroine were not at all glamourous in the conventional sense, and that made them so real, so attractive. It could have even been the fact that both of them had definite, unambiguous occupations. It could have been the underlying theme - of saving the forests, the life of the tribals.
Or more likely, it could even have been the simple fact that I was at a silly, sentimental, vulnerable age. Or it could just be the magic of Sai Paranjpye at work.
But whatever it was, it became one of my favourite movies. And it still is, even after I have watched hundreds of movies ever since. I haven't watched this movie again, nor have I even heard of it being spoken of, and I haven't even met anybody who has watched the movie. [Even now, in the age of Google and internet, I wasn't able to find any info on the movie - except for a few lines on the subject of the movie]. What a gigantic pity.
And oh, when the movie was screened, Milind Gunaji was an unknown actor. I had missed his name in the titles, and agonized over the name of the actor for a very long time. So, it was a pleasant surprise when I saw him in the trailer of Fareb. I lost no time in finding out who he is, and then finally, I put the name on the face.
So at last, I had something to tell my friends. "Papeeha" brought romance into my life, I said. But it didn't really make any difference. Nobody had heard of the movie, and the actors were nobodies. I was still the boring girl, until we all grew up and knew better ;).
Anyway, Papeeha is a beautiful movie! I would love to watch it again [and find out what effect it will have on me now, after more than ten years!]