Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Albert Pinto...some thoughts...

I remember Albert Pinto lo gussa kyon aata hai from my childhood day, when it was shown on DD. For a kid, the title itself was intriguing enough. Then there was the scene I remember, of Albert (Naseeruddin Shah) driving his motorcycle, angry and shouting, 'look everyone, my girlfriend wears skirts!!', and also the vase scene (if you haven't seen it, watch it). I didn't remember much else about the other cast in the film.
So, watching it again, after nearly 20 years was a fresh experience for me. I discovered that the film is a star studded affair for a 80s art wave cinema. For example, I finally discovered that Albert's girlfriend is called Stella, played by Shabana Azmi. He also has a sister named Joan, played by Smita Patil, a brother named Dominic played by Dilip Dhawan. It also has a small part by Satish Shah not playing a comic, and Om Puri playing what can be called a character actor.
So, Albert Pinto ko gussa kyon aata hai?
Kyonki Albert ek garam dimaag wala ladka hai - he is hot headed. The movie begins with Albert driving out an imported car. He is a mechanic, giving the car a trial along with the car's real owner. The banter between them suggests that they are on great terms, the owner also offering him a Dunhill cigarette. The Albert we meet at the begnining of the film is angry, but for his station in life. He is isolated from his colleagues in the garage, thinks that he can simply succeed by working very hard. He takes the friendly behaviour towards him by his clients as a sign of friendship. A part o his aloofness has to do with his being a Christian. He thinks that Christians are the most forward thinking people in India, the first to send women to workplace, the first to allow them to wear jeans. He doesn't agree with his mill-worker father, who is planning to go on a strike, saying that strike are the works of goonda elements who only want to disrupt work like his rich clients tell him.
His belief is shattered gradually when, in subtle ways, he is reminded of his station in life. When is goes to deliver a car to a client, the lady of the house tips him for his services like his husband asked her to. Another time, when the imported car he is driving breaks down, people surround him, asking if it is his car, and he is unable to answer truthfully. Later when his father is roughed up by goondas hired to end the strike, the message finally reaches home. He looks up to his  rich clients for an answer, but gets the same reply - only goonds go on strike A hardworking man does not indulge in such things. That's when the penny drops for him.
The climax shows that Albert is still angry, but not at his surroundings, but at the rich capitalists. He for once identifies with the people around him.
The movie is part of the art hour cinema wave of the 80s, and we see a lot of the Seventies culture here. The anger at the state of affairs, the mill workers strike of Mumbai, the craze for foreign (in this case, Canada). In a way, the anger of the film is very relevant even today, showing that things haven't changed.
Naseeruddin captures the angst of Albert Pinto brilliantly. From being a totally self centered  person, who only thinks that he know everything to a person who realises the truth. he portrays the journey well. At the beginning of the film, Albert does not mix with his colleagues at the garage, thinking that they are not headed anywhere. His rich clients treating him well leads him to think that he is better than them. He is self sustained in his life. having a job, a girlfriend and the patronage of rich folks. From his viewpoint, he cannot understand the compromises that others have to make, like when his gf has to be at a party because of his boss. Or why his father has to go on a strike. His transformation from a cocksure person to one who wonders what his standing in life is, to one who discovers his true place in society, Naseeruddin Shah protrays the character development with aplomb.
One gouse with the film is the under-utilisation of other actors. Actors like Sulbha Deshpande, Om Puri and Smita Patil are wasted in one note roles, as Naseeruddin Shah hogs the entire film lenght.
Truly, he was the Amitabh Bachchan of the 80s new wave cinema.