Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar: A silly yet charming comedy that inspired Rohit Shetty's Golmaal Returns
(Editor's note: When was the last time you watched a film, just because you stumbled upon on it, or heard someone mention it in passing? We're so used to reviews, previews and a barrage of recommendations — it almost feels impossible to enjoy watching a film without it being topical. And so, here's a new column we're introducing — Films, Just Because — where we talk about films, just because.)
Yesterday’s current events may as well become tomorrow's history. In the same way, the passage of time ends up altering many facets of a particular film. While its bizarre masculine overtones would still be politically incorrect, Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar (1973) is one of the few 1970s’ comedies that, for some reason, ironically enough doesn't seem dated.
This silly yet charming film died a quick death at the box office and remained largely ignored thanks to a forgettable cast that featured Kiran Kumar and Radha Saluja as the leads. But the present generation may find revisiting Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar interesting as this was the very film that Rohit Shetty transformed into Golmaal Returns (2008).
When one thinks of comedy in mainstream Hindi cinema, situational comedy has dominated the genre more than any other variation. One could, to some degree, argue the case of exceptions, where the circumstantial jokes took a back seat, but there is hardly any doubt that this has been the genre’s mainstay. Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar continued this tradition and despite the numerous silly situational plot points it took, it nonetheless managed to make the tale of a ‘tormented’ husband and the suspicious wife worth laughing.
On his way back from work one night Sunil (Kiran Kumar) decides to spend a few minutes at a fair thinking of as a brief interval from his wife Geeta’s (Radha Saluja) constant nagging. Fate literally seats Sunil next to a beautiful woman on the giant-wheel and a power-cut ensures that they remain stuck at the very top through the night. Back home a harried Geeta can’t sleep and everyone else in the house right from manservant Ramji (IS Johar) and younger sister Pinky (Arpana Chowdhary) fail to pacify her.
Finally, when Sunil lands up in the morning he tells Geeta that he had spent the night with an old friend and there’s no need to worry. When Geeta insists on a name, address besides other details Sunil haplessly spins a yarn inventing a fictitious friend called ‘Champak Bhumia’ and rattles some address that comes to his mind. While he thinks he’s off the hook, Geeta sends Mr. Bhumia a telegram summoning him immediately without the knowledge of her husband as her happiness is at stake.
Things get crazy as the woman from the giant-wheel ride comes knocking on Sunil’s door looking for her sunglasses. As he is shooing her off from the back door the bell rings and in comes Amit Desai (Asrani), Sunil’s childhood friend. Amit has returned from Paris and like Sunil and his giant-wheel ride, Amit also hasn’t informed his wife, who came a few days before her, about his arrival as he wanted to spend a couple of days with his friend. Joining the obvious dots Sunil introduces Amit as ‘Champak Bhumia’ to Geeta, who is now convinced of her husband’s innocence.
Amit / Champak also champions Pinky’s case in front of Sunil and asks his friend to let her marry Captain Ranjit (Narendra Nath), someone whom Sunil can’t stand. Just when everything seems to be falling in place a ‘real’ Champak Bhumia (Paintal) lands up professing his love for Geeta basis her telegram and the giant-wheel woman, too, lands up still seeking for her missing sunglasses.
There is hardly any doubt that Golmaal Returns was Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar redux but the latter isn’t a patch on the former.
Even the Marathi film Pheka Pheki (1989) that featured Ashok Saraf and Laxmikant Berde is said to be an inspiration for Golmaal Returns but the Bipin Varti directed film’s storyline was also reminiscent of the Rajendra Bhatia directed Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar.
What makes the film still hold its own is how the screenplay made the wafer-thin plot rise above the obvious contrivances without pretending to be something else. This isn’t to say that Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar is great art but at least there’s sincerity across the proceedings and the acting, unlike Golmaal Returns, is not over the top.
Was it the arrival of the Angry Young Man in Zanjeer (1973) and the new-age lover boy in Bobby (1973), that made the idea of Kiran Kumar as the leading man unappealing? By the time this film released Kiran Kumar had enjoyed a decent hit in Jungal Mein Mangal (1972) and although Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar featured the same team barring Pran, who played a long-haired mustachioed hippie in one of the two roles he had, this wasn’t a success.
Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar has an extremely stereotypical outlook towards most things and the whole nagging wives, harassed husbands business is formulaic as well.
Unfortunately, comedy in popular Hindi cinema of the 1970s and the 1980s rarely managed to break these clichés and even films such as Priyatama (1977) and Swarg-Narak (1978), which explored martial complications, couldn’t avoid this. In spite of being directed Basu Chatterjee, Priyatama’s resolution appears unapologetically chauvinistic, which is expected thanks to a song earlier on in the narrative that goes ‘Main jo boloon haan to haan, main jo boloon na to na.’
Intriguingly the ills that plague Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar, such as the overt misogyny, barely get noticed with Golmaal Returns even though most plot points are the same.