Sau Crore (1991) is directed by Dev Anand, and I don’t think any fan of Bollywood will need a longer introduction to the movie. I wouldn’t really have watched the movie, except that Naseeruddin Shah was in the lead, and Sunil Gavaskar was to make a special appearance along with his team.
Obviously I didn’t expect much from the movie, but it managed to surprise me. In spite of being devoid of any artistic merits, it offended my aesthetics. The movie can be seen as a forerunner to a whole generation of comedy bums that Bollywood is producing now.
The movie is a blatant screen adaptation of O Henry’s One Thousand Dollars (Sau Crore means One Thousand Million), with the requisite plot overheads and song-and-dance routines and the dumbing down for the masses. Stripped off of the sensibility of the original, it couldn’t have provoked me, but the movie goes on and does the exact opposite of what the story did.
While not Kafkaesque itself, One Thousand Dollars is one of the very few stories of O Henry with a Kafkaesque premise. But the story is more human, in that it substitutes the irony typical of Kafka with a dash of irreconcilable tragedy.
Kafka is fond of taking a joke, turning it inside out and then looking at it from the insider’s point of view (the insider who is now an outsider. almost all of Kafka’s stories are described from an outsider’s point of view.). Then it is no more a joke, it is an irony at varying levels of surreality. But it is never tragic, because that perspective inside the joke from which Kafka looks out is not human at all.
That is where One Thousand Dollars is different. It is human. It is a tragedy. May be I am wrong, but I have come to think of tragedy as a very human perspective.
That is why Sau Crore fails. It takes Henry’s rather whimsical interrogation into human beings and tries to look at it from the outside, making a bad joke out of it that it is.
And none of this is conscious. From the movie, it is very clear that Dev Anand doesn’t appreciate enough the pathos of the story to stop from making such a mockery of it.
Considering all the crap that gets thrown at me, I know I am overreacting. But then, why shouldn’t I?