It has been a while, hasn’t it?
My, my, Dhoom 2 was one month ago exactly, then a fortnight back, a screening of The Namesake (more on that soon) and I’ve seen nothing else until picking up this Merchant Ivory DVD that Netflix brought weeks and weeks ago. The Christmas season is just too busy.
I found this 1978 movie title when searching for something, anything with Victor Banerjee that wasn’t Joggers Park.
It was made with funding from Mervyn Bragg’s London Weekend Television, the amazingly small sum of 250,000 pounds UK, and filmed in Rajasthan.
The amber-eyed object of my affections, who I’d last seen on celluloid swinging madly from a train exclaiming “Mrs. Quested, look at me!”, plays a swinging Maharaja, though a different kind of swinging (think safari suits with cravats and massive aviator shades). He lives in his palace, kept company by his bored and beautful sister, played by Aparna Sen.
The pair are visited by two rabid art collectors. One, Mr. Haven (played by Larry Pine), is American and heir to a canned peaches fortune, and the other, is Lady Gee (Dame Peggy Ashcroft, who previously played Mrs. Quested to VB’s Dr. Aziz in A Passage to India), a flinty old India hand who is there to buy for a museum in London. They are pursuing a collection of paintings that have been left to the Maharaja, and will stop at nothing to convince Victor Banerjee to sell them. Add to the mix a slimy Saeed Jaffrey as the slippery manager of the palace museum, who seems to have his own various side dealings going on.
Mr. Haven tries to woo the elegant Maharani (whose husband is nowhere to be seen) while Lady Gee sets her young blonde travel companion on the Maharaja, whose wife is off on a pilgrimage so she can bear a son. Ruth Prawer Jhabwala’s writing is a perfect take on a certain segment of traveler and a stinging commentary on how Brits see Indians and vice-versa.
See it or skip it?
See it! It only runs 73 minutes, Victor Banerjee (and his wardrobe) is marvelous as the rock star-cum-maharaja, Dame Peggy is quite bitchy, a pleasantly surprising change fom her usual fluffy slippers Auntie roles, and the dust and marble palace atmosphere just oozes off the screen. As a bonus, there’s a short interview with Saeed Jaffrey in a separate segment, where, oddly, he speaks more about his work with Satyajit Ray than the making of Hullabaloo.