There isn’t a convincing theory yet on why so many buddy movies, road movies and coming-of-age movies involve three men. Why not two? Or four? Does it have something to do with numerology? Or faith in the adage that all good things come in threes? Is a set of three men the equivalent of the love triangle? Yet another movie about three buddies, Abhishek Kapoor’s Kai Po Che!, has hit cinemas while we wait for a convincing explanation.
There’s another movie about three male friends coming out on 5 April, whose trailer alone promises to rack up DVD sales of the original. Sai Paranjpye’s Chashme Buddoor, one of Indian cinema’s most charming buddy movies, has inspired David Dhawan’s remake Chashme Baddoor.
Going by the sexually suggestive teasers, it looks like the resemblance between the two films is strictly a coincidence.
Also at the top of the list of Indian buddy films is Manmohan Desai’s action and comedy classic Amar Akbar Anthony, about three brothers (Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Vinod Khanna) who are separated at birth and brought up by people of different faiths.
Desai plays off the actors beautifully against each other, even though Bachchan’s Anthony eclipses his siblings most of the time. Each brother has a paramour, their blind mother gets her handful of handkerchief moments, and a series of memorable baddies weave in and out of the proceedings.
Bachchan, who loomed over the seventies even though he hit his stride only in the middle of the decade, features in one of the great triangular contests of Hindi cinema. Yash Chopra’s Deewar pits together the good brother against the bad brother in a fight for their mother’s love and approval.
The “mere paas maa hai” sequence, in which Shashi Kapoor’s upright cop demolishes his gangster brother’s angry assertions of material progress by reminding him that he has his mother by his side, retains its punch even though it has been parodied ad nauseam.
Why should men have all the fun? Robert Altman’s spooky and haunting 3 Women is about the emotional and mental traps that its female characters set for themselves and those around them. Two flat-mates, played by Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek, enter into a mutually destructive relationship, which begins with Duvall’s self-deluded older woman trying to control the submissive younger woman.
The roles get reversed soon enough, prompted by a third woman’s mysterious murals. Shot in small towns in California, 3 Women offers a disturbing slice of Americana and features a bravura performance by Duvall, much of which was improvised.
The more conventional battles are between two men fighting for a woman’s affections. Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron turns the love triangle on its head in his witty, honest and uninhibited fifth movie. Y Tu Mama Tambien is about two boys and an older woman. The two sex-obsessed teenagers who set out on a road trip with one of the adolescent’s older married cousins learn a lot more about themselves than they had bargained for. Insightful asides about the class divides in Mexican society pepper the strictly adolescent preoccupations of the boys, which begin and end with who is going to sleep with their attractive female guest first.
Y Tu Mama Tambien’s freewheeling storytelling approach and casual banter owe a debt to Francois Truffaut’s Jules Et Jim. The French New Wave classic is about the common love of friends-for-life Jules and Jim for the whimsical Catherine. Shot in the rough-edged documentary style favoured by several New Wave filmmakers, Jules Et Jim deservedly has a reputation as one of cinema’s most compelling meditations on friendship, love, commitment and friendship.
The sequence of Jeanne Moreau’s Catherine racing down a bridge as her suitors follow her, shielding their hats and selves from the force of her attractiveness, provides a neat summary of the movie’s themes.
This weekly series, which appears on Fridays, looks at how the cinema of the past helps us make sense of the present.