Would you rather be a Namak Haraam or a spoon(chamcha)? My first poll!


Dosto, I recently watched Namak Haaram (1973). Fabulous! Here are the basics:

Namak Haraam (Devanagari: नमक हराम, Nastaliq: نمک ہرام, is a 1973 Indian Hindi film directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. The music is by R.D. Burman and the lyrics by Anand Bakshi. The film stars Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan. The film also stars Rekha, Asrani, Raza Murad, A.K. Hangal, Simi Garewal and Om Shivpuri . The film focused on two friends ( Rajesh and Amitabh) and how Rajesh tries to infiltrate the trade union of his friends. (wikipedia)

For a more coherent and substantial review of the film, check out rediff.com and Memsaab Story. I will of course deal with the superficial. I like to eat the frosting more than the cake, so first feast your eyes on this screen capture of our beloved Amitabh from the film which should be titled state of the art:

All starts out well with rich Vikram (Amit-ji) and super BFF, Somu (Rajesh Khanna) hanging around, wearing matching outfits, living the good life. They visit hot nautch girls and drink whiskey. Looking at Jayshree T. here it’s understandable why these guys would like to just hang out and be entertained.

But people in town talk, (haters!) and they are starting to call Somu Vikram’s spoon. Say What? I had never heard this phrase before, and I love when something like this comes up in a movie. I start to wonder is it: a.) a term I’ve just never heard of in English?; b.) Is this a British English term?; c.) Is this a Hindi figure of speech translated directly into English? Whatever it is I LOVE it. I ain’t nobody’s spoon! I take that being someone’s spoon means to be their flunkie, stooge, yes man, or dare I say, as used in the streets, their bitch? Anyway, the point seems to be that a spoon blindly follows someone who has more perceived power than the spoon does. Hindi speakers, please, I welcome your corrections to my interpretation of the term spoon if I’ve got it wrong. Somu’s sister tells him about what people are saying and he sets her straight!

Oh snap! Oh no he didn’t say that! So fast forward, Vicky has to go manage his father’s factory and his spoon, I mean Somu, tags along. They cook up a plan that Somu will infiltrate the factory, first posing as a worker and then eventually working his way up to, you’d never guess, a union organizer. Tricky! Somu eventually understands the struggle of the factory workers.

I adore seeing Johnnie Walker in these Bollywood films, and here it is, the extra fancy black label used to symbolize the good life, and its potential for arrogance. Somu tries to tell Vicky that it’s useful to try and call the low caste workers by their names:

Somu becomes so touched by the day to day struggles of the common worker that becomes a traitor, or as was written in the movie’s subtitles, namak haraam, to his friend Vicky, switching his loyalty from his friend to the workers. Namak haraam literally seems to translate to food/salt that’s not OK to eat, not sanctioned, not clean, not pure, not halaal, but figuratively the term means traitor. Once again, over some whiskey, Somu tries to make rich Vicky understand:

I know, I know, I already used this photo in yesterday’s post, but it’s so great I had to use it twice.  Can you blame me?

These socialists are such buzz kills! Eventually Vicky learns the wisdom of Somu’s ways. When Vicky finds out of Somu’s trouble, which you’ll have to watch the movie to find out about, he shows a delicious taste of angry Amitabh:

Namak Haraam is art imitating life as evidenced here. Doesn’t this sound a bit too familiar now:

Well since elections are coming soon here in the U S of A, here’s a timely song from the film titled Woh Jhoota Hai Vote Na Usko Dena, picturized on Asrani and a hot young Rekha, with music by R. D. Bruman. You can check it out HERE.

And speaking of voting…I’m so excited to present my first poll on the blog! So here I ask you the impossible question: Would you rather be a Namak Haraam or a spoon?

extra credit:

When looking up Namak Haraam online, I came across Arun Krishan’s clever podcast on his site, Cutting Chai, Learn Hindi from Bollywood Movies, since in it he credits a tune from the film in the music credits. You will certainly enjoy this, as well as all his other great podcasts:

Episode 47. Alcohol. Is alcoholism such a bad thing?

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18 thoughts on “Would you rather be a Namak Haraam or a spoon(chamcha)? My first poll!

  1. Great review Sita-ji! Sounds like I need to see this one with subtitles. :-)

    As to your poll, I’d rather be a Namak Haram than a spoon (the hindi word is Chamcha which literally means spoon or big spoon but is also used to signify a sycophant and your interpretations is correct) – its better to be evil than a cringing yes-man!

  2. Aadaab Sita-ji! Great poll, and a spoon it is for me! Better than ever intending to cut the hand that feeds :)

    My understanding of the word ‘chamcha’, which I’m guessing is the ‘spoon’ being referred to, leads to ‘loyalist’. The term is often used to mock loyalty or persons, ideals, etc. Although it primarily implies loyalty beyond objective reasoning (not the winner of my vote), it is also often used jokingly (and sometimes, although seldom, favorably — the winner of my vote!). A good example of this might have to do with our favorite actors, genre of film, etc., in which case everyone is a chamcha or chamchi (a woman chamcha) in his or her own right. A synonym (borderline slang) for the word is ‘chela’, which could also be the word in the film.

    The only other ‘spoon’ I’m aware of has to do with golf, but even that’s an archaic term. So it seems to be a senseless literal translation. They might as well have said table spoon (which is what a chamcha is, LOL, as opposed to the more elegant and sweet ‘chamchi’, the tea spoon), but you’re absolutely on the right track with your thought process — those words can arguably be synonyms, depending on the context of use.

    Cheers!

  3. Interestingly, people used to refer to Rajesh Khanna’s hangers-on as his “chamchas” and it wasn’t a compliment…My DVD subtitles used the word stooge instead of spoon!

    It is a great movie though :)

  4. Ooh, I wouldn’t mind being Big B’s spoon! Overall, though, I’d pick Namak Haraam. LOL about socialist buzzkills. ;-)

    Holy mother, does Jayshree look awesome.

  5. I am yet to read the post but I have to tell you that the screenshots you have shared are real nice quality. I have been wanting to ask this questions to all of you fellow bloggers who have Bollywood blogs. What software/application do you use to create these? Mine never turn out like this. Thank you in advance!

  6. Good morning, all, and Sita-ji, you are simply astounding! Can I be your spoon?! I stopped here on the way to Amitji’s place (fanTASTIC new pictures from the set of “Teen Patti”, and he’s going home within hours, I’m surmising)… anyway, you trapped me with your poll, the fantastic pictures, and as always, your hilarious and astute film analysis! The “buzz kills” line had me totally scream with laughter, and I want Amitji’s purple suit (with or without him in it, it’s up to him to decide).

    I saw this film several months ago and enjoyed it – the beautiful actors and actresses, totally retro sets and clothes, great music, and I am a real fan of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s social consciousness (even in “Gol Maal”, which, even just saying the name of that film out loud, I laugh – that film is nutty and a real crack up). The friendship between Somu and Vicky, from from my Western perspective, had shades of homo-eroticism (without the actual eroticism), but from a Indian Film/Indian cultural perspective, they are as close as two men could be, as in blood-brothers. Either way I was captivated by the entire thing.

    Off to The BIGBlog! Phir milenge, dosto! jen

  7. Hey Sita-ji, you should check out my blog’s latest post: it was written by guests and inspired by a suggestion you made a while back, so I think you’d like it. :-D

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  9. I don’t wish to choose between the lesser of two evils, so I think I will abstain from this poll. (Hope I’m not being a socialist buzz kill!)

    I’m writing mainly to second the comment, “Holy mother, does Jayshree T. look awesome.”

    BTW, I have a nice list of films I have to find soon; the vast majority of them are directed or written by Hrishikesh Mukherjee…

  10. To all of the commenters! I am your chamchi!

    Namaste bollyviewer!
    Thanks for your visit and the useful translation of the spoon/ Chamcha comment! Also, thanks for voting!

    Adaaab sir-ji theBollywoodFan!
    And also thanks to you for voting and your explanation about the spoon. I liked this: “Although it primarily implies loyalty beyond objective reasoning.” Very well put. Everyone likes that spunky little Jayshree T.! Karen’s gallery has a nice sampling of some more Jayshree T. pictures that you can see HERE.

    Namaste memsaab-ji!
    How interesting to know that’s what his fans were called. I liked your review of the film very much hai. (It’s my Hindi pig latin, I just add “Hai” to the end of it all and PRESTO! It’s Hindi!) :)

    Salam ajnabi!
    Glad you liked it along with the Jayshree T. Photo. Thanks for your vote!I will be sure to check out that post you’re talking about too.

    Namaste and welcome kanan!
    Nice blog (http://kananj.blogspot.com/). I use the snipping tool that is in the Vista program, and I’m not sure what others use. I hope some more people will comment and answer your question. I bet there are some screen capturing/snipping tool programs that you could find online to download too. I’ll check on that and get back to you. Thanks for your visit.

    Jen-ji, dost!
    So glad you mentioned the homo erotic leanings of the film. Even looking at it from a cultural relativism view point, it’s still a bit homo erotic in the beginning where Amit-ji wants to film Khanna singing since he’s such a great singer. He was just so excited with that video camera and at the thought of filming the guy, it’s like HE was Somu’s chamcha!

    Namaste Eros Entertainment Pooja Kamath, Web Marketing Manager, Eros Multimedia Pvt. Ltd!
    The dosto at wordpress mislabeled this as spam and I checked the NAHIN! Box and de-spammed you! We’ll be in touch since maybe all my chamchas, I mean readers, would like a contact at EROS. I myself would love to play a gori extra in any Bollywood film! Sukriya for your visit and please don’t sue me for screen capping your films. :)

    Richard S. (for Socialist?) Namaste!
    Thanks for your visit friend. I know, it’s an impossible vote! Although I posed the question to my mother, who immediately said something to this effect, “They are the same thing, since in being a spoon (Chamcha) one is betraying (namak haraam) and being a traitor to themselves.” Whoa! She’s right. She doesn’t even watch Bollywood either! My interest in Hrishikesh Mukherjee films has also been piqued and I look forward to watching more of his films and reading your reviews on them. Phir milenge!

  11. I loved your refreshing take on the movie- It speaks for your writing that I really enjoyed reading it, tho I am not a huge fan of the movie- too much sadness! Hrishikesh Mukherjee is amazing- I prefer his other movies, which are usually not this sad- I am certain you will have fun watching those :)

  12. Namaste shweta,
    Thanks for your sweet comments. :) I think that it is a sad movie, but you’re hit with the sad facts up front and the movie goes on to explain how things got to that point. The visual appeal nicely sets off the sadness. :) The social commentary films like this polarize the characters so much: rich=bad; poor = moraly superior and good, that it has to be taken with a big grain of salt, hai na? I do have to get on to watching more Hrishikesh Mukherjee. So far I’ve only seen these works: Anupama (1966);Abhimaan (1973); Bawarchi (1972); and Anand (1971). I also see he was an assistant writer/director on Parineeta (1953) and Devdas (1956), which I’ve also seen. Any special Mukherjee you’d recommend?

    Nicki,
    I do think namak haraam is more sinister. Thanks for your vote. :)

  13. It’s amazing the way old Bollywood Food Club posts will pop into my memory sometimes.

    I know, it’s four and a half months after this post was written, but I had to get back to it…

    Tonight, inspired by a dialogue on my blog that started with a discussion of Noor Jehan, I started reading Tariq Ali’s latest book about the history and current events of Pakistan, The Duel. (By the way, I know that Tariq Ali is a bit controversial with some; he is a big socialist, and some other socialists have a few arguments with him, too – as socialists often do with one another. But never mind all that for now.)

    Anyway, I was up to about page 65, reading a description of the uprising in Pakistan in 1968-69, when I came upon this passage:

    “For hundreds of years the Punjabi word chamcha (spoon) has been used to denote a stooge. The origins of this are obscure. Some argue that it goes back to the arrival of the British. Local potentates who had hitherto subscribed to the art of eating delicately with their fingers had abandoned tradition and begun to use spoons and forks. Whatever the truth, the demonstrators [in the 1960s uprising] started greeting pro-regime civil servants and politicians with spoons, the size depending on the self-importance that the dignitary attached to himself and popular estimates (usually accurate) of the degree of his sucking up to power at home or in Washington. When Ayub or his ministers arrived, they were greeted by gigantic homemade spoons as well as hundreds of the normal variety bought in the bazaar and used as cymbals to enliven the proceedings.”

  14. Richard-ji,
    How lucky for us all that this post did pop up in your mind so that you could add this great information about the etomology of the slang use of chamcha. I think I’ll have to get in and amend this post to add your information, in case it’s missed in the comments. The Duel sounds really interesting, I’ll have to get around to reading that some day. Thanks for dropping some knowledge on us, it’s much appreciated.

    Your Chamcha,
    Sita-ji

    oh yeah, and Inquilab Zindabad!

  15. Sita-ji, I’m glad that you liked the information! It would be great if you could amend your post with this. (Wow, what other blog in the world could include pictures of Jayshree T. and a quote from Tariq Ali on the ’60s uprising in Pakistan all in the same post? Yeah, OK, maybe mine could sometime… :) )

    And yes, Inquilab Zindabad, forever and always.

  16. Richard-ji,
    I loved that information. LOL about all those componants appearing in the same post. I will update it soon and let you know. Thanks again! :)

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