Revisiting Deven Verma’s nightmarish ‘lockdown’ experience

The late actor, comedian’s ordeal in Prem Pratigyaa [1989] will resonate with those who are frustrated and left depressed with the nation-wide lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19

By Mayur Lookhar

Deven Verma in Prem Pratigyaa [1989]

“I’m sick and tired of this lockdown”. There’d be million across the globe echoing this sentiment. The Coronovirus pandemic has left millions sick. and over 100,000 dead. The global lockdown has left human beings frustrated and some depressed with their buzzing lives coming to a halt. It is more tough on people who live alone and particularly harrowing for those quarantined. Then there are poor migrant labourers stranded in cities, many with no food or shelter.

Our sympathies with all the aggrieved. While the reel can never match the real, but in this lonely hour, we were reminded of late actor, comedian Deven Verma’s ordeal in director Sattiraju Lakshmi Narayana’s, better known as Bapu, romantic, drama Prem Pratigyaa [1989]. The film starred Mithun Chakraborty and Madhuri Dixit

For us, the lasting memory of the film is the funny lockdown of Deven Verma. The late actor sold hair oil for a living. Verma’s fake hair oil only results in his customers balding. Baying for his blood, the angry customers chase Verma, who then breaks into the house of Aruna Irani, The street salesman felt he was rescued but only to realise that Irani herself is a con-artist The lady threatens to call the police unless Verma does as told.

Irani plots a jewellery store heist. She buys little stuff from the jewellery store and then uses her seductive charm to lure the store owner and the manager into depositing her glassware into the jewellery store for a day. In the huge wooden box, lies Verma, who will steal once the shop shuts.

Things seem to be going smoothly as Verma does the needful and heads back into the wooden box in the morning. Irani arrives at the store at 8.50 am to collect her belongings. However, the plan goes haywire as the store employees go on a strike. Verma, who is listening the conversation from inside fears what fate does he await. Not wanting to give away her nefarious plans, Irani buys into the workers’ belief that the strike will only last a couple of days.

Unfortunately for Irani and Verma, the two days turn into a week. Worse, the store manager fears that the shop could remain shut for 10 more days. Having spent the week in the store with no food, barely a jar of water, Verma naturally is suffering the effects of hunger. Hunger can drive one crazy. In a jewellery store, what is there to eat? Poor Verma hilariously says, “Agar cutglass khaunga toh cut ho jaunga. Jewellery khaunga toh marjaunga,” (I’ll be cut from inside if I eat glass. I’ll die if I eat jewellery).

Necessity is the mother of all evil. After remaining hungry for 3-4 days, Verma then eats the cotton foam from a store pillow. The poor man dips it in the last few drops of water and gulps it down his throat.

With no possibility of strike ending soon, Irani is forced to take action. Luckily for her, and Verma, Irani bumps into the same customers who were duped by Verma. The vengeful men force open the store but are stunned to find Verma in a near dead state. Thieving clearly is not his cup of tea and the poor man learnt it the hard way. In his frail voice, Verma requests the men to first take him to one Rasili bai for his replenishing dose of desi alcohol and then they can take him wherever they desire. A few seconds later, Irani shows her face and Verma faints.

This was just a film and a bit of humour. Verma’s ordeal in the film is hilarious but spare a thought for those isolated patients. those quarantined. Spare a thought for the homeless, hungry migrant workers who are screaming for help, gathering on streets.

Verma’s ‘lockdown’ sequence plays at the following duration in the film.

1:29:48 – 1:31:31

1:34:27 – 1:38:34

1:50:25 – 1:52:20

2:02:01 – 2:04:33

We hope you find it amusing but there’s also a lesson learnt. Don’t harbour any such suicidal ideas during lockdown. Stay home, stay safe.

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