Remembering- the impressions of childhood in Vishal Bhardwaj’s debut film ‘Makdee’

Makdee Director Vishal Bharadwaj

Released 16 years back in 2002 on the same day as today, Vishal Bhardwaj’s debut film ‘Makdee’ is a special point in the childhood of most millennials.

Vishal Bharadwaj's Makdee
Source: Ultra

If you were to hit into this film on TV on a dull afternoon, you would probably rise in a nostalgic trip, but could also fall into wondering about the logic behind its plot points- if the witch’s bungalow has swallowed so many children, why have they not taken it to the higher authorities? As Munni is kidnapped by the witch, does her twin sister Chunni really manage to keep impersonating her at home for two weeks without anyone knowing? The songs would still speak to you, but the ending would most likely come across as a convenient restoration of a happy ending. Overall, you are likely to take its coupon of nostalgia, only to then dismiss it in the dull passage of the afternoon. It wouldn’t matter too much.

Shabana Azmi in Makdee
Shabana Azmi in Makdee

But a child watching the film was a juicy, important matter. Perhaps part of that is because as children, we are much more prone to impression than logic. And perhaps part of that is because the impression drawn from experiencing ‘Makdee’ was one of a fundamental nature of childhood itself. Remembering the film is an exercise of dusting off that dull, dry, adult afternoon to locate that deep impression on a damp, vulnerable child’s brain.

Everything about ‘Makdee’ was dual. There were two Shweta Prasads as twin sisters- the reserved, sincere one rightly called ‘Munni’(which probably translates to ‘baby’), and the notorious one rightly called as ‘Chunni’(which probably itself translates to ‘witch’), like two faces of the same childhood. Wikipedia describes the film as a “comedy and horror” movie. You’d think the comedy should belong to the merry, playful Chunni, and the horror to the delicate Munni. Poor Munni has to eat the extra roti that Chunni stealthily drops into her lunch plate after all.

But the film itself belongs to Chunni, and so do the two songs in the film, filmed around her life. There is “O papadwaale, panga na ley”- the sprawling number of Chunni’s merriness in the glorious sunlight in the village of Vishal’s films. Chunni sings this song, dances to it. Reaching the end of the song, the tone changes from playfulness to a more mellow “la la la la…” as Chunni goes by and the camera focuses at a thorny cactus.

Building on that mellowed tone is the other Chunni song- “Dar lagta hai Maai”. The thorny cactus here is the matter that Munni is kidnapped in the witch’s bungalow due to Chunni’s recklessness, and as Chunni strikes a deal with the witch(Shabana Azmi) to bring a hundred chickens for the witch in exchange for her sister, Chunni must impersonate her twin sister at home and school too. Poor Chunni must now eat both their shares of a meal at home, and she must now be both the merry and the sincere daughter, just so this grievous secret is not revealed.

She curses herself for her mistake, and as the live-wire life in her breaks down, without a possible word to someone around, she sings to her dead mother, only this time voicelessly.

A still from Makdee
A still from Makdee

That is well realized, because earlier when Chunni was a free-flowing breeze, she sang. Now as she is saddened and recoils inwardly, she is voiceless; a burden weighs on her for the first time. It makes sense that the film belongs to Chunni, because if the earlier duality of the twin sisters was a representation of the two faces of our childhood, the dual nature of Chunni’s life is where the rhythms of our childhood are recognized. Her inward recoiling is one of the fundamental processes of every childhood, when we learn to conceal things, lend secrets to our mind and tension to our body.

This is how ‘Makdee’ had slipped into our hearts, without the verification of logic. At its core, Chunni’s lesson was one that we had all had to learn at many points as a child- that there are consequences to our actions. But, as always with all good films, it was more than an answer. It was the flow of the rhythms of Chunni’s life from the sunlight of the woods to the dark mansion of the witch, and the orchestra like flowing Cinema of Vishal Bhardwaj in his first film. In the trivial matter of a now diminishing children film, the damp, impressionable mind had shown how the spaces of Cinema become an extension of our own lives.

Ankit Sinha
Ankit Sinha

Film Analyst at Qweed Media, film student and aspires to lead a life like the old Hindi film songs- languid yet vital, romantic yet wise!

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