Monday, January 26, 2009

The Waiter.

This morning, I chanced to watch a bit of the Blake Edward 1968 comedy, The Party. Peter Sellars plays an Indian actor called Hrundi V Bakshi who is black-balled in Hollywood but gets invited to a party thrown by the hot-shot producer of the movie from which he has been fired - owing to a clerical error. Thanks to his native talent to attact accidents and havoc, he turns the party into a near-disaster. It seems the film was mostly on-the-spot improvisation with a very short written script. The guy who sent me into splits was not Sellars, though, It was Steven Franken as Levinson, the drunken waiter. He reminded me of the well-orchestrated antics of Chaplin in his two-reelers. In The Party, Bakshi's presence acts as the catalyst to get Levinson more and more inebriated every time they cross paths. In one scene, we watch over Bakshi's shoulders Levinson's boss throttling him in the kitchen every time the swing door opens and closes. I thought it was the height of Chaplineque humour. There's also Sellar's one-liner to his "partiner" who is teaching a starlet to play pool: "Don't mind me. I'm merely spectating." This hilarious movie had drawn a lot of flack when it was released in India and, if memory serves, was even banned for a while. According to Hollywood apocrypha, Satyajit Ray was supposed to make a sci-fi film with Sellars. But he was so disgusted with his performance in The Party that he refused to go ahead with the project. He was perhaps offended too by Bakshi's pet monkey's name, Apu.