What can I tell you about Honey? That it is a masterpiece of awfulness. That I saw it once, almost 30 years ago and scenes imprinted themselves on my brain, that I laughed till I cried then and even now, thinking about it makes me smile. Or perhaps that one of the great pursuits of my life has been the search for the film. I saw Honey when I was living in the US in the early 1990s. I don’t remember how I got a copy but perhaps it was through the local Indian grocer who supplied us with pirated VHS copies of the latest Hindi films. Why my sister, filmmaker Tanuja Chandra, and I chose to watch Honey instead, I have no idea.
Honey released in 1982. It was Sheetal’s directorial debut. Sheetal was best known for being the designated bad girl or as they were called then, the vamp. Her greatest triumph was to play a supporting role in the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Bemisal in 1982. Perhaps that gave her the courage to turn director herself but she didn’t limit herself to just the one role. The opening credits of Honey are an ode to the resourcefulness and many talents of Sheetal – she played the lead, wrote the story and lyrics, edited, shot, produced and, if I remember correctly – even choreographed the fights.
My favorite was a scene of great grief, in which the hero mournfully banged on the wall. The fake bricks caved in a little but there was no retake
I don’t remember the story of the film but there are a few scenes that I have never forgotten – Honey starts with the middle-aged Sheetal playing a schoolgirl, complete with uniform and pigtails. Sheetal was a sturdy, plump woman (size zero was not a beauty ideal back then) but in one scene, her hero (I recall a clean-shaven, adolescent face) marvels at her ‘naazuk kalai.’ Pradeep Kumar played her father. There was a party scene, in which guests arrived and handed him gifts. In 10 seconds, we realized that the gifts were being recycled – budgets must have been so tight that the gifts were being taken out of frame and then given to the next guest to be handed over to Kumar one more time. The airport was indicated by a sofa behind which there was a photo of the Air India maharaja. And my favorite was a scene of great grief, in which the hero mournfully banged on the wall. The fake bricks caved in a little but there was no retake.
Honey is essentially a compilation of the worst scenes ever. To watch it is to wonder, how could anyone release this film, how could anyone have faith that people would watch it? Over the years, a few other films have come close to matching Honey’s delicious, delirious badness – Dunno Y Na Jaane Kyun (which was marketed as India’s Brokeback Mountain) or Jimmy (the launch of Mithun’s son, then known as Mimoh Chakraborty). But they lack the outsized vanity that propelled Honey – I think Sheetal just got tired of waiting to be cast as a heroine and decided to construct her own vehicle. As terrible as Honey was, there’s something admirable about the ambition.
If anyone knows how to source a copy of the film, please share information. I think the world is a more cheerful place with Honey in it.