The 70s saw the emergence of the ‘Angry Young Man’ in Hindi movies as we saw Amitabh Bachchan’s blockbuster movies like Zanjeer and Deewar. Most of us missed watching a movie like Gaman which saw the mild-mannered Farooq Shaikh essay the role of a hapless migrant taxi driver in Mumbai who is bewildered by the ‘city of dreams’ and not able to realize his own ambitions.
We have all travelled in the old-fashioned Premier Padmini taxis in Mumbai and interacted with the drivers who will casually mention about being from a small village in Northern India. We do not quite know his story though we are quite sure that it must be painful to uproot oneself from our home to work in some distant land.
The movie is all about depicting the vulnerabilities and pain of such choices and Farooq Shaikh is a perfect choice to bring these emotions live. He goes about his daily routine with a quiet dignity and a wan smile reminding us of Balraj Sahni in ‘Garam Hawa’. Smita Patil appears in a minor role as his long-suffering wife who is ever hopeful of his miraculous return.Her angst is evocatively portrayed in the soulful number by Chhaya Ganguly –
आप की याद आती रही रात भर चश्म\-ए\-नम मुस्कुराती रही रात भर
But the numbers will never quite favour his plans as he practically ekes out a ‘hand to mouth’ existence. The humour of his friends and their helpful nature in their travails brings a tear to ones eyes.
Mumbai looks different, greener and far less crowded in those days. The time people spend at the Chowpatti is a welcome relief in their otherwise dreary life. We have a side track story of the doomed romance between Jalal Agha and Gita Siddharth. One can sense early that they are not meant to make a success of their plans.
The soul of the story is well captured in Shahryar’s haunting song rendered unblemished by Suresh Wadkar –
सीने में जलन, आँखों में तूफ़ान-सा क्यूँ है
इस शहर में हर शख़्स परेशान-सा क्यूँ है