The 1971 B&W hindi movie starring Sanjeev Kumar and Rehana Sultan is a classic not to be missed. It is deftly handled, running just a bit over two hours and with some great music and lyrics to back it.
Rajinder Singh Bedi was a noted writer who expanded his radio play to create the movie. He donned multiple hats as a writer, screenplay, producer and director. Hrishikesh Mukherjee edited the movie that went to win numerous National Awards including the Best Actor and Actress for the lead pair.
The opening scenes present a lovely montage of Mumbai of the yore with all the noted landmarks being seen almost as they are even today. We meet Sanjeev Kumar and Rehana Sultan as a newly wedded couple who are happy to find a good home in the city and busy setting up their household.
Well a deal that sounds too good to be true usually is exactly that. Imagine their grief when they discover that their home is right in the midst of a red light area and the previous occupant of the place was a noted singer who would entertain many patrons.
Being a Punjabi, Bedi ensures amazing dialogues mostly in hindustani – that eclectic blend of Hindi and Urdu. Occasionally though it seems to be pure Urdu and one deciphers the exchange by the related context in which it is placed
Come morning Sanjeev Kumar heads to office – the classic scene of crowds surging past the Churchgate station. He makes efforts to look for an alternate accommodation but to no avail. The irritation of the situation is palpable but there are no easy answers and so he reconciles himself with the hope that things would improve. Indeed there are mild altercations but intermingled with moments of hope leading one to believe that things would be sorted out in due course of time.
But things don’t quite get better – they try creative solutions but to no avail. A plan to stay out till late in the night sees them encounter cops and get questioned. Further they are mugged by a gang on the roads. A temporary reprieve involves visiting Rehana’s village – things seem cheery and happy till the message of poverty and its embarrassments brutally hits home. The return brings no cheer as even a Police raid has been set to trap them if they are guilty. Finally Sanjeev Kumar is even tempted to accept a bribe to be able to fund a better home.
The climax seems to veer towards an inevitable disaster – Rehana’s father and younger sister too are a lost cause by now. And yet better sense prevails and finally there is redemption. The couple find the hope and will to fight on in life and not be bothered by the external environment.
The movie is backed with lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri and music by Madan Mohan. Lata and Rafi render mellifluous numbers – one is amazed to note the comfort with which Lata gets the diction right on the Urdu lafz that adorn the numbers. Of all the numbers my favourite is –
हम हैं मता-ए-कूँचा-ओ-बाजार की तरह उठती हैं हर निगाह, खरीदार की तरह
The lyrics are perfectly placed for a situational effect and in sum reflects the heroine’s frustration with the house and its neighbourhood.
An old Black & White classic that is definitely worth a watch even today.