I was on a flight back from Delhi a couple of weeks ago when I happened to watch once again the classic Hindi movie – Amar Prem. A film that never fails to move me – each time I see it I am able to understand a different facet about it. This movie is what I would refer to as a “complete package” – it has a beautiful story, great music and good acting! It is also a movie that was probably far ahead of its times ..
Most often movies try to portray love within the confines of a defined relationship – father/ mother – son/ daughter, young man- woman/ boy- girl, and so on.. But this movie is about love beyond such definitions.
The story is about Pushpa a poor young woman who is in a abusive relationship with her husband. Her husband remarries as she is childless and throws her out of the house. When Pushpa goes back to her poor old mother she is not exactly welcome there. She falls prey to a middle aged man in the village who lures her with promises of a good job in Calcutta and sells her to a brothel in the city. She accepts her fate as a woman of the night.
It is by chance that a rich and unhappy man, Anand, is brought into the red light district in a drunken state by a coach driver. He is about to leave the place when the haunting voice of Pushpa singing a song holds him back and then draws him to her. A man in an unhappy married relationship with his socialite wife he finds in Pushpa a companionship that his wife is unable to provide. There is a touching scene where he names some traditional dishes ( which he hears his friend say he had for a meal) and asks Pushpa if she knows how to make them-she looks very surprised and asks him “Will you eat if I make them?”. He says with a smile “ Why not!”
In the midst of all this is a little boy Nandu who lives in a house bordering the red light district. Nandu has a step mother who does not care for him. While playing in the streets one day he happens to run into Pushpa who develops a fondness for him. She spoils him with sweets and food and he gets from her the love that his step mother denies him. For Pushpa it is a fulfilment of her yearning for mother hood. Nandu’s family does not want him to visit the “disreputable” woman and so he has to do this without their knowledge. So we have Anand who is married but actually relates to another woman and we have a child who loves this same woman like his mother. They are almost like a family – the three of them not in anyway related to one another!
Anand’s family is of course not at all happy that he is seeing a “prostitute”. So his wife’s brother comes one day and threatens Pushpa with dire consequences if she lures his brother in law away from his wife. Pushpa promises that she would not see him again and so the next time he comes to visit her she refuses to open her door and tells him never to come to see her again.
Meanwhile Nandu falls ill and is predictably not taken of properly by his step mother. It is Pushpa who goes back to Anand with a request to send a good doctor to treat the boy. Again, a wonderful scene where the doctor asks Anand as to how he was related to the boy. Anand tells him “ I am not related to him. I had come to you with a request for treatment from the boy’s mother”
Days go by. Pushpa loses her youth and her looks and has to work as a maid in a boarding house. Nandu grows up is a successful engineer and is posted in Calcutta. He scours the streets ingfor “her” – as he refers to Pushpa. Anand is older and is his kind but sharp talking self with a sarcastic sense of humour. When Nandu’s son falls ill he seeks out the same doctor who cured him as a child. It is at the doctor’s clinic that he runs into Anand. Together they look for Pushpa.
Meanwhile Pushpa chances at the boarding house her husband who is on the brink of death. He is blind and delirious having no one to care for him. It is she who cares for him – in a very impersonal way as a maid who works there. But when he breathes his last she behaves like a hindu woman accepting widowhood – breaking her bangles on the banks of the Ganges!
Towards the end both Anand and Nandu manage to find Pushpa and it is Anand who tells Nandu to “take your mother home” !A wonderful scene where you see Nandu and Pushpa seated on a rickshaw going past a procession that is bringing in the idol of Goddess Durga for the nine day puja- very symbolic of a homecoming
While the film Anand has often been stated as being one of Rajesh Khanna’s greatest. I think this movie is by far a better one. The character that he portrays is a fine balance between a person who carries sadness in his heart with a smile on his lips. He is sarcastic and he hates high emotions. There is this famous dialogue in the movie “Pushpa I hate tears”!! (I remember seeing on so many people’s status messages on face book when the news of his death got around.) But it is the same hero who actually wipes off tears and walks away in the last scene after bidding goodbye to his beloved.
But what is so unique about the entire movie is the way it has so beautifully woven together the lives of three individuals – a man, woman and a child into a bond of love that is outside of socially defined relationship. It is very non judgemental of the “fallen woman” explaining very clearly the circumstances that got her to where she was. It also shows the deep conditioning that Indian women have towards marriage and widowhood in that final scene when Pushpa formally becomes a widow after her hsuband’s death – very impersonal and devoid of any emotions. Being his widow was probably as much a dutiful thing for her to as being a wife would have been.
The film is also a social commentary of the times that it is set in - 1950s/ 60s . There is a lovely song “Kuchh to log Kahenge, Logon ka kaam hai kehna” – roughly translated it means “people always say something – it is their job to do so.”- bringing out the falseness of gossip and so called morality. There is this other wonderful number that celebrates the broken heart “Yeh kya hua, kaise hua” which Anand sings when Pushpa closes her doors to him. And ofcourse who can forget the famous “Chingari koi bhadke, toh sawan usey bujhaey. Sawan jo agan lagaey use kaun bujhaey”- meaning “ If a spark flares into a flame the rain can douse it but when the rain starts a fire who can put it out?”
Sharmila as the heroine has very little by way of dialogues in the entire movie. She conveys more by her silence – all the wonderful dialogues are Rajesh Khanna’s ! The man is not really great by way of acting. However what I think he was very lucky with was the fact he lived and worked during a time when the directors were good and so were the stories and music . The movie’s success can be attributed as much to Shakti Samanta, R.D. Burman and Kishore as to Rajesh. You remove one and the magic goes! I read somewhere that Rajesh Khanna had apparently watched the original Bengali version with Uttam Kumar “Nishipadma” 7-8 times before he agreed to sign this movie. I have not seen the Bengali version but it is on my list of “to watch” films
A movie that never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Although I know that the hero of the movie “hates tears” I could not help them flowing down my cheeks. A foreign lady sitting next to me on the flight actually asked me “Are you alright?”
Air India may give us lousy service but their in-flight movies are definitely good ones! They are also edited well, where you get to see the best parts with the best songs intact!