Friday, July 8, 2011

Ijaazat (1987)

It is very rare that a writer/director creates a character that is so fascinating that it lingers on in one’s mind even hours after watching the movie. Gulzar does just that and more in the most romantic movie of his career- the Naseeruddin Shah, Rekha, and Anuradha Patel starrer ‘Ijaazat’. The memorable character he constructs, with much love and affection, is called Maya (Essayed by Anuradha Patel). It is most likely that Gulzar based this character on someone he knew personally, because he handles it with such delicacy and intimacy that it looks like Maya is a piece of his heart. The music, the poetry, the mood- all appear to pay homage Maya. But despite all this, Ijaazat is not Maya’s film.

The story starts off in a waiting room of a railway station, where Mahinder (Naseeruddin Shah) comes with the intention of spending the night before he catches the morning train that would take him onward to his destination. There he chances into Sudha (Rekha) who too has to wait the whole night to catch the morning train. Soon it is revealed that Sudha and Mahinder were once married to one another and they had run into one another for the first time since their separation. Through their conversations and reminisces, the story of their lives is unraveled before the viewers.

Mahinder had been madly in love with a girl named Maya, before he had gotten married to Sudha. He had been keen to solemnize his relationship with Maya, but the free spirited Maya had refused to do so. She did not believe in the institution of marriage, having been witness to a dysfunctional alliance between her parents. Mahinder had been engaged to Sudha, who was a close family friend, prior to his meeting Maya. Later, certain circumstances force Mahinder to marry Sudha, but before taking this step, he tells Sudha everything about Maya their relationship pretty explicitly.

What follows next is Sudha moving into Mahinder’s life and replacing Maya’s presence in his home and his heart. But despite all the efforts made by her and by Mahinder, Maya’s presence is something that remains strongly alive between them. In fact she is like a third person in their home and surfaces constantly in their conversations and musings. In a beautifully haunting sequence when Sudha sends all Maya’s stuff remaining at their home back to her place, Maya sends back a letter in return, requesting her to return the other things that she had left behind with Mahinder. Her letter is in form of poetry, which is typical to how Maya is shown to be in the film.

“Mera kuch Saaman… tumhare paas pada hai”

Later, just when things start getting better between Sudha and Mahinder, Maya tries to commit suicide but fails in the attempt. Mahinder hides this fact from Sudha and keeps visiting Maya in the hospital where she gets admitted. This leads to certain misunderstandings, causing Sudha to leave their home and separate herself from Mahinder’s life. What happens next comes as a revelation- to Sudha most certainly- and also to the viewers.

The movie has an underlying sad tone throughout, which is also quite evident in the lyrics of its songs- all of which are female solos. The theme is of unrequited love- which was quite a departure from the kind of films that were made at that time. Gulzar has mounted the story in a very simple manner, laying utmost stress on the interplay between the characters and the dialogues. And for a story that has so few characters, the screenplay is pretty engaging and manages to involve the viewers. A lot of credit goes to the lead actors who pitch in with natural performances. Naseeruddin Shah, as always, is brilliant in an author backed role. Rekha gets the part of a sort of an outsider, and manages to express the right amount of vulnerability and insecurity that her character demands. But the star of the show, as perhaps it was always meant to be, is Anuradha Patel- or rather Maya- because she was the character- she was exactly what Gulzar wanted her to be.

Parting note- I am glad that I watched this film, because it tells a story told straight from the heart of the maker. It tells a story of true love, the kind that is hard to find in today’s films and today’s world around us. 


  1. This film is a 'poem' - like someone reciting an Emily Dickinson's tender short pieces one after another

    1. Absolutely. I am not versed with Emily Dickinson and her work- but your comment has prompted me to do a quick search. Thanks.

  2. I watched the movie recently and very much liked it.The ending was really touching as both look behind each other with Rekha not wanting to leave at heart and Nasrudeeen shah looking at her with despair that he has lost her completely. Looking at your comment I was quiet surprised.
    It depends on how one perceives the movie and the characters. I see the movie being centered around a wife, a possessive wife who does not want to share her husband with any other woman.To me or most people would have thought its the story of a couple who got separated due certain misunderstandings not about Maya alone. I got to know that the story is based on a Bengali Novel.

    1. Thanks for sharing your views. Ya, it is surely a different way of looking at the drama, from the wife's perspective.