Saturday, July 30, 2011
Hill stations, as settings for a movie, almost always result in a laidback charm that draws the viewers into a world where everything is pristine, most locales are virgin, people are earthly and simple, and the weather is spectacular. Gulzar’s ‘Mausam’ is one such tale where the setting plays a huge role in drawing the attention of the viewers, especially in the initial bits. Starring Sanjeev Kumar and Sharmila Tagore, Mausam has unrequited love as the core of the story it has to tell - always a subject that manages to engage if attempted properly.
The movie opens with the haunting melody- ‘Dil Dhoondta Hai, fir wahi, fursat ke raat din’. I don’t recall any other song in any other movie having so much influence over the entire span of the story as this one has. The song epitomizes the theme of the movie- it is all about a man who is once again looking for ‘Fursat’- inner peace. Dr. Amarnath Gill (Sanjeev Kumar is a look and feel similar to his previous movie with Gulzar-Aandhi), owner of a pharmaceutical company, moves to Darjeeling for a small break from his hectic daily routine. The valley is familiar to him, for some twenty years ago; he had been to the same place as a medical student and had fallen in love with the daughter of a local ‘vaid’-Chanda (Sharmila Tagore in an author backed role). He had made a promise to her that he would return soon and take her along with him. But owing to some unforeseen circumstances he had not been able to keep his promise.
Now, all these years later, he starts to hunt for her and her whereabouts. Through his flashbacks and reminiscences we get to know of his story and how he fell in love with Chanda. Hunting her lost love after all these years proves to be far tougher than what he imagined at first. However after following one lead after the other, he manages to learn all about what happened to Chanda after he had last met her. What he discovers brings great grief to him along with a feeling of extreme guilt, for Chanda had spoilt her life pining for him and his return. He decides to trace ‘Kajli’ (Sharmila Tagore again), Chanda’s daughter, who was the only living memory of Chanda left in the world. Chanda had been forced to marry someone owing to her tough circumstances and Kajli was the only kid she bore from the marriage. However when he finally manages to find Kajli, he gets the shock of his life. He finds that she was now an uncouth and irreverent prostitute who refused to acknowledge him and his fatherly feeling for her. Unable to leave her in such a pitiable condition, he decides to take her with him and make an attempt to transform her into someone respectable and dignified. How their relationship pans out is what the movie is about in the last hour or so.
Mausam is a path breaking film that could have served as a reference point for many later films like Lamhe and others, including the ones that dealt with prostitution. The treatment is bold and realistic, and sometimes too in your face (especially in the scenes between Kajli and Dr. Gill). What makes this movie truly memorable are its music and the performances by its two main leads. The music by Madan Mohan is truly spectacular. The ‘Dil Dhoondta Hai’ song comes more than once in the narrative and this song alone makes the soundtrack evergreen. The other songs too are good and go well with the theme of the movie. Like is always the case with a Gulzar movie, the song take narrative forward rather than stalling it (like in most other Hindi movies).
The performance by Sanjeev Kumar is truly amazing. He is one of the best actors in Hindi cinema ever (if not the best) and he makes acting look so simple. He is superbly restrained in emotional scenes and simply effortless. The scene when he finally breaks down after learning everything about Chanda is truly heart-wrenching. Sharmila Tagore looks miscast initially as Chanda, but it is as Kajli when she truly comes alive and pitches in with an uninhibited performance that was certainly bold for its times. There are not many supporting characters that have a major role to play.
Parting Note- I am losing count of how many Gulzar movies I have written about and am starting to wonder whether the man ever got it wrong. Mausam is one more gem from his stable- that deserves a patient viewing most probably on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Signing off with…