Saturday, February 4, 2012

Teesri Kasam (1966)


Life is showbiz can be a big challenge, especially for ladies for the lines between morality and professionalism and ambition can be pretty thin ones. We have had many movies that have dealt with this subject in recent times- Fashion and The Dirty Picture being the ones that immediately come to mind. In fact there was a time when women working in such vocations were not seen in a good light. The society never encouraged the women to be a part of such set-ups and the women who did end up working in the entertainment world were deemed social outcasts. Also, before cinema and fashion became as big as they are today, something else ruled the heartlands of our country- the good old village nautanki- a celebration of life and all its covert pleasures. Basu Bhattacharya’s first Hindi film, Teesri Kasam, starring Raj Kapoor and Waheeda Rehman is set in such an era. With a rustic backdrop, this film is a heartwarming tale of love between a nautanki star and a bullock-cart driver (Gaadiwaan).

Hiraman (Raj Kapoor in a typical role of a simpleton) is a na├»ve village bumpkin who is a Gaadiwaan by profession. A god-fearing and righteous fellow, he gets into some unfortunate situations and which lead him to make two promises to himself- one that he would never transport black-market goods on his cart, and two that he would never transport long wooden on it either. These two small incidents at the beginning of the story set the character of Hiraman firmly in place. Soon, he gets the task of making a lady reach a distant village mela on his bullock cart for which he is promised a lucrative payment. Thus, he and the lady embark on a thirty hour long journey through the wilderness to reach their destination. The lady is an ethereal beauty and Hiraman gets struck by her surreal charm. He discovers that her name is Hirabai-making her his namesake (meeta) in a way. Hirabai too gets attracted to Hiraman’s simplicity and goodness. They spend the entire time talking to each other, with Hiraman telling her stories and singing village songs to her. They don’t even realize when the thirty hours reach an end and they reach the mela.


Hiraman soon discovers that Hirabai is a very famous nautanki star and the biggest draw at the village mela. He decides to stay in that village and watch her nautanki after getting special passes for the same from her. So every night he and his friends start visiting the nautanki where they see Hirabai driving the crowds crazy by the grace and finesse of her dancing and singing. But a lot of the things that Hiraman sees in these excursions make him very uncomfortable. By the day he and Hirabai meet and spend a lot of time together in the process drawing a lot closer to one another than they initially imagined. In Hiraman, Hirabai finds a true friend who loves and respects her for what she is in reality, and not for her fame and beauty. She finds it difficult to keep the fact hidden from him that her vocation is not entirely honorable. Similarly Hiraman gets more and more sucked into the world of his meeta, refusing to realize that it would lead him to nothing else but dejection and him making a third promise to himself.

The story is uncomplicated and the emphasis is entirely on the unconventional bond between two people whose worlds are completely diverse. Their interactions are the highlight of the story apart from some truly melodious songs composed by Shankar Jaikisan. The performances by both the leads are terrific- especially from Waheeda Rehman who lives her character with great empathy and is a complete natural. This is one of the early films of her career, and it is safe to say that she was one of the most beautiful actresses of her time. On the contrary this is one of the later films for Raj Kapoor, and he looks quite elder to his co-star (but this age gap is justified in the story). As far as his act is concerned, he is a complete natural as the shy simpleton who takes an idealistic view of the world. The supporting cast is efficient (though I could identify only a few of the actors). Iftekhar plays a Zamindar who is a frequent visitor to Hirabai’s show and yearns for her affection. Asit Sen and Jhonny Walker too have brief appearances.

The film is presented as an almost musical with the songs hogging a great portion of the runtime. And it takes nothing away from the likeability of the movie as the songs are simply superb which some great lyrics that do a great job of saying what is going on inside the hearts of Hiraman and Hirabai. Also, the entire nautanki bit (including the behind the scene action) is handled in an authentic manner with some artistic cinematography and shot-taking.






Parting Note: Teesri Kasam is an endearing tale of love between two completely different people, with a completely rustic background which in itself is pretty alluring. Its charm lies in its rootedness and honest intentions.

P.S.: Basu Chatterjee is credited as one of the assistant directors on the project. It is safe to say that the master film-maker, who went on to make some great films himself, got some solid grounding in the art under his meeta (Basu Bhattacharya).  

10 comments:

  1. I'm not an RK fan, so I'd steered clear of this film for a long time - until Teesri Kasam was recommended to me by a lot of my blog readers. Finally saw it last year, and liked it a lot. It's beautifully scripted and acted, a fine example of a low-key film that leaves a great impact.

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  2. I read your take on the film after watching it. It's a really good one- the way you have written about small small things that had a great meaning in the film. I surmised as much- you not being an RK fan- Haven't seen much of him- apart from this film, Mera Naam Joker, and bits and pieces of few of his films. I downloaded Jagte Raho recently- have heard its one of his best films.

    PS: The image that I have posted here is one from your blog- google search showed up a lot of pics from your write-up.

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  3. "
    PS: The image that I have posted here is one from your blog- google search showed up a lot of pics from your write-up.
    "

    Yes, I recognised that particular still.

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  4. Piyush, so many reviews since I last visited! How am I going to keep tabs of everything?? :(

    This is one of my favourite RK movies, and unlike Madhu, I'm a diehard RK fan. :( We have agreed to disagree on RK, in order to keep our friendship intact. :)) Was Teesri Kasam indeed Basu Bhattacharya's first Hindi film? I didn't know that! Thank you so much for that tidbit.

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    1. :) It has been a pattern for a while now- I post a write-up every Sunday. And there are so many movies to catch, I think I will continue this pattern for much of the foreseeable future at least!

      I haven't seen much of RK, so I can't comment on your debate :) But glad that you have reached an agreement. Like you said in a comment on the Kalyug post- If we all agreed on everything- there would be nothing to write about.

      On this being Basu Bhattacharya's first Hindi film- I got that from seeing his filmography on Imdb. I can hardly quote such trivia first hand :)

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  5. I haven't seen much of RK, so I can't comment on your debate :)

    And a wise man stays out of such female disagreement. :))

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  6. Hello,
    Thanks for a wonderful reminder of one of my favourite movies, with a fabulous Waheeda Rehman and great Raj Kapoor. I don't know why people who have seen this film continue to have reservations about RK being too old (or "elder" as you say): can't one fall in love later in life? Isn't this just pandering to the myth of the "young" lovable hero that Bollywood chooses and then rejects as the actors become too old for the box-office?

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    1. Hi, good to see you here. You are most welcome- yes the movie is a sweet little reminder that falling in love is nothing to do with age.

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