Sunday, April 29, 2012

Palkon Ki Chhaon Mein (1977)


A completely misleading poster of the movie- playing up the drunkard jilted-lover image of Rajesh Khanna, and glorying a five minute Jeetendra appearance. The movie is nothing like what this poster indicates. 

Five minutes into the movie, and you can make out it is a Gulzar film. This Rajesh Khanna and Hema Malini film is though not directed by the maestro himself, but by Meraj, who was an assistant to the man in most his earlier directorial ventures. But everything- be it the dialogues or the treatment, or even the look given to the lead actors- looks straight out of the Gulzar school of film-making. That he has written the screenplay is just a part of this happy occurrence.

The story is set in a village, very much like the Jeetendra- Hema Malini starrer Khushboo that came just two years or so before this movie. But this time, instead of Jeetendra, the moustache is donned by (the then on the wane) superstar, who gets to play a meaty author (read Gulzar)-backed role. Ravi (Rajesh Khanna) is a city bred educated but unemployed youngster, who doesn’t lose his sense of humor and wit despite his many failures to secure a decent employment. A chance encounter leads him to the job of a dakiya (postman) in a nearby village, which he gladly accepts. In the village he soon gets around to doing his job with much sincerity and dedication. Within no time gets acquainted with most of the village folk- each of who have their own story to tell. These include a senile old lady who awaits the return of her son, a young widow who has lost her husband in the war- but has not lost the zest for living, and a young lady named Mohini (Hema Malini) who to Ravi’s pleasant surprise appears more than willing to strike a companionship. Soon Ravi and Mohini start meeting everyday and Ravi falls in love with her, completely oblivious to the fact that she has very little interest in him- the person, and most of her attention is reserved for Ravi- the postman. This is because Mohini expects a letter from her lover, an army-man, to reach her. Ravi’s pleasing ways and respectful manners lead her to confide in him her relationship with this soldier (Jeetendra in a guest appearance). This love story of hers completely shatters Ravi’s heart, who had genuinely felt that Mohini’s affections were a result of them drawing closer to one another with each passing day. But consoling himself, Ravi decides to go the city and look for this soldier who had not written to Mohini despite his many promises. When he returns, the news arrives that Mohini’s beloved is no more and has lost his life in the war. It then becomes his responsibility, being a postman, to break this news to Mohini…

Not unlike Khushboo, this story too looks like a chapter out of Malgudi Days with all its simple and unhurried appeal. The drama in the story is somewhat based on the fact that in those days very few village people could read and write their own letters- and the responsibility of the same then rested upon the village postman- who thus became an essential part of their lives. In that sense the village postman acted like a ‘social glue’, being a common element in all the villagers’ lives. Here the song ‘Dakiya Daak Laya’ reflects on pretty much the same sentiment. While the postman drama is the backdrop, the innocent love-story with all its uncertainty and apprehensions, is the motif in the movie. Ravi’s one sided love, and his expression of the same through his sketches (that are revealed at the end), is quite endearing. The most unique thing about the movie however, is that despite all its underlying tension; it retains a light-hearted spirit on the surface. There are many instances of humor, though like in all other Gulzar movies, they are quite understated. But quite unlike most of his films, the music score here is not too memorable with two of the songs being quite situational, and a forced nautanki dance number (picturised on Rekha) not being as fun as it should have.

Rajesh Khanna puts in an earnest act, and quite underplays his character for most parts. It is easy to make out that he was a very fine actor, and thus his fall from fame appears more baffling (though perhaps that had more to do with his off-screen issues). Hema Malini is effective, though it looks like she walked down straight from the sets to Khushboo to this movie. The supporting cast doesn’t have much to do here with Farida Jalal (another Khushboo connection), Asrani, Amjad Khan, and Master Raju being the most popular ones from the ensemble.

Parting Note: This movie is a sweet love-story that deserves a watch by all those who like such village themes. And when you add the fact that it is almost a lost Gulzar film, it becomes a must watch for his fans. 

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