Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dard Ka Rishta (1982)


An artist’s best work is often the one that has risen out the melting pot of his own life experiences.  The best artists in the world are known to create art for themselves, not caring much about the expectations the world burdens their shoulders with.  In fact, there have been innumerable cases where an artist was not even acknowledged during his or her lifetime; the famous painter Van Gogh’s name comes to mind as a prime example of such an occurrence. If we have to looks for an example closer home, the name of Guru Dutt can be mooted in this regard. Although he wasn’t completely unappreciated while he lived and made movies, his true worth was recognized only after an untimely death. Though, it must also be said while citing his example that cinema, as compared to painting or music, is a highly corrupted art form, owing to the fact that films are almost always made for an audience and are hardly ever devoid of commercial considerations.
Another observation that I will make before turning to discuss the movie I wish to discuss in this post, is that it is often painful experiences and grief that act as the most effective catalysts to the most creative of expressions. This particular sentiment has been widely popularized by the movie ‘Rockstar’, but I had to say it to set the context.
Sunil Dutt, was a prolific actor, and more than just an occasional director/producer. In fact it won’t be wrong to say that some of his directorial/production ventures were far more ambitious than most of the movies he starred in as an actor. From ‘Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke’ which dealt with a taboo real life adultery case, to ‘Yaadein’ that was an unique experiment with just a soliloquy piecing together a narrative, to big canvas dacoit films like ‘Mujhe Jeene Do’ and ‘Reshma aur Shera’, the man was never afraid to challenge the stereotype. In 1981, the year in which his son Sanjay was launched by him in ‘Rocky’, he suffered a huge personal setback when his beloved wife Nargis succumbed to cancer. Out of this great grief must have emerged the story and concept of ‘Dard Ka Rishta’ a movie that he made just after, as a tribute to his wife, and apparently to further the cause of cancer awareness and research. And in my view, this particular movie, made as a labor of love and pain, is the best movie out of all that were produced by him. 
The structure of the story is simple but touches upon many issues that remain relevant even today. One, it highlights the conflict in the mind of an expat originally from a poor/developing country like ours, of whether to lead a somewhat selfish existence where there are many personal gains to be had, or whether to go back to one’s own country and contribute using the skills gain abroad. Two, it talks about the conflict in the mind of a doctor, of how to best use one’s education, that is, to use it as a privilege or as an aid to the society’s betterment, also whether to make best use of what’s current, or whether to throw oneself into research and look for better methods to improve on the current.  Three, it looks at the relationship between an estranged couple, and how it plays out when they meet after many years. Four, it looks at the plights (and the delights) of a single parent, on how kids such raised, mature quicker and come to terms with life’s realities and responsibilities a lot sooner than kids indulged by both the mother and father together. Five, through a somewhat clich├ęd and yet entertaining side-track it looks at the eternal Hindu-Muslim communal issue, which again is an apparent offshoot of Sunil Dutt’s own life, owing to his marrying a Muslim lady. Lastly, and above all, it highlights how difficult it is to face loss, to watch a loved one die, and not being able to do anything about it.

The story, refreshingly for a Hindi movie of that time, has a broad geographic canvas a narrative that has a wide time span. Thus, the characters and lives evolve and grow as the story progresses. Most impressive is the restraint on melodrama, which is left implied and unsaid on most occasions, truly unique for a 1980s Hindi movie. A lot of this can be attributed to the calmness and grace that is brought to the screen by all the female actors- Smita Patil, Reena Roy, and a young Khushboo (the famous actress in South Indian films) who plays Sunil Dutt’s daughter. Sunil Dutt, essaying the lead male part, expectedly acts with great sincerity and sensitivity. The music by RD Burman is pleasant to the ears and complements the mood of the film.

Also unlike most Hindi movies, it is difficult to decide what the best parts/scenes of the movie are. The father-daughter relationship is heartwarming and in essence is the core to the plot, but the subsidiary emotional linkages, for instance the relationship the girl shares with the servants/helpers of their household comes out very well through some nicely written scenes. The NRI portions of the story, which would have done Jhumpa Lahri proud, have a stamp of finesse and class. The medical procedures and functioning of a foreign health-care setup, as shown in the movie, give the impression of being well researched. The only dated bit of the movie is the part where Sunil Dutt has to marry Reena Roy because of certain unfortunate circumstances, but even that can be excused as a well-received big-star movie used the same plot device as much as twenty-five years later (How Shahrukh Khan ends up marrying Anushka Sharma in his blockbuster hit Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi).

 
Overall, the movie is well worth its slightly long duration, and is quite a classic if you consider the period it was made in, and the personal element of the maker involved. It is unfortunate that this movie is seldom talked about in the media circles (it even fails to receive a mention in the main body text of Sunil Dutt’s Wikipedia page).

4 comments:

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