Friday, October 11, 2013

Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein (1964)

The impression you get about Kishore Kumar after reading his interviews is, that he was a highly reluctant actor ,and abhorred the task of making a fool out of himself in front of the camera. This, and that he was extremely critical of most movies that were being made in the 1950s and the 1960s, and despised the standard melodramatic fare that was being dished out by the tinsel town copiously. But despite all this he starred in dozens of films, most of them comedies, out of which a few are fondly remembered even today- ‘Half Ticket’ and ‘Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi’ leading the pack. As a singer, he is arguably the most popular male voice to have made listeners swoon and sway, with some of the most popular and iconic songs over the decades, to his credit. But very few are aware that he tried his hands at film-making as well and directed quite a few movies. At least I had little clue about his directorial efforts till recently when, on a whim, I decided to browse his IMDB page. A frantic online search later, I was happy to find two of these movies and downloaded them almost at once.
 
'Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein', his second production, seems to have had his absolute control over all aspects of its making- He is credited as the writer, director, producer, music composer, singer, and lead actor. In addition to all this, his real life son plays his screen son in movie, a sensitive father-son tale. Kishore plays an honest army-man who returns to his village after a war, only to discover that all his near and dear ones, except a son, have succumbed to a tragic fire and have left for the heavenly abode. If this wansn't agony enough, he finds that although his son had escaped the clutches of death, the shock had been too much for his young impressionable mind and as a result the boy had lost his gift of speech.
 
With hardly any means to support themselves, and no emotional anchor except one-another and a pet dog, the unfortunate father-son duo leaves the village with the intention of relocating to a new place and making for themselves a new life, far removed from the ghosts of the past. The father makes it a mission to restore his young boy’s ability to speak, committing to make all kinds of personal sacrifices to achieve this goal. Soon, on their journey, they encounter a group of goons and in a conflict, the father is injured, and they land in the home of a kind and young village landlady who gives them a place to stay and tends to the father’s injuries, while forging a motherly bond with the son. Thus the wanderers soon become householders, with both the father and the son playing an active role in the daily life and works on the land holdings of their benevolent host.
 
 A slightly awkward romance soon develops between the adults, but before things become too intimate, the father decides to leave for the city for his son’s treatment. Predictably the city offers no respite and after consulting a multitude of doctors who all express their inability to bring about a change in fortunes for the boy, they decide to return to the place where they had found love and an emotional refuge. The movie culminates with on a clich├ęd and dramatic note, with villains and a kidnapping thrown in, a heroic performance from with father included, and a miraculous recovery of the boy, all leading to a happy ending with the union of hero and the heroine and the karmic completion of the boy’s circle of family ties.
The movie has a sincere theme and a stirring emotional stamp throughout, most probably due to the fact that the subject might have been very close to Kishore Kumar’s heart. However, a lot of the screenplay is contrived and lacks finesse, especially the later portions of the film. For a more commercial presentation a lot of the usual elements appear to have been added, which makes the effort a bit hotchpotch and jarring. The music and the acting by the leads are quite good and some of the scenes, especially the ones depicting the awkward romance blossoming between the father and the landlady, display unusual restraint and subtlety.
Overall, to the fans of old Hindi cinema, the movie would be worth watching as it is the work of a highly creative and genius mind who wore multiple hats, some fine some shabby. Just as a glimpse into his personality, the movie is quite a decent watch despite the fact that it appears a bit dated today, but that can be said for many of the acclaimed classics as well from that time.

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