Listening to: Lal Patthar (1971)

Lal Pathar1यह है फतेहपुर सिकरी | इसे शाहंशाह अकबर ने बसाया था | इसकी वीरानी और ख़ामोशी में अजीब कशिश है| जादू सा है | इसलिए मैं यहाँ बार बार खींचा चला आता हूँ | और फिर भी दिल नहीं भरता |

“This is Fatehpur Sikri. Emperor Akbar established it. There is strange attraction in its emptiness and silence. A kind of magic. That is why I am drawn to come here again and again. And even then I remain unsatiated.”

Thus starts the film in Raaj Kumar’s Lal Pathar2impeccable voice. How could I not like this film? I feel exactly the same way! Here’s the Durgah of Salim Chisti where I heard the most beautiful music many many years ago.

The protagonist is Prince Gyanshankar, a man tortured by what he considers to be his inherited ‘bad blood’ – there is madness in the family. He lives a controlled life to keep a reign on himself. His character is briskly established at the start of the film and though I did cringe at the tiger hunt, it added to describing him as a man.

He rescues a young and beautiful widowed woman from bandits and then from her in-laws who ill-treat her. He establishes her as his concubine in his palace, going so far as to give her the jewellery his mother had left for his future wife. He says ‘तुम्हे इन गहनों पे पूरा अधिकार है’ – you have full rights over this jewellery. It sounds like a defining moment in their relationship. He gives her a new name to cement their relationship – does that symbolise a cut-off from her previous life? Saudamini is dead and Madhuri comes to life. 

Hema is gorgeous once she sheds her window’s whites. Gyanshankar seems to have Pygmalion like intentions, trying to change an illiterate and uncultured woman to be a suitable partner for a Nawab. But Madhuri is no Eliza.  Her English teacher says ‘Rani sahiba is rather dull-headed’. Though she cleans up well and learns to read, she falls short of his needs in a companion.

Ten years pass. When he realises it, he is shocked. But why? Was this not the life he chose? In spite of his apparent acceptance of his ‘tainted blood’, he must have had some expectations of his life which did not come to pass.

He chances upon a Lal Pathar3young and lovely singer and as before, he selects another woman to adorn his life without really getting to know her. Its consistent with his character but not normal for a prince who is marrying ‘to do his duty’, as he puts it. In effect, he buys her from a drunkard father with gambling problems. History repeats itself; once more he picks a beauty in a helpless situation. Does he have a need to be needed, to be looked up to ? Does he not feel equal to women of his own social level? What happens when the concubine and his wife have to share his favours?

Well, you’ll have to see the film to answer that! I have to warn you that the climax is a bit of nonsense, totally illogical. Script-writers seem to like mad characters so as to get away with anything, but it doesn’t work. However the strength of the first half carries the film. Raaj Kumar gives a controlled performance and Rakhee does reasonably well. Hema Malini has lost an opportunity to shine as her role is strong, but she doesn’t impress. Her interview  here seems to be a bit of an excuse. Vinod Mehra provides very decent support.

Shankar-Jaikishen have given a solid album with some very good music here.

  • A Aaja Dikhaoon – Asha Bhonsle. Disappointing. Sad smile
  • Unke Khayal Aaye To – Mohammad Rafi. A beautiful ghazal with some memorable lyrics by Hasrat Jaipuri.   इस दिल से आ रही है किसी यार की सदा, वीरान मेरा दिल था बसा के चले गए Open-mouthed smile
  • Sooni Sooni Sans – Asha Bhonsle. A classically based song, with good lyrics by Neeraj. Open-mouthed smile
  • Phoolon Se Meri – Asha Bhonsle. A beautiful poetry recitation with next to no instrumentation. Admire Asha’s voice and these beautiful lines by Neeraj.
  • फूलों से मेरी सेज सजादो आज मैं लूंगी जनम दुबारा
    चंदा की बिंदिया  तारों का कंगन सपनों की लाओ हार
    साँसों में मेरी केसर महके अंगों में झूमे बहार
    ऐसा करो सिंगार सखीरी सुध-बुध भूले श्याम हमारा Open-mouthed smile

  • Geet Gata Hoon Main – Kishore Kumar. An excellent melody with superb singing by Kishore. Lyrics by Dev Kohli are quite touching. I was going to give it a heart but I found the instrumentation to be below par and also the beat of the songs seems too fast. Open-mouthed smile
  • Re Man Sur Mein Ga – Manna day, Asha Bhonsle. A superb classically based song in Raag Kalyan (Yaman) with lyics by Neeraj. Manna Dey is in his element and Asha proves that she can out-sing any singer when she sets her mind to it. Open-mouthed smileRed heart

You can listen to the full album here.

My selection for the day is Re Man Sur Main Ga. The movie has used only one stanza, so listen to the audio version below.

And as a fan of Kishore, I cannot help but feature this song as well! You can admire the pretty ladies too!

3 Comments

Filed under Asha Bhonsle, Bollywood 70's Music, Manna Dey

3 responses to “Listening to: Lal Patthar (1971)

  1. Banno

    I think ‘Lal Patthar’ is kind of cheesy, over the top. But still I found it quite compelling when I watched it as a child. Perhaps because it was an adult film and forbidden to me for so long. I found Hema Malini scary in it.

  2. I watched it as a child and didn’t like it at all! In fact, I was quite surprised to see that the story does have some depth. I quite enjoyed it today, not the crazy bits at the end but a fair bit of the story was interesting. And the music was good. You should give it another go one of these days🙂
    BTW Saw that you are moving to wordpress, look forward to reading you here.

    • Banno

      Hey Suja, I moved to wordpress a couple of years ago, I think. I’ve kept the blogspot blog, for the blogroll. It works like a feeder for me.🙂

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