“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 impeccable 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 young 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.
- 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
- Sooni Sooni Sans – Asha Bhonsle. A classically based song, with good lyrics by Neeraj.
- Phoolon Se Meri – Asha Bhonsle. A beautiful poetry recitation with next to no instrumentation. Admire Asha’s voice and these beautiful lines by Neeraj.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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!