I have constantly been awestruck at the shelf life of some of Bollywood’s musical creations. Just as other movies from other major centres of World Cinema are remembered for the direction, storylines, acting, Bollywood stands apart by the music which is an integral and very important part of its USP. Everyone can surely recount favourite songs that one likes / remembers from memory, many times one may not know anything about the movie/ may have never seen the movie and may even have forgotten it totally.
A similar thing happened to me with this set of duets from the early 50s. I knew the songs purely from their being played on the AIR. I saw the songs on the Sunday morning Chitrahaar on DD Mumbai much later and actually saw the movie in FF mode on YouTube recently. I don’t think I missed out on much by doing that.
Tarana, is historically, an important movie, as it was the first that had Madhubala and Dilip Kumar as the lead pair, the first of only four such projects. (Sangdil, Amar and Mughal-e-Azam were the other three, for the diehard quizzers amongst you). The movie flopped badly when released, but has since then become a niche cult classic for the fans of both Madhubala and Dilip Kumar. Anil Biswas composed the score and I find the songs just amazing. So many of the songs are truly unforgettable. D N Madhok and Prem Dhavan wrote the lyrics and the singing is just divine. The musical tracks have therefore made a far greater lasting impression in my mind (as well as surely of millions of other movie buffs) than the movie could ever have.
The movie made by the Daryani brothers, had the corniest imaginable storyline. Haven’t we seen the hero stranded in a remote, godforsaken village in a god-knows-where location after a plane crash as the sole survivor ., suffering amnesia or injuries and is rescued by the family of a beautiful village belle who invariably flips for the Shehri Babu (or vice versa) and the rest of the movie is all about this interaction.
Tarana has this Dr Motilal (Dilip Kumar) whose plane crashes in a small village, where he gets stranded, is offered shelter by a kindly old blind man (who is called SURDAS in the movie, couldn’t they be a bit more creative with the choice of the name?) and whose sight Dilip Kumar restores by surgery !! Don’t ask how and where and what does he perform the surgery with, what are his exact qualifications and other such very relevant , spoilsport questions. So our man, having little else to do than a stray operation and staying in a village with well fitting clothes that come out of nowhere in an allegedly remote location after a plane crash where no one else is in similar attire, sings wonderful love songs with the lady (Madhubala as the eponymously named Tarana) that he has fallen head over heels (who wouldn’t with the lady’s vivacious beauty) for in sylvan surroundings that look even more enchanting in monochrome photography (and atrocious see through sets of the day that are easy to spot as fakes as Pewter Silver)
Madhubala looks absolutely amazing , although she was just a teenager. She had started her career as a child artiste and had made a debut in an adult role at the age of 14 in Neel Kamal, tasted first success at 15 in Lal Dupatta and set the scene afire with her breakthrough role in the Classic, Mahal. She had shown us enough at that young age and her acting in Tarana despite being so young, is already very accomplished and mature (after all she had already been around in movies for more than a decade by the time Tarana was made) . Gope was in an unusual role for his usual jovial image. He is actually the scheming villager who has ambitions of marrying the village belle Madhubala and goes to the extent of maligning her reputation, besmirching her with rank falsehoods like being pregnant thanks to the good Doctor.. (I can imagine the scandalous nature of the charge in the early 50s). The father of the girl is enraged to the extent of burning down his entire house knowing that the girl is within, then repents when the villainous Gope recants in a moment of contrition and the repentant father tries to save her and kills himself in the process. Dilip Kumar the city dweller, now has a rich father, who in keeping with the Bollywood traditions of the era, has promised to wed his son to a rich beauty , Shyama. Of course in the hoary Bollywood traditions, the decision is taken without the knowledge (and therefore without the consent) of the son. The resultant fun and games are entirely predictable. Dilip Kumar thinks Madhubala is dead in the fire her father set off, Madhubala (who is of course very much alive) thinks the Shehri Babu (Pardesi) has married the rich city dweller (and so doesn’t bother telling him about her being alive pretty much unscathed by the inferno that destroys her home and kills the pater, after all there were no mobile phones, sms/whatsapp/ social media at the time to tell her about his actual status — imagine, Dilip Kumar describing his status as “It is complicated ” ) . Some more twists and turns later, Shyama is left high and dry as Dilip Kumar and Madhubala (re)discover each other’s unattached status and finally marry. The storyline had been pretty much bandied about often enough before Tarana to be stale and was later done to death a few hundred times more with even more insignificant variations.
The saving grace in the stupid movie was of course the music by Anil Biswas. At least six of the solos/ duets are truly outstanding (of the total of nine) and it is little surprise that the album has been included by various people and bodies in the list of Bollywood’s all time great albums.
Stay safe , folks and beat the second surge. Take care and beat the Wuhan Virus