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A deja vu of sorts….

This must have been one of the very first movies I saw after we moved to Mumbai. Goregaon those days had only two theatres : Topiwala in the Western part of the suburb and Anupam to the east. Both easily approached from the railway station, Anupam was the closer one in that aspect. I think we saw this movie in Anupam, which was the older and a bit smaller (in terms of capacity). However at least the years we were in Goregaon, it showed a better quality of movies. Samrat happened to be built a few years later and was so named as it was then the largest of the theatres in Goregaon. I was not yet into my teens and remember being stunned after I saw the movie. A tour de force by Waheeda Rehman, who apparently saw the Bangla original several times ( Deep Jwele Jaai) made by the same director, Asit Sen, some ten years before he made Khamoshi, (The director is not the fat comic actor with the same name). The Bangla version had been made immortal by the director and by Suchitra Sen whose acting is the stuff that legends are made of -and PhD students spend years pretending to study and come up with some longwinded explanation (and a very convincingly erudite one, too) – for.

Rajesh Khanna has emoted exceedingly well, almost bereft of the mannerisms that would bedevil his later performances. Waheeda was much older than he, but then that’s what Radha the nurse in the unique psychiatric hospital is supposed to be. I loved the music by Hemant Kumar, (he had scored the music for the Bangla original as well) and when I was old enough to understand the nuances, was overwhelmed and swept off my feet by Gulzar‘s poetry (can’t call his creations for the songs anything but that). Such a small cast, but such a powerful narrative and so well told. The monochrome photography is truly awesome. When I started taking my baby steps in the field, I understood what skilful and stupendous lensmanship had been put on show in the movie by Kamal Bose. Little wonder that he won the only Filmfare for the movie for his absolutely brilliant cinematography.

Waheeda touches on Rajesh Khanna’s sore point, the rejection by the lady he has loved so dearly and who sings the song on Radio. Snehalata is the actress who sings the song in the studio demurely and full of soul. She was a PYT that somehow never got meatier roles. In her very short role in the movie, she checked all the boxes and showed a lot of promise. The three songs from the movie that are the best known include this one and the amazing “Tum Pukaar Lo, Tumhara Intezaar Hai” by Hemantada. Shot beautifully with Dharmendra, the original Bangla movie has an unforgettable song in the same situation too, “Ei Raat Tomaar Aamar”, also by Hemantada. He had in the intervening period used the tune in Kohraa (“Ye Nayan Dare Dare“) and so conjured up a bit of magic while composing “Tum Pukaar Lo. Kishoreda is just fabulous, his “Woh Shaam Kuch Ajeeb thee, ye shaam bhee ajeeb hai….” never fails to give me goosebumps. The other two, one each by Aarti Mukherjee and Manna Dey, are scarcely remembered. I suppose they should have been deleted in the version of the movie released without any loss of narrative.

What makes Khamoshi and “Humne dekhee hai un aankhon ki Mahakti khushboo…” special is the parallel (and nearly mirror image) stories of the two protagonists, Rajesh Khanna has been ditched by Snehalata and is driven insane, needing institutional care, and Waheeda Rehman who has helped rehabilitate Dharmendra by pretending to have fallen in love with him and is asked to repeat the same dose and therapy for Rajesh Khanna. The chief of the unit, a crusty Nazir Hussain who is only referred to as Dr Colonel Sahab throughout the movie never realises both times around that Waheeda actually falls in love with her patients and the thought that the love might go unrequited a second time around actually drives her insane. Waheeda took the role as something of a challenge with immense trepidation in her heart, as she finished watching countless runs of Deep Jwele Jaai as a template to be followed. She has retraced the steps left behind by the amazing Suchitra Sen, that too without just making a xerox of the role. As she helps Rajesh Khanna heal, she cannot bear the thought of losing him (once he is discharged). She doesn’t realise that the patient had flipped head over heels for her as well. Driven to insanity, ironically she is admitted to the same room earlier occupied by Dharmendra and Rajesh Khanna. Dr Colonel Sahab regrets that he only saw a very devoted nurse in Waheeda and did not see the woman inside her. Rajesh Khanna promises to wait for her recovery, I was surprised that the good Colonel didn’t recruit him for an encore performance with a role reversal. Just a hint of that wouldn’t be out of place. One of Latadidi’s best songs, and an absolutely unforgettable composition by the genius Hemantada. I wonder how so many Bangla geniuses were seen in Bollywood. I suppose it just has to be the fish they eat with mustard that gives them an extra dollop of the grey cells. Thank God the piddis haven’t realised they could feed Pappu on Ilish and rice. He is too lost in his own cloud of the choicest stuff from South America to be bothered.

Stay safe, folks, stay healthy and away from the products of the evil empire as the nation goes through the biggest jabbing spree of Human History.

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

10 replies on “A deja vu of sorts….”

The song about the eternal nature of love is deeply felt by anyone who hears this evergreen song in the voice of the legendary Latadidi. Who else but Gulzar could have written something so metaphor-rich? His writing is unmatched. The film, Khamoshi, based on a Bengali short story titled, ‘Nurse Mitra’ by Ashutosh Mukherjee, has great performances & poetic dialogues written by none other than Gulzarsaab himself.
The music by Hemant Kumar stands out & just cannot be praised enough as it touches the soul of the listener, adding to the beauty & depth of the emotions embedded in the movie.
Gulzar mixed his metaphors to a great effect in the black-and-white film. This song talks about love that can just be felt & not defined & while many of Gulzarsaab’s lyrics have over-esotericism, this one is poetic & real in its thought process as he became popular as a lyricist with this unusually worded song.
Working with Bimal Roy Productions, introduced him to Bimal Roy’s assistant Debu Sen & through Debu Sen, Basu Bhattacharya & Salil Chowdhury, Gulzar got involved with the Bengal school of filmmaking.
The concepts, stylisation, processes & technology may have undergone a sea change in the area of filmmaking of the present but Gulzarsaab’s poetry & songs continue to cut across generations – appealing to those who thrive in the golden era of Indian cinema & also to the Gen-Y that lives in the now. With Khamoshi, Gulzar took off as a lyricist, writing about what fascinated him most: relationships & doing it in a manner that was daringly different & defiant. ‘Humne dekhi hai un aankhon ki mehekti khushboo’, raised many literary eyebrows for the alleged faux paus of ‘dekhi hain mehekti khushboo’, but Gulzar was unfazed. When the song clicked, he found his identity . The song remains his finest, at once a plea for love to exist & an assertion.
‘Humne dekhi hai un ankhon ki mehakti khusboo was supposed to be sung by a man admiring the eyes of his beloved as imagery needs a certain inspiration . Hemantda tuned the song but after composing it he changed his mind & thought Latadidi should sing it & her voice has the kind of magic that can even change the gender of a song. She can make whatever she sings sound utterly convincing.
Gulzar came under fire for saying there is a fragrance in the eyes & traditional poets scoffed at the strange metaphor, & yet, he succeeded with music lovers!
It stands out on every level & though Gulzar saab, was active for almost a decade before this song arrived, this was a significant milestone for him as people & industry started taking him seriously after this. The song’s impact was somewhat diminished in the film when it was picturised on an unknown starlet, while the beautiful Waheeda Rehman just stared.
Even the picturisation by Sen is particularly pleasing. Although most of Khamoshi unfolds in the dull, stark confines of a medical institution, it steps out in fresh air for the boat song, Woh shaam kuch ajeeb thi against the majestic Howrah Bridge.
Around the late 1960s, Rajesh Khanna was just a newbie while Waheedaji was one of Hindi cinema’s biggest stars. Unable to memorize the lyrics, he’d bank on his seasoned co-star to prompt him the lines. Turns out, Kaka has a quite a few hit boat songs to his credit – Chingari koi bhadke , Jis gali mein tera ghar & Yunhi tum mujhse pyaar karti ho.
While we never quite come face to face with Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna enjoys a full-fledged role, which he carries out with a mix of raw vulnerability & unconcealed awkwardness.
Asit Sen was keen on Dev Anand for the role, while Waheedaji, thought Sanjeev Kumar was better suited for the part. The latter, as a matter of fact, played a similar role in Khilona, which came out soon after Khamoshi.
Adapting a short story is often tricky because of its condensed format. On paper, the exclusion of detail only adds to the mystery of the unexplained, open endings. On screen, this may or may not work. There’s a sense of urgency in the manner which Sen wraps up the final fifteen minutes of Khamoshi but the viewer who has invested so much emotion in the unfair treatment of the selfless Radha doesn’t want it to be rushed.

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