An eternal search

Humanity evolved and most centres of civilization developed around sources of life: fresh water. Little surprise that rivers are held in great respect, almost deified. Every major river system has cradled nascent humanity and nurtured it’s growth and development. Almost like a mother would do to a child. Ganga, Tigris and Euphrates, Nile, Amazon have all spawned centres of civilization. The last named is the least known, thanks to the murderous European colonial powers that annihilated and then exterminated everything in sight.

I heard this song some 50 years ago when I saw Kabuliwala on DD Mumbai. One of Balraj Sahni‘s best roles from a truly fantastic career. He was a director’s actor from an era where being passably good and the ability to wear pants was considered adequate reason to be cast as the male lead. Acting and emoting were four letter words for these unworthies and Balraj Sahni truly stands tall amongst pygmies. I daresay I find him far superior even to Dilip Kumar who is worshipped as the touchstone. Look at any of his movies from Anuradha to Do Beegha Zameen to Seema and you will understand.

The movie Kabuliwala , made sensitively about an economic migrant from Afghanistan, is a very touching story of a father who comes far away from his homeland but pines away thinking of his family and especially his young daughter he has had to leave behind in search of a livelihood. The movie based on a short story written by Gurudev Rabindranath Thakur. It was produced by Bimalda Roy & Leela Desai.

The latter was born in the US to Rao Bahadur Umedram Lalbhai Desai , a medical pioneer, a double MD and an Orthopedic surgeon, also the inventor of several instruments used in Orthopedic surgery. Leela Desai was trained in Classical Music and Dance at the Bhatkhande Institute, Lucknow. She acted in the landmark movie, President with KL Saigal who truly was the biggest star/actor/singer of his generation. Her acting as Saigal’s heroine was fabulous and much praised by audience as well as the critics.

Kabuliwala was directed by Hemen Gupta, a freedom fighter who had to stop his formal studies thanks to the Brits imprisoning him for involvement in the freedom struggle. Not just that, the Brits made all his family members lose their livelihood and confiscated all their property. A rich family reduced to penury but stayed steadfast in their nationalist spirit. He also worked as a Personal secretary to one of India’s most illustrious sons, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Hemenda directed this movie wonderfully. A must watch if you’ve not done so. Much better than watching tripe on the Web Series or the contrived and endless saas bahu sagas that stretch ad nauseam. They stoop lower by the day like the owner of Balaji Telefilms’ neckline, with the same effect of inducing abhorrence rather than attracting. Only the hardcore flies get attracted to such garbage, I guess, and their numbers proliferate rapidly.

Salil Chowdhury, the amazing multifaceted genius (I wonder if it is all the fish they catch in the Pukur that makes the Bongs so creative or the coveted Ilish ) composed the score. Despite winning only one Filmfare, Salilda is streets ahead in qualitative terms compared to the factories (read all the paired music composers who only mass produced without much attention to great quality) . Sadly Bollywood was never going to trouble itself about trivial issues like quality, so Salilda, Hemenda remain the stuff that aficionados doff their hat to, maintaining their status like a lighthouse amongst the darkened skies of Bollywood as beacons showing the path. Who else but my favourite baritone from Bollywood to sing the wonderful song? Hemantada will always be special to me. High up in the list of Bong geniuses.

Stay safe, folks, stay healthy and happy. I will retreat to my weekend retreat tomorrow, but already there in my mindspace.

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

8 replies on “An eternal search”

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