A career changer….

I heard the song while driving back from the hospital on a internet radio station devoted to old Bollywood songs. Took me back some six decades. The movie Chitralekha is unusual for several reasons.

Chitralekha is actually the title of a novel written by Bhagwati Charan Verma in the 30s. The slim novel is about the conflict of a life of piety and love, sin and virtue. Bhagwati Charan Verma wrote the tome while still practicing law, it brought him immediate fame, kickstarting his literary career (and putting paid to his legal career as well). It is actually modelled on Thais by Anatole France, but Indianized so cleverly, one may not actually recognize it’s origin. It was made into 2 films, once in 1941, and again in 1964. 

Amazingly the earlier version, made by Kidar Sharma, had music by the great Ustad Jhande Khan, and starred Mehtab. Kidar Sharma thought the role was ideal for the lady who achieved great fame ( & notoriety) for a bathing scene. The use of raags (Jhande Khan was a famous artiste of his era and brought his creativity to the fore while composing for theatre and films) like Bhairavi and Asawari made acceptance of Hindustani Classical music very easy in Bollywood. The movie was a big success at the Box Office. Bharat Bhushan actually made his debut in the movie.

Amazingly, 23 years later, Kidar Sharma himself remade the movie with Meena Kumari and Ashok Kumar, with Roshan providing the score.

The story starts with a dialogue between the great hermit Ratnambar and his disciples, Shwetank and Vishaldev about sins committed by humans. They ultimately conclude that humans become victims and slaves of circumstance. So, according to Ratnambar -there is no sin and virtue per se. Everyone does deeds according to circumstances that befall them in their lifetime. The author also propounds the views that sin may be in action but never in thought and also that anuraag (attachment/passion) is in desire, and viraag (alienation/lack of passion) comes from gratification (trupti). Through Chitralekha’s character, the author describes the life of a truly empowered woman: beautiful and strong from within, materialistic by choice, largehearted by nature and honest to the core. Chitralekha busts many myths surrounding a real and humane woman. She firmly holds the reins of her own life and is commanding in not letting society/ social pressure influence her. Her honesty with herself through introspection and her refusal to let an ego come in the way of atonement lead her to victory in life since she attains peace within passion and passion within peace.

This is a love story about a young general, Bijgupta ( Pradeep Kumar) who leads a luxurious life while serving under Chandragupt Maurya, and the beautiful dancer and young widow, Chitralekha. (Meena Kumari) Kumargiri -a hermit- (Ashok Kumar) also falls in love with Chitralekha and becomes a victim of his circumstances.

The later version, despite being Meena Kumari’s first colour film, didn’t do well commercially at all. It had a great musical score by Roshan and lyrics by Sahir Ludhiyanavi. This song is a wonderful duet between Asha Bhosle and Usha Mangeshkar. A truly wonderful composition starting with Pakhawaj, and great singing.

Amazing to see the second iteration not doing well at the box office. Was it the (in)famous Mehtab scene that was cut out that did the damage?

Mehmood has a side role in the movie too, his acting skills were significantly underutilized by Bollywood.

Stay safe, folks and take care as the summer withdraws. There might just be a sting in the tail.


By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

6 replies on “A career changer….”

Superb song share SIRJI 👌👌👌👌👌
What a singing in synchronous manner… almost beats any modern day instrument use to do so!

Liked by 1 person

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