Rahul Dev Burman Sad Film Songs Uncategorized

A duel to remember

I remember seeing this movie in Goregaon in Anupam theatre. I had seen the original English movie a few months ago and also watched the Marathi play (which was never credited sadly by Hrishikesh Mukherjee) . It featured a memorable acting duel in every one of its avatars.

It started off as a  1935 play by T S Eliot on the same subject, Murder in the Cathedral, which was intended primarily as a religious treatment. However, there are one or two similarities in the interpretation with the play by Jean Anouilh , Becket which was published and staged nearly a quarter of a century later , a world war apart and in French, but based on the same state vs religion conflict of It is a depiction of the conflict between Thomas Becket and the then King, Henry II of England,  that resulted in Becket’s murder (Contract Killing in today’s parlance) in 1170. The French play contains many historical inaccuracies, which the author acknowledged. But that was a liberty taken by a playwright to improve the dramatic effect of the narrative. Thomas Becket also known as Saint Thomas of CanterburyThomas of London and later called Thomas à Becket was the much respected and venerated Archbishop of Canterburyfrom 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is widely venerated as a Saint and even as a Martyr  by both the Catholic Church as well as the Anglican Church. He engaged in conflict (Church vs State) with the then King of England, Henry II, over the rights and privileges of the Church. The conflict started creating much discomfiture for the King who asked his cronies to bump off the Archbishop, ironically and cynically carried out in the Canterbury Cathedral itself, following which the dead Archbishop was immediately canonised by the then Pope, Alexander III. At that time, the British Monarchy still paid obeisance to the Vatican, the break and establishment of the Anglican Church happened during the reign of the polygamous and sex-crazed King Henry VIII who wanted the pope to solemnise his marriage(s) to a divorcee, which of course the Pope refused. So our man Henry broke away from the Vatican and established his own Church (shades of what is happening on the Political Scene in India?)

The movie based on the late 50s play was called, expectedly, Becket, a must-watch for all serious students of cinema. It has a feast of acting talent: Richard Burton as Thomas Becket, Peter O’Toole as King Henry II and the legendary John Gielgud as King Louis VII. It won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and was nominated for eleven other awards, including for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and twice for Best Actor. Jean Anouilh’s play was adapted by the great Marathi Playwright Vasant Kanetkar as Beimaan. Satish Dubhashi and Prabhakar Panashikar were just terrific in the original Marathi Play and every one of my generation (and one senior) who has seen the play will remember and relish their acting duel. Sparks flew and I was very influenced at the time and used some of the lessons in my own attempts. Hrishikesh Mukherji was a very big fan of Marathi dramas. Theatre, Literature and Music are all shared passions for all Marathi and Bangla speaking people. He adapted Beimaan to make Namak Haram but didn’t credit Vasant Kanetkar properly. This song is from the same movie.

The movie has a fantastic acting duel between Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan, the movie was made soon after Anand. It is said that according to the initial script, Bachchan was supposed to die at the end. When Kaka got to know this, he insisted that Hrishikesh Mukherjee to change the ending so he dies in the end instead of Bachchan. It was Khanna’s view that death in the end gets viewers’ sympathy. The same had happened in Anand, and had succeeded in getting a lot of popularity for Khanna. Although Mukherjee did not want this change, Khanna was such a big star, he had to do this. This made Amitabh very angry and he vowed never to work with Khanna again. I personally don’t believe in this version at all on the grapevine. The original story from history has the priest getting killed by the King’s men and so it would be logical for the poor worker being killed by the rich milliner’s henchmen by logical continuity.

Great lyrics by Gulzar, Great composition and singing by R D Burman and Kishore Kumar, respectively.

All in all, a great movie despite the alleged controversy.

Take care, folks, and stay happy and healthy


By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

10 replies on “A duel to remember”

It was an era of socialist thoughts. The films potrayed profit makers as villains. So it is logical to show the industrialist as the villain.

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Hmm. Actually you should trace the roots of the story. The one who dies in the historical reference, the original play as well as the French adaptation or the Hollywood movie is always the one who opposes the Powerful person. So also in Beimaan.

How then could the Bollywood movie be radically different


What a share… I didn’t know the ABC of it👍
Yess the controversy of not mentioning Kanetkar is well known… with your gripping narrative I must watch Becket✅✅✅🙏🏾
This was a game changer movie for AB and RK..

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Wow , so informative. You hv indeed vested a lot of time in research and getting facts right. Really admire ur tenacity . And course, the song is imprinted and etched indelibly in our minds..

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Wow….After reading this history would like to watch the movie Becket…
I was not at all aware about this piece of history..A new information for me….
Also I would have liked to watch the Marathi play by those two great artists…But unfortunately that’s not possible now….
Will search for the natak sanhita if possible for this play at least to read….
The song is beautiful…..
It’s very interesting to see how the film/play/book writers adapt the real history into their story….But while being dramatic they should stick to the facts…as per my opinion….because most of the people from younger generation will watch/read the book/play/movie and get information and form their opinion…
The song is beautiful…..
Beautifully written article….Thanks for the share Aniruddha sir….

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