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Saturday, 5 June 2010

Moving on (Ijaazat)

My friend is going through a difficult phase in her five-year relationship. The lady and her lover have decided to call it quits. Thanks to her egotistic father, and of course the man, who couldn't muster up enough courage to walk away with his sweetheart, my dear friend is in the doldrums. We've been counselling her to move on, simply because she deserves a lot better. But, moving on, she says, is easier said than done...
Mahendra in Gulzar's Ijaazat is tormented by a similar predicament. Straddling between his past love and his current responsibility, Mahendra is torn between right and wrong, and is a bit selfish sometimes. In the process, he is neither just to Sudha, his wife, nor is he able to shun his marriage and return to Maya, his sweetheart. On the face, this triangle seem very concrete, but the edges are deceivingly blurred. Such is the complexity of this 1987 drama. Based on Subodh Ghosh's Jotugriha, this is a contorted take on human relationships that Gulzar presents with a poetic flair...

Shouldered by an eclectic cast of Naseeruddin Shah, Rekha and Anuradha Patel, this film needs pondering. Shah is an established photographer who is unable to tell his grandfather that he will not be able to marry the girl he is engaged to. Sudha, that girl, is a conventional woman. She helps Mahendra (Shah) with sensible solutions because she knows that marrying out of compulsion would be sheer injustice. Love and faith, the basic ingredients of a blissful marriage, is important to her...
Mahendra goes to fetch Maya to meet his grandfather (Shammi Kapoor in a tight cameo) but his sweetheart has left uninformed. Unable to convince his guardian, Mahendra caves in and marries Sudha. Three lives get forcibly intertwined...
Sudha is the prototype of the Indian wife, taking care of her house and her husband. She learns how to love him, getting snug under the sheets of domesticity and marital bliss. She is amply supported by Mahendra, who is trying hard to make peace with his altered life and affections now. He loved Maya before but he convinces Sudha that he is gradually going to vanquish her thoughts and rememberances from his mind. Sudha is possessive. She feels unnerved because every nook in Mahendra's home bears Maya's touch. But, instead of raving and ranting for her rights, she patiently waits for Mahendra to get used to her and her love...
While Sudha is a conformist, Maya is a freespirit. Her actions are impulsive and juvenile sometimes. Like a dry leaf that drifts from place to place, Maya is unwilling to get tied down by domesticity. But, that does not mean she does not love Mahendra. It's just that her reactions, her projection of passion is twisted. A heady concoction of childlike sentimentality and obstinacy, Maya is an outright feminist. She listens to her heart and cares two hoots for societal norms. Why else would she crave for Mahendra's affection even after he is happily married? In fact, she is also ready to share him with Sudha. For, she shares a happy togetherness with Sudha, who she fondly refers to as Didi, because they both love the same man. She asks Mahendra to marry her, hardly realising that it is ludicrous. It's 1987, and polygamy is not an option for civilised educated urbanites. And, obviously, no self-respecting woman would be ready to share her man... Sudha is no different.
Love should be transparent. Sudha tells Mahendra that like any normal wife, she is possessive and expects her husband to tell her everything about Maya. Even though she returns all of Maya's belongings thus hurting the latter terribly, she is least expecting Mahendra to supress the fact that he has been visiting Maya regularly. Maya is unable to move on in her life. She tries to end her life because she cannot forget Mahendra. Impulsive and irrational. Earlier we see flashes of such behaviour when she forces Mahendra to buy a bike, brings home a baby from a slum and writes a beautiful letter to Mahendra on getting back her belongings from Sudha (Asha Bhonsle's voice and Gulzar's lyrics in Mera kuch samaan are understandably award-winning). Though the poetry she pens is beautiful, it reveals moments of proximity that she shared with Mahendra that Sudha might find a bit unnnerving!! But Maya is not bothered, she has to voice her pain. She calls her ex-boyfriend at home and in office, not bothering that he might be busy with his better-half or work. Maya is not ready to relinquish her rights over Mahendra, something that aught to be put to bed on the termination of a relationship...
Yes, I guess it's easy to get rid of a habit. But, it is just not easy to give up your right over somebody. So, when Mahendra impulsively shouts at Sudha (when she hurts her knee at the station where they meet after five years of separation) we know that Mahendra has not been able to move over Sudha. Sudha knows this and says, "Aadat to phir bhi chali jati hain, par adhikar kabhi nahin jata..." In the same way as he clung to Maya and held himself responsible for her actions! In a discussion with a friend, I've persisted on the point that it's imperative to severe all ties with your past lover. Unless that's done, complications are bound to make your present life and relationship turbid. My friend argued that sometimes an obligation towards your past love might force you to go back. Perhaps, it was the same thing that egged Mahendra to see Maya when she's hospitalised. But then, he should have kept his ground clear before Sudha. Also, he should have drawn a line somewhere regarding his closeness with Maya. Even when he is unwell, Maya stays with him in his house. Isn't that a manifestation of unfaithfulness???
But yes, Maya is a rare kind. It's love she lives for and it's love that ends her. In fact, her restless soul is set free from patriarchal norms of the society (the remarkable imagery of the stole getting entangled in the spokes of the bike wheel) when she meets with an accident. Patel is perfect as Maya. Her eyes, though bright, belie a tremendous loneliness, her body-language is exuberant and her voice has an infectious pitch. Gulzar's Maya leaves you dazed long after she is no more... Wonder how things would span if she was less impetuous and more reasonable?
Shah is a revelation as Mahendra. While his spinelessness is exasperating (he cannot give up Maya completely, and at the same time he is supremely stunned when Sudha deserts him), you'll feel sympathetic towards his helpnessness. Shah is an actor par-excellence, handling such subtly complex roles with elan. It's in the station sequences that you realise how vulnerable his condition is. Unable to get a grip over his life and relationships, and completely alone, Mahendra introspects over what went wrong. And, ultimately makes peace with the decision that Sudha deserved better...
Rekha, in a role tailormade for her, shines as Sudha. Resplendant in her rich silks, with her long tresses tied into loose plaits, Sudha is the picture-perfect dusky Indian beauty. And, when she sings Katra katra and Khali haath shaam aayi hain, she plays havoc with your senses! Poignantly charming music by RD Burman.
In the search for the better, Sudha does what she says is "theek aur sahi". She moves on. Proving that when you're really eager to find a suitable life-partner, it is indeed possible to flip over those old painful chapters. Is my friend listening???


  1. I agree with you. It is necessary to 'flip over those old painful chapters' if life has to go on. And if you can't, the law of nature will find a way to tell you that you must go. Like, Maya's stole got entangled in the bike spoke.
    An excellent post, peppered with thoughtful asides.

  2. Thank you...It is a difficult film to sum up... But hopefully I have managed...what say???

  3. This film is a beautiful poetry penned on the lives of three lesser mortals who loved, laboured and even then lost. And your review does justice to it completely: it is simple and heart-wrenching. Mahendra's marriage was arranged by his grand dad, but his heart lay with another woman and the struggle that followed between Sudha and Maya to live with their love makes it agonizing. What helps Gulzar’s masterpiece withstand all the odds, vis-à-vis extramarital relationship, is his story-telling where he lets all three justify their stance—they are wrong and right in their own way. While one lived on by moving over because she couldn’t happily co-exist in this crowded relationship, the other died as she miserably failed to live a life with the man she loved, in her own eccentric way. Notwithstanding the names of the two women: while one is called Maya, illusion, the other is Sudha, life saver. Unfortunately, Mahendra’s is left yearning for love which he had lost long ago due to his own indecisiveness for he knew how to love, but not how to let go. A poignant tale well told by you. Kudos!!!

  4. "ek so sola chaand ki ratein" in the song mera kuch samman tumhare paas pada hai...what is the significance of this line in the song? To explain further: Maya had a short, but intense affair with Mahendra, spanning three-four months. So four months is 120 nights and if you minus new moon nights, it leaves 116 nights which she spent loving and longing for him. Also, Gulzar and RD have worked on 116 songs together. Isn't it a strange co-incidence!!!

  5. What a wonderful review. Now I really, really must get around to seeing this film! I somehow missed it when it was released (as a family, we didn't see too many films in cinema halls at that time - the town we lived in was too small to have a decent cinema hall) and I never later got around to seeing it on TV either. Must get the DVD now; it sounds so poignant and intelligent.

  6. To me a good movie is one which has a good story or is very well presented, that is, no gripping narrative just plain and simple drama. This certainly fits the second category. Nothing less was expected of a film which had so much brilliance in every department - acting, directing and even the music.
    Very well written :)

  7. @Shilpi: Thank you sooo much. I'm extremely happy that you liked the write-up. For, you are the first one to request it off me. Your appreciation just sweetens the feeling of pondering on this thought-provoking film. For that, I thank you immensely. Also, for me the lines "Ek akeli Chatri mein jsb adhey adhey bheeg rahey the..." in Mera kuch saman is beautiful. Can you imagine she actually tells him that she has left her soft and wet memories with him. It is such a sensually piece of rememberance told so poetically...Gulzar just creates magic. And RD Burman is just inexplicable!! And your explanation regarding their names is so apt. I tell you, you should also start writing Shilpi. I will enjoy reading about your thoughts on these fabulous films. Thanks once again...Umrao Jaan and Bhumika will be here shortly :)

  8. @Dustedoff: Madhulika this is not a film. It is poetry in motion. I think after Mausam, this is Gulzar's best. You must, really must watch it. You have the great trio of Naseer, Rekha and Patel. They create magic on the screen. You have Gulzar's superb execution and Burman's fabulous music. And the story...oh...What more can we film lovers want? Right? Enjoy the film :)

  9. @Jude: Thank last you are here. I'm extremely happy that you liked the piece. And, this is a film which does excel in all depts. One day we will watch it together and then discuss it...thanks for visiting and see you soon :)

  10. I just can't have enough of this poem in motion, certainly not in this lifetime. I discover something new, something that completely went unnoticed and escaped my attention when I watched it earlier. The best is how Gulzar has depicted the feeling of loss and agony of being no where in Mahendra's character. Win none, lose all. The songs, cinematography and screenplay make it an affair to remember. And you have done a commendable job of it. Beautiful!!! No waiting for Umrao Jaan and Bhumika. And some of Guru Dutt classics too, please, please, please.

  11. @Shilpi: You know one of my most loved scenes in Ijaazat is when Sudha shoos away the cateen guy because he is prying over Mahendra's suitcase...
    Surely, she still has that feeling of responsibility for her ex-husband. The same way when Mahendra scolds her, right??
    Guru Dutt, hmmm... thik achhey :)

  12. Thanks for the info that Ijazaat was based on Subodh Ghosh's Jotugriha. Yes Sharmi some move on in life fast, but a few SIMPLy can't. Time would be the best healer. I just love the movie, each and every song from the movie and liked your write-up too. :)

  13. @Sarbani: I think the songs are an extention to the wonderful poetry that the movie is full of. Yes, you are right. Time was, and is, the best healer :)

  14. Sharmi this has to be your best post so far! A beautiful piece that brings out the turbulence in the lives of these three souls and somewhere also the turbulence in your own mind and heart while watching this movie which stokes some moral, ethical and philosophical questions.
    But I agree with what Shilps said about Gulzar's story-telling that he allows all three to justify their stance (without being judgmental and taking a stance himself as the story teller). Maya and Sudha are different and yet similar in that both are strong women with their independent ideas about love and life. Gulzar's women are always strong characters. And Shilps also very rightly pin-points the source of Mahendra's agony that he knows how to love but doesn't know how to let go.
    This film is indeed poetry in motion because Gulzar can't stop being the poet that he is even when he dons the filmmaker's hat.
    One of my favourite lines in the 4 superlative songs is "girte girte bahon mein bachi main, sapne pe paon pad gaya tha" in Katra Katra...this is classic Gulzar only he can make you stumble on a dream!
    And I think this comment has become longer than your post:)
    But before I go may I remind you about Pyasa!

  15. Wow, another triangle, and what a. Thanks Sharmi, that's on my next Nehaflix shopping list. I just love Naseer, and his "spinelessness" as you describe it sounds just right, he can do that very well!
    Okay, I'll let you know when I've seen it

  16. @Abhi: Thank you Abhi. Thank you so much. Yes, Now I will write about Pyaasa, say in the next few days. Oh, how beautifully you have related your thoughts!! Gulzar is truely a poetic soul. If you see Mausam, you'll get to see another side of the same poet!!! Thank you again :)

  17. @Yves: You just have to watch this film. It is, as I've said before, poetry in motion. You will revel in the music of the film, which is fabulous. A must watch, this superlative film :)

  18. Wow!!!! You have summed it up so beautifully... wonderful review. Like dustedoff, I also havent got around to seeing it. I saw a part of it on Doordarshan (haven't seen it being aired on any other channels yet) last year. They show a movie split into three parts, one hour each on Mon, Tue and Wed @ 11 pm in a program called Bioscope. I was mesmerised seeing just few minutes of it. Like you said, it's truly a poetry in motion. Have been looking for a DVD ever since, but haven't found one yet.
    And all the insights into the lyrics of the songs, their hidden meanings, aadat and adhikar's so very tempting.

  19. @Sunheriyaadein: I think the film is available in Moserbaer now. Just go grab it. This film is something that will make you reel in its beauty and lyricism. The trio is indefatigable in terms of performance. Just grab and enjoy. This is a film that will stay with you forever. thanks for the comment :)

  20. Ok !!! So i finally got down to reading your much talked about blog. Although i get all the dope sitting right next to you, i still wanted to see it write first hand. No doubt it's marvellous. After all your writing and expression of thoughts are par-excellence. Hopefully one day u'll write on films i can relate to or maybe i can write on films post 80's. What say? Hunn?

  21. @Ayesha: Of course you can. Make sure you watch them closely and write your heart out. Write what you believe in. And, then I can also comment on your blog:)
    P.S. Please keep those inane comedies out of this please :)

  22. very nice review. While I liked the movie, it seemed to be silent on why was Maya so irrational. One understands her disillusionment of marriage but not her strange acts. It could have added a meaningful layer to her personality and made the story more riveting, the arguments more convincing.

  23. @saurabh: not really... I think it has been established well that Maya was a free spirit... A child trapped in a woman's body... Impulsive yet very passionate!