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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Drab drama (Aarti)

Now I've seen all three. Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, Main Chup Rahungi and Aarti. Meena Kumari won a Filmfare best actress nomination for each of these films in 1962. She went on to win the black lady for Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam. Rightly so. For, while Main Chup Rahungi is a tad melodramatic in its execution (Kumari was very good), Phani Majumdar's Aarti is quite boring. And Kumari here is certainly not in her best acting shoes.
She plays Aarti, an idealistic doctor out to serve society. Her ideals clash with that of Prakash (Ashok Kumar), a talented brain surgeon who wants to be rich and famous. Incidentally he wants to marry Aarti, and expresses his intentions before her father.
Aarti's father has been helping Prakash obtain a foreign training and degree to better his trade, with the motive of seeing Aarti settle down with Prakash, into a happy and affluent life. Initially Aarti is also happy with the prospect. Till Deepak knocks on her doors. This unemployed man (played by the straight-faced Pradeep Kumar) saves her in a drowning accident and gets too well acquainted with her. Soon, while Prakash is away on his foreign trip, Aarti frequents the local slums with Deepak to treat the poor people there. Gradually she is drawn to Deepak's hard-hitting poetry and then to Deepak and sees glory in his toil and despondency.
She rejects Prakash's match and walks off with Deepak to his dreary home. This upsets her father, who is obviously not happy with his daughter choosing to settle down with a no-do-gooder. Prakash's ego is hurt by Aarti's slight and humiliated, he swears revenge. He tries to destroy Aarti and Deepak's marital bliss in a cold-blooded fashion.
Though Aarti is initially stunned to see the sorry state-of affairs at Deepak's home, she braces herself for the future. She is hell bent on marrying Deepak for the sake of her heart and even promises his father (Jagirdar) that she will never do medical practise. She decides on 'seva' simply because a woman earning for the family (it's 1962) would hurt a man's pride. This promise calms Deepak's father down as he too will not tolerate eating off the earnings of his daughter-in-law.
Well, Aarti proves to be a Godsend for the poor family. The moment she steps in, Deepak gets an appointment letter. And Aarti is hailed as Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity. All this does not sit well with Jaswanti, Aarti's sister-in-law. She is stabbed by jealousy and minces no words while hurling harsh words on the new bride. But the magnanimous soul that Aarti is, she tries to see reason in Jaswanti's behaviour. Extreme hardships and poverty since childhood has had an ill effect on Jaswanti's heart, says Aarti. That Jaswanti had to single-handedly take care of the household, has made her so rude and blaise. Point taken.
The couple is pretty happy with their new life, when Prakash enters it to spread marital discord. He tries to create misunderstandings between Deepak and Aarti, and succeeds when Deepak's mind is poisoned enough. Aarti leaves Deepak's house and goes back to her father's. There Prakash tells her that he did all this on purpose because he still loved Aarti. Aarti curses and rebukes him for spoiling her life and that of his own wife (Yes, Prakash marries Mona, an attractive but sad girl, waiting forever for the love of her conniving husband).
The situation gets murkier when Deepak meets with an accident and Aarti has to seek Prakash's help to save her husband's life. Now, the ball is in Prakash's court. He promises to save Deepak's life only if Aarti returns to him. Thus increasing Aarti's predicament. The rest of the film deals with how Aarti decides between love and duty...
Well, with a theme done to death, the film leaves little to the imagination. What would you watch the film for then? Difficult decision. I'd say watch it for Meena Kumari and Ashok Kumar. And, remember it for Shashikala. She simply spices things up in this drab drama. Well, as expected, Meena Kumari looks very beautiful and emotes well. Though a tad too soft (I missed the spark of Kohinoor and Main Chup Rahungi), Kumari excels in her scenes with Ashok Kumar. She is daring, feisty and strong. Brushing away his claims of love, she tells him to stay within his brief and abdicate his lust for a married woman. In the bouncy song, Tere bin lage na jiya (sung wonderfully by Mohd Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar), she looks so pretty. In Baharon ki manzil raahein, she is ethereal. She slips into the role of a domestic housewife quite comfortably making life so much better for her family, who were tired of their painful existence. She is a loving wife to Deepak and is the epitomy of goodness. (Sounds a little too sugary sweet, right?) But then, when her Deepak accuses her, she is not scared to say that he is behaving like all men, prone to suspect their wives at the drop of a hat. She walks out of his house with her head held high. But, in her heart she knows that Deepak will realise his mistake...
Shashikala's wickedness infuses a kind of colour in the film (no wonder she bagged her first best supporting actress Filmfare for the film). Her high-pitched dialogue delivery, her sarcasm, her dramatic glare, her swift nod, her gait, her sharp tongue, her constant needling, everything about her is so exciting. She is like a whiplash when she is harsh to her husband (Ramesh Deo) and is scolding her children. She is at her shrewish best when she is deftly poisoning Deepak's mind against Aarti. In one scene, she comes to Deepak with a cup of tea, to fill his ear about Aarti roaming about in Prakash's motorcar. When she finds that Deepak is giving little importance to her words, she takes the cup of tea from his hand and says, "Chai thandi ho gayi..." Of course, her sizzling plan fell flat and cold on Deepak's ears!
But, despite Jaswanti's brusque behaviour, one can read into her plight. Burdened by her responsibilities from a young age, she is indeed a slave to hard times. With no liberty to nurture a soft behaviour or enjoy life, she is striken by poverty and its dark sorrows. Hence, she changes her stand radically when she realises that Aarti is a good soul and is courageous enough to admit that she was the nasty one in the family. Kudos to Shashikala and her top show!
Ashok Kumar is good, at least much better than Pradeep Kumar. He plays his cold blooded part well and strikes up a good chemistry with Meena Kumari. And, he has quick wit, too. In a scene where Aarti tells him that she is keen on 'seva' he reciprocates with, "Tum seva kar lena, main paisa kama loonga." Clever retort!
It is Pradeep Kumar who is sad, in terms of looks, characterisation and performance. Instead of being grateful to Aarti for marrying a loser like him, he throws his weight around on their marriage anniversary. He is boring and bad. I'd do better than wasting words on him. But, yes, unlike Biswajit, another fellow Bengali actor striking a good bargain in Hindi films, Pradeep Kumar's diction is great. And so is his voice. Deep.
In one scene, where he screams out "Tum mujhey maar dalo ge" on realising that Prakash will be operating on him, I couldn't help laughing out. Coward!!
The film's music is by Roshan. Ab kya misal doon is a tribute to Kumari's beauty, sung wonderfully by Rafi. Bane ho ek khak se is a bit screechy and preachy. Aapne yaad dilaya is just about okay.
The worst part about the film is the subplot featuring Mehmood, Rajendernath, Keshto Mukherjee and Farida. Inane, I must say. Without them the film would have been tighter, and a lot better...

10 comments:

  1. I remember watching Aarti a couple of years back, and that too mainly because of the song, Bahaaron ki manzil. My take on the film was much like yours: it's somewhat hackneyed, with a few good performances, and with moments of spirit, but otherwise forgettable. I think that song remains, for me at least, the best thing about the film!

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  2. Your review has made this not-so famous or known film a li'l likable. I appreciate your patience and perseverance. You could watch it and write about it as well. I remember listening to its songs though. the songs, i guess, will make it worth a watch.

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  3. @Dustedoff: I liked Baharon ki manzil raahein, Ab kya misaal doon and Tere bin lage na jiya a lot. I think Shashikala saves the film, she is really superb as the harsh sister-in-law. But otherwise a not very memorable film :(
    Thank you for the comment :)

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  4. @Shilps: Yes, you have to give me credit for tolerating Pradeep Kumar Batabyal!!! He is intolerable I tell you. Though the songs are good, the film's story is kind of boring. You can do one thing. watch the songs on youtube. you will be saved from the onslaught of Pradeep Kumar :(
    Thank you for the comment rey :)

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  5. You can do one thing. watch the songs on youtube. you will be saved from the onslaught of Pradeep Kumar :( : I wish somebody had told me this before I watched the movie! I saw it for the songs esp Baaharon ki manzil . I like both Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari a lot but Pradeep Kumar was intolerable! Story wise I found it an emotional atyachar. There's one more movie of this trio Bheegi Raat - I remember hearing the story on Bioscope in Baatein on Vividh Bharati almost a decade ago. Even that has some nice songs, but post Aarti I'm not very sure if I want to actually watch it. Am waiting for somebody to watch and review it before I summon enough courage to watch it myself ;-)

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  6. @Sunheriyaadein: Ha ha that's a clever plan Archana. Bheegi Raat! What a name! I'm sure it won't have any of those things, thoughts of which such a name conjures! And, with Pradeep Kumar that can't be possible anyway, hain na???

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  7. Hee hee...yeah. As far as I remember it was anything but what the name conjures ;-)
    It's another love triangle. Let's wait for someone to watch and review it. We have lots of other movies to watch till then. But again this guy had some mast songs pricturised on him na...esp the songs from Taj Mahal.

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  8. @Sunheriyaadein: I swear. And he could not even emote in them :(
    Yes, let's wait till someone else watches it ;)
    Yes, Taj Mahal is one. Also Bheegi Raat and Aarti. Thank you for the comment :)

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  9. I completely sympathise with you for tolerating Pradeep Kumar. somehow, I have not been courageous enough to watch his movies. So cheers to your patience and tolerance!!! Now tested...

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  10. @Shilps: Ha ha, thank you so much for appreciating my patience. Oh there is this one film called Bheegi Raat where Meena Kumari is wrapped in a sheet or something when she is singing a romantic number "Dil jo na keh saka". Kumar is supposed to look passionate!!! Guess his expression??? Pained!! And, this is just an understatement! :D

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