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Friday, 30 July 2010

Tragic romance (Goonj Uthi Shehnai)

My brother believes that a tragic ending makes a romantic film even more memorable. And, if not sad, an expectant one, where the lovers' union is far from achieved. He is of the view that when the denouement is not rosy, it tends to haunt you. Call it poignance or what, I can sense the same when the end credits roll in Vijay Bhatt's Goonj Uthi Shehnai. When circumstances and society tear Kishan away from his sweetheart Gopi, you kind of feel a hollow in your heart. The pain increases when the two lovers meet their end far away from each other, only with the hope that in death will their union be possible. The love that stung the eyes of society shall be consummated in the jaws of death. Perhaps, that is why this Rajendra Kumar-Ameeta romantic tradegy continues to be so memorable...
And yes, the haunting music lends a kind of beauty to the 1959 love story. For that, kudos to music master Vasant Desai, shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan, classical vocalist Amir Khan and of course, Mohd Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar and Geeta Dutt...
Childhood sweethearts Gopi (Ameeta) and Kishan (Rajendra Kumar) hope to get married when they are grown up. Gopi dances to the magical tunes of Kishan's clarinet and both are virtually inseparable. Both grow up to attractive lovers. Gopi's mother, Jamuna (Leela Mishra), would like Gopi to get married to a young man from Lucknow, by the name of Shekhar, who works for All India Radio. Shekhar visits them, meets Gopi, and approves of this marriage, and asks Jamuna to finalise a day for the marriage. When this news reaches Gopi and Kishan both are heartbroken. As much as Kishan would like to marry Gopi he knows that he is unemployed and poor, and hence not considered a good suitor. Additionally, his mentor and guardian, Raghunath, would like him to marry his daughter, Ramkali (Anita Guha), and may ask him to make the ultimate sacrifice by demanding this as his guru-dakshina.
Matters turn grimy when the villagers ask Kishan to leave as he has had the audacity of meeting Gopi, who has now been promised to Shekhar. Kishan leaves town and goes to Lucknow. Good fortune comes calling when Kishan meets Shekhar, who gives him a job at the Radio Station. Soon Kishan's music gets lauded all across the country and he is rich and famous. He returns home to wed Gopi, but finds out that Shekhar is to wed her. The rest of the film puts together a series of incidents that wring your heart at the sorry plight of the lovers and how they are forced to separate given certain social taboos. Sad but immensely engaging...
Kishan and Gopi's love story is fraught with troubles. One of the main one is Kanhaiya, the pesky village postman, who is eyeing Gopi for himself. He does not think twoce before spreading rumours and misunderstandings. IS Johar is indeed irritating as the cheeky Kanhaiya.
Even though this love story is bound by tradition, I quite likes how the director has etched his characters. Kishan is the quintessential lover, crazy about Gopi and wooing her with all his heart. Armed with a talent to create melody at the drop of a hat with his clarinet, he is a faithful lover in the face of all opposition and adversaries. Rajendra Kumar looks good and is quite likeable as Kishan. It helps that he gets to sing some awesome numbers. Mohd Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar are just magical in Maine Peena Seekh Liya, Tere Sur Aur Mere Geet, Haule Haule Ghoonghat Pat Khole, Mujhko Agar Bhool Jaoge Tum, Kah Do Koi Na Kare Yahan Pyaar and Teri Shehnai Bole. Geeta Dutt also makes Akhiyan Bhool Gain Hain Sona memorable. And, when Kishan plays the clarinet, it is as if the universe is filled with harmony. Ustad Bismillah Khan's music is truly ethereal, enough to give goosebumps... Everytime Kishan puts the shehnai to his lips, you know that the heavens will reverberate with sweet and soft melody. It will play with not just Gopi's heart but also our soul...
I often wonder why Ameeta never attained success. She was good looking and a decent actor. Unfair, I feel. In Goonj Uthi Shehnai, she is a revelation. Spunky and ebullient, she has no qualms in wearing her heart on her sleeves. Literally that is. I think it was quite daring on the director's part to show a village belle in those days embellishing her arm with the tattoo of her lover's name! In fact, Ameeta is extremely pretty as Gopi, her long hair accentuating her perky looks. She dances with energy and emotes quite well. Her character is full bodied and her dialogues have spark. The beauty of her character becomes even more evident when towards the end she is ready to sacrifice her love for her filial obligations. She looks stunning in Dil Ka Khilona Hay Toot Gaya, her eyes mirroring her sorrow immaculately. Mangeshkar is so mellifluous. In short, Ameeta's a perfect Gopi. And, she deserved better...
The other woman is Anita Guha. She plays Ramkali, the woman in love with Kishan. Her's is a selfless love that can never be overbearing. She is matured and ready to sacrifice everything for her man. Great characterisation...
Goonj Uthi Shehnai is a musical marvel. Sometimes, the music might sound like that of Naushad's, but that would be unfair to Vasant Desai. For, his creations are original and definitely make this love story fabulously magical...


  1. Yes, Ameeta is definitely pretty and vivacious on screen. I've never seen this film. Not a big fan of Rajendra Kumar. And the word 'Shehnai' in Hindi films always seems to foretell sadness, isn't it?

  2. @Banno: Generally an instrument imperative for Indian marriages, I think most often than not it does seem to foretell sadness. You are right. This film is quite good. Listen to the songs, they are just marvellous!

  3. Have never seen this, mainly because I'm not a Rajendra Kumar fan! (On the other hand, that makes it easier to bear watching tragedy befall him; if it was tragedy striking a Dev Anand or a Shammi Kapoor, I'd be upset too; Rajendra Kumar being struck by tragedy I can deal with). Oh, but the songs are wonderful - I may be tempted to watch the film just for them!

  4. @Dustedoff: Yes, remember that Pyar ka Sagar film, where Rajendra Kumar is struck by tradegy?? Irritating it was. But do watch this just for the songs and Ameeta! You will like her here.
    Tradegy befalling Shammi Kapoor? nahin, I hope I never get to see such a film. can't bear that, for sure :)

  5. In common with Banno and Dustedoff, I haven't seen this film either. The songs sound so tragic that I've never worked up the courage! I do like Ameeta and Rajendra Kumar but would much prefer them in non-weepy roles. Rajendra Kumar, for one, has so many weepy roles that I sometimes wonder why they call Dilip Kumar "tragedy King" when tragedy is really Rajendra K's calling card!

  6. @Bollyviewer: "tragedy is really Rajendra K's calling card!" Funny!! The songs here are not tragic (well, some are), they are simply marvellous. It's a good film, you can try it sometime :)

  7. From what I have heard, all the producers couldn't afford Dilip Kumar, he was a superstar then and his fees where quite high. So they used to sign Rajendra Kumar for roles tailor-made for Dilip more often than not. And he used to be a safe bet. Majority of his films would do well at box-office - attaining silver jubilee.
    I haven't seen the movie yet. I luv the songs. And I like Ameeta too, though I haven't seen any of her movies as yet.
    Pyaar Ka Sagar was terrible, but this sounds good. I would love to see it.

  8. @Sunheriyaadein: Don't get me started on Pyar ka Sagar. What a waste of Meena Kumari!
    This one is not bad, especially for the songs and Ameeta. She is lovely :)

  9. All you Guys who are saying Foolish Things dont know about Rajendra kumar .He Was Highest Paid Actor of 60s.
    He was the Original Tragedy King.He is not media king like Dilip kumar.Media Always ignored him.

    But he lives in the Hearts of his millions of fans.

    He is true legend of bollywood.
    He was master of all generes

  10. @Muhammad: Hi and welcome :)
    Yes, I'm sure you are spot on. My father also said that he was known as Jubilee Kumar because of his steady success :)

  11. My Name is ADNAN.
    Rajendra kumar was the King of indian cinema.

    He was a great actor. Brilliant etertainer.

    He was as good actor as dilip kumar was in those days.

    Media always ignored him thats why people of modern generation dont know him.

  12. Sharmi Ghosh sahib,

    He was brilliant actor.

    He acting in Arzoo was just outstanding ,Brilliant.He was legend.

  13. @Adnan: Hello and welcome.
    I'm not sure whether the younger generations recognised most of our yesteryear filmstars. And yes, Rajendra KUmar is definitely one of them.

  14. @Anonymous: Well I'm not sure whether you can call me Sahib!!!!
    But yes, there are films where I can watch Rajendra Kumar if the story is good.

  15. Adnan...

    sharmi he was not only successful at hte box-office at the same time he was great actor.

  16. @Adnan: Yes, I did like him in some films. My father liked him quite a bit