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Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Unmatched ties (Amar Prem)

My friend summed it well. Three people who share no umbilical attachment are tied by the bonds of love, trust, faith and understanding. A relation that has no name, a love that is illegitimate to society; yet, these bonds are so cordial and endearing. Heartmelting emotions and relations that cannot be put down on paper make Amar Prem a cathartic experience. I say cathartic because after watching this Shakti Samanta 1971 classic, you will be so overwhelmed by the string of emotions displayed here, so overwrought by the delicacies and intricacies of human bondings that you will find a your eyes swell on occasions more than one. A feeling of satisfaction and an empathy for the warm characters will absolutely occupy your soul...
Pushpa, a grief-stricken and desolate young woman from Madhopur, is glibed into a brothel in Calcutta by a so-called trustworthy native uncle. Courtesy her ravishing looks, her mild charm and her mellifluous singing ability, she becomes a prized possession in this household of questionable character. Pushpa's surroundings change but the intrinsic goodness in her is not tarnished. Though slighted by Mahesh (Sujit Kumar) for her scandalous occupation now, she bears no ill feelings towards her village folk. It is her destiny she blames. So, even when she realises that the cheeky Nepal chacha (Madan Puri) has been regularly gulling money out of her to take back to her already deceased mother in Madhopur, she weeps silently on her ill fate. Never does she harangue him for cheating her. Such is Pushpa's fortune, or the lack of it. A woman who is stigmatised and traumatised for no fault of hers. Fate has just bad things in store for her. Barren and craving for a child, she is beaten and driven out of home by her wicked husband and his new wife. Pushpa does not even get a second chance at her mother's who is more eager to slander her own daughter believing the malicious gossip of the petty neighbours. Pushpa, alone and heartbroken, choses death as her saviour, only to be rescued by Nepal chacha just in time. Surely she is not aware of the darker recesses that he will lead her to. Neither is she remotely conscious of his ulterior motives... Ill fated, for sure...
Acknowledging her new life (despite the stigma attached to it) she thrives in the praise she garners for classical prowess. Anand, the man who is a loner at heart, revels in her music and company. Her devotion floors him and he is right when he says that her name should have been Meera. Who would even say that the soulful and ethereal Raina beetee jay (such a marvellous bhajan) is emanating from a place as infamous as a brothel. The song has the whiff of Pushpa's devotion towards her art and bears testimony to the goodness in her soul...
Anand and Pushpa's ties are forged by an acute comprehension of each other's thoughts, beliefs and woes. A woman subject to the drudgeries of life, a man cheated off conjugal bliss, form a bond that belies any definition of social ties. Anand is married but is far away from marital satisfaction. His wife, an ultra modern woman, busy with her parlours and parties, wastes no time looking after or loving her husband. So who does he go to? Pushpa, even though is not his legal wife, fulfils all the responsibilities of a loving and doting wife. When Anand craves for puri, aloo sabji and halwa, it is Pushpa who rushes to fetch the food so that Anand does not go hungry. Anand saves her from the sticky Nepal chacha and wipes her silent tears whenever a storm of pain ravages her heart. A thoroughly benevolent man, Anand is the man, you feel every moment, who should have been Pushpa's husband. In the last scene when she touches his feet out of love as well as reverence, your heart aches for what could have been... A man who does everything for everybody but is never acknowledged enough, Samanta's Anand, or rather Rajesh Khanna as Anand, will always occupy a high pedestal in my heart...
The sweetest relation is shared by Pushpa and Nandu, her tiny neighbour who is suffering. Craving for a mother who will understand and care for him, Nandu rushes to Pushpa because she is the mother he does not have. A mother who loves him, dotes on him, laughs with him and cries for him. Nandu is the son she never had out of her own womb. But the attachment she has with this innocent lad is stronger than any blood ties. Agitated when his stepmother (Bindu) is beating him up, Pushpa does not think twice to rush to his rescue even though she knows that she will be insulted and rebuked for her sullied status. She envelops Nandu with her exceptional and unconditional love and expects no return. A magnanimous soul, she leaves no stone unturned to get him a doctor even when he is ill. A poignant scene is when she cuts her feet and Nandu dresses the wound. Sharmila Tagore's eyes are but a window to her vulnerable soul, a soul touched by his love and kindness. Even though he is a Brahmin, he breaks the shackles of caste and creed to pay his homage and respects to the mother who rears him with her love. Bara natkhat hain (Lata Mangeshkar) is such an apt description of the relationship the two share. Yashodha is Krishna's foster mother, but can anyone question this mother-son relation? Likewise can anyone question Pushpa and Nandu's relation?
Amar Prem's poignant story attains a different dimension when R.D Burman's music rolls. He makes his father sing the Bhatiyali number, Doli mein bithaike to set the tone of the film. Yes, Amar Prem has a very Bengali feel (sample the scene where Pushpa is breaking her conchshell bangles after her husband dies). It is adapted from Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay's story (1970's Nishi Padma is the Arobindo Mukherjee directed Bengali film starring Uttam Kumar and Sabitri Chatterjee). Kishore Kumar gets to sing some of the best tracks of his career, if you can say so of Chingari koi bhadke, Kuch to log kaheingey and Yeh kya hua. Just superlative, in terms of music, lyrics (Anand Bakshi) and picturisation.
One word for the very young Vinod Mehra, who plays the grown up Nandu. Apart from the fact that he is extremely attractive, his eyes give away a certain sensitivity that adds more beauty to this sublime drama. When he sees Pushpa for the first time after many years as an old maid subject to the harsh words and atrocities of a mess owner, his heart cries out for her. He does what every dutiful son should, he gives Pushpa her due. A mother gets a son, a son gets a mother. Anand gets to see his true love happy and rewarded. Three lives estranged from each other by a rude stroke of misfortune get intertwined again, in one fulfuling and everlasting chapter...


  1. I still haven't seen this classic but i'm well aware of 'Pushpa i hate tears'there's this hilarious looped video where he keeps repeating pushpa i hate tears. plus the songs are just fab i love kuch to log kahenge the best

    Below is the link to the hilarious 'pushpa i hate tears' video its on facebook so you might have to log in to see it

  2. @Bollywooddeewana: Okie I'm off to see the video. But, you must see this film. It's wonderful :)

  3. Yes, it IS a wonderful film. Very poignant, and with superb music. Though I must admit that the last time I saw Amar Prem, I got really annoyed at the Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore characters, because with a little effort, they could've been much happier!

  4. Hehe dustedoff, you've certainly got a point there! If only they had tried harder. But Sharmila had to be self-sacrificing and Rajesh K had to be melancholy, else the film would have a happy ending, and would not be quite as memorable! ;D

    I must admit that in spite of the delicately told story, I am not particularly fond of the film. I think it's because of the songs. As a kid I found them very boring. And now, years later, I still feel that same boredom creep up on me when I hear them. That feeling just transfers itself to the film - the power of conditioned reflexes!

  5. @Dustedoff: Ha ha, yes, with a little effort they definitely could have been happier. But then no tears would be there..ha ha ...
    I saw Nishi Padma yesterday. Pales in comparison to its Hindi cousin. Though Sabitri Chatterjee and Uttam Kumar are great, the boy who plays Bhutu/ Nandu is hardly adorable. There are plenty of jagged edges in the Bengali version. I liked Amar Prem way better.

  6. @Bollyviewer: I feel the boredom for Chingari koi bhadke. But I love Bada natkhat and raina beetee jay. They are just superlative. Anyway, I have never been a big fan of Kishore Kumar. :(

  7. Thank you Sharmi for writing about this Shakti Samanta classic. This movie is very very close to my heart and I have seen this a zillion times, yet every time I find something new. Pushpa, her life, her pain and her endurance, it just kills you. I love Bada Natkhat hain, the little nandu, his coming back to same locality as grown up boy and flashback near the raat-ki-rani tree that he planted with Pushpa as a young boy. And the last scene, when nandu takes her home and maa Durga comes to her home, its so beautiful. No words.

  8. @Golden Karma: I'm glad you liked the writeup. Yes, the film is so very poignant. There is beauty in its melancholy. Hope is not lost till the very end. An awesome film from Shakti Samanta :)

  9. the movie is so left me speechless..a sarcastic representation of life and moral values...the general tendency to generalise and categorise people and situations is very well portrayed in the movie....and you have summed it so well..gr8 going!!

  10. @Vanita: Thank you so much. At last you have mustered up the energy to comment. Yes, Amar Prem is a touching tale that depicts so many harsh realities of life. A memorable story this is.

  11. This film will always remain special to me. This is what introduced me into the world of Indian Cinema. I hardly used to watch tv, I was more of an outdoor person as a kid, used to play till i was dead tired and come home and hit the bed straight away. Must have seen just a handful of movies till I was 13. I was in 8th standard, and it was a Friday night. I had already gone to bed at 9:30. My dad came and woke me up saying there's a very nice movie coming on Doordarshan and took me to the hall. I wasn't even interested then...and the movie began. I didn't know Hindi back then and couldn't understand it properly in the beginning, and almost fell asleep, but there was something that kept me awake and as the story progressed, I was hooked to it. I didn't even need the language to understand what was happening. I was totally absorbed in the story and when it eneded I was so overwhelmed that I was crying, without even realizing it. And my dad said - Beta, I hate tears in that typical Rajesh Khanna style. I don't know how much of it I must have understood at 13 but I still remember every single thing about this movie - each frame. I haven't got around watching it again, though I have the dvd. Reading your review refreshed my sentiments attached to this movie and I had gooseflesh all over. The name Amar Prem sums up the story so well...I can't think of any other name that would do justice to this story. I had fallen in love with this movie when I saw it the very first time and it remains one of my favourites till date.
    I became a huge fan of Rajesh Khanna overnight and he became my first crush. After this I started watching all Friday night movies on DD and before long I could follow the language and speak as well. I have to re-watch this and review it soon.
    Thank you so much for this one.

  12. @Sunheriyaadein: I'm so glad memories rushed back to your mind after you read the post. It is truly a beautiful film. And Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila pairing is just awesome. Poignant put, this love story is a forever one.
    BTW, Archana, where do you live? And what do you do?

  13. I live in Hyderabad, have been here for the last 9 years. But am ethnically a Nepali. Born and brought up for sometime in Bhutan, did my schooling in Nepal and then came to India. Continued the rest of my education here and then started working. I'm an Oracle HRMS Consultant by profession :-)
    P.S : I've been thinking of putting this up on my blog in the "About Me" section for so long, but then it hasn't happened till now :-)

  14. @Sunheriyaadein: Oh wow, I've heard such good things about Hyderabad. I also want to go there some day. I will definitely meet you then and watch some great old films :) If yoy come to Delhi, please tell me. We can meet up :)

  15. Nice review. A small pointer, Bibhutibhushan's story was a mere 3 pager. Anand Babbu (or Ananga babu in Nishipadma) had no name. It was the story told by the child. He never unites with the courtesan, nsmed Kusum (and not Pushpa) in the story.

    Arabinda Mukherjee's script, partly based on the story, was much more elaborate.