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Sunday, 10 October 2010

Fending for answers (Gharana)

I need some questions answered. Why do all films from the Gemini stable start off with a punch and then degenerate into some regressive drama? Why are the women in their films projected as husband-worshippers? Why do they trust so easily? Why do they forgive even more easily? And yes, why does Rajendra Kumar carry a police constable's stick throughout his screen time in SS Vasan's Gharana?

There are more doubts that need to be cleared, but then, Gemini's films always plant a thousand queries in my mind. I had started watching this 1961 family drama because I'd heard only good things about this entertainer. The cast was great, the story likeable and the songs superb (Ravi gives a wonderful score). The film actually started off engagingly, with lots of fun, comedy and romance. Spiced up appropriately by Shobha Khote's pesky antics, the story was reaching enthralling heights. Till the time Sita started mouthing those tediously weak dialogues about worshipping her man, making peace with her husband marrying for the second time and soon and so forth. Even though I was gaping at this weak woman, I stuck around thinking that she will give a piece of her mind to her husband when he comes back to her. But no, she was all too happy to forgive him as soon as he sought her back in his cry-baby voice. Aghast I was...
Ramdas is the meek head of an affluent family. Henpecked that he is, he leaves the happenings of his house to God all the time. His wife, Shanta (Lalita Pawar), rules the house with the rod, screaming at her daughters-in-law at the drop of a hat and making them work all the time. I will not say that Shanta is a bad woman. For, there are those moments when you get to witness her soft side. For instance, when she learns that Sita is pregnant, initially she is upset that Sita chose to share the news first with her sister-in-law. She demands an explanation from her daughter-in-law and then in the next moment embraces her lovingly. I liked these snatches in Lalita Pawar's character and I needn't write how much I admired her in the film. She was bang on target as the martinet Shanta.
Ramdas' eldest daughter-in-law is a widow and lives in the house with her two sons. The second son is Kailash (Raj Kumar), whose wife is Sita. The youngest son is Kamal (Rajendra Kumar) who soon falls in love with Usha (Asha Parekh), the daughter of a rich advocate called Shyamlal (Kanhaiyalal in a tiny postive role). The marriage takes place with everyone's blessings and all is happy.
But the thorn in things is Bhairavi (Shobha Khote), Ramdas's daughter, who is a pest. She has deserted her husband's house and is living in her father's house. A nosey parker, she has to have a say in everything. She eavesdrops merrily and creates misunderstandings all the time. It's obvious that her own lack of responsibility towards her own family propels her to behave in this irrational manner. The biggest danger of having Bhairavi around is that she instigates her mother, who though is a stern woman, has a gullible personality. She believes in everything that Bhairavi says and acts accordingly. Bhairavi loves to botch things up this way. There are times when you seriously feel like whacking her. And yes, Khote's sharp voice is a tad irksome sometimes.
A midjudgement and a terrible lie on Bharavi's part damages the relation between Kailash and his loving wife, the woman he adored. Bhairavi hits the wrong knobs and Kailash starts suspecting Kamal of having an affair with Sita. The misunderstanding snowballs into a major crisis where Kailash accuses Sita of incest and that her baby is the fruit of her infidelity. He maligns his brother and his wife cruelly and storms out of the house. Blind to the truth and foolishly believing Bhairavi's nonsense, he does not think that Sita trusted him wholeheartedly on occasions when she too could have accused him of having an affair. Kailash seeks refuge in Ragini's (Minoo Mumtaz) arms but then this famous dancer is sane enough to see the real picture. At last a woman with sense! 
A whole lot of things happen in Ramdas's home. Calling it pandemonium would be an understatement. But then, who said Gemini's films are subtle. High strung emotions leave everyone high and dry before the denouement. Finally all's well that ends well... But then, my questions remain unanswered...
What is the point of loving a man so much (and in Sita's case actually worshipping him) if he cannot return the faith? Why not clarify matters in the very first instant? Why does Ramdas take so much time to be a man? Why is everyone tolerating Bhairavi (though she is the spice factor in the house) and her cheeky behaviour?
And, what is the use of taking Asha Parekh when you will not give her enough scope for displaying her histrionic skills? Same goes for Kanhaiyalal.
I missed Mehmood in the film. For, Sarang (Agha) would have been so much better if Mehmood would have donned his shoes. Agha is not bad either. But Mehmood's chemistry with Khote is magical.
Raj Kumar is smart but problematic. His personality development is erroneous hence unsatisfactory. But yes, he looks good. Rajendra Kumar (with his stupid stick) tries to be effortlessly funny. He succeeds sometimes, but mostly I found his laugh a bit silly. This actor, I must say, was lucky. In this film he has some lovely tracks picturised on him. For instance, Jab se tumhe dekha hain and Husnwaley tera jawab nahin. Though most of the songs are good, I'd like to mention Dadi amma and Jai raghunandan jai siyaram. The first for its naughty playfulness and the latter for its melodious devotion.
Only if the members of the family, while singing this bhajan, asked God to settle their problems a bit faster...


  1. You know, I've also noticed a pattern in oldies - the most regressive films in Hindi were usually made by South Indian producers/directors (not that the Northerners were all that progressive!). In the 50s and 60s it was often Gemini and AVM (who did make the wonderful Miss Mary) with their "family drama" that always had the most idiotic women, and in the 80s it was a lot of Telugu directors with their versions of the "adarsh Bhartiya Naari". And that is strange, because, from what I know of regional cinema, their movies are not all that regressive!

    You might want to follow a rule-of-thumb - if there is some kind of family/relation in the title, run (don't walk!) away from the movie. ;D

  2. @Bollyviewer: He he, ya I think that might work. But u know I did see Bharosa (a south production, don't remember which one) and quite liked it. Then there was Zindagi that I liked for the story if not for some of the other elements especially the length.

  3. Old memories were stirred up when I scrolled down to the last screen cap. That I think is Bipin Gupta the character actor seen quite often those days particularly in the Hindi films made in the south; I do not know whether you are aware of this actor. You know Sharmi I sometimes feel like doing a whole blog on forgotten actors.

  4. @Shilpi: Thank you so much for this wonderful trivia Shilpi. I wasn't aware of Bipin Gupta, but courtesy your super knowledge I now know. And yes, that blog idea is fantabulous :)