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Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Twisty tale (Palki)

Once you gloss over some of the ludicrous events that force the happenings in Palki, you might just like this 1967 film. At least I did. I chose to ignore the baseless decision made by the lead pair and watched on as they met their respective fates. And sometimes, the anticipation of whether Naseem and Mehrunisa would actually unite in the end was so high that I found myself fast forwarding through the melodious tracks composed by legendary Naushad...

Come to think of it, I actually started watching Palki without expecting much from this S U Sunny and Mahesh Kaul enterprise. The cast was predictable and the setting was Lucknow. How different could this romance be, I thought. But, yes, this romance did spring some surprises. And even after forecasting itself as yet another tragedy, it wasn't so.
Naseem (Rajendra Kumar) is a struggling poet in Lucknow who is lauded for his art. He is in love with his neighbour, Mehrunisa (Waheeda Rehman), who reciprocates his feelings. Though I'm yet to decipher why Mehrunisa's brother (Johny Walker) and sister-in-law enter Naseem's house through a hole in the wall the two families share, I quite enjoyed the romantic escapades the two lovers have on the terrace. Here they sing the wonderful Mohd Rafi/ Suman Kalyanpur ghazal, Dil e betaab.
Naseem enters a poetry contest organised by the local nawab, who is also called Naseem (Rehman). While his poetry receives a thunderous applause, he is humiliated when suddenly the stitch of his shirtsleeves tear in the meeting. Naseem walks off in a huff rejecting the prize money offered by the nawab. Though he is chided by his blind mother on his lack of judgement (that money would have helped Naseem marry Mehru), his sweetheart extracts a promise that he would never accept that money. Or else, she would die. This I find a bit too juvenile. After all, that money is rightfully won by Naseem. Anyways...
Mehru's brother tricks Naseem and brings the prize money home. The marriage takes place and the lovers unite with another lovely track, Cheherey se apne. Just when the couple is going to consummate the marriage, Mehru and Naseem discover that they have been tricked into accepting the nawab's money and the marriage expenditure came from that. They are aghast. Naseem in an angry fits burns down all the festoons put up for the wedding and pledges to work hard to return the money to the nawab. This I can understand. Young people and their pride.
But, what rankled me was why the two lovers break their marriage and separate, so that they can again get married. Puerile decision on the part of both. Had the director asked me, I guess the film would have gone in another way...
So, Naseem goes off to Bombay to earn the money and works hard enough. Just when his deed is almost complete the locality in  which he stays is attacked by bombers (from where they came I know not). Naseem injures himself while saving a young boy, but a misinforming letter is sent to his house regarding his death. Naseem's mother and Mehru's relatives are devastated. Mehru does not take this rude shock too well and looses her memory...
While Naseem recuperates in a Bombay hospital, Mehru's sister-in-law plans her wedding with a widower. Since thsi widower is called Naseem, Mehru mistakes this alliance to have come from her lover. And that her mind is in a tizzy helps. She hardly questions any proceedings (only a bit taken aback by the fact that her poor lover is now a nawab) and marries this man. On the wedding night, she is flabbergasted to find that this man is not her Naseem, but Naseem, the nawab! And, she regains her senses (memory in thsi case)!!!
Meanwhile Naseem returns to his Lucknow. But, Mehru's sister-in-law lie to him that Mehru died out of shock on hearing about his death. Naseem plunges into a bed of sorrows.
I too, at this point, fidget away. For, too much death has taken a toll on my attention. Everyone in the film is crying, barring the newly married nawab who declares that he will never divorce Mehru when she pleads him to set her free. There are too many sad songs and there is the danger of the film becoming one tedious tragic drawl...
But then the twists start taking place. Mehru, Naseem and the nawab start doing things that make the plot interesting. Important decisions need to be taken so that all three are happy. And it is the wait for these decisions that makes the last half hour of Palki worth it.
What is it with directors zeroing in on Rajendra Kumar to play the morose poet? I guess it's that dejected demenour of his. He's perfect with that expression. In this film, he does a commendable job. His chemistry with Waheeda Rehman is very good. If he is the classical Urdu poet, Waheeda is the true-blue Muslim beauty, well suited to the script. She emotes darn well and is best when she makes it very clear to her husband that she still loves Naseem, her lover.
Rehman is fat but awesome in the film. The dignified look on his face comes naturally. His booming voice, his angry visage (when he feels his wife is going astray) are noteworthy. I've seen Rehman do roles like this earlier. Here too, he does a fine job, displaying his reluctance to let go of his bride on one hand and his discomfiture at the knowledge of her past...


  1. I'm a Rajendra Kumar lover but twist or no twists i found palki rather dry, it was amongst the films i had picked up for Rajendra week on my blog, which sadly never took place, but i didn't care so much for this one at all. And let's not even talk about Waheeda pretending to be a Ghost, nahinnnnnnnnnnnnn. As for Rehman i found that Garish red wig/hairstyle with centre parting he had on all through the film HIGHLY distracting, i usually hate writing about films others have, but i'll do a fun picture post on this one sometime and i'll be sure to link your take on it

  2. @Bollywooddeewana: That would be cool. Yes, many distractions and the film does have a very slow speed.
    Maybe that's why it is so obscure and less heard of than say, Chaudvin Ka Chand and Mere Mehboob.

  3. Waheeda pretending to be a ghost??!

    I haven't seen this film, but Sharmi, both you and bollywooddeewana have now got me very curious.Midway through your post - reading about Naseem supposedly dead and Mehru being married off to the nawab - I thought no, I don't want to see this, it sounds too depressing. Then your saying that the last half hour was good, then bollywooddeewana's verdict... goodness, I'm so confused about whether or not to bother watching this! And on top of it all, Rajendra Kumar (whom I don't like) and Waheeda + Rehman (both of whom I like). What to do? :)

  4. @Dustedoff: There are many scenes that made me doze off and there are some scenes that made me sit up. Waheeda was good, but I've seen her in better avatars. Rajendra Kumar I'm not quite fond of. And Rehman is a talented actor. I guess yo can try this once. The songs are nice though.

  5. REhman, Sanjeev KUmar, Balraj Sahni and Raaj Kumar have been the best actors of Indiasn Film Industry. They never looked doing acting but performed with spell bond magic.
    AB, Dilip and others are like Ant in front of those actors.

  6. @anonymous: hmmm but I don't quite agree with you