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Sunday, 14 November 2010

United they stand (Naya Daur)

Man vs Machine tipped Horses vs Wheels. Thereafter, Love vs Friendship took center stage, before I realised that Naya Daur, B R Chopra's magnum opus, is a film that cannot be buttonholed into any two categories. It is a film that celebrates the beauty of classical Indian cinema, while harping on the issues of industrialisation in post-independant India and overall, salutes dignity of labour. It brings together some of the best in filmdom. This 1957 drama has the ingredients for becoming a blockbuster in any day and age.

I credit the entire team of Naya Daur for the mammoth success it attained on release. B R Chopra brought the best under his canopy to deliver a film that is complete from every quarters. Great story, high strung action sequences, fresh romance, flawless performances, brave men, lovely women, melodious songs and a nail-biting climax. What more do can you want from cinema? It celebrates the unity of Akhtar Mirza (story) and Chopra, the glorious union of OP Nayyar, Mohd Rafi, Asha Bhonsle and Shamshad Begum and of course the smashing role plays by all the actors. Naya Daur celebrates unity on another level too. The strong ties between Shankar and Kisna, the bond between Shankar and Rajni, the trust between Seth Maganlal and his workers, the bonhomie between every member of this remote village in north India and moreover, the connection between faith in oneself and the trust that this faith will take one far. The film is a masterpiece, for these reasons, as well as for being so close to reality. Even today, there might be unscrupulous businessmen rejecting the contribution of his workers towards the prosperity of his business. In his mongering for money, he does not realise that it is man who made machines, and that as Gandhi is quoted, "They should be used to ease the effort of humans..."
Naya Daur is a long film. But, you will never feel it. For, soon as the film commences you become one with the members of the basti. You will bask in the halcyon ambience of this remote place and feel the warmth and love of the members. Shankar, the carefree tongawallah, is an honest man. He is happy with a square meal per day and is bothered about the wellbeing of his fellow villagers. The scene where his mother feeds him roti, is very touching. These are simple people, with no gargantuan ambition save to earn their daily source of sustenance. But, they will also not sacrifice their dignity. When push comes to shove, they will battle for their rights and show the world they need to be taken seriously.
Another heartwarming relation is that of the friendship between Shankar and Kisna. Their ties are so strong that when their relation gets strained, it is actually painful. A puny misunderstanding shakes the foundation of their brotherly love and soon there is the question of whether love is bigger than friendship.
The same reign of brotherly affection runs between each and every member of the village. There's Jumman Dada (Manmohan Krishna), Bansa Ram and the others who would die for each other.
Then we come to the love that Shankar and Rajni share. Innocent, yet strong, Rajni, the shy young girl, is determined enough to support her lover in all his endeavours. Shankar on the other hand, feels assured of his actions because he has her support. I love the scene where Shankar is instantly smitten by her beauty and then goes on to harmlessly flirt with her. A refreshing way in showing the hero pursuing the woman.
Then there's the relation that Manju and Kisna share. Though the woman loves the man, she is tongue-tied. A sudden misdeed of hers results in all the brouhaha between two thick friends. But, this woman is not vile and neither is the man. Yes, he is hotheaded and impulsive but he too has a soft side to himself.
Naya Daur has everything. Romance, action, drama, emotions and comedy. Trust Radhakishan to come up trumps when you give him the space. And here, as the cheeky astrologer, he is a winner. His nasal tone enhances his comic gestures and dialogues and he is super effective. In fact, I liked him more than Johny Walker, though the latter too is very good.
The songs here, need I mention, are legendary. And, not for nothing. In picturisation, lyrics and music, they are all fantastic. Complemented with Bhangra moves, Yeh desh hain vere jawanon ka, is perhaps one of the most talked about patriotic songs in Hindi films. Ude jab jab zulfein teri is teasing, rustic and lovely. Watch Vyajayanthimala's graceful dance to believe it. I wonder whether Madhubala (the actor who was initially signed for Rajni's role) could have portrayed Rajni so perfectly... And yes, she is breathtakingly ravishing in Maan ke saath tumhara, as Dilip Kumar is charismatic...

The anthem-like Saathi haath badaana is exulting. It makes you sit up and applaud these villagers with extra vigour. They will leave no stone unturned to prove themselves. Aana hain to aan moves the story forward with its exciting picturisation. Alongwith Kisna, I too, find myself leaning forward to see what flowers Rajni is offering to Shiva...

The most catchy tune is of course Reshmi salwar kurta jali ka, Kundan's tasty trick to distract the innocent villagers. Tired after a hard day's work, a bit of nautanki will do them a lot of good. And if the dancers are Kumkum and Minno Mumtaz, it can't get any better...
I'm floored by the performances in Naya Daur. Starting from Nazir Hussain, Manmohan Krishna, Leela Chitnis to Dilip Kumar, Ajit and Jeevan, everyone is immaculate. In fact, Jeevan intrigued me as Kundan. He practises enough restraint to make the city-bred merchant believable. Never resorting to his superfluous facial contortions, Jeevan makes his act commendable with a very measured approach.
Vyajayanthimala, as mentioned before, is ravishing. And not just that, she plays the innocent sweetheart to the hilt and is so lovely in every scene. Nazir Hussain is great as the benevolent timber merchant, who recognises that he is a nobody without his workers...
The most interesting person in this awesome film is Ajit. Never knew he had this side to himself. He looks good, in fact, very good and is so credible as the hotblooded Kisna. I love the scene where he first sees Rajni and says, "Jaisey chakkar sa aagaya..." Absolutely, this man is smitten and he has no qualms in saying so... My eyes turn moist in the last scene where Kisna admits his mistake and garlands Shankar. It's powerful, warm and a sheer masterstroke from Chopra. I feel he went on to be so wasted as the caricatur-ish villain in his later films. I think he could have well ousted Pradeep Kumar... (He looks a bit like him, only way better, and is so good with his acting).
But all said and done, the film largely belongs to Dilip Kumar. Portraying the happy-go-lucky Shankar, the tongawallah, Kumar is flamboyant, effortless and so, so good. He makes you believe in his cause, he does marvellous comedy, he romances with panache and he fights for his honour with gusto. He is devoid of any melodrama (the scene where he shuns the greedy alliance for his sister) and is totally top notch in whatever he is doing. And, in the end when he beats Kundan, zipping past the finishing line with his super fast horse, it is with the villagers that I erupt with joy at the win of this brave lad. I realise it is not only the success of a man who is true to his convictions but also the triumph of good old Hindi cinema...


  1. I wish they hadn't coloured Naya Daur. (Frankly, I feel that about most B/W films that have been coloured: there's an artificiality about the colourisation that makes the film look too garish and not quite real).

  2. @Sharmi: Nice review. I like the songs of this movie, especially "Maang ke saath tumhara" and "Reshmi salwar". The race between cart and motor and the premise of resisting the inevitable industrialization seem implausible in today's world but Naya Daur is a great movie no doubt. I saw it many times in B&W but don't mind watching it in colour again.

  3. I love the songs, Vyjantimala, Minoo Mumtaz and Kumkum's graceful dance moves and last but not the least little Daisy Irani-- a very delightful child actor.

  4. @Dustedoff: I feel the same Madhulika. They should just leave these black and white classics alone.

  5. @Sreenath: Maybe in today's world this film doesn't work. But everything about it is so awesome that I just love the film :)

  6. @Shilpi: Yes, I thought Daisy was delightful.

  7. i saw this film a long, long time back - a channel that screened only the oldies - but unfortunately it didn't last :-(.
    just vaguely remember the themes - it was a social statement also of sorts, and blended the themes and romance exceedingly well - a lagaan-ish euphoria and spiritedness about it. and i think there was something to do with a sack race also in the movie, right?i saw it in black and white, and m glad for it :-) it is only after reading the comments that i realised the film was coloured (ws wondering why i cdn't recognise any of the visuals :-P). a wonderfully written review - makes me wanna go back and watch it again. ma and i loved it. and i do love dilip kumar

  8. @Ekaani: Yes, I don't think you remember much of it!!! There was no sack race, haha. It was a race between a lorry bus and a tonga!?!?! Yes, old black and white classics should not be touched. The old avatar is so much better. Do watch it again. t is worth so many views. And, I'm sure Ashutosh Gowarikar got inspired from this film before he made Lagaan. But I like this so much more :)

  9. What a interesting theme for a blog..oldies! I m floored by your ideas and opinions on classics.
    I have not seen this movie but heard the song umpteen times!

  10. @Tanvi: I guess you should see this film. You'll love it if you are fond of the 1950s and 60s. Thanks for the comment and keep reading :)

  11. Hi! I just came across your blog while I was writing about Naya Daur too :) Love your writing - it's very lyrical!
    My name is Neha and I love old films too,esp black and white! :) Do read my blog sometime if you like!
    take care

  12. @Nehamalude: Hello and welcome.
    Hey----lyrical...that's a big compliment. I'm glad you liked the post. Sure will read your blog. :)