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Saturday, 25 December 2010

Bitter sweet (Namkeen)

Someone please tell me where can I lay hands on the unabridged version of Gulzar's bittersweet Namkeen. I'll be eternally grateful...
Here is a story that engages you at the very onset. A burly truck driver moves into a hilly town. He is recruited for the construction of a bridge downtown. He is alone and needs accommodation. The owner of the eatery where he has his meals takes him to a run down house in a remote side of the town. He is disgusted with the shoddy arrangements there but cannot help but put up there. Reason, he slowly gets too accustomed with the members of the family who own the place. Thus starts a unique tale of love, sacrifice and human relations...

Gerulal is a man who is prone to moving from one part of the country to another, given his job. His is a constant journey. Little did he know that when he reluctantly agrees to move into Jugni's house, he would have difficulty moving out of here. He is displeased with how the room looks, is irritated with his landlady's garrulous nature, is offended with the lack of basic amenities in the establishment (no food, no running supply of water and most importantly no electricity). For company there comes a lizard, but that too Gerulal swats to death! This man is robust and strong, but admits that he is a bit uneasy in the company of women. And he is definitely not having fun in the house where four women live all alone. There is no man around to bond with. But soon, things change, once he sees Nimki, the eldest daughter of Jugni...
A director with finesse, Gulzar slowly unleashes the beauties in Namkeen. He starts off showing the roughness in Gerulal (Sanjeev Kumar is superlative and restrained as usual). Then he invests time in depicting the irritable qualities of Jugni, a ripe old woman who forgets things, is nagging, is funny for her fauxpas and has a secret to hide. Waheeda Rehman is awesome as the old dame guarding her lot like a she-jackal. I love it when she adjusts her crooked glasses. The poverty depicted is so real and credible. But even in this poverty, Jugni's children are living honestly and with dignity. This is one aspect that Gerulal finds favour with.
The man who complains to Dhaniram about the accommodation, slowly realises that he is the only man in the house and hence has to take up certain responsibilities. He commits mistakes but realises his follies and asks for pardon immediately. His develops cordial relations with everyone in the house. He becomes a protective guardian to Chinki (Kiran Vairale), a compassionate friend to Mithu (Shabana is effortless in this role but a tad unexploited), and a caring son to Jugni. But his relation with Nimki (Sharmila in a very matured role) is the most unique. He loves this woman but also respects her duties towards her family. He never forces her to abandon her folks to go away for a more secure and happy existence. He knows she is special but his expression of love is so subtle. He never proposes her throughout. Only when it is time for him to leave that he tells her that he has always loved her. Though time is running out, he does not force her for anything... He promises that he will wait for her. What a beautiful moment in this stunning cinematic venture...
Mithu's feelings for Gerulal cannot be called as mere infatuation. This dumb girl is a dreamer and hence hopes that Gerulal is the one for her. You see those dreams in her eyes when she waltzes in the hilly valleys with the lilting Phirse aiyo barkha bidesi (Asha Bhonsle's rendition and R D Burman's music are ethereal, the song literally livens up the cold and foggy ambiance). No wonder she breaks down when Gerulal has to leave. But here maybe she mistakes Gerulal's empathy and compassion for love. I read up that after Gerulal leaves, Mithu dies of grief (I find that a bit extreme, though I would love to see the last bit and then decide). Shabana is so different in this role. She has no dialogues, yet her eyes speak. That's the beauty of this brilliant actor.
Kiran Vairale is the spunky girl around the corner. She has a saucy tongue and is ready to launch a battle against anyone who maligns her sisters. I would love to see how Chinki gets tricked by Dhaniram...
Gulzar makes the hills speak in sensitive 1982 film. Every scene is pretty and the director has depicted the hilly ways of life so perfectly. The story has no exaggeration and appears absolutely real.
It is so darn engrossing that when Gerulal drives off in his truck, I sense something amiss. I think that this is no completion. As Kishore Kumar's Rahon pe rehtey hain plays, I wait for Gerulal to return. I definitely want to see what happens when this man returns to take Nimki with him...


  1. Namkeen is a lovely film, I loved Sharmila in this film.Usually Sharmila overdoes all her 'nakhraas' I think the Bengali word is 'nakaami'but in this one I found her performance quite controlled.Obviously she and Gulzar worked well together,she was excellent in Mausam.

  2. @Shilpi: Me tninks Gulzar brought the best out in Sharmila and Sanjeev Kumar :)

  3. Namkeen is my favourite gulzar film.It was an adaptation of Samaresh basu's Pothik.Have you read that one.The ending was different in the book but i won't reveal it as it would spoil your pleasure of reading that book if you chance to read that one.

  4. Kiran Vairale had so much potential as an actor but never got her due. I heard that she passed away in the US. Is this true?

    1. She is very much alive; She is married to Dilip Kumar's sister's son Fahad and now known as Kiran Vairale-Mumtaz. She is CEO of Adnet Advertising Agency, Inc. in New York. You can Google the information.

  5. @Anonymous: I know.. she was so natural and spontaneous. Have no idea about where she disappeared...

  6. In my opinion, the screenplay does not significantly exhibit the feelings which Shabana Azmi (aka Mithu) develops for the new tenant. If a lover is going to get so disturbed by the abscence and departing of a person, the movie should have given enough coverage to the development of those feelings and those emotions. Or maybe my viewing of her character was limited.

    On the other hand, I like the transition of the daughters from being of aloof and mocking attitude
    towards Sanjeev Kumar to showing empathy, fondness and being close friends with Sanjeev Kumar. Quite hilarious the scene where after Sanjeev Kumar does so much of troubleshooting, it is known that there is power outage. The two daughters are shown to act so dumb, when in fact they are being so cunning and smart.

    And Sharmila Tagore indeed does a crafty and admirable job of demonstrating reservedness in her character and the polarizing open-ness as the situation demands.

  7. @Rahul: I wish I had seen the unabridged version. Perhaps then, I would be able to analyse thus! Need to see the full movie soon.