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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

What the original was not (Prem Patra)

Here is a film that beats its original hands down. I'd never thought I would point fingers at a Uttam Kumar - Suchitra Sen classic. But, Agragami's Sagarika is so killingly boring that any tepid film of that age would be a better option any day. So, when I accidentally discovered that Bimal Roy's underrated classic Prem Patra is but a Hindi remake of Sagarika, I sat down to watch it with trepidation, expecting the usual tedious drama. But lo! This small film engages with its charming cast, lovely songs, easy narrative and an execution that is way, way better... 

Prem Patra is a film very different from Roy's repertoire. It is a sweet love story that has its base on misunderstandings. But then these differences only take the story forward. A silly misjudgement on the part of an adolescent almosts costs a young man his career. He is forced to decide that a pretty girl needn't be the owner of a beautiful heart. More misunderstandings follow. But then, all's well that ends well...
Ratna (Parvin Choudhury) is infatuated with Arun Kumar (Shashi Kapoor), who stays with her and her father. Ratna's father has been Arun's guardian and benefactor for long, since he was a poor man. So, the old man has taken care of his education. Arun is a meritorious chap. He is selected by his principal for a foreign scholarship. And understandably everyone is overjoyed.
Arun's college mate is Kavita Kapoor (Sadhana), a haughty but well mannered girl who is always troubled by the young boys of the college. They write her anonymous love letters and irk her. The only boy who is not interested in all this petty business is Arun. As events unfold, Arun and Kavita meet and develop a liking for each other. But Ratna will have none of this. She copies Arun's hand and shoots off an impulsive love letter to Kavita, who is so shocked (and partly instigated by her giggly friends) that she complains to the principal. Arun is called for questioning. He recognises that this is Ratna's doing, but keeps mum for the sake of her honour. His scholarship is cancelled and he leaves for his village.
Ratna is swept with remorse and owns up her folly before Kavita. A lot of things happen before Arun can finally set foot in foreign shores. His marriage is fixed to a village belle called Tara (Seema Deo) because her father is paying for his foreign education. Tara, as it happens, is Kavita's cousin, who comes to the city to get groomed in city manners. Since she is too busy with her new friends, Kavita is given the job of writing and responding to Arun's letters for Tara. Involuntarily, Kavita pours out her feelings and emotions in these letters and Arun grows to love the Tara that he recognises through these letters. He even informs 'Tara' about the girl who almost ruined his future and explains that he only has hatred for her. This information prevents Kavita from acknowledging in the letter that she is actually not Tara. The letter game continues till one day news arrives that Arun has met with a freak accident and has lost his eyesight. Now, Tara and her father will have nithing to do with him. But Kavita is already in love with this man who she had so misunderstood...
I say Prem Patra is engaging because of the lucid nature of the script. There is no high strung drama or histrionics like in its 1957 Bengali cousin. All the characters talk like normal human beings and the events are absolutely incredible. If you discard the scene featuring Kedar (Rajindernath) trying to kill a tiger, and the related tomfoolery with it, you will like every bit of this Roy 1962 classic. However, I do feel that Rajendranath is not his usual self here. He is way tempered and low key. And let's thank the director for that...
One of the best things about this romance is the music by Salil Chowdhury. Save the first track Do ankhiyan jhuki jhuki si, every song is superb. This song is not bad, but somehow Mukesh's voice sounds jarring in Shashi Kapoor's lips. But the picturisation is sensitive and soft.
The next song comes rather late in the film. But it is worth the wait. Sadhana looks absolutely breathtaking in Ab aur na kucch bhi yaad rahaan. Here she is head over heels in love with Arun and is in no mood to mull over past happenings. She is ready to forget why they grew apart, what separated them and is regaling in her new found love for Arun. She is seeing a different world altogether, courtesy the sweet letters from Arun. She knows that they are not for her, but for Tara, but this dreamy-eyed young woman is thoroughly sinking into a world of romance. Lata Mangeshkar's mellifluous voice breathes life into Sadhana's charming visage. It is as if nature is recognising Kavita's feelings and emotions...
Another great song is Sawan ki raaton mein (Lata Mangeshkar and Talat Mehmood). It stands out for the way it is executed-- part poetry and part song. Love is felt from within and Arun's ailment will not stop these two lovebirds from acknowledging their love for each other. Sadhana here looks really fancy and Shashi Kapoor dashing.Then there is the sublime beauty of Yeh mere andherey ujaaley na hotein...
In terms of performance, I feel Shashi Kapoor was still growing as an actor. He is good, but there are sometimes when I feel he is trying too hard. His character is utterly believable and strong. And surprisingly, he does make a much much better blind man than Uttam Kumar.
Seema Deo is a pretty inclusion in the film. She is effortless as the village girl metamorphosing into the chirpy city chick. Her fleeting emotions are depicted with utmost panache by Bimal Roy...
But the cake here is taken away by the scintillating Sadhana. In a role that has a variety of shades, she is subtle, soft, sensitive and oh-so-charming. First, as the vain college girl, then as a faithful lover, she does reflect the many shades of her character with finesse. A pretty picture at all times, she does make Kavita Kapoor a much more sustainable person than Sagarika...

26 comments:

  1. I hadn't known Prem Patra was based on a Bangla movie! When I first read about it in your post, I thought: this I have to see. But then, considering what you say about the original - and considering that I like Prem Patra so much - maybe not. I don't want anything to spoil my memories of this lovely film! :-)

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  2. @Dustedoff: Yes, please do not see Sagarika, it's tedious and bad. Instead let Sadhana's charm enthrall you :)

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  3. While you have moved on with your reviews I am all helplessly tied up this new year,with my right arm completely immobilzed this New Year and that is how it is likely to remain for the next few weeks.Well you did say you like the little secrets I give away well here is another one.Remember Sadhana's uncle in Prem Patra,he was a Marathi actor not very comfortable with Hindi.Dad was then still employed by Bimal Roy Productions and Mr. Roy requested dad to dub for the actor so the voice you hear is dad's.
    That apart if you have seen the Rani-Hrithik-Kareena starrer Mujhse Dosti Karoge you will find it is a copy of Prem Patra,only difference modern technology takes over with email replacing letters.

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  4. @Shilpi: Ohhh is that so? That's why I found that uncle's voice so familiar but just could not place it.
    I loved this film and if you say that Mujhse Dosti Karoge is a remake of this, I'd say it is only partly. For, they just twisted everything and made it horrible. And that blind angle wasn't there.
    What happened to your arm? Get well soon, Shilpi :)

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  5. I loved this film, the songs, and Sadhana. She did Parakh with Bimal Roy too. It's amazing to think of Sadhana in her variety of roles throughout her career.
    Seema Deo. Hmmm. I can't seem to recall her. I remember the role, but not the actress.

    Thanks for that insider information Shilpi.
    All the best for a quick recovery.

    pacifist

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  6. @Pacifist: Yes, Sadhana was brilliantly charming and so versatile. Just look at the range of the roles she has done throughout her career. Sadly, we do not have such talented and good looking actresses now.

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  7. Hey sharmi,

    This is Shambhu from US. I wanted to see this movie from long long time..but :(..do u ve cd/dvd or any free link from where i can watch this. plese reply ...thankyou

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  8. @Shambhu: Hi Shambhu, welcome. I chanced upon it on television long time back. But I will check whether there is any free link and let you know. Thanks and keep reading :)

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  9. This one goes into my DVD player ever so often! :) I did not know that it was a remake - and of an Uttam Suchitra film at that. I'll try hard to put Sagarika in my do-not-watch part of the brain and hope that it stays there - I tend to pick up any DVD that has Uttam-Suchitra featured on it's cover!

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  10. hi sharmi,

    Good to hear from you. Ur Blog is really good one. I too like movies from 50 n 60s. I remember watching a movie Farar (1965, i guess) on TV long long back. But due to current-cut i couldn't watch full movie. Any idea abt this movie. This was a suspense thriller with a bengali actor in a lead role. A very nice song from this movie is "pyar ki daastan tum suno to kahein" by lata.

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  11. @Bollyviewer: Yes, you must not watch Sagarika. It's dull drab and does not show Uttam and Suchitra in their best avatar. Try watching Chawa Pawa instead, or Harano Sur. They are blissful. And yes, watch out for my next post. It's a Bengalli one again, with two males who are breathtakingly goodlooking!!! :)

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  12. @Anonymous: He welcome and thanks for the accolades. I'm glad there's an iclusion to this classics party.
    Hmm. Are you talking of Faraar, the Amitabh Bachchan starrer. Well I've not seen that one. But now that you tell me I will look out for it as I think the story is interesting. Welcome again, and keep reading :)

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  13. "It's a Bengalli one again, with two males who are breathtakingly goodlooking!!!" - Is it Jhinder Bandi with Soumitra AND Uttam Kumar?

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  14. @Bollyviewer: Yessss.... Great guess. I can't stop drooling over Soumitra. More on that, in the post :)

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  15. hey sharmi,

    @Farar- it was my comment (Shambhu). Sorry for the confusion as i m new to these blog sites. This old FARAR(1965) is different one from amitabh's farar (1975). old one was having Anil chatterji in lead role with shabnam. HEMANT KUMAR MUSIC.

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  16. @Shambhu: Ohh I don't think I've seen that film Shambhu. But will watch out it for sure. Thanks for the comments and keep reading :)

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  17. Kudos to Sharmi for her lucid elucidation on a Bimal Roy's "prem Patra" a vintage and classic movie. I haven't seen this movie but surely I'll buy DVD from the Music World and will like re-live the great moments of uninhibited romance of yesteryears.

    For your information Anil Chatterjee acted in "FARAR" of 1965.

    P. K. Sinha

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  18. @PK Sinha: Thanks and welcome Mr Sinha. I'm glad you liked the writeup :)

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  19. ya definatly.Totaly in this & all Black &white movies sadhana looks too attractive,pretty, nice, absolutely breethtaking sesitive spacially in 'Ab aur bhi kuch naa yaad raha' in that rainy scean.

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  20. @Sadhana: Absolutely. Sadhana is a dream here. I'm so in love with here. And you're lucky, you share the same name :)

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  21. well,Sagarika is not that bad as you think.Prempatra is better definately,but then Bimal Roy is a better director than Agragami.But Uttam Kumar's performance in Sagarika was better than Shashi's in Prempatra,that's for sure.

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  22. @Anonymous: Well, I guess I own the licence of writing whatever I feel on my blog, right? I feel Prem Patra was better and hence have written so. Criticisms, both positive and negative, no matter how unfounded, are welcome!

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  23. Heh,no need to get so angry with me!As you might have noticed,I myself have mentioned in my comment above that Prempatra is better than Sagarika and also have given a solid reason for my belief.I was just saying that Sagarika is not that bad that it should be avoided at all costs.And yes i believe that Uttam's acting was better than Shashi's.Shashi might have made a better looking blind man than uttam,as you mentioned,but Acting wise,Uttam was better.Shashi looked too prim and proper and handsome for a blind man.The helplessness and sadness that is supposed to be on a blind man's face was not present on Shashi's face.And Shashi[I met him once) himself would agree with that as Shashi himself considers Uttam Kumar as one of the greatest actor of Indian Cinema.[The other actors that Shashi considers as great are Chhabi Biswas,Raj Kapoor,Balraj Sahni and Ashok Kumar]

    And yes,you perfectly own the licence of writing whatever you feel on your blog just the same way i own the licence to comment whatever i feel is right.And,i do not think my criticism was unfounded and more importantly i think that i was not criticizing you at all.I was just giving my point of view.That's all.

    Anyways,wishing you a Happy new year and a super happy last day of the year that is coming to an end.

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  24. @Anonymous: Hmmmm. Happy a splendid year ahead.

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  25. So at last I got this movie..:).. Here is the link ..

    http://www.indopia.com/showtime/watch/movie/1962010007_00/prem-patra/

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  26. @Shambhu: Thanks Shambhu, enjoy everyone :)

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