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Monday, 16 May 2011

Sweet as Honey (Talaq)

I will not say that Talaq is a path-breaking film. It deals with the very sundry problems that may arise in a marriage when both parties fall prey to misunderstandings, are irrational on some count or the other and when there is that one nosey parker who spoils all the fun and love. In that, Talaq, directed by Mahesh Kaul, sticks to the tried and tested formulae. But, what makes this 1958 film stand out is the way in which the usual dramatics are handled. The narrative is rather engaging, the events are quite interesting and the actors look extremely real in their behaviour. The best part is of course the adorable child actor Honey Irani (for some reason she is credited as wonder child Ashwini) who plays the three-year-old son of the lead actors and who is a testimony to the trying state that a child may be in when parents quarrel like animals.

Honey Irani is a revelation in every scene of hers. She is so utterly cute and is perfect with her expressions, her naughtiness, her weeping and her clapping. She lisps hard but tries to utter her lines with as much gusto as her screen father Rajendra Kumar or screen mother Kamini Kadam. Just when you think that the story is going to pull itself towards a drab denouement, Honey jerks it back to the realms of interest with her childish sweetness. Mind you, I didn't find her syrupy. She is just so delectable and loving. I kept staring at her, amazed at her talent as such a tiny age!!
The film starts rather well. Radhakishan (yes, one of my favourite character actors) and his daughter Indu (Kamini Kadam) live in a middle-class set up. Indu teaches music in a girl's school and is shown to be quite a sweet person. In her school when the principal preaches to a troubled woman that the latter should not tolerate the whims of her husband and seek a divorce, Indu mollifies both parties with talks of compromise and adjustment. She then sings an educative song called Nayi umar ke kaliyo (Asha Bhonsle; music by C Ramchandra).
The father, an idler who frequents the local club every evening to play rummy and bridge, is not quite happy when he gets to know that a new tenant will be occupying the ground floor quarters. He tries to dissuade the youngster Ravi (Rajendra Kumar) but the lad is too clever for him. This also means that the upper floor tenants will have to suffer from the shortage of water when Ravi opens the washroom taps for water. This drive Radhakishan and his daughter crazy. Every single day, the old cantankerous man (and Radhakishan's nasal tone just exemplifies the effect) fights with Ravi so that he can have enough water in his house. On one such day, Ravi is extra naughty and keeps the tap running even when he goes out for work. This is partly to irk his neighbours and partly to attract Indu's attention. He already likes her quite a lot. And you can't blame him. Kamini Kadam is pretty attractive!
Indu however, is no weak girl. She parties with her maid Tara and clogs the pipe of Ravi's home. So, when Ravi comes home, he finds his house overflowing with water. Having taught the youngster a lesson, Indu mocks Ravi and sings Lagi jo takkad, jhuk gaye dekho. But during an Independance Day function when she hears him sing Bigul baj raha (Manna Dey), Indu is mighty impressed with Ravi. Soon love blooms and the two enjoy themselves. Ravi's friend and his wife convince Radhakishan about the marriage and all is well. The only niggling problem is that Radhakishan wants to stay with his daughter even after she gets married and Ravi wants Indu to quit her job. You sense her that the seeds for future problems is being sown here.
The family is really happy and soon Ravi and Indu are blessed with a bonny boy. Ravi is quite an adventurous and progressive lad and tutors his son, Ashwini, in the art of horseriding and swimming from a very young age. Radhakishan keeps instigating Indu because he feels that Ravi is wasting plenty of money doing that. He'd rather spend that money in the club playing rummy. With Radhakishan's antics in the picture, there cannot be a misunderstanding far away. Ravi scolds Indu for being a spendthrift, Radhakishan accuses Indu for her present state (he keeps reminding her that she should not have left her job) and the pesky man that he is, he interferes into the Ravi and Indu's domestic matters every time. This flares tempers and Ravi fights with Indu all the time.
Soon, Indu realises that she should start working again and rejoins the school. Ravi will have none of that (idiotic man who does not know how important it is for a woman to be financially independant) and leaves home with Ashwini. The bliss is lost and relationships sour. Ravi acts irrationally about Indu's career and Indu forgets all the lessons she used to teach her pupils. No one gauges that both parties are at fault...
The person who suffers the most amidst all this tension is Ashwini. He pines for his mother, is forced to listent to his father, is scared everytime his parents fight and loses a slice of his childhood. The scene where Tara is trying to make him drink his milk is awesome. Ashwini throws tantrums that he will only drink the milk from his mother's hand. When his mother returns, Ravi starts fighting with her. Recognising the gravity of the situation that it is not the time for him to grab attention indulgently, he picks up the glass himself and starts drinking the milk!! Great execution by Kaul about a child's trauma during a tense situation among his parents!!
Rajendra Kumar is growing on me as an actor. Here too he is very good. Except for the scenes where he shuns the idea of his wife going to work. I found that utterly ridiculous and outdated. What does a woman's career have to do with her dignity and respectabilty?!?!!?
Kamini Kadam is very pretty and acts quite well too. Would love to see more of her. She is credible in the scenes where she wants to fight for her rights. She is also quite unnerving in the scenes where she listens to every thing that her father says. The impractical girl doesn't realise that her father is gradually breaking the peace of her home.
Radhakishan is marvellous as always. But the winner surely is Honey Irani. Your heart will go out to her. Her baby faced laughter, her earnest tears, her body movements, her actions, her immaculate expressions make her character so believable. It is not for nothing that this performer was hence called the wonder child...


  1. I'm glad you liked it, Sharmi.
    I wouldn't say it is a regular film (for those times) with family problems.
    As the title says, it was meant to deal with the 'Talaq' problem which had raised its head in around 1955 (I think) when the law for 'Talaq' came into existence.
    There is this scene where Tara and her husband discuss the merits and demerits of it.

    There were quite a few films that time with this theme as it was the burning issue. I think Mr and Mrs 55 was one.

    That 'milk drinking' scene with Honey Irani was really excellent, with excellent acting from Honey.

    I'm also glad that Rajender Kumar is growing on you :-D

  2. That's pacifist above :)

  3. @Pacifist: Yes he surely is. Except for some of his facial contortions, I've quite started to like his acting. And in the late 50s he was quite dashing too.

  4. @Pacifist: Yes, yes, by this time I know how to recognise you!! ;)

  5. Honey Irani is a cutie, isn't she? I adore her, more even than Daisy Irani, though I've seen more of Daisy's films than Honey's. Haven't seen this one, though - sounds interesting.

  6. @Dustedoff: Just watch it for Honey Irani, I tell you. She is such a chocopie :)

  7. Good review Sharmi, tempts me to see the film though it all sounds rather serious..and yes, I've seen flms with Honey, very talented indeed!

  8. Honey (and Daisy) were quite cute, but most of the time I find them rather annoying - the characters they play are so precocious, and so rarely seem like actual children. I came across this film in my DVD store, and the story sounded interesting, but considering the vintage, I was not hopeful of seeing an end that I would consider happy! (Does she finally leave her job and settle down to ideal Bhartiya-naari-hood?) Hindi films go on and on about how daughters-in-law must bend to the unreasonable will of their husbands' families, so I cannot see why husbands should not occasionally adjust with their in-laws (that's the reason why I had no sympathy with the hero in Kora Kaagaz, either)! But if this film does not end with her happily becoming a housewife and throwing out her father, I will give this a try.

  9. @Suja: No it's not a serious film. It's a good film that starts off in a light mode and is very engaging!!

  10. @Bollyviewer: The father mends his ways but the film does not throw light into whether she leaves her job or retains it. Somehow, these Hindi films always end up with a hazy opinion without giving a clear ending. BUt the film is not that bad.

  11. I saw this movie few days back. From this movie I found three things still consistent in our society 1st helpless or whatever parents still depends on child's income, 2nd parents do intervene so much in the lives of their kids that many times it leads to breakup or ruined and last but not the least either senseless girl or boy follow their mean parents advice to that much limit which eventually leads to disaster. So I found the role of servants Sajjan and his wife the best!! Though wife was dark skinned still I just love the chemistry between them more touching then to the lead actors. By the way I am always look out to watch online hindi classic movie which r before 1970.

  12. Juhi: Hmm well thought out points. BUt for me the film will be memorable because of Honey Irani. She was sooo sweet here.
    Anyways, Thanks for the comment and do keep reading. :)