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Friday, 3 June 2011

Weak procrastinator (Amar)

Mehboob Khan's bold drama Amar happens to have a yo-yo effect on me. There are moments when I am swept away by the tight narrative, and there are times when I brush aside the nonsensical goings-on on the screen. There are times when I love Dilip Kumar for having the gall to undertake this grey part, then there are those situations when I feel like whacking him for tediously lengthening the film with his procrastination. There are sighs that I let out for the unharnessed rustic charm of Nimmi and there is the utter exasperation when instead of breathing fire she whimpers and simpers into love for her violator. But there is one person who takes my breath away... Madhubala, for being so heartbreakingly beautiful, so smart, so compassionate and then in the end doing what she aught to be doing. In relinquishing her rights and love, she emerges as the strongest character of this 1954 super dramatic film, that is hailed as being ahead of its times for no tiny reason.

Amar is different and how? It stars Dilip Kumar, the reigning king of Hindi cinema, as the titular figure but he is projected as a person who commits a heinous crime in a weak moment. He rapes-- a cardinal sin when it comes to the hero of a Hindi film. No hero is supposed to rape, let alone looking at a damsel lecherously. Where Mehboob Khan succeeds wonderfully is how he whets our appetite with the initial exchanges between Sonia and Amarnath. Sonia (Nimmi) is the village milkmaid who is a freespirit and a pretty soul. She talks to the pet animals in her house and displays a kind of mischievous side when she goes to teach her cruel stepmom a lesson. She answers back rudely to the village ruffian Sankat (Jayant) who is relentlessly wooing her. But when she meets Amar by accident, she is no more the street smart village belle, frolicking and freewheeling. In her first meeting with Amar, in a tender sweep, she ties a piece of her dupatta on Amar's injured finger. And runs away shyly. Of course, you see the sexual chemistry between the two. Amar is bemused and even expresses his desire to get married. Yes, he too found this girl attractive. Mehboob Khan plays on the desires of youngsters tactfully. He goes on to show the effect this handsome and smart lawyer has had on Sonia. He also shows how Amar has been affected, even if it is only a bit, by this chance encounter. Then comes the masterstroke in the form of Anju's picture. A prospective alliance for Amar and he is smitten. Khan nips the prospect of Amar and Sonia's romance in the bud. Amar goes on to meet Anju (Madhubala) and is obviously flabbergasted to see this beautiful lady who also has a defiant side to her. Romance ensues and Anju is brought into the picture only for the fireworks to begin.
But she is not aware that Sonia is already infatuated with the city-bred lawyer. When she sings at the village fair Ek Baat kahoon mere piya (lovely music by Naushad), she is but paying an ode to her new-found love. Amar too is affected by Sonia's ineffectual charm. He smiles at Sonia and tries to hide his expressions from Anju. He loves Anju but is unsure of his feelings for Sonia!
Maybe, he is just sexually attracted to her. Why else would he rape her? Taking advantage of a helpless girl who comes to his house for shelter, he ravages her. This is a shocker in terms of how we are supposed to view most of our heroes. No hero is supposed to rape, rather he should not be succumbing to carnal lust so easily. But Mehboob Khan doesn't heed those rules.
The film is great till here. But after that, it loses momentum. While we expect Sonia, the otherwise gritty fireball of a girl, to fight back for justice, all she does is weep and keep mum about Amar. Why? She has fallen in love with him and considers him to be her lawful husband!! Shucks!! What just happened to the narrative?!?!?
When Sankat wants to marry her forcefully, Sonia firmly refuses saying that she is already married. At her wedding there is a fiasco between Anju who takes her side and the villagers who hurl abuses at Sonia, the fallen woman. Amidst all this, Amar is constantly trying to fight with his conscience. He tries to glean the truth out from Sonia but she is tight-lipped. Amar is seriously trying to escape here. What is he thinking? He doesn't have the gall to own up his crime and wants the weak village girl to say his name?!?! Beats me! Why did Mehboob Khan make this Amar so Hamlet-ish?
Even Anju notices a stark change in Amar's personality. She urges him to be like before by singing to him (Mere sadke balam) but he is in a different sphere altogether. And all this while he is trying to fight it out within himself about whether he should or should not come clean on the rape. Lame, very lame!!
There are numerous occasions where Amar could have owned up his wrong by Khan waits till teh very end when Amar pronounces himself the wrongdoer in from of the judge. I guess that's how Khan wanted it. Overtly melodramatic and loud!
The ending is tepid, conventional and so expected. Amar accepts Sonia as his wife, who is anyways is superbly in love with him. And Anju leaves to fend for herself. Why couldn't Khan make the ending more twisty??? I'm not that absolutely happy with Amar. It could have been so much better, what with a sterling cast, awesome music and great situations.
Dilip Kumar turns out to be such a brooding sissy even after he cuts such a dashing figure in the beginning. He starts off flamboyantly but peeters out. Blame the script please. Nimmi was fantastic in histrionics. She is so slender that it's quite hard to believe. Wish she was more gritty in the later stages.
But Madhubala was ravishing in every bit. Right from the start where she matches up to Dilip Kumar in the quarrels, she is such a pretty darling. A stunning vision to behold, she stands out as the best character in this flawed drama...


  1. It's been too long since I saw the movie. I only rememeber the jist of the story
    and the fact that I was a little bored in the second was so slow and nothing seemed to be happening. But it was for the first time I had seen a hero doing such a non-heroic act, so that itself kept me glued to the tv screen to see how the story would end.
    "unharnessed rustic charm of Nimmi" : You have described her so beautifully. The look in those eyes stayed with me for a long time even after the movie got over.

  2. Gosh!!! Madhubala left to fend for herself in the end??!! Now I don't want to see this! I have been saving this one for a leisurely watch for quite sometime. And was really excited to see an early Dilip-Madhubala film (haven't seen them together apart from Mughal-E-Aazam). I don't know if I could see Madhubala with such an ending. :(

  3. @Sunheriyaadein: I know... she was such a different kind of an actress. And they should have used her spirited approach in the second half rather than show her as a whimpering sufferer!

  4. @Punya: Hmmm as it suits you i wud say!! But Madhubala is sooooo beautiful here and she acts so well!!

  5. Oh good that you've reviewed this film. Now I can write my opinion. LOL!

    Of course I agree with your sentiments completely (our modern sensibilities - which are very western in this matter) find it difficult to relate to such ideas.
    In all this we tend to overlook the Mehboobism of the film. He was inclined towards communism. One can see that from the emblem of Mehboob films. It was always about 'rich' and 'poor' or just the 'poor' and their sufferings.
    In this film too he had such ideas as can be seen from the words of the song at the end in the temple 'nirdhan bhi hai insaan use mohabbat de de, jis dar pe sab ek hain yeh woh dar hai'.
    This 'sab ek hain' dominated his ideas a lot it would seem.
    I think that in the film he brought a rich man down to his knees. Nimmi is shown quite poor with tattered clothes there.
    As for her wanting to marry her rapist, she 'was' in love with him beforehand and the 'stockholm syndrome' wouldn't have been a difficult state to move into. In any case I feel this formed the background to the rich poor union rather than the main picture in the forefront.

    Just my opinion.

  6. @Pacifist: Hmmmm... great point... I understood that she was in love with Amar even before the accident. And now that you mention the syndrome thingie I can relate to it. Would love to read your review!

  7. I didn't like this movie one bit. Madhubala was lovely as always, and her character was an interesting, strong one (which of course made it even more difficult for me to bear up with the fact that she was left to fend for herself). But otherwise, not a film I'd want to watch again. And, frankly, I found Nimmi irritating.

  8. @Dustedoff: Ya, i felt like shaking her up from her stupor also after the second half!! And yes, I wudn't like to watch this again also :(

  9. @Sharmi: It sure looks like the movie was ahead of its time. Why would a hindi film hero rape heroine, even if she is second fiddle? Was at least the sequence convincing -- like he got carried away because of circumstances or something like that?

  10. BTW, excellent review of an otherwise ordinary film :)

  11. @Sreenath: Ya he got carried away but it was too lame an excuse to rape!! Thanks for the apprciation :)

  12. @Sreenath: Also I really dint understand whether Nimmi was supposed to be second fiddle!!