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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A courtesan's tale (Ghungroo)

There are many good things about Ram Sethi's 1983 drama, Ghungroo, as well a few bad. Lets start with the good, because it's not quite recommended to start off with negatives.
The film, a drama set against the backdrop of a royal family, is well-scripted. The editing is quite taut, till the editor looses steam mid-way. The actors do their job quite well. One song seriously stands out for its strength and emotional quotient (I actually thought I saw Malhar's nanny wipe her tears during Tohfa kubul hain sung by Asha Bhonsle). And yes, Ranjeet is slicingly devious without being OTT.

Well, in short you can watch Ghungroo because it is not the usual mid-80s pansy tearjerker. It has a credible storyline verging on the qualities of honour, sacrifice, love and faith and then gradually moving on to truth and youthful defiance. In the times when privy purses were yet to be abolished one royal family was venerated by the subjects of that land. Rajmata Kaushalya Devi (Waheeda Rehman is confident as the martinet ruler) decides to get her adopted son Vikram Singh (Shashi Kapoor in a very different role) married to Rajkumari Priya (I know not who this girl is but she was pretty convincing as the neglected wife-who-turns-an-alcoholic). Vikram Singh is actually the Diwan of the royal
family and has pledged his service to the family when the king had passed away. This means that he cannot exercise his free will. This spells trouble because he is not in a mood to marry the princess. He is in love with a courtesan called Kesar Bai (Smita Patil) who he has rescued from the courts of dishonour. Kesar Bai warn him that their match will never be accepted but Vikram is confident that his Ranimaa will listen and understand his case. But alas...
Ranimaa, with Virat Singh's aid, smashes Vikram's dream of living happily ever after with Kesar Bai. Virat is Ranimaa's brother, who wants the position and importance that Vikram holds and hence very cunningly weasels his way through affairs. He plants poisonous seeds in Vikram's path and manipulates his sister to his advantage like how...
But on hindsight, Vikram was being too naive. Did he really expect that Ranimaa would accept a courtesan
as Vikram's wife. Unthinkable in those times. So, as much as Kesar and Vikram love each other, they have to part because one, Vikram doesn't muster up the courage to defy Ranimaa's orders, and two, he is too faithful to his service as the royal servant. Kesar is the sacrificial goat who cajoles her lover to go back to his royal duties. She says that she would live her life just with the memories of his love! What she does not tell him is that she is soon going to give birth to his child. So, Vikram walks away shattered and dejected from Kesar's life. He marries Priya but is also not able to accept her as his wife. So, the princess is unhappy too and withers away. Vikram is one measel. And seeing Shashi Kapoor be this mute-and-dumb, I mean in terms of personality, is a little difficult. Considering that he has always worn his heart on his sleeves and been chivalrous and courageous in his other films. But I must say it was a daring departure on his part.
So Kesar takes her child and goes away from Vikram's life. She starts living with Suraj (Suresh Oberoi), a man who had always loved her. He brings up her daughter Renu like his own and showers her with all the love he can. Renu grows up to be a vivacious and confident young girl who soon starts going to college. Here I would like to mention that Renu is played by a very young Poonam Sinha Shatrughan Sinha's wife and Sonakshi Sinha's mother. I now know where Sona got her good looks from. Poonam is short but really pretty to look at. Her eyes are expressive, her dialogues don't seen parroted. Wonder why she did not make it to the big league?!
Anyways, Renu meets Yuvraj (Kunal Goswami) in college and the two become quite a pair. Yuvraj doesn't
believe in the high-handed attitude he has been taught to flaunt since his childhood and would rather live the life of a common man. He is Ranimaa's son and falls head-over-heels in love with Renu and is ready to challenge his mother and royal connections for her. Kunal is Manoj Kumar's son. He has the height of his father and is lean and fit. But he is certainly not the young Manoj Kumar. I've always maintained that before Manoj Kumar doused himself in excess patriotism he used to be quite charming. With a sweet smile and a romantic persona, he turned out quite dishy in most of his old films. But no matter how much Kunal tries the freewheeling route of acting, he is too limpid. He doesn't have the aura to charm, his voice is too insipid. He really should have had a good haircut and done something about his moustache, which makes him look like a just-entered-puberty boy! The heavyweight dialogues of love and honour sound weightless when he mouths them.
I drift... Ranimaa, again with Virat's help, learns of Yuvraj's affair and is ballistic. She locks him away in a dungeon but the youth is adamant. Virat helps him escape to Renu and shifts the blame on Vikram Singh so that minister falls from grace in the queen's eyes. As events unfold, Vikram comes to know that Renu is his daughter and Kesar Bai is alive. Renu and Yuvraj are inseparable and Ranimaa is now requesting Kesar to make her daughter understand and let go of her prince son...

At this juncture, and after a long two-and-a-half hours and plenty of quarrels, meanderings and fisticuffs, I switch the television off to hit the sack. Yes, length is something the film suffers from. It is very, very long. Midway through the film, the editor just forgot to use his scissors. The romantic scenes between Renu and Yuvraj just pull the film. One or two songs are redundant and the altercations in teh royal household just get too tedious. I would have preferred Virat Singh use a more precise gameplan to disrupt peace and happiness in the royal household.
Yes, Virat Singh, played by Ranjeet. Didn't know this actor could be this subtle and smart. He is wicked but in a very understated way. Here he is not the lecherous pig, I generally saw him to be, but the calculative and devious diplomat. Good job done...
Smita Patil is meek as the self-sacrificing goat who shuns her happiness for her lover's sake. Wonder who
else could have played her role? But in that one song she is really convincing as the dejected and shunned lover. In Tohfa Kubul Hain she dances like there is no tomorrow. It's as if her world has come crashing down seeing her lover get married to another woman. What a song, what lyrics and what picturisation! The music by Kalyanji Anandji would have been labelled lacklustre here if not for this song...


  1. @Sharmi: Welcome back. I believe Shashi was past his prime when this movie released. I remember the movie just for Asha's song Tohfa Qubool Hai Hamen!

  2. Welcome back, Sharmi. Ghunghroo was a rather different movie for the age; and quite nice in parts. As you said, the length was a bit much to take. :) Smita, not known as a great (or even good dancer) did do a good job of it in Tohfa qubool kahi. By the way, Priya is Padmini Kapila, who used to play the vamp in movies earlier.

    And Renu is not Poonam Sinha, but Komal Mahuvakar. I don't know why IMDB credits Poonam Sinha as being Renu. (Probably because Poonam Sinha acted under the name 'Komal".)Poonam Sinha was a Miss India in 1968 and was already married to Shatrughan by the 80s and would have been in her 30s by the time this film released.

    Komal Mahuvakar first came into films as a child star in Mili (she is a Hrishikesh Mukherjee discovery). Her first film as heroine was Payal ki Jhankar; a contemporary of Meenakshi Sheshadri, she was another 'north Indian' (she's Maharashtrian) actress who was a trained classical dancer. She later moved into South Indian films under the name Roopini.

    1. @Anu: Thank you so much for correcting the discrepancy. I'm not going to correct the post because I'm going to redirect all those with the same complaint to your answer here. It is so informative. Yes, the film was indeed nice in parts!

  3. Good to see you back, Sharmi! And with a review of a film I've never seen (and am unlikely to, now that you tell me Kunal Goswami is in it). Like you, I think Manoj Kumar in his pre-patriotic mode, in light-hearted or suspense films, could be quite handsome and charming, but Kunal Goswami irritates me no end. I'll cheerfully pass up Ghungroo because of him!

  4. @Dustedoff: That reminds me Madhu... haven't seen a Manoj Kumar oldie for a long. long time. Time to look into my DVD library once more :)

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