BLAST FROM THE PAST
Vyjayantimala, Raj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Prithviraj Kapoor, Mehmood.
WOMAN-CENTRIC TALE Producer-director Ramanand Sagar
Love triangles have not only given ‘birth' to diverse problems of humanity but also led to ‘conceiving' of numerous films across the cinematic horizon. In a country where taboos and traditions have evoked bewildering responses, it isn't surprising that Indians have witnessed a plethora of Hindi films about the love triangle, rendering the family planning department's red emblem largely ineffective in its appeal.
From “Aag”, “Deedar”, “Dil Ek Mandir” and “Sangam” to present day “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam”, love triangles have provided exemplary glimpses into various ways in which fate and society impact our intimate relationships. Most plots hover around separation of lovers due to a misfortune, distress on account of infatuation of a third party or sufferings in the wake of suspicion like in Ramanand Sagar's “Zindagi”.
Many present-day viewers know Sagar only as the producer-director of the mega TV serial “Ramayana” but veterans acknowledge him as an accomplished director of films like “Arzoo”, “Aankhen”, “Charas” and “Geet”. However, few remember that Sagar was also a proficient screenplay writer of “Insaaniyat”, “Kohinoor”, “Paighaam”, “Ghunghat” as well as “Barsaat” for Raj Kapoor. Felicitated for his much acclaimed novel “Aur Insaan Mar Gaya” (And Humanity Died) about the anguish and tragedy of Partition, Sagar's screenplays were never short on emotion and even when you disagreed with the treatment, his stories made you empathise with characters and circumstances.
A woman's life
Obviously, his directorial effort “Zindagi” (Life) was no exception as it brimmed with middle class events that exhibited women's vulnerability to societal pressures. Extending upon Sita's trial by fire episode from the Ramayana, it dwelt upon the virtues of working women of the 1960s and their struggle against the repressive customs of our social system.
A poster of the film
The film unfolds the story of a poverty ridden stage actress Beena (Vyjayantimala) who works under a gentlemanly but thoroughly smitten director Gopal (Raj Kumar). Adoring her for her simplicity, Gopal is heartbroken when he learns she is in love with a rich lawyer-cum-landlord Rajan (Rajendra Kumar). However, Rajan's father (Prithviraj Kapoor) is against their marriage. He relents after Beena promises to break all her ties with theatre.
All goes well, until one evening, when Beena is caught amidst a raging communal riot and is forced to take shelter for the night inside a nearby house, which, by chance, turns out to be Gopal's residence. Later, the same night, a man is found murdered and Gopal is accused of the crime since all evidence points to his complicity. Though innocent, Gopal faces a certain death penalty but he chooses to remain silent so as to save Beena's honour.
When Beena learns about Gopal's predicament, she rushes to reveal the truth in court, though her testimony tarnishes her own reputation for staying the night in another man's house. Thus, while Gopal is saved from the gallows, Beena's marital ties are severed and she is forced to abdicate her home. Like Sita, Beena too delivers her legitimate child in solitary confinement and is brought back into the family only when Rajan realises his abominable mistake.
Unlike his latter day lavish creations, Sagar seems constrained by limited resources though he never allows the film to sag with his finely tuned plot. Vyjayantimala dominates in an author-backed role though Rajendra Kumar, Raj Kumar, Jayant, Jeevan and Prithviraj also lend credibility with their formidable presence.
While interiors of studio-based sets, designed by art director M. S. Jankiram, look authentic, their exteriors give the game away due to some poor lighting by cinematographers N. Balakrishnan and P. Ellappa. However, the high watermarks of the film are some excellent songs of Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri in the company of Shankar Jaikishan. As always, Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle and Manna Dey bring the story alive with their memorable singing of “Humne jafa na seekhee”, “Pahle mile thhe sapnon mein”, “Hum pyar ka sauda karte hain ek baar” and “Muskura laadle muskura”, allowing everyone a memorable peek into “Zindagi”.
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