Friday, July 11, 2008

Movie Review: Gumraah (Astray) – 1963 (Hindi film)

A rather well-built Mala Sinha and a slightly overage Sunil Dutt (who plays an artist/singer in the movie) are, we are led to believe, just out of college and madly in love. They are about to reveal their infatuation to the elders when tragedy strikes. MS’s elder didi succumbs to a surprisingly scratch-free free fall from a mountain and dies. In true Indian sacrificial fashion, the younger sis marries her jijaji so that her young niece and nephew get a mother.

MS’s husband is Ashok Kumar, the successful French-spouting (if my guess is right, his accent is terrible) lawyer: loving but not the lover-type. Work keeps him away from home. The inevitable happens when MS is on a holiday back home (without the hubby) and bumps across SD. The old fire ignites at both ends.

Just when the going is about to get hot, AK arrives for a short visit. Its when the 2nd time around pa-in-law is playing cricketing shots on the golf links with the son-in-law, that AK gets introduced to SD. The acquaintance develops and SD gets access to their house. The illicit relationship continues all the way back to Mumbai (where MS, AK and family reside), develops into a blackmail plot and ends in an i-see-the-light drama.

Gumrah is quite daringly forward for the times it was filmed in; though not by Hollywood standards. The image of Sita (Ram’s wife) was the template for the depiction of all womanhood in Hindi films in those times. But Gumrah strays in that sense. And because it strays, it appeals. Because it covers a facet of human behaviour that Hindi cinema frequently overlooks. The melancholic SD who turns a darker shade towards the obsessive side, MS who plays the wife who strays into infidelity are creatures we don’t frequently come across in Hindi films.

Gumrah depicts the pangs of infidelity in a totally different light (in Hindi cinema at least). MS is no Sati Savitri. She consciously strays and how. But the directors one concession to Indian womanhood is that he is careful to avoid any reference of a physical relationship between MS and SD; although there are quite a few sensual shots.

Watch this film, for some crisp/mature editing, some beautifully framed shots especially capturing the beauty of Nainital and its environs in the lap of the Himalayas. Not to mention some good public shots of Mumbai when it was livable / watchable.

It would be easy to generalize saying that MS is no great shakes as an actress. But the truth is that in some scenes she is very ordinary while in others she rises to much much better heights. Perhaps its her ordinary acting in some scenes that makes it easier to accept her fall in the movie J . I must admit that MS has an angelic beauty and some of the admiring shots really do her beauty, justice. AK is competent as usual except when he is spouting badly accented French. Sunil Dutt didn’t appeal much to me mainly because his mannerisms didn’t appeal.

We see Deven Verma in a very early incarnation as a Brahmin cook eyeing the Christian maid. But the director never really develops that angle in the movie. Maybe it fell victim to the editor’s scissors

But to turn to the key songs which are minor classics

* Aaja Aaja Re Tujhko mera Pyar Pukare
In which Munnabhai’s Pa prances with Mala Sinha (the one with the curious dance moves) to the backdrop of the Nainital Himalayas (some stunning views there). A delightful song. And there is a happy version and a sad version of it

And in the last verse of the sad song, observe the guys in the background. You’ll see a funny sight there. A man in sherwani twitching a cigarette from ear to ear quite oblivious to the gravity of the shot

Some of these extras in the films of yore have a mind of their own. You have to keep a sharp eye out for them and you might come across some unexpected delights

Ye Hawa, Ye Fiza

Chalo Ek Baar Phir Se Ajnabi Ban Jaye


bollyviewer said...

"A rather well-built Mala Sinha and a slightly overage Sunil Dutt (who plays an artist/singer in the movie) are, we are led to believe, just out of college and madly in love."

lol! That was the trend in the 60s (this movie is from 1963 and not 1973) - most of the actors looked too old to be in college and the actresses would continue to be 16-18 years old in the movies right upto their late 30s!

This movie does have some great songs. Thanks for the video of Yeh hawa - its been too long since I heard it!

Nirvana said...

You seem to be a lover of old Bollywood movies urself. where do u manage to lay your hands on old Hindi films in canada? :)

Anyway, am glad to meet a fellow blogger who loves Hindi cinema

bollyviewer said...

There is no dearth of Bollywood DVDs in the Indian stores here! And my love of old Bollywood is courtesy Doordarshan - I grew up in 80s India and watched tons of 50s, 60s and 70s movies all through childhood.

It is great to meet fellow Bollywood-buffs and blogland is full of them!