There was an era in Indian cinema when films were segregated as commercial movies and parallel movies. With Arthouse Days, we revisit those ‘parallel films’ that were overshadowed by the glamorous outings.
Based on Dharmavir Bharti’s novel of the same name, Shyam Benegal’s Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda released in 1992. The film had an ensemble cast featuring Rajit Kapur, Raghuvir Yadav, Rajeshwari Sachdev, Amrish Puri, Pallavi Joshi, Neena Gupta among others.
The film opens with Manik (Rajit Kapur) as he talks to his friends about love stories getting impacted by economic differences. He says, “A great love story should be beneficial to the society.” To further his point, Manik proceeds to tell them three love stories from his life that taught him something unique. He insists that love is not a personal, romantic emotion but is in fact, based on the class that one comes from. The understanding of class affects one’s idea of love.
The women in these stories are dramatically different from each other. They understand and interpret love differently and as Manik narrates these stories, we learn about his take on love that arises amid class differences.
Jamuna (Rajeshwari Sachdev) is an example of an everyday woman who loves with all her heart but her survival instinct always supersedes her will to love. Her love story with Manik is short-lived but as we get to see Jamuna transform from a stubborn teenager to an affluent lady, her approach to life undergoes significant change.
Lily (Pallavi Joshi) is shown as a rich, well-educated woman who has the courage to take a stand. Her love story does not end in marriage but looking at Lily, you get the idea that she is meant for greater things.
With Satti (Neena Gupta), you see the struggles of a working class woman who is actually fighting the demons of society that come attacking when they spot a single woman.
As Manik narrates these three stories, he insists that a story could be about anything but it is necessary for a story to be engaging. This holds true for the film as well. Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda, like many other works by great filmmakers, does not engage in spoon-feeding its audience. In fact, it trusts its audience with emotional intelligence so they can infer the subtext. It’s with this subtext that you realise that Manik might not be the most reliable narrator.
Manik tells his life’s stories with confidence but you get a sense that Manik has never taken any initiative when it came to saving his love. His unreliability also comes forth as we notice that he was always a passive character in all his stories and conveniently enough, he paints the same man as the villain (Maheshar Dalal played by Amrish Puri) in the three stories.
Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda starts off by dismissing tragic love stories (like Devdas) but by the time you reach the end of the film, you realise that it does not dismiss the idea of love but it’s the narrator who comes around as he gets to know more and more about love and the responsibility that comes with it.
It’s right at the end that Manik talks about the seventh horse of the Sun (Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda) and its importance. Manik explains that a person spends his entire life in search of love. The seven horses that pull the Sun’s chariot have a prescribed role. The one who is perceived as the weakest is representative of the future and it is that horse that gives us hope to live on.
Shyam Benegal’s directorial won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi in 1993 and for those who are just coming around to discover the gems of Hindi cinema, Suraj ka Satvan Ghoda is a must watch.
Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda is streaming on Hotstar.