In this weekly column, we revisit gems from the golden years of Hindi cinema. This week, we revisit the 1964 release Dosti.
Ever since we can remember, romantic love stories have been the essential plot driver in the majority of Hindi films so when a film blends love with friendship in an almost sacred way, it feels divine. 57 years after its release, watching Dosti in 2021 evokes that divine sensation that makes us think if the separation between romantic love and platonic love is just based on our perception.
Starring Sudhir Kumar and Sushil Kumar, Satyen Bose’s Dosti is still considered to be the epitome of friend-love in Hindi cinema. It is the unconditional nature of the relationship that Ramnath aka Ramu and Mohan share that does not allow you to question their love for each other. Dosti follows Ramu and Mohan, two teenage boys who live on the streets, and how their physically challenging life leads them to discover that they complete each other. As we meet Ramnath (played by Sushil), we see a boy who has a promising future but does not have the resources to get the kind of education he deserves. Mohan (played by Sudhir), who has made peace with his visually challenged life, has accepted his reality and knows that to survive, he has no option but to beg on the streets. The two boys, who are seen as flawed by the rest of society, see each other as their partners for life just because they accept each other for who they are. Mohan encourages Ramnath to complete his education and Ramnath, in turn, believes that education will make him a successful man which can aid Mohan’s eye surgery to get his sight back.
But despite all the love they have for each other, they know that finances are still a sore point for them. Instead of begging, the two earn pennies by singing and playing music on the street, all with the aim of saving up enough money so Ramu can go to school. In a crucial scene in the film, when Ramu has to separate himself from Mohan for the sake of his studies, their pathos is evident. As Mohan sings, “Chahunga Main Tujhe Saanjh Savere” and declares that he would never call on Ramu again, you know his fragile heart has broken into a million pieces but his love has not vanished. So when Ramu needs him, he finds a way to help him out without embarrassing his friend.
Over the years, Dosti has been studied by film scholars as the first LGBTQ film that was made by popular Hindi cinema, even though it wasn’t marketed as one. The tenderness of their relationship is evident from the get-go. The boys aren’t shy of being vulnerable around each other and don’t fake machismo for the sake of it. Because of their respective challenges, Ramu needing crutches to walk because of his legs and Mohan needing a walking stick because of his sight, the two walk hand-in-hand and have developed a kind of sensory bond that soothes them.
We are yet to see a proper commercial LGBTQ love story in 2021 so it is unimaginable that the society of 1964 would have accepted it with open arms. So if the makers intended to make Dosti a love story, they did the job well by infusing love into every element of their relationship but even if they intended to make it a platonic story, the love between Mohan and Ramu feels palpable.
Dosti was one of the biggest hits of 1964 and put Rajshri Productions on the map. Much like its contemporaries, a big reason for Dosti’s success was its music by Laxmikant Pyarelal with lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri. Apart from “Chahunga Main Tujhe”, the film boasts of classics like “Jaanewalon Zara Mudke Dekho Mujhe”, “Koi Jab Raah Na Paaye” amongst others and showcases Mohd Rafi at his best.
While the core of the film feels just as divine in 2021, there are other elements of Dosti that have probably not aged as well. The film hinges itself on the nasty nature of society where everyone, from a passerby to a classmate, is just so mean to the two boys that they have no one but each other to fall back on, not even their family. After the umpteen tragedies that they go through, one starts to get overwhelmed by the number of miseries that surround them. Barring a school teacher, and a little girl who sympathises with them, Ramu and Mohan are just constantly judged for their physical challenges, which makes you think if the filmmaker wanted to create an excessively tragic environment to evoke some sympathy from the audience, and it does not always feel well-earned.
At the time of its release, Dosti was known as a non-star vehicle that starred two actors that no one had ever heard of. Much like today, this too, was the era of stars so when a film connected with the audience with non-stars as leads, it surprised the film industry.
57 years on, Dosti is still remembered for its evergreen music and holds a dear place in the audience’s hearts for its representation of love – which could be seen as platonic by some, and romantic by others.
Dosti is streaming on Prime Video, ShemarooMe and Hungama.