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Deconstruting Rajesh Khanna’s ‘Daag: A Poem Of Love’

Yash Chopra’s 'Daag: A Poem of Love' is a tale of star-crossed lovers Sunil (Rajesh Khanna) and Sonia (Sharmila Tagore), who encounter all kinds of trials, obstacles and separations on their way to happily ever-after.

Written by Harneet Singh | New Delhi |
Updated: August 16, 2015 8:13:33 am
daag, daag movie, rajesh khanna, rajesh khanna daag, sharmila tagore daag, sharmila tagore, rakhee, rakhee daag, yash chopra Daag, with its unusual ending, was Yash Chopra’s first directorial venture under his own banner

Film: Daag: A Poem of Love
Year: 1973
Director: Yash Chopra
Cast: Rajesh Khanna, Sharmila Tagore, Rakhee
Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal
DVD: YRF Movies

Yash Chopra’s Daag: A Poem of Love is a tale of star-crossed lovers Sunil (Rajesh Khanna) and Sonia (Sharmila Tagore), who encounter all kinds of trials, obstacles and separations on their way to happily ever-after. Over the years, the film has acquired cult status as a classic triangle of a man caught between two women. In typical Chopra fashion, all the characters in Daag are essentially good people caught in bad circumstances. The film is about two women who love a man in their own way. Sonia’s love is eternal as she believes, “aurat sirf ek baar pyaar karti hai… baar baar nahin.” Chandni (Rakhee in a dynamic role, the “twist” in this triangle) shares an unconventional “dard ka rishta” with Sunil.

Khanna, meanwhile, gets to deliver the immortal soliloquay which he turned into his life’s story and often repeated at public events — “Izzatein, shohratein, chahatein, ulfatein, koi bhi cheez duniya mein rehti nahi… aaj main hoon jahaan kal koi aur tha… Yeh bhi ek daur hai woh bhi ek daur tha.”


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Partly inspired by Thomas Hardy’s novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Gulshan Nanda’s novel Maili Chandni, Daag was Chopra’s first film as an independent producer. After directing five films for his elder brother BR Chopra’s banner, Chopra was keen to fly on his own and Gulshan Rai decided to finance him for what we now know as the first Yash Raj Film. In an interview with Karan Johar, the late Chopra revealed that his cast and crew were completely by his side to make the film — Rakhee even offered Chopra money in case he needed it to mount his first film, and lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi asked to be paid only once the film became a hit.

The reaction of the press and distributors was subdued. A lot of it had to do with Khanna’s dwindling star status — prior to Daag, he had eight flops on the trot — and the controversial ending of the film where the man goes home with two “wives”. Chopra said, “Gulshan Rai felt the film may not do well because of the controversial end. I told him that I’ve made the film only for the end but he thought of releasing it as an art film and booked only nine theatres in Mumbai.”
Chopra’s conviction paid off — the film created such a buzz that eventually Daag released in 18 theatres and was declared a superhit on the first day itself. “Everyone advised me to change the end but I didn’t think of doing it even once. It was the only way I could show that sometimes, a man cannot do anything; destiny is not in his hands toh usse zindagi se samjhauta karna hi padta hai,” Chopra told me during the course of an old interview.

While Tagore was the tragic heroine of the piece, Rakhee walked away with the climax and also the Filmfare Award. Film folklore insisted there were tensions between the two Bengali actresses, but Chopra said, “If they had any tension, they didn’t show me.” Before signing the two female leads, he famously told them, “If you have any issues, then better tell me now and have faith in me. I will listen to you but I won’t change the scene for you, I will only change it if I want to.”

In an interview Rakhee also rubbished talks of any off-screen tension with her co-star. She reserved the highest praise for Khanna though, who she declared as “one of the seven wonders for the industry.” She said, “There was magic in Rajesh’s face and mannerisms. He was shy and conservative, but misunderstood. Why wouldn’t he come three hours late for a shot when his co-actors including me took three hours to dress up? He did not use any make-up ever.”

The music of Daag was a huge hit. The combination of Laxmikant- Pyarelal and Sahir came up with ditties that have passed the test of time. Ab chaahe Maa roothe ya Baba and Mere dil mein aaj kya hai were highly placed in the Binaca Geet Mala. You just have to look at the way Khanna croons, “Mera pyaar keh raha hai main tujhe khuda bana doon” and you will want to watch the film. Nobody could act out a love song better than Khanna.

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