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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Secret Lives

BR Chopra’s Gumrah is remembered as much for its bold storyline as for its music.

Written by Harneet Singh | Mumbai |
Updated: September 21, 2014 1:00:33 am
BR Chopra’s Gumrah comes with a soundtrack that outlives the film. BR Chopra’s Gumrah comes with a soundtrack that outlives the film.

Film: Gumrah
Year: 1963
Director: BR Chopra
Cast: Ashok Kumar, Mala Sinha, Sunil Dutt, Shashikala
Music: Ravi
DVD: Shemaroo

Sometimes you watch a film. Sometimes you listen to it, too. BR Chopra’s Gumrah, much lauded for its bold storyline about the conflict of a married woman caught between her love for her ex-boyfriend and her duty towards her husband, comes with a soundtrack that outlives the film. The combination of music composer Ravi, lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi and singer Mahendra Kapoor make Gumrah a listener’s delight, which adds to its value as a film.

From the romantic Inn fizaaon mein to the plaintive Yeh hawa…yeh fizaa…aa bhi jaa to the poignant Aap aaye toh khayaal-e-dil-e-nashaad-aaya, Gumrah’s soundtrack never goes old. The gold star of the album is, of course, the classic Chalo ek baar phir se ajnabee ban jaaye hum dono. Sahir gave all ex-lovers their anthem with this song. Can anything be more complicated yet ruthlessly truthful than woh afsaana jisse anjaam tak laana na ho mumkin, usse ek khoobsurat modh de kar chhodna achha? In his book, Sahir Ludhianvi: The People’s Poet, writer Akshay Manwani tells us, “Chalo ek baar was first published by Sahir as a poem under the title Khoobsurat Modh in his book Talkhiyaan.”

The film begins with an ode to the Lakshman rekha episode of Ramayana. We are told in a thunderous voiceover: “Yeh lakeer nahin…aurat ki izzat, uska suhaag, uska saamraaj sab iss lakeer ke andar surakshit hai”. The heroine of the story takes her time to realise this. Meena (Mala Sinha) and Rajendra (Sunil Dutt, looking extra dishy in pullovers) are blissfully in love. He tells her, “Tum mere geeton ki jaan ho…meri kala ho…meri aatma ho”. He is a singer and a landscape artiste — the only portrait he has made in his life is that of Meena’s. Destiny lands a cruel blow to their blossoming love story when Meena’s sister (Nirupa Roy) dies, leaving behind a workaholic barrister husband Ashok (Ashok Kumar, with a cigar and a curious penchant for speaking French) and two children. Meena sacrifices her love and marries her brother-in-law. It’s an arrangement she has resigned herself to, until she meets Rajendra again and they rekindle their affair. A slew of clandestine meetings ensue at precisely 4 pm. They can’t stop themselves as Rajendra says, “Hamari kahani khatam nahin hui…adhoori reh gayi”. Chopra adds a thriller element to this love triangle with Shashikala’s blackmailer act who makes Meena’s life a living hell. The aforementioned Lakshman rekha is alluded to, quite often in the film with Ashok laying down the rule: “Azaadi ka matlab gumrahi nahin hoti…aurat ka doosra naam ghar hai…agar aurat bhatakti hai toh uske saath poora ghar, poora mulk, poori nasl bhatakti hai.”

Incidentally, Gumrah was remade as Bewafa in 2005 with Anil Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor and Akshay Kumar but that film, too, towed the Lakshman rekha.

In Gumrah, Dutt and Sinha do full justice to their roles, Shashikala is the surprise packet, but it’s Kumar’s natural acting that stays with you. In an interview, Kumar spoke about the famous dining table scene: “When I was doing Gumrah, BR Chopra told me there would be a scene with me sitting between my wife and her lover. They would be silent while I’d go on talking non-stop, telling her to hurry up with the tea and so on. For three days, I improvised the scene at home with my wife. I drove her crazy, I kept on telling her to hurry up with the tea till she was ready to hit me with the kettle. I jotted down the lines we exchanged, gave them to BR Chopra. When my wife saw the film, she said, ‘Why do you have to make our private life public?’ I told her, ‘Look, you’re paying me a compliment.’ I’ve always acted naturally. In front of the camera, I behave the way I would at home,” he said.

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