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Mujhko Bhi Tarkeeb Sikha Koi Yaar Julahe….
Aksar Tujhko Dekha Hai Ek Tana Bunte
Jab Koi Taga Toot Gaya Ya Khatam Hua
Phir Se Baandh Ke Aur Sira Koi Jodh Ke Uss Mein
Aage Bun’ne Lagte Ho….
Maine Tou Ek Baar Buna Tha Ek Hi Rishta
Lekin Uski Saari Girhain Saaf Nazar Aatee Hain Meray Yaar Julahe. ~ Gulzar, (Rough transl: Oh Weaver! Teach me a method too to weave…Often, have I observed  you weaving through one strand…until a thread broke or melted into the cloth…You then take up one of the corners of the cloth with a new thread and start weaving once more….But I, I had tried to weave only once only one relationship…but all the openings in the cloth are so clearly visible, oh friend Weaver! )

A student wrote to me ‘Ma’am there are professors and there are human beings — you will soon transcend the second one to become the first’.  I protested saying that it’s not true, a profession cannot compete with the attribute of being human. The debate was on for sometime and he said that those who teach (especially literature) use sentiments without getting sentimental.  Perhaps, he was right to a certain extent, the need for being scholarly, for being an ‘ideal’ is so strong that sometimes we lose that little gesture of human-ness that would be relevant as a yardstick to setup that ideal.  His statement took me back to my University days (confessional), when one of my Professors had pointed out to a few friends who used to hang out regularly with me and were core supporters of my brainless pranks, ‘Be careful of her. Nothing and no relationships will come in the way of her ambitions — you will fail, while she will will move on to her next destination’ . I had cried the entire night the day that comment had come, nothing was more important for me at that point of time than friends, but perhaps my teacher was right, subliminally I was trying to negotiate my own ways — alone

However, when it comes to feelings and sentiments, no one is an exception — desire to be acknowledged, desire to be loved, desire to be desired is universal and as a human being I have been no exception. We all fail only at the doorsteps of our sentiments.

These personal anecdotes refreshed the memory of a movie that has been a favourite — Gulzar sahab’s Mausam (1975). Thought will pay a small tribute to the maestro on his Birthday (18th August) with this article. It has been raining here profusely and my health, a week of hospitalization, has made me more philosophical  — watched this movie again on my laptop with the rains shimmering down the windows.

A sepia look outside the window

A sepia look outside the hospital window

I have been trying to write on Gulzar  for very long, but every time write something, I delete the post.

Mausam

Mausam

‘Mausam’  reconnects us with these sentiments, emotions, feelings, attachments that are common to all species of the Universe.   It is the story of a medical student Amarnath Gill who comes to live in Darjeeling on a vacation  before his final medical exams and falls in love with an innocent hill-girl, Champa, daughter of the Vaidya. After the vacations he returns back to Calcutta to complete his medical studies and decides to come back to marry the girl. As destiny has  it, when he finally returns it is 35 years later. His life as a highly successful surgeon and manufacturer of a unique pain-killer keeps him busy for all these years. Dr. Gill’s search for the girl begins on a casual note  and starts getting denser with every new mystery, until one day he reaches the place where she actually lived her last life as a mentally challenged person — she died eight months before his coming back to Darjeeling, waiting for him to come back till her last breath. Guilt-ridden the doctor decides to search for Champa’s only daughter Kajri, adopt her and give her the life that her mother deserved. As fate ordains, the doctor finds Kajri in a hen-cooped brothel, mouthing the choicest slang, and living the life of a drunkard, chain-smoker, prostitute. She is rescued from the mohalla and taken by Dr. Gill to the rest-house. He tries to ‘civilize’ her, make her wear sarees and live as a daughter, while not revealing to her that he is the man who is responsible for the destruction of her mother and her own life. The twist comes when Kajri falls in love with the aged doctor and when he reveals to her that he did not come back to Champa because of a shame when he was jailed for an accidental death of a patient during a surgery.  There is some sort of a compromise when in the end the doctor adopts her and takes Kajri back to Calcutta, saying: “Mere saath chalogi? Peeche mud ke dekhne keliye hum dono ke paas kuchh nahin bacha hai.”  (Will you come with me? Both of us have nothing to look back upon.)

Gulzar’s craft is such that little subtleties of life and emotions are captured with an unspeakable brilliance.  In addition, a power-packed performance by Sanjeev Kumar as the doctor and a double-role by Sharmila Tagore as Champa and Kajri, make the movie a classic in its own ways.Realism and masterly acting and craft effortlessly blend in the movie.

There are social messages in Gulzar’s stories, be it Kitab (1977) or Khushboo (1975) or Ijazaat (1987), but what is unique is that they do not sermonize.  Gulzar is a poet and his movies and scripts are poetry in motion and vision, of course with a strong undercurrent of realism. The social messages are embedded in his portrayal of human emotions which seem to be his priority especially interpersonal relationships.

An interesting aspect of the movie when you observe it closely is the casualness with which the movie begins and the seriousness with which it ends. Watching the movie, I felt that the doctor did not come back to Darjeeling with any heightened romantic aspirations of meeting the girl whom he loved through his life. He casually refers to his co-workers when they come to meet him that there was an ‘accident’ — the accident being he fell in love with a girl.  It is only when he starts tracing her and meets several characters, unique in their own ways,  keep giving him fragments of information about the girl, while reminding him,  ‘she was a nice girl, but she was waiting for some doctor to come back…but does anyone come back once they leave?’ With every new character reminding him of his guilt of deserting his love, the passion to search for her grows stronger in the doctor. As the plot unfolds, so do the loss, the pain, the wait, each strand of emotion slowly unfold. Life too reflects this subtlety — emotions sometimes flood, while at other times they wait to haunt you and return to you with a slow, deliberate pace.

Mausam is also about modernization of smaller towns of India and the slow urbanization of the medical system. Encounters between the village Vaidya (Champa’s father) and the Allopathic doctor are remarkable. These seem to be symbolic encounters between two completely different systems of thought.  There are specific names of the herbs that the Vaidya uses. Even Champa is an adept apothecary. When doctor Gill comes back to Darjeeling after a long interval, there  is no trace of the Vaidya Thapa. People of his own locality have completely forgotten him and it is the modern medicinal practices that are ruling in the small towns too. In fact, there is an interesting moment in the story when Dr. Gill has a headache and he goes to the Chemist and asks him to give him an Asprin. The Chemist offers him his own invented medicine. He responds in a tongue-in-cheek fashion to the Chemist, saying ‘no don’t give me Gill’s tablet because that has a lot of Chlorine’.

The girl Champa looses her mental stability while waiting for the doctor to come back.  She keeps telling people around her that she will make Kajri a doctor and get her married to a doctor. Through Kajri, Champa lives in a different form — while Champa is about the unsullied emotion of love, Kajri knows only the language of lust. Kajri is a commentary on the life of girls of small towns, bereft of education or a decent parental upbringing. Champa spends her life in a small weaving factory, weaving clothes, waiting for her love to come back, and fighting her mental derangement. While Kajri is forced into prostitution by the surreptitious moves of her own society and people.

Mausam is an extremely powerful commentary on not only the emotion of love or lust, but also the changing patterns of social and cultural thoughts. Such movies are rare in the history of Bollywood cinema — they make what is truly unique in Hindi cinema. When you are watching this movie, watch it curled up in your bed, with a hot cup of tea, undisturbed by the noise of the world outside, with the rains pattering at your window — perhaps then you get a feel of Gulzar’s art and his craft.

Sepia -- the window through an empty glass

One of my friends recently told me, ‘life is full of options…koi kisi keliye mara nahin jaa raha hai…’move on’ ….’ I have had a few questions — is it intellectual and emotional honesty to regard love in terms of options? When we are talking about human integrity and corruption-less society, does that come from too many options? Does emotional integrity in individuals figure anywhere in building up a superstructure of a larger society? Probably, yes…. Gulzar’s movies show a different trend — they seem to depict a deep emotional integrity, an honesty — a dogged dedication, conviction to one human being or one ideology.  Whether that human being or that ideology is correct or wrong is an altogether different question and different subject.

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