The one thing common to all Gulzar movies is that they all have very simple titles. Write a story (or a poem for that matter), and you would know that sometimes it is a lot tougher to think up a title for it than the actual writing itself. Kinaara, Parichay, Khushboo, Mausam, Lekin, Angoor, Kitaab, Namkeen, Achanak, Ijaazat, Maachis… all these names tell so much about their respective movies- not always before viewing them- but more so after you experience them. Try asking a few people to give some alternative names to these stories- most likely you would get really varied answers and none would have the pertinence and relevance of the titles Gulzar chose for them. Only a highly observant and artistically articulate man like him can think of things like these. However, try doing the same exercise for the 1972 movie by him starring Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri, and I don’t think you would need to put in much ‘Koshish’ (effort), for there can really be no other name for this sensitive feature by arguably (and most certainly in my eyes) the best story-teller that Hindi cinema has seen… It is a movie that would have most certainly provided reference points to films like Khamoshi (The Sanjay Leela Bhansali one). A story of a deaf and dumb couple (Haricharan and Aarti) and their attempts to lead a normal respectable life is a delightful watch for more reasons than one.
First.It’s abstinence from melodrama for most parts- For a movie on two handicapped people, Koshish is amazingly restrained in most things it attempts and refrains from the clichéd trappings of such stories. In that sense it is fresh perspective, and a few scenes bring out this perspective wonderfully well. One such scene is when the two, relieved at finding out that their new-born son does not suffer from the same handicap as they do, start whistling alternately to capture the attention of the kid from two sides of the bed on which he rests comfortably. The rapturous whistles (growing in intensity every second) attract the attention of all the people on the street, who are shunned out in good humor by the joyous father Haricharan. The people continue with daily chores after having a good laugh. It is the treatment of this laughter by the normal people around the two, which is really different here. The focus is entirely on the world between Haricharan and Aarti, and the rest of the world doesn’t really matter.
Two. The detailing- Utmost care is given in depicting the sign language authentically. In fact the schooling shown for the deaf and dumb kids is heartening to see. The way the two interact with each other and with the rest of the world is so realistic, and so well researched, that it is hard to believe that Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri have the gift of sound and speech in real life.
Three. The thought- The idea is not only to show the difficulties that a handicapped couple may face while trying to lead a respectable life, but also how such people can rise even above the normal people if they remain optimistic and are given the right environment and opportunities to succeed. One thing that is repeated more than once in the film (or in fact said more than once in the film by one of the characters) is the deaf and dumb are blessed for they will never hear the bad things that are said in the world, and will never say the bad things that are said in the world. It is a refreshing view that acts as the thrust for the narrative.
Four. Its love story- If one has to put a genre to this movie (forget for a moment that its leads are handicapped), then it is no question a love story. It has everything- from the initial meeting, to frequent interactions, to those stolen moments, to the hesitancy and ultimately the acceptance. Even post marriage how their love stands the test of time and difficult times, is what the movie emphasizes on.
And Last. Its performances- Yes, it is a kind of movie where even average performances from the leads would have appeared wonderful. But leaving aside this fact, both Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri pitch in with WONDERFUL performances- it is actually hard to find the right words to describe the finesse and the polish in their efforts. Right from the start to the finish, Sanjeev Kumar just converts completely into the deaf and dumb Haricharan on screen, and not even for an iota of a second does his real life persona becomes visible from behind character that he plays. The same goes for Jaya Bhaduri, who delivers a knock-out performance that will rank amongst the best if one has to make a list of the top performances by female actors in Indian cinema. The supporting cast provides able support, especially Om Shivpuri who plays a blind man and a friend to the couple.
But there are certain portions in the film that are not as convincing as the rest. The entire Asrani track is kind of tangential to the central theme, and does not actually add anything to the plot, except a few bits of drama. The track is not even given a proper closure, which is highly uncharacteristic of Gulzar (but then this was just his second film). Also, I felt that the climax raised more questions rather than answering some- and the end was slightly hurried and meek. But even then, in a delightful trick, Gulzar smartly completes a circle by referencing an earlier dialogue in the narrative. One slightly disappointing thing about the movie is that its music (by Madan Mohan) is nothing to write home about, which is so unlike a Gulzar movie.
Parting Note: The movie is certainly a must watch for its freshness, its novelty, its finesse, and most importantly- its thought. Another gem from Gulzar…