Year of release – 1972
*ing – Sanjeev Kumar, Jaya Bhaduri, Om Shivpuri, Asrani, Dina Pathak
Producer – Raj N. Sippy
Director – Gulzar
Music – Madan Mohan
I am a sceptic when it comes to watching movies revolving around disabilities, whether physical or otherwise. I fear they might turn out either to be cringing tales of helplessness or sagas of sickening optimism. Very few makers have been able to balance out the black and whites of such tales. And this is the only reason why I make it a point to avoid such movies unless I am caught unaware by the story. Sparsh and Koshish are two such films which were just sprung on me (by my film-thirsty mind, ofcourse!)
And for once, I was watching with certain doubts at bay. Trust Gulzar to come up with beautiful display of human relations and emotions! He has done exactly that in Koshish (will keep Sparsh review for sometime later). He has a knack of choosing intricate subjects for his films. Follow his filmography and you will be awed by his range, by his grasp on the medium, by his choice of subjects, by the subtle ways in which his characters develop and above all, by the sheer simplicity of his films.
Koshish is no different in this sense. It is the story of two deaf and mute people – Aarti (Jaya Bhaduri) and Hari Charan (Sanjeev Kumar). How they meet and lead their life together. Aarti lives with her widowed mother (Dina Pathak) and her wayward gambler brother Kanu (Asrani) in a poor neighbourhood. She is as normal a girl as her handicap allows her to be. She does not wallow in self-pity and has learned to have a way with her restrictions. A chance meeting in the market leads her to befriend Hari Charan who also shares this handicap. Hari is a newspaper vendor who earns enough to make his ends meet. He introduces Aarti to a deaf-and-mute school and makes it a point to accompany her back to home, without fail, every day. This leads to mutual admiration, they start coming close together and Hari proposes marriage. Taken by a surprise, Aarti doesn’t know what to say. She is perplexed with this sudden proposal and takes no time in saying ‘No’. She is not quite sure how two people with similar weaknesses would be able to live a normal life. But soon, she has to eat her words as Hari’s confidence in himself and his approach to life win her over.
They get married and, to their utter delight, have a perfectly normal boy. They are leading a happy life together but how do you explain life’s sudden twists and turns? One night, Kanu break in their house to steal Aarti’s sole gold necklace. Not only this, he had his eyes set on Hari’s cycle since long and wastes no time in grabbing it along. But in his haste to escape, he leaves open the main door which proves to be a fatal misfortune. The couple’s baby crawls out through it in the rain and dies. The world comes crashing down on their heads. Everything goes haywire with this sudden mishap. And to add to the injury, Hari loses his job with his cycle. It gets hard for the family to even arrange for their daily bread. With nowhere to go to, Hari takes up boot polishing as last means of survival. Gradually, life starts getting back on track with the arrival of their second son.
A chance encounter with a noble soul gets Hari a decent job in a printing press. With his hard work and determination and Aarti’s love and care, things start looking better for them. Life completes a full circle when their son Amit completes his graduation, turning out to be a perfect son. Hari’s boss had set his eyes upon Amit for quite some time and wishes him to be his son-in-law.
Is this the result of Hari’s sincerity and affable nature which made his senior to think about this match? After all, for a humble man like Hari, it is quite something to be invited to his boss’ place for a cuppa. But what had Hari not bargain for is Amit’s reaction to this matchmaking.
The film has its moments whenever Sanjeev Kumar enters the frame. Here is one truly gifted actor Hindi Cinema has ever seen. The scene where Hari misunderstands his newborn’s silence to be his deafness is beautifully emoted by Kumar. His sudden panic at this adversity and his relief when everything turns out okay shows what this man is capable of.
Jaya Bhaduri complements him with a convincing role portrayal. I cannot imagine any other actor in Aarti’s shoes after watching Jaya play this role. Its tailor made for her. One scene that stands out is the one where a teacher asks her to say a name other than her own. The way Jaya coyly gestures Hari’s name is very endearing. Another smile inducing scene is where Aarti learns to whistle much to the delight of two roadside romeos.
Asrani here is in one of his rare negative roles. He plays Aarti’s crooked, selfish brother convincingly. But the way his character develops in the film is very usual. I don’t get it why this character is needed in Hari and Aarti’s story? The stealing part could have been be done by any Tom, Dick and Harry thief. Asrani, IMO, is simply wasted in this film. Dina Pathak, on the other hand, has some good scenes to her credit and a bit more than the usual filmi Ma.
Gulzar has used Om Shivpuri’s character, Narayan, very effectively throughout the movie. He is a blind man who befriends Aarti and Hari and become an indispensable part of their life. Together with Narayan, the couple raise their son to be a good person. There is a scene where Narayan, spending his night outside their house on a cot wakes up Hari using a rope tied to both their legs, whenever the baby cries in the night. In another instance, Narayan takes it upon himself to sing a lullaby to the baby (“Soja baba mera soja...” by Rafi). This is one close-knit family which strives to make life easy for each other in whatever way possible.
The story of two disabled people, who with the help of a blind friend construct a worthwhile life for themselves, is tenderly handled. The only thing, I found, lacking in this film is a peak point or climax, the reference point for conclusion. There is nothing that marks the high point of the movie.
But, the thing I loved the most is the way Gulzar touched the handicap. Surely, the leads have a difficult life but the master director saves the film from degenerating into a tear jerker. True, Hari and Aarti’s problems raise your concern but then you know that they’ll soon find a way out. Such is the kind of character Gulzar has given to his protagonists! He keeps his film free from forming an air of morbid shadows. The film charts the lives of deaf and mute people but without wallowing in pity and vulnerability.