Luminaries of Hindi Cinema

Luminaries of Hindi Cinema

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Teesri Kasam

Year of release – 1966

*ing - Raj Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman, Dulari, Iftekhar

Producer – Shailendra

Director – Basu Bhattacharya

Music - Shankar-Jaikishan

Couldn’t fathom why this film flopped! Shailendra played a safe bet with Teesri Kasam, which has every ingredient requisite to make an entertaining and worthwhile movie. Beautiful music, engaging plot, convincing look, an affable Raj Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman with her dancing shoes on and a master director in the making – Basu Bhattacharya. Shailendra himself, alongwith Hasrat Jaipuri, penned the lyrics for this poignant tale based on Phanishwar Nath Renu’s ‘Maare Gaye Gulpham’. Then what went wrong? Why did he lose everything, even his life to Teesri Kasam? More so, because it won the National Film Award and even after 45 years of its release, is considered a classic.

It might be the film’s ‘Sad Ending’, to use the general term, which played spoilsport to what could have been one of the biggest hits of the year. It might be the literary honesty on producer/ director’s part to present Renu’s story as it is which did not go well with the viewers. Those were the times when movies were made for everyone, not a particular class of audience. Thus, it made the film-makers’ task a bit complex as they had to include and weave the masses’ liking with their story, ensuring the box-office success too. Had it been delayed by a few years, it might have been a success as audience was starting to accept novelties. Or maybe not, because till the last decade most of the films with ‘not so happy ending’ lost out in the business.

Teesri Kasam is the tale of a cart driver Heeraman (Raj Kapoor) and a nautanki dancer, Heerabai (Waheeda Rehman). They forge a friendship on their way together to the mela. Heeraman is smitten by Heerabai’s beauty and mystique whereas Heerabai is evidently charmed by Heeraman’s naivety. Throughout the journey they share anecdotes, talk about life’s philosophy, sing beautiful songs and try to discover each other. Heeraman, though initially shy to carry “company ki aurat”, soon opens up in his purabiya dialect and regales Heerabai with his innocent banter. Heerabai too is amused by his innocence. For, after a long time she has found a simple and true-hearted person. Upon reaching the mela, she invites Heeraman and his friends to her show. Heeraman becomes a person of importance among his circle of friends. After all, it is a thing of great significance to be an acquaintance with a “chai drinking Company person”. He is on cloud nine because of this new found friendship and is clearly besotted with Heerabai. He finds it extremely infuriating when people malign her for her profession. During one such dance show, Heeraman gets into a fight with a drunkard who throws some dirty remarks towards Heerabai. This sets Heerabai thinking about the increasing depth of the relation they both share. Soon, it becomes a practice for the two to hang out together and share some time. Heeraman is unperturbed by all this but for Heerabai, every moment spent with him pushes her to question the reality of their relationship. For how long can she play act the role of a virtuous Laila in Heeraman’s life? The anticipation of the consequences play havoc in her mind and she decides to leave the place so that she could atleast preserve that idol of virtue and pure love she had seen in his eyes.

This film beautifully depicts the relationship two strangers forge on a journey together. Waheeda Rehman has done full justice to her role and she is superlative in the dance sequences, but then that is not a big surprise! She is every bit of a nautanki-dancer in “Paan khaaye saiyyaan hamaaron…” (Asha Bhonsle) and "Maare gaye gulpham..." (Asha Bhonsle)

Raj Kapoor is, undoubtedly, the best part of the film. Though he is really overage here to play Heeraman, he clearly makes up for it by his perfect role portrayal. Watch out for the way he blushes, exclaiming “isss!”

The story shows the ethnicity of northern India as it was. The landscape, the dialect and the characters were straight out of some small UP/ Bihar village. The way their simplicity and walled thinking is displayed in the film, made these characters very convincing.

And for the first time, I am in love with Shankar-Jaiskishan’s music! I mean, I like most of their songs but then that’s it. They don’t have the kind of effect SD Burman, OP Nayyar and Hemant Kumar have on me. But in Teesri Kasam, their music is altogether a different genre. While “Sajan re jhooth mat bolo…” (Mukesh) sets the tone of the film, “Sajanwa bairi ho gaye hamaar…” (Mukesh) is an insight into the folksy-lyrical world of rural India. However, the best number in the album is “Duniya banaane wale…” (Mukesh) Simple lyrics speaking the philosophy of life. And the way it is picturised is simply superlative.

All in all, a true classic with timeless appeal.


  1. Im not reading this till I see this one. I've heard only good things about this film. Might as well catch up with this today :)

  2. @Sharmi - Haha.. yeah sure. Do watch it as soon as possible. Its an endearing film.

  3. @Punya: Teesri Kasam is a true classic movie. Great acting by both Raj Kapoor and Waheeda. The way Raj Kapoor takes third vow is touching. I love the songs of Teesri Kasam more than anything. In addition to the songs you mentioned, Chalat Musafir Moh Liya Re is another great folk number.

  4. @Sreenath - I know. "Chalat musafir..." is one of the many great folk numbers used in a Hindi film, specially for us purabiya people! As I said, this is the best SJ album, IMO. They have done an amazing job here. And the last sequence, where the third vow is made... that's sheer beauty.

  5. Good review! So it flopped you say? I am surprised too. I saw it in my teenage years during a telly rerun and after years and years I still remember it well - the lyricism of the movie, its gentle pace, the beauty and grace of Waheeda and above all the music. The music is truly timeless. It always amazes me that a film like, say, Singh is King is a hit (!!!) while a film like this is a flop. Bizarre!

  6. @Suja - yeah it sank. But then so many other good films flopped too coz of various reasons (and mostly b'coz they were made at the wrong time, IMO). My father introduced me to this one and I was really impressed by it on the first watch itself! And as far as films like Singh is King are concerned, I think there are phases to Hindi Film Industry. Every phase brings with itself a new thinking and entertainment value. You just can't compare films of different era! That is so unfair. :)
    Thanks for reading!

  7. Hello,
    I got here thanks to Sharmi's blog, and I'm pleased to find another lover of oldies!! Welcome! And I was especially pleased to read about your interest for Teesri Kasam, for which I have relentlessly campaigned, ever since I saw it a few years ago. It seems as if even lovers of classic Indian films didn't want to pay any interest to it! Thank goodness now, a few more people seem to accept its worth. Perhaps it suffered from the fact that Raj Kapoor was no longer the dashing young man he used to be? Or indeed because of the story's sad ending, but it's true the movie was a flop. Anyway, I don't care, for me Teesri Kasam has a unique charm, a nostalgic emotionality which I have tried to describe as best I could. And it has Waheeda Rehman, who's not at all only a dancer, please don't restrict her to that one aspect, like so many people do. She's a true actress in her own right, an actress with a pretty face, for sure, but this movie shows her amote as well if not better than many better known co-stars.
    There! I look forward to reading more at your blog!

  8. @yves - First of all, thanks so much for reading this blog.
    I quite like Teesri Kasam and it is really a classic in every true sense! It has every thing one could ask from an entertainer. It really feels sad to see its name missing in the top classics of hindi cinema, today. But so what? For me, its one of the best films Indian Cinema has ever produced!