Whenever any movie is made on the basis of some novel or story, the comparisons between the written version and the celluloid version are inevitable. Sometimes, the viewers find the movie to be better than the written piece of work and sometimes the readers find that the moviemaker has not done justice to the book or the story. From my point of view, Mehbooba (1976) falls into the second category. It is based on Gulshan Nanda’s novel – Sisakte Saaz (sobbing musical instruments).
Sisakate Saaz is, in my opinion, the best novel written by Gulshan Nanda who was inarguably the best selling author of Hindi pulp fiction in India during 1960-1990. He penned down around 50 Hindi novels and several of them got themselves picturized on the celluloid. Sharmilee, Kati Patang, Jheel Ke Us Paar, Naya Zamaana, Daag, Ajnabee, Bhanwar, Paale Khan, Neel Kamal, Patthar Ke Honth (Movie – Khilona), Maadhvi (Movie – Kaajal), Aawara Baadal (Movie – Main Aawara Hoon) were among them. For Mehbooba, he not only gave his novel – Sisakte Saaz to Shakti Saamanta but also wrote the screenplay of Mehbooba, thereby adapting his novel for the film himself. However, in my opinion, he did a mistake by changing the story of the movie in the later half. The result is, while the novel is definitely a memorable one, the movie is, more or less, an above average entertaining movie.
The story of Sisakte Saaz is the triangular story of the royal court singer, Prakash; his sweetheart and the royal court dancer, Ratna and his wife, Jamuna. The novel is an ocean of love and tender emotions and there are several twists and turns in the lives of the three protagonists leading to the ultimate tragic end of the story. The ending scene in which Prakash is dead and a bird is hopping on his musical instrument, thereby creating a sound as if the musical instrument is sobbing, is heart-piercing. The complete novel has been written on a very large canvas with an engrossing and freely flowing narrative. The dialogues of Prakash and Ratna in the novel are quite sentimental and impressive. Overall it is a very good novel written in Hindi. It is a pulp fiction work written in pocket book style but can be categorized as a good literary work.
While adapting the novel for the movie, Gulshan Nanda perhaps thought that the large canvas of the novel may not suit the movie and the narrative may not be digestible for the Indian audience who is fond of watching formula-based regular movies on celluloid. Hence he adhered to the novel only upto the interval point. In the novel, Prakash and Ratna part ways after leaving the royal court of Jaipur and meet only after many years with Prakash becoming a music director in movies and coming across Ratna in Lucknow while looking for a singer-actor female for a new movie. In the film, Prakash and Ratna are shown dead while fleeing together and then they reincarnate to meet again in their second life with Prakash reincarnating as Sooraj, the singer and Ratna reincarnating as Jhumri, a gypsy girl. In the film, the post interval story is completely that of a typical Bollywood movie with the baddy, Prem Chopra creating obstacles in the path of Sooraj and Jhumri and the happy ending with the union of our hero-heroine.
The movie is good for entertainment and boasts of good songs composed by Pancham Da (R.D. Burman). Mere Naina Saawan Bhadon is a timeless classic song based on the classical raaga – Shivranjani. Other songs are also good. The movie is technically good and maintains a high production value. The incidents in the movie are quite predictable as it is a formula-based movie with all the formulae being the time-tested ones in Hindi movies. This is not the case with the novel in which the reader cannot predict the forthcoming events.
Shakti Saamanta has given the movie a routine direction with nothing novel. The star of Rajesh Khanna was waning at the time of the movie’s release, however he did well in the roles of Prakash and Sooraj and the movie also became a hit. All the same, I feel that he was a miscast at least in the first half of the movie when he was playing the royal court singer, Prakash. Hema Malini is quite beautiful and impressive in both the roles – the role of the royal court dancer, Ratna and the gypsy girl, Jhumri. All the other characters – Yogeeta Bali as Jamuna, Nazir Hussain as Prakash’s Guru, Manmohan Krishna as Ratna’s Ustaad, Asrani as Sooraj’s friend, Prem Chopra as the villain – Appa, Madan Puri as the leader of the gypsy group and Asha Sachdev as Sooraj’s fiancee – Rita are quite ok. I specially praise Sujit Kumar who is the uncle of Sooraj and a kind-hearted doctor, practicing in the hilly region among the gypsies.
The movie was a hit at the time of its release and is still liked by the fans of Rajesh Khanna. Nice timepass, definitely. However, I urge the viewers who have liked the movie and who can read Hindi, to read the base novel – Sisakte Saaz reading which will prove to be quite a different and more satisfying experience for them than watching the movie.