Today is my birthday. I am forty-seven now and should have been able to built a stout career and achieve the desired amount of success in my life by this time. However I am still quite far from where I used to dream to reach in my adolescence. Almost all the dreams seen at that time are unfulfilled and some of them have been shattered for ever. Still life runs on hope and conviction. And whenever I am in low spirits, I keep on humming a very old song of Lata Mangeshkar – Kabhi To Milegi, Kahin To Milegi Bahaaron Ki Manzil, Raahi (O traveller, you will ultimately reach the destination of primaveras some day, some time) which gives me further hope to move on in life despite all the accumulated frustration. This immortal song is from a black and white classic movie – Aarti (1962) whose review follows.By the word Aarti, we mean the Hindu way of prayer meant for some deity in the morning and in the evening. However the name of this movie is as such because it’s the name of the heroine in this movie and this female-centric movie revolves around her onlyDr. Aarti (Meena Kumari) is supposed to marry Dr. Prakash (Ashok Kumar) who is a money-minded person whereas Aarti believes in using own professional knowledge and ability for serving the mankind sans any greed for wealth. One day she happens to come across an unemployed youth – Deepak (Pradeep Kumar) when he saves her from drowning and falls in love with him. Against the wish of her father, she gets married to Deepak and moves to the poverty-struck home of her in-laws which consists of her kind-hearted widower father-in-law (Gajaanan Jaageerdaar), elder brother of her husband – Niranjan (Ramesh Dev), his termagant, dodgy and sadist wife – Jaswanti (Shashikala), her husband’s married sister – Rama (Surekha) who is an abandoned wife and three children of Niranjan and Jaswanti out of whom one is handicapped. She, with her kindness, benevolence and good nature keeps on serving her Sasuraal (in-laws’ family) despite the continuous taunts and bitter talks of her (elder) sister-in-law in the home. She keeps on rendering her medical services also outside the home on ‘as and when required’ basis. Deepak also gets a job. Gradually, Aarti is able to spread happiness in every nook and corner of her marital home but now arrives the twist in the talePrakash who has never been able to get Aarti out of his mind and has been feeling hurt and humiliated (because of Aarti’s refusal to marry him and preferring to marry Deepak) over the years despite the fact that he has married Ramola (Peace Kanwal), comes back into her life. To teach Aarti a lesson and drag her back towards himself, he starts making his moves in order to distance Aarti from Deepak. Misunderstandings start propping up between Aarti and Deepak and Aarti leaves her husband’s home. One day, Deepak meets with a lethal accident. Now the occasion has come for Prakash to seek his revenge from Aarti. He is the only surgeon available at that place and at that time who can execute the operation of Deepak which is mandatory to save his life. When Aarti requests him to do it, he demands his ‘fees’. Dumbfound Aarti agrees to pay the ‘fees’ desired by Prakash even when Prakash makes it pretty clear that he will only perform the operation and there is no guarantee from his side that Deepak will live after that. Deepak survives after the operation performed by Prakash and now it’s time for Aarti to pay to Prakash his ‘fees’. The story concludes on a very emotional note.The way this sentimental story is quite good to read in the above-written lines, the same way it is pretty good to watch on the screen. Director Phani Majumdaar has very skilfully presented the script of Vishwamitter Adil on the screen which is actually an adaptation of a play written by Prafulla Desai. Right from the beginning, going through the middle and reaching the very finish, this movie is a heart-winner all the way. It’s a brilliant family and social drama alongwith a love story. How the jealousy of a loser in love can bring havoc in the lives of the concerned people, has been shown quite emphatically in the later half of the movie whereas the first half demonstrates how a cool-headed and good-natured lady can handle everything in her home and her married life in the best possible way. The movie also demonstrates that the relationship of a husband and a wife is founded on mutual trust only and there should not be any place for suspicion of any kind in the relationship of a loving coupleThe movie also underscores the significance of the noble profession of medicine which should not be considered by the people in this line as a means to amass wealth. The ones who are blessed with the knowledge of medicine should consider themselves as fortunate ones who can serve the mankind in such a way that others can’t serve. The money-mindedness of doctors that Aamir Khan had brought to fore through his TV show Satyamev Jayate had been highlighted half a century back through this movie.
One unique aspect of this movie is Aarti’s analysis of the personality and behaviour of her termagant, dodgy and sadist sister-in-law, Jaswanti with a positive frame of mind. She does not dislike her but concludes that Jaswanti is as such because she had a poor childhood and did not get any pleasure in her marital life as well and this frustration only reveals its face in her behaviour. That’s a very positive approach to look at the negative things and it is very emphatically shown in the movie how Aarti is able to bring about the desired change in Jaswanti’s behaviour and attitude just by sticking to her own virtues.
Alongside the main track of the three principal characters, a comedy track of another love-triangle also runs in which comedians like Mehmood, Rajendra Naath and Vijaya Chaudhary (with Keshto Mukherjee also) have left no stone unturned in making the audience laugh. It’s a hilarious comedy track which provides relief moments intermittently in this profound family and social drama.With this movie, the prestigious Rajshri banner of Bollywood stepped into the field of filmmaking and this very first presentation of this banner is just marvellous. With this movie, the founder of this banner – Tarachand Barjatya started the great tradition of making simple, down-to-earth and idealistic movies with a completely Indian setting and a story embedding Indian family and social values in it. Now more than fifty years have passed since Aarti and the flag of this banner is still swinging with pride in the air of the Indian cinema.As mentioned in the preceding para, this movie started the tradition of simplicity and Indianness of the Rajshri banner and every inch of this movie is studded with the same. There is no compromise with the Indian values and virtues anywhere and there is no vulgarity or indecency at any place. There is no pump and show or ugly display of wealth. The characters can be well-identified in the Indian middle class society and no character appears to be from some other world.Both the art director and the cinematographer have done their best to maintain the simplistic feel of the story. Still the scenes of sea, river, rocks, forest etc. provide a highly aesthetic touch to this black and white movie. Length is according to the norm prevailing in that period but it is not felt because there is not even an ounce of boredom in the movie. Dialogs are also highly impressive and enhance the impact of the scenes.
Aarti belongs to that unique era of Bollywood when despite being a patriarchal set up of the Indian society, the heroines of the movies not only got meatier roles but also more importance (and even more price, believe it or not !) than the heroes. Meena Kumari was one such popular heroine of her time that stories used to be written by keeping her at the centre of the story. Aarti is one such movie only. Meena Kumari who is undoubtedly one of the best actresses of the Indian cinema, has carried it on her stout shoulders. The heroes – Pradeep Kumar, the protagonist and Ashok Kumar, the antagonist have ably supported her. Especially Ashok Kumar has done a brilliant job in perhaps the first role of his career which contained grey shades. The supporting cast including the child artists and the comedians have done pretty well. A very special praise is deserved by Shashikala as the termagant elder daughter-in-law of the family. Her natural performance in this movie is unforgettable.
Roshan’s melodious music with Majrooh’s beautiful lyrics is another highlight of this movie. The best song, in my opinion, is the one already mentioned, i.e., Kabhi To Milegi, Kahin to Milegi Bahaaron Ki Manzil, Raahi … which always inspires the listeners to maintain hope and optimism against all the odds prevalent. The other songs are also very good among which Baar Baar Tohe Kya Samjhaaye Paayal Ki Jhankaar (Lata-Rafi), Ab Kya Misaal Doon Main Tumhaare Shabaab Ki (Rafi), Aapne Yaad Dilaaya To Mujhe Yaad Aaya (Rafi-Lata) and Bane Ho Ek Khaaq Se To Door Kya Kareeb Kya (Lata) are real gems from the treasure of Indian cine music.
Aarti is a timeless classic which can be seen and enjoyed in any era and in addition to entertainment, lessons can also be taken from it for life. It can be watched any number of times. I am humming again – ‘Lambi Sahi Dard Ki Raahen, Dil Ki Lagan Se Kaam Le; Aankhon Ke Toofan Ko Pee Ja, Aahon Ke Baadal Thaam Le; Door To Hai Par Door Nahin Hai Nazaaron Ki Manzil, Raahi …
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