The market where helplessness is bought and sold

Bazaar (1982) is truly a classic movie by all standards. It presents the true story of those unfortunate (Muslim) girls who are virtually sold to the rich people in the Gulf under the camouflage of marriage by their poor parents / guardians. These unfortunate girls thereafter remain accursed to spend their entire life with much older ‘husbands’ or according to their dictates. This Baazaar (market) is actually the market of their poverty; their helplessness, to be accurate. Most of such so-called marriages which are nothing but the selling of the girls only (marriage being just a decent name for the flesh-trade) take place in Hyderabad.The movie narrates the selling of the helplessness of a very young and innocent girl – Shabnam (Supriya Pathak) who comes from a poor family and is in love with a poor boy – Sarju (Farooq Sheikh). Her parents finalize the ‘deal’ of her so-called marriage with a rich old man from Dubai who has arrived at Hyderabad only for this ‘marriage’. In finding a suitable (i.e., very young and beautiful) girl for him, he is helped by Akhtar Hussain (Bharat Kapoor) who is going to get money for this purpose plus Najma (Smita Patil) who had run away from her home with him because of her parents’ also being ready to throw her into such a hell only on account of their poverty. Najma herself has been in love with a thinker and Shaayar (Urdu poet) – Salim (Nasiruddin Shah) but their love is platonic. Najma had opted to run away from her parental home with Akhtar and accepted the live-in relationship with him because she was not able to spend her life with Salim and Akhtar had assured her that as soon as he got enough money, he would marry her. Now Najma also becomes a part of this selling-out of Shabnam alongwith Akhtar under the hope that by getting money for that, Akhtar will be able to marry her. Najma is not aware of the fact that Shabnam is in love with Sarju who is Najma’s deemed brother. When she realizes her mistake, it’s too late. Just too late !Writer-director Saagar Sarhadi has made a brilliant movie with a modest production value. Even the colours of this coloured movie have got faded out in the prints available now. But one thing is intact. The soul of the movie. This movie is not to be watched by eyes and ears (the songs being immortal ones and the dialogs being the heart-piercing ones) but by the soul. Just visualize the real life plight of hundreds of such poor (Muslim) girls whom none cares for once they are sold out and ‘delivered’. They are considered like the animals whose flesh is sold for the consumption of the non-vegetarians. They are not self-sufficient. They are not independent. Hence helpless. And their helplessness gets easily sold out to those who may not be worthy of becoming their husbands but who are wealthy enough to buy that helplessness from their guardians. The girls are just commodities whose selling consideration is also not theirs, it goes into the hands of their guardians.

Baazaar is a realistic movie which penetrates the viewer’s heart like anything and makes him / her realize the cruel reality prevailing in our country. There has not been any political or social will shown over the years to abolish this market. The deals have been going on, just going on ! Even the tears of the girls (a majority of them are minor by age) dry up but the stony hearts of the buyers and the sellers do not exude. Everything of this soul-crushing phenomena has been portrayed with utmost realism in this movie through a touching love story (of Sarju and Shabnam) which is destined to go the tragic way. The sentimental love story with the horrifying reality has been blended well with the Shaayari (Urdu poetry) and the melodious music, giving the movie a unique form and rendering it a cult status.

Baazaar is an engrossing movie which keeps the audience hooked throughout for around two hours. There are several heart-winning sequences and dialogs in the movie which are able to move the sensitive hearts and generate tears in the eyes. The end makes the spectator leave the screen with an immensely heavy heart, mourning the condition of the unfortunate girls being continuously victimized in this heartless market in which the silver coins and currency notes matter more than their feelings; in fact, their entire existence. The romantic encounters of Sarju and Shabnam are heart-tickling and the scene of their final meeting is so much sentimental that it made me burst into tears.

Baazaar underscores the importance of the young girls’ becoming self-independent which is the only way out for them to escape this injustice, this hell ! There are dialogs between Salim and Najma which highlight this issue. Baazaar is also the story of realization of own blunder and the repentance and penitence for it by Najma. She is not able to forgive herself for being instrumental in this oppression on Shabnam and therefore, she discards the thought of marrying Akhtar whose sake she had jumped into this exercise and moves with Salim to start a new life.

Baazaar highlights the irony of so-called religious customs and the significance given to the so-called giving of tongue (solemn promise made, not to be broken) which are nothing but the subterfuge for ensuring that the deal for giving the girl ultimately materializes and no eleventh hour development is able to stop it. Hollow excuses are painfully furnished to destroy the life of innocent girls whose parents / guardians are not ready to take their steps back despite knowing very well that they are thrusting their girl into hell.The art director has done his job with great proficiency. The poverty stricken areas of (old) Hyderabad have come alive on the screen. The streets, the roads, the houses; everything is damn realistic.

Khayyam’s music with the great Urdu poetry created by Mir Taqi Mir, Mirza Shauq, Makhdoom Mohiuddin, Bashar Nawaz etc. is immortal, consisting of classic Ghazals and Nazms like Dikhai Diye Yun Ki Bekhud Kiya, Karoge Yaad To Har Baat Yaad Aayegi, Dekh Lo Aaj Hum Ko Jee Bhar Ke etc. It also has the classic Ghazal – Phir Chhidi Raat Baat Phoolon Ki which I had learnt to sing and play (on harmonium) from my Sangeet Guru – Pandit Naaradanand Shaastri. This is based on the fusion of some classical raagas. As enlightened by esteemed blogger, reviewer, authoress and poetess – Geetashree Chatterjee, the main raaga used in it is Baageshri.Towering performances have been delivered by the great artists of Indian cinema viz. Nasiruddin Shah, Smita Patil and Farooq Sheikh. These are the actors who have redefined the art of acting and Baazaar is a showcase of their abilities. However the heart-conqueror is Supriya Pathak who won the Filmfare award for the best supporting actress for her role of Shabnam in this movie.The complete supporting cast involving actors like Bharat Kapoor, Nisha Singh (as Shabnam’s friend – Nasreen), Sulbha Deshpande, Yunus Parvez, Shaukat Aazmi, B.L. Chopra, Javed Khan etc. has done exceedingly well.

I sign off with a dialog from the final meeting of Sarju and Shabnam in the movie (just before the song – Dekh Lo Aaj Humko Jee Bhar Ke). Sarju says, ‘Agar Hum Gharib Na Hote To Humko Koi Bhi Juda Nahin Kar Sakta Tha Na ?‘ (None could have separated us had we not been poor). And Shabnam replies, ‘Haan, Tab Hamko Koi Bhi Juda Nahin Kar Sakta Tha‘ (Yes, then none could have separated us).

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About Jitendra Mathur

A Chartered Accountant with literary passion and a fondness for fine arts
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2 Responses to The market where helplessness is bought and sold

  1. Love the title- Helplessness bought and sold

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