In my review of a classic Hindi novel – Pachpan Khambhe Laal Deewaarein, I have highlighted the pain of being lonely but not alone, the pain of being so sensitive and noble that you keep on caring for others without a single one caring for your bare minimum needs and the fact that it’s bad to be excessively good. People may be around a noble-hearted person in the form of relatives or friends but they are more like parasites, drawing the blood of that naive, benevolent and sensitive one. They emotionally blackmail him / her for own vested interests. They exploit him / her to the hilt and prove that he / she must have been better as alone than with them. The world is like that only. Good people are quite less with the major chunk of the world’s population being made of the selfish and the exploitative ones. And it’s the good, sincere and sensitive ones only who usually find themselves at the receiving end. The triumph of truth, justice and good is a myth with the evil seen as victorious on most of the occasions in the routine worldly life.Sone Ki Chidiya (1958) is based on this theme only. It’s a cinematic adaptation of a story of eminent Urdu authoress – Ismat Chughtai. This brilliant movie, despite certain deficiencies and minuses, is a classic piece of art. It pinches you, it pains you, it moves you and make you relate to it if you are also a sufferer in the hands of the exploitative world around you. It’s an eye-opener for every talented person who is unfortunately surrounded by the selfish who are interested in exploiting his / her talent to fill their own pockets and nothing else.
Sone Ki Chidiya (golden bird) is the term used for its protagonist – Lakshmi (Nutan) who is an orphan girl whose guardians throw her into the house of another distant relative whose wife treats her as a maid-servant whereas the alcoholic and gambler younger son tries to sell her to his creditor against his debt. Fortunately her talent comes to the fore and she gets a movie contract and becomes a film-heroine. Then all of a sudden, this unwanted girl becomes a Sone Ki Chidiya (golden bird) for this greedy family in which but for her sensitive uncle, everybody is after her earning only. However being quite naive and sensitive by nature, she does not mind giving her earnings to them only without keeping anything for her. However being a young girl, she is also starving for the love of opposite sex and wants to tie the sacred knot with a suitable boy which is, quite naturally, not acceptable to her ‘family’ members who can’t afford their golden bird to fly away.
An ambitious youth named as Amar (Talat Mahmood) enters her life and she falls in love with him under an expectation that he’ll marry her but soon she comes to understand that she’s only a ladder for him to become a hero in movies and build a glamorous and lucrative career through her. After seeing his real face, utterly disappointed and lonely Lakshmi decides to end her life but a song authored and being sung at that moment by a poet Shreekaant (Balraaj Saahmi) stops her from taking that extreme step. Shreekaant does not know her because he’s not fond of movies but she knows him due to being the fan of his poetry. Both come close and Lakshmi suddenly starts feeling that she’s ascertained her final destination, i.e., being the life-partner of Shreekaant who is a man of principles and definitely not after her wealth and earning capacity. But still certain shocks and twists of destiny are there in store for her. However the movie ends on a happy note with this golden bird (Sone Ki Chidiya) flying away in the free air with the love of her life, breaking open the cage of vested interests and greedy ones which had kept her captive hitherto.
Perhaps this movie was made long after the story had been written by Ismat Aapa (who is also the producer of this movie) . That’s why some things appear to be out of place in this movie. In those days, it might have been possible for a talented girl to become a film-heroine due to some stroke of luck but the protagonist of this movie, i.e., Lakshmi becomes a heroine or screen-diva because of her singing talent and not her beauty or acting talent. Thus this story appears to be of the era of the thirties when playback singing had not come into existence. But from a different angle, this movie bares the truth of the Indian film industry as it was in those days.
The story is a highly touching one all the same, baring the harsh reality of the selfish world. The message given by the so-called matured elders to the innocent children is -‘live for others’ but the poor child who learns to live for others finds himself (or herself) as the biggest sufferer in life with everybody taking advantage of him (or her). Not only in that era but even today, this world appears to be meant for only those who know how to use others and the poor ones who do not know it are reduced to the used and exploited ones only with the cunning ones usurping all the rewards of their toil and talent.
The director (Shahid Lateef) has done complete justice to the excellent story of the great Urdu authoress with every frame of the movie appearing to be shedding tears for the pain and loneliness of the protagonist. The complete movie is a tear-jerker and penetrates the sensitive hearts like anything. Any sensitive spectator can’t help weeping for the pain, loneliness and stuffiness of Lakshmi who has a heart of gold but a luck made of dust only.
The movie highlights the exploitation of the junior artists in the film-industry. Now this exploitation must be less considering many associations working to protect their interests but in that era, it was at its peak. The filmmaker has very skilfully and realistically highlighted that the major part of the budget of the lavishly made movies is usurped by the stars signed for them only and that’s why the hard-working major chunk of the unit barely gets its due. This true even today also with the stars being paid in billions and the hard-working cast working without any limelight not being paid enough to lead a reasonable life. Such injustice and exploitation has never stopped since the time this movie was made.
Through the character of Shreekaant, the filmmaker has cursed the film-industry which does not allow a poet to create in natural way (he has to write lyrics at the instructions of the composers) and presenting artificial life and characters taking the audience into a false world. Yes, it was true and it is true for the bulk of the movies made. This medium of art has its value all the same. Shreekaant is also shown as coming to understand it.
Despite being written by the bold authoress who was always ahead of her time, this story could not escape male-chauvinism. Shreekaant misunderstands Lakshmi when he comes to know of her identity without trying to see her point of view. In the end, he is shown as sacrificing his love for the sake of others’ good but firstly, his love for Lakshmi has never been shown as passionate as Lakshmi’s love for him and secondly, he had no right to sell her sentiments and leave her alone in the stinky, suffocating environment for whatsoever noble purpose. Sacrifice is genuine only when it adversely affects self and not when it adversely affects some other one.
Technically, this simple and low-budget movie is overall up-to-the mark though editing jerks are there in a post-interval sequence when Shreekaant visits the film-producer regarding the assignment for penning the lyrics for his movie. A major part of the movie appears to be out and out real with no artificiality (it may not be in sync with the contemporary cine-industry though). The movie is not unduly long. It ends at the appropriate moment and that too in a highly impressive manner.
O.P Nayyar has composed very good music with the help of damn good lyrics. The great inspiring song of Mohammed Rafi – Raat Bhar Ka Mehmaan Andhera, Kiske Roke Ruka Hai Savera is the best song which has been authored by the great Shaayar Saahir Ludhiyanvi. It also contains the memorable romantic duet of Talat Mahmood and Asha Bhosle – Pyar Par Bas To Nahin Hai Mera Lekin Phir Bhi Yeh Bata De Ki Tujhe Pyar Karen Ya Na Karen. The only song of the music album of this movie whose lyric has been penned by Majrooh Sultaanpuri is Bekas Ki Tabaahi Ke Saamaan Hazaaron Hain which is a very touching song sung brilliantly with minimal number of percussion instruments. Among others, the song that stands out is Asha’s song – Chhuk Chhuk Chhuk Chhuk Rail Chale which is a children’s song but appeals to the elders too.
Sone Ki Chidiya is one of the best performances delivered by Nutan in her illustrious acting career (today is her birthday). She is the heart and soul of this movie and the title is meant for her only. Hers is the performance of a lifetime which remains with the audience forever. The ever-dependable Balraaj Saahni has performed according to his reputation. Talat Mahmood as the gold-digging fake-lover has been less natural, more theatrical. This is the last movie as an actor of this legendary singer. The complete supporting cast is well in place.
This classic black and white movie is meant for all those who are fond of sensitive and meaningful cinema.
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