It’s been five years since a well-known film and theatre personality Dinesh Thakur left for his heavely abode on 20.09.2012. Despite being a brilliant actor (of the category of Nasiruddin Shah, Om Puri and Girish Karnaad) alongwith being a brilliant writer, Dinesh Thakur never got his due from Bollywood. He had won the Filmfare award for the best story for the movie – Ghar (1978) which is a highly admirable movie, telling the mental agony and trauma of a raped woman. Besides, he has been one of the pillars of the Hindi theatre. The movie buffs know him more for his memorable role of Naveen in Rajnigandha (1974), the introvert, silent lover of Deepa (Vidya Sinha). This was perhaps the only lead role that he got in his acting career in Hindi movies. As a tribute to him, I am presenting a review of Hindi movie – Aastha (1997) which features Dinesh Thakur in the supporting role of the hero’s friend, a college professor.Aastha (faith) is the story of a couple Amar (Om Puri) and Maanasi (Rekha) who are happily married for years and having a schoolgoing daughter. Amar is a college professor whereas Maanasi is a housewife, taking care of the household and the children. Amar is an intellectual and discusses various profound issues with not only his close friend and fellow professor – Dinesh (Dinesh Thakur) but also his teenager students. Without his knowledge, one day a twist comes in the life of Maanasi when she happens to come across Reena (Daisy Irani) who is a callgirl supplier. Quite reluctantly, Maanasi happens to have sex with a customer (Naveen Nishchal) for money and she repents thereafter. However, once entered this world, she happens to do it many times but scared in her heart that her husband may come to know it some day. She feels guilty in her heart but contradictorily, this guilt is not very strong, given the not-so-good financial position of their household. The story reaches its climax with the involvement of the young students of Amar and Maanasi is able to convey the truth to her husband in an indirect and subtle way.
This movie has been produced and directed by Basu Bhattacharya who always made movies on the husband-wife relations only, keeping the names of the lead characters as Amar and Maanasi only and always keeping the title of the movie as one starting with the letter ‘A’ (with the sole exception of Grihapravesh – 1979). I had watched this movie in the Batra theatre of Delhi when I was pursuing my dream of becoming an ICS officer. This movie is a good one time watch with some nicely executed erotic scenes and some very good intellectual discussions. But the thing is that the moviemaker has no convincing justification as to why a happy housewife has to accept prostitution when the husband is a college professor and the monetary position is not that bad. Just for some extra income, an educated and mature wife and mother is not supposed to do a callgirl’s job. Once it happened by accident (as shown in the movie) but it cannot be repeated thereafter. The heroine (Rekha) is shown as enjoying that sex outside wedlock as well which shows the director’s confusion as to the reason behind this act of hers is actually the monetary need (as told) or there is a hidden untold reason of dissatisfaction in her sexual relationship with her husband.
All the same, the movie is not boring and in fact, it is quite interesting. The interaction of the professor (and later her wife too) with his young students are very interesting and the intellectual discussions between the hero (Om Puri), his friend and colleague (Dinesh Thakur) and the heroine (Rekha) are also interesting as well as enlightening if the dialogs are listened to with proper attention. Some dialogs are humorous also. The movie is not that bad but the thing is that the message rendered is neither clear nor acceptable.Since I am writing this review as a tribute to Dinesh Thakur, let me discuss his performance first. He is in the supporting role of the hero’s friend with him he discusses and shares many issues. Dinesh Thakur has delivered a pleasant performance in this role which forms the base of certain intellectual as well as friendly chats in the movie. He is not just the friend of the hero, he is a family friend as well whom the hero’s wife frankly talks to.
Both Om Puri and Rekha have delivered nice performances and they are quite natural in lovemaking scenes too. Rekha is leagues ahead of much younger actresses (at the age of 43 years at the time of this movie) in terms of sex appeal and charm. Despite the confused role, she has delivered a very convincing performance. All the supporting actors have done well. But the youngsters playing the roles of various students deserve special praise.
With a modest production value, the movie is not unduly long and there is no dragging anywhere. As said earlier, whether you agree to the plot or not, the movie does not bore you at any point of time. In the end, the director has left the viewers free to draw their own conclusions as to what happened thereafter.
Shaarang Dev has composed good music with the excellent lyrics of Gulzaar. Labon Se Choom Lo, Tan Pe Lagti Kaanch Ki Boonden, Yeh Raat Kunwaari Hai etc. are quite good to listen.
While recommending this relationship-based movie to the audience of serious cinema, I pay my tribute to the underrated cinema and theatre personality – Dinesh Thakur. May his soul rest in peace.
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