In some of my earlier reviews, I have asserted that very less number of movies have been made in Bollywood on the life of the Christians. Nevertheless, the decade of seventies delivered some pretty good movies containing stories of Christian characters. Julie (1975) and Baton Baton Mein (1979) are quality-wise so good that they can be considered as classics. Today, on the occasion of Christmas, I am reviewing a very interesting as well as very touching movie whose story consists of Christian characters. It’s Devata (1978) starring my favourite actor – Sanjeev Kumar in the lead role alongwith Shabana Aazmi, Danny Dengjongpa, Rakesh Roshan, Saarika etc.
Devta or Devata (god) is the story of Tony (Sanjeev Kumar) who is grief-stricken due to the untimely demise of his beloved wife Lily (Shabana Aazmi) and fostering his affectionate daughter, Mary (Shabana Aazmi in double role). Mary gets pregnant through an irresponsible youth (Benjamin Gilani) who refuses to marry her and gets accidentally killed in the hands of Tony in the consequential spat. Tony who has been sentenced for imprisonment by the court, comes to know that Mary has committed suicide. Now he decides to fulfill a dream of his mentor, Late Father Fernandez (Dr. Shreeram Lagoo), considering it as the aim of his remaining life and runs away from the custody of police inspector Lawrence (Danny Dengjongpa) who is his close friend also, alongwith his total savings put under the custody of Father Fernandez .
Years later, Tony is found by Lawrence but now in a different form and under a different name. Now he is known as a rich businessman, Tarun Kumar. Not only Lawrence, but Tony’s daughter, Mary who had actually been saved by a kind family, also comes across him. He is glad to see his daughter alive and even gladder to see that his granddaughter, Lily (Saarika) is also grown-up now and is in love with Lawrence’s son, George (Rakesh Roshan). Tony, who has already suffered a lot in his erstwhile life, now wants to see the happiness of his next generations to his heart’s content. However Lawrence is hell-bent upon arresting his fugitive and washing the years-old stigma of allowing his friend to flee away from police custody, from his name. The cat and mouse game between the cop and the fugitive convict continues till the climax when in the wedding ceremony of Lily and George, Tony takes a decision carrying the story to a logical conclusion.This story appears much better on the screen than my narration above. The movie starts with the romantic life of young Tony and once the first twist arrives in the tale, the narrator does not look back and takes the story through a serpentine path with turns coming every now and then, keeping the viewer hooked. It is an engrossing watch without any boredom at any place. There are only four songs in the movie and they have been placed quite aptly by the director (S. Ramanathan) without blocking the flow of the narrative.I have referred to the chasing of Tony by Lawrence as a cat and mouse game but the director has, quite artistically, portrayed it as a kite hovering over a crab in a bid to catch it. And the ending scene has also been given this analogy, leaving an indelible imprint on the mind of the viewer.
The story consists of Christian characters but it could be the story of the characters of any religion. The storyteller has kept humanity above all the religions. I was pretty impressed in a scene when Lawrence questions Tony posing as Tarun Kumar at that time -‘Mr. Tarun Kumar, Kya Main Aapka Dharm Jaan Sakta Hoon (may I know your religion?)’ and Tony replies -‘Insaaniyat, Insaaniyat Se Badhkar Koi Dharm Nahin (humanity, no religion is bigger than the religion of humanity). In fact, there is no villain in almost the whole movie and most of the characters are full of sublime traits but they have become puppets in the hands of the destiny.
The movie has a modest production value but its technical aspects are up to the mark. The narrative is fast-paced and does not allow the viewer to yawn at any place. The life of the common Christians and the role of the Church in managing their affairs have been shown quite realistically.
Gulzaar has penned highly admirable lyrics for the songs containing high literary quality and R.D. Burman has strung them into melodious compositions. Kishore-Lata duet – Chaand Chura Ke Laaya Hoon, Chal Baithen Church Ke Peechhe was a chartbuster when the movie was released. My favourite song from the movie is another Kishore-Lata duet – Gulmohar Gar Tumhara Naam Hota, Mausam-e-Gul Ko Hansaana Bhi Hamaara Kaam Hota. The movie contains Lata’s beautiful solo – Main To Kaare Badarva Se Haari and Rafi’s impressive philosophical song – Jab Ek Kaza Se Guzro To Ek Aur Kaza Mil Jaati Hai. Music is a very big plus point of this good movie.It’s the movie of Sanjeev Kumar who has carried it on his stout shoulders from the beginning to the end. From the romancing young Tony to the aged person whose granddaughter’s marriage takes place in the climax, he stands tall through his mesmerizing performance. Shabana Aazmi had switched over from art cinema to commercial cinema at that time and her performance in the double role tells that irrespective of the genre of the movie, she has always been a class apart. Ditto for Danny Dengjongpa who is able to infuse life into any role. Rakesh Roshan and Saarika have not got much scope. Dr. Shreeram Lagoo impresses a lot in the role of the priest of the church who was also the affectionate guardian and mentor of Tony.While wishing all my friends a Merry Christmas, I unconditionally recommend this movie to Christians and non-Christians alike. It’s a thoroughly entertaining movie with an utterly human and sensitive story. And of course, a very big treat for the fans of Late Sanjeev Kumar.
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