It’s been four years since Farooq Sheikh left for his heavenly abode. He was the real hero in the context of our country. Idealist yet vulnerable. Sensitive yet prone to human-weaknesses. A layman sans any larger-than-life traits. A handsome boy in the traditional sense whom any girl-next-door may fall for. A naturally gifted actor who could never overact even while generating laughs for the audience. Never won any awards but won millions of hearts through his touching performances. I am paying my tribute to him through the review of Gaman (1978) which was made by Muzaffar Ali, a director best known for his immortal Umrao Jaan (1981) in which Farooq had also played a memorable role.
Gaman (departure / migration) is the story of Ghulam Hasan (Farooq Sheikh) but it can be viewed as the story of millions of rural youths who migrate to cities, leaving their families behind in the villages, in their bid to earn money which they are not able to while living in their places of origin. Mumbai (then Bombay) is known as the city of dreams but does it fulfill every dreamer’s dream even when the dream is as modest as to manage a reasonable living with his family ? No ! A majority of the immigrants to this so-called city of dreams and many similar cities is not that fortunate. They perish after pursuing their cherished dreams throughout their lives. Life gets over but the dream remains unfulfilled. So many people die everyday in ocean-like metropolitan cities. Who cares ?
Ghulam Hasan also migrates to Mumbai (or Bombay) under hope to earn and save some money to support his family which he is not able to do while living in his village. He leaves his wife Khairoon (Smita Patil) and his ailing widow mother behind under a hope that after some time, he would have saved enough money to get reunited with them and they all will be able to live together peacefully and comfortably. He moves to Lallu Laal Tiwari (Jalaal Agha) who belongs to his village but now lives in the metropolitan city. Now he finds that Lallu Laal himself has not become capable enough to manage a proper residence and marry his sweetheart Yashodhara (Geeta Siddharth) even after living and working for so many years there. Anyway, he starts his life there from cleaning the cars and after learning driving, becomes a driver. But he is never able to save so much money as to visit his village to meet his mother and wife (the train fare itself is too much) and he remains content with sending money (through money-orders) to them from time to time.
Ghulam Hasan passes his days witnessing the tragedies with many like him. But he manages to keep his dream of living with his family again intact despite the dark of despair thickening day-by-day. Khairoon keeps on writing highly emotional letters to him, urging him to come back but the monetary issue is too strong to ignore and he is not able to visit them even once. He also sees the ticklish problem of love-birds Lallu and Yashodhara when the family members of Yashodhara are hell-bent upon to forcibly send her to Dubai in order to get money and the hollow assurances of Lallu to her that he would solve the issue very shortly. But the highly tragic end of their story proves to be the last straw on the proverbial camel’s back for him and he decides to leave Mumbai (or Bombay) forever and go back to his family in the village. But while standing on the railway station, he keeps on staring trains departing before his eyes, not finding himself as strong enough to act upon his emotional decision. Poverty has become the manacle in his feet, stopping him from going back.We know that thousands and thousands of males from UP and Bihar have moved to Mumbai (or Bombay) in search of living and for the past few years, some selfish politicians have been running a campaign against such immigrants, accusing them to snatch the living of the locals. But what can such youths do when there are no sources of living for them in or even nearby their places of origin ? Nobody understands their pain except themselves or their family members cursed to live separately from them. Still, a person can manage to come to his hometown when he is within the same country but what about the person who has migrated from his country itself ? In the period of making of this movie, even telephone was a luxury and letters were the only means of communication between people living at different places. Now after the telecom revolution, today the communication barrier is not there because even the people who earn very modestly are also able to keep mobile phones. However can the mobile phone call spanning a couple of minutes compensate for the pain of living separately ? Can a few words spoken over the mobile phone console the aggrieved heart of a wife striving for the physical association of her husband or the parents longing to see the face of their son ?I watched this barely two hours long movie with a sadness deepening in my heart with the passage of every minute of the duration. I could feel the pain of the innocent Ghulam Hasan in the city on one hand and his loving but lonely wife Khairoon in the village on the other. I could feel the depth of emotion embedded in each word of the letters written by Khairoon to her husband. I could feel the restlessness of Yashodhara when she realizes that her family members will virtually sell her if her beau Lallu is not able to marry her (because of the residence problem). The movie does not present any solution to the hero’s problem or any hope that it will be solved in foreseeable future. It also does not show whether the hero could come out of his dilemma as to whether to go back or not. How hard does the monetary stringency strike, just ask from the heart of a poor person.
The story of this down-to-earth movie has been written by well-known litterateurs like Asghar Wajahat and Subhashini Ali. However the movie could not be an excellent one. Despite its utterly realistic set-up and touching portrayal of the characters and their situations, it appears to be a painful saga which could not be told properly. A kind of incompleteness is felt throughout its duration and also when it is over. Perhaps the filmmaker (whose debut venture it was) was also undergoing the financial hardship while making this movie and therefore, he could not make it with perfection or the desired standard of making. Many characters have not got scope to be evolved properly. Some additional footage for elaborating the things and developing the characters would have helped this movie to turn into a masterpiece.
Debutante director Muzaffar Ali has does his job well despite his limited resources, bringing Bombay of the seventies alive on the screen and rendering a feel that he has very closely observed the life as it went there in that period. Cinematographer Nadeem Khan has also done a splendid job in capturing the life in a UP village on one hand and in Bombay on the other realistically and sensitively. Editing and other technical aspects of this low budget movie are also in order.
Outstanding performances have helped in covering the deficiencies of the script. Farooq Sheikh has delivered a marvellous performance in the role of honest, innocent and simple Ghulam Hasan. He was a master in underplaying. Without any gestures or dialog, he makes the viewer feel what he is undergoing. Smita Patil has got just a few sentences to speak (mostly in her letters written to Ghulam) but her eyes are so communicative that dialogues are not required for her. Talented actress Geeta Siddharth did not get many significant roles in her career with the exceptions like Gaman. She is highly impressive. So is Jalaal Agha and other supporting cast members. Very young Nana Patekar is also seen in a cameo (it is his debut movie).
Jaidev has composed unforgettable music with the immortal lyrics of eminent Shaayars (Urdu poets) Shaharyaar and Makhdoom Mohiuddin. Seene Mein Jalan Aankhon Mein Toofaan Sa Kyun Hai (Suresh Wadkar), Raat Bhar Aapki Yaad Aati Rahi (Chhaya Ganguly), Ajeeb Sa Nihan Mujh Par Guzar Gaya Yaaron (Hariharan) etc. are absolute tear-jerkers. So is Aaja Saanwariya Tohe Garwa Laga Loon which is played in the beginning as well as in the end of the movie (sung by Hira Devi Mishra).
With my tribute to Farooq Sheikh, I recommend Gaman to all sensitive viewers who does not watch movies solely for timepass. The issue dealt with in Gaman is still a burning one. The song in the voice of Suresh Wadkar says it all – Seene Mein Jalan Aankhon Mein Toofaan Sa Kyun Hai, Is Shahar Mein Har Shakhs Pareshaan Sa Kyun Hai (Why is there a burning inside the chest as well as something like a storm in the eyes ? Why does everybody in this city appear to be disturbed ?).
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