The tragic demise of Jamuna (in the last week of January 2023) instigated me to pen a review of Milan (1967) featuring Nutan and Sunil Dutt as the lead pair with Jamuna also in a significant role.
Milan (union) is a unique movie of untold, unexpressed, innocent and selfless love. I had watched it on the big screen in the Prabhat cinema of Kolkata (then Calcutta) in March 1992. In addition to its unconventional but highly emotional story, its music appeal makes it an unforgettable experience for any viewer.
Indian cinema has presented ‘n’ number of stories of reincarnation of lovers who are not able to unite in one birth, are able to unite in their rebirth. Milan is one such story only portraying the union of unfortunate lovers Gopi (Sunil Dutt) and Radha (Nutan) in their rebirth. However it’s different from the usual reincarnation based love stories because the lovers’ truly living as a couple in their second birth shown in the beginning of the movie acts only as a propellant to take the story on its main track (shown in flash back) which is in their previous birth.
In this story, Radha is the daughter of a landlord studying in college whereas Gopi is a poor and illiterate man whose source of living is ferrying people in his boat from one shore of the river to the other one. He ferries Radha regularly as she has to attend her college on the other side of the river (the Ganges) and gives her a rose, addressing her as Beebiji as he understands her higher social status. He teaches music (singing) to Radha in the course of such journeys across the river. Radha gets impressed by his innocence and gradually develops a fondness for him (perhaps as a reciprocation of his fondness for her). Gopi has feelings for her but he keeps them to himself only, never letting them to come out. He becomes very sad when Radha is married off against her will to Rambabu (Deven Varma) and gets even sadder to see her on her return to her parental house as a widow. Now he is hell-bent upon keeping his Beebiji happy by all means. However he keeps his feelings for her to himself only (perhaps he himself was not able to properly understand the nature of those feelings). A shepherd girl Gauri (Jamuna) loves Gopi but he never responds to her advances. Radha’s lecherous (and greedy as well) maternal uncle Rajendra (Pran) has cast his evil eye on Gauri. Due to an aberration by Gauri, rumours get spread in the village regarding the relationship of Gopi and Radha, now a widow. In the climax when Radha comes to know of Gopi’s (hitherto untold) feelings towards her and suddenly realizes that she also loves him, they are left with no choice but to elope. Rajendra is the obstacle in their path whom Gauri surrenders to so that he allows the loving ones to elope. However even her great sacrifice doesn’t help Gopi and Radha and their lives end when their boat is caught in a whirlpool and drowns. They become a married couple in their rebirth and come to know of their earlier birth saga by meeting an aged Gauri who then passes away in the arms of Gopi.
This story does not appear to be as impressive on paper as when seen on the screen. It’s a mesmerizing tale of platonic love which keeps on touching the heart of any emotional viewer throughout its duration. Director A. Subba Rao has remade his hit Telugu movie Mooga Manasulu (1963) only as Milan in Hindi and he has been equally successful in presenting the Hindi version of the story on the screen.
Milan is able to convey what millions of descriptions may not be able to convey – what’s love, yes, the answer to the eternal question pertaining to a relationship between persons of opposite sexes. Love is a feeling – a particular kind of feeling that can’t be described, that can only be sensed. Practically, we have the understanding that love means to care and to share. However emotionally, it’s something more – a feeling that makes somebody as special for somebody else. It’s always a feeling even if it’s one-sided. We can care for and share with more than one person but the feeling known as love can’t be for more than one person at a given point of time. That feeling makes itself dawn upon the person on its own (or when the time arrives for that to happen). And more pleasant is the awareness that somebody harbours that feeling for you. When it becomes known, the person feels alive as if the whole world (or all the happiness scattered in the world) has come into his/her fist. Then there’s no fear of hardship or social stigma or even death (the only fear that remains thereafter is the fear of losing that love). And that’s the essence of Milan.
The treatment of the touching story for the screen is equally touching and the climax (happening in flash back) is heart-wrenching. But the union of the lovers in their reincarnation renders a soothing feeling to the viewers when the movie ends. There’s no boredom in the movie and once the viewer finds himself/herself as invested in the story running on the screen, it takes him/her to the climax like a swift water-stream. The dialogues especially those taking place between Radha and Gopi in the climax scene are highly admirable. No emotional person can regret after watching Milan.
Of course, there are blemishes on the movie despite its overall superior quality. The teasing occurrences between Gopi and Gauri are entertaining but too many and too much which become irritating after a point. The character of Rajendra, the villain is caricaturish. And so is the character of a greedy boatman Jaggu (Mukri). The relationship of Naani (Leela Mishra) with Gopi is nowhere clear in the movie. And the pre-climax scene taking place between Radha’s stepmom (Shyama) and her brother, i.e., Rajendra is so melodramatic that it’s difficult to endure.
The extraordinary music composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal for the lyrics of Anand Bakshi makes Milan all the more special. All the songs have been sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh. Saawan Ka Maheena Pawan Kare Sor, Hum Tum Yug Yug Se Ye Geet Milan Ke Gaate Rahenge, Aaj Dil Pe Koi Zor Chalta Nahin, Bol Gori Bol Tera Kaun Piya, Ram Kare Aisa Ho Jaaye, Tohe Saanwariya Nahin Khabariya etc. can be listened to (and have been being listened to since 1967) by the music lovers numerous times. The song from the album of Milan which I have always found very close to my heart is – Mubaarak Ho Sabko Sama Ye Suhaana (sung by Mukesh).
Set in a rural milieu, technically the movie is more or less perfect. The art director and the cinematographer have done a praiseworthy job. Beauty of the nature is scattered throughout the movie. The last scene in the original birth of the lovers, i.e., their losing life by getting caught in the whirl (in the river) is simply sensational (laced with their emotional dialogues which act as the cherry on the cake).
And now for performances. Both Nutan and Sunil Dutt have given their best to the unconventional roles of Radha and Gopi and the movie is a treat for their fans. Pran is theatrical in his villainous avatar. Deven Varma is okay in his cameo. Surendra as Radha’s loving father has done well and so has Shyama as her stepmom (except for her scenes coming post the widowhood of Radha). Since I am penning this review as a tribute to Jamuna, let me assert that she has got a meaty role and she does not disappoint. The real meat in her role reveals itself in the climax when she makes a great sacrifice for the lovers. And her death (as an old woman waiting for decades for the return of the lovers) and then the lovers’ paying tribute to her only is the concluding point of the movie which moves the audience deep within.
Society has never been kind to the lovers (it’s not kind even today, the so-called modern era). Still love takes place – in every time and at every place. Why ? Because it just happens. The union of lovers can be prevented but not the sprouting of love in the heart. Everyone who believes in love, has loved someone and/or got someone’s love at any point of time in his/her life should not miss this classic, a tale of immortal love.
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An appropriate, enjoyable read on valentines’s day!
Hearty thanks Rajeev Ji