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Updated: January 21, 2010 19:15 IST

Saraswatichandra (1968)

Suresh Kohli
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STARRING Nutan, Manish, Ramesh Deo, Surendra, B. M. Vyas, Vijaya Chaudhary, Madhumati

‘Inspired' by Goverdhanram Tripathi's famous Gujarati novel set in the 19th Century feudal India, “Saraswatichandra” is thin on content and full of contradictions. Fired by a spirit of social service, the young educated Saraswati (Manish) decides to break his early-on-in-life engagement with Kumud (Nutan) by writing a letter to his would-be father-in-law. Instead of the father, the daughter responds to the letter by writing to the fiancée outlining her disappointment. A series of love letters get exchanged provoking Manish to defy tradition and undertake a visit to his in-laws that results in love blossoming in no time.

After a showdown with his jealous sister-in-law which results in a confrontation with his brother, Manish decides to abandon everything, including his ensuing marriage. To escape social sanction, Kumud is married off to a rich but drunkard debauched Parmar (Ramesh Deo).

As chance would have it, Manish lands in the periphery, and is given asylum in the same household. Something different happens now. The earlier boldness gives way to reticence. Kumud not only refuses to entertain him, but also urges him to leave — thus preferring a doomed marriage to a loving union. Manish leaves and meets with an accident that leads him to the sanctity of an ashram.

The message again, if any, is a contradiction. Kumud is thrown out by the husband on charges of blasphemy, the husband himself is disowned by his father when truth is revealed. Kumud tries to commit suicide by jumping into a river from where she is rescued by a group of women bathing in the river.

The women are inmates of the ashram where Manish had already found refuge, and living the life of a hermit. So the lovers again seemingly reunite. Kumud is now a free woman, and is egged on by both her parents and in-laws to marry the estranged lover.

She refuses to oblige, preferring to live like a hermit, dedicating her life to social work, and instead persuades Manish to marry her younger sister, Kusum (Vijaya Chaudhary) which he does reluctantly, the screenplay succumbing to abounding contradictions yet again. In a badly scripted adaptation by Vijendra Gaur with equally inane dialogue by Ali Raza even in some of the highly stylised melodramatic sequences, Nariman Irani's brilliant black and white photography, Indivar's great lyrics and Kalyanji-Anandji's inspired music failed to lift the film.

Manish was a total miscast, and miserably failed to carry the heavy burden of the role on his frail shoulders. Nutan, however, was brilliant despite the limited scope of the character. Her transformation from an ebullient young man to a tortured housewife was effortless.

National Awards

The film won Nariman Irani and Kalyanji-Anandji National Awards for best cinematography and music respectively. Five of the six songs, “Phool tumhe bheja hai khhat mein (by Lata Mangeskar); “Chandan sa badan, chanchal chitvan” (solos by Lata and Mukesh); “Hamne apna sab kuch choda pyar tera pane ko” (Mukesh); “Main to bhool chali babul ka desh piya ka ghar pyara lege” (by Lata), and the climax number “Chhod de sari duniya kisi ke liye” (by Lata) were not only chartbusters then but continue to hold sway even now.

Kalyanji-Anandji, however, later plagiarised their own, the Mahendra Kapoor rendered theme song “Sau saal pahle ki baat” by reusing the tune for Manoj Kumar's (again Indivar's lyrics ) “Purab Aur Paschim without altering even a single notation. So the lost song of Govind Saraiya's “Saraswatichandra” became the high point in Bharat Kumar's patriotic saga.

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