Starring Dilip Kumar, Nargis, Ashok Kumar, Nimmi, Yakub

‘Deedar' was probably the trendsetter in India for multi-starrer films. With Dilip Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Nargis, Nimmi, Yakub sharing the screen limelight and Nitin Bose (director), Bimal Roy (editor) and Naushad (music composer) behind the camera, it certainly evoked awe in its heyday. And even today, despite its heavy dose of Dickensian pathos, it still draws universal applause because of two over-riding factors: Dilip Kumar's effortless enactment of a doomed lover and pristine singing by Mohammed Rafi. In fact, Rafi's tear drenched voice enhances Dilip's lovelorn persona and music is the bedrock of the everlasting appeal of “Deedar”.

Nitin Bose introduced playback singing in India and music always lent a helping hand to his story telling. Though known for dramatic inter-actions of “Gunga Jumna”, it seems odd that he piled “Deedar” with sorrow laden images without any major conflict or climax. What galls is absence of a stirring plot whereby most often, audience can anticipate what is to follow and as most scenes have been shot in darkness, even Bimal Roy's judicious editing doesn't help decipher the screen images at times. It does seem the makers forgot the age old maxim that a good dramatic plot, despite improbable situations, is intrinsic to heighten viewers' interest!

The story is straight as a plateau: young Shyamu's affection for Mala Rai is resented by her father Seth Daulatram (Murad) since Shyamu is the maid servant's child. An injury to Mala during a horse riding session gives Daulatram the much needed excuse to dismiss Shyamu and his widowed mother from service.

The trek to the countryside leads to his mother's demise, while Shyamu loses his vision in a sand storm and his pitiable plight moves a villager to give him shelter in his family.

Shyamu's blindness makes him totally dependent on the villager's daughter Champa (Nimmi) and her brother (Yakub) and years later, after the benefactor's death, the grown up Shyamu (Dilip Kumar) earns a living for the trio by singing on streets. Despite Champa's unabashed adoration and assistance in all his endeavours, Shyamu is unable to erase Mala (Nargis) out of his mind. As luck has it, Mala's fiancée Dr. Kishore (Ashok Kumar), an ophthalmologist, comes across Shyamu and moved by his singing, offers to restore his vision. Unaware of Shyamu's identity, Mala too is enchanted by his singing and supports Kishore's decision wholeheartedly.

The couple looks after Shyamu till his recuperation but on regaining his sight, when Shyamu learns that Mala has no recollection of her childhood friendship and is madly in love with Kishore, he promptly injures his eyes again and returns back to Champa forever.

However, the story suffers from several inept characterisations and situations. For example, there is no reason why the genial Shyamu spurns Champa's advances despite her selfless service since childhood.

Or why he never talks to Champa about Mala in his adolescence despite Champa's obvious romantic overtures? The film is saved by Dilip's sublime underplay and oration that lends a sympathetic halo to an otherwise flawed character. Despite a weak script, Dilip provides dignity to most scenes as also Nargis, who too is effortless in her brief role.

But the same cannot be said for Dada Muni and Nimmi as both are prisoners to their obnoxious mannerisms, a major directorial flaw.

Ashok Kumar's characteristic cigarette lighting is as irritating as the constant swaying of eyes by Nimmi, while Yakub is thoroughly wasted.

However, evergreen music by Naushad provides the film with a timeless appeal as well as an aura of authenticity. Everlasting melodies like “Meri Kahani Bhoolne Wale”, “Hue Hum Jinke Liye Barbaad” and “Naseeb Dar Pe” make you bow to Rafi's divine magic that unfolds layers of human suffering with every vocal transition.

Blending sensitive poetry to brilliant tunes is touching number “Dekh Liya Maine”, the dulcet Rafi-Lata duet that along with “Bachpan Ke Din Bhula Na Dena” (Rafi-Lata-Shamshad) enhances moving images on screen. Frankly, in spite of its inherent drawbacks, the Dilip-Rafi combination makes it a vintage film, worth viewing at least once in a lifetime.

Keywords: Deedarcinema