Jeetendra, Hema Malini, Dharmendra, Dr. Shriram Lagoo, Dina Pathak

Beautiful is not quite the word for it. Melancholic? A film that conveys the joy of being sad? A shade closer but it does not quite sum up Gulzar’s “Kinara”, a film that can be seen on a long, lonely afternoons. Not to drive away anguish or soak in sorrow but merely to understand that there are others who have similarly experienced the pathos, the angst of love. It is a feeling that lives, no breathes, through every frame of this film that does the unexpected in the most unpredictable of ways.

Shot largely in Mandu, here stones speak. The alcoves, the niches, the dehleez, the stairs, the pillars; they all have been witness to a story, a story surrounding Baz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati. A world that celebrates beauty in death, doffs its hat to the Taj, those whose heart throbs for the beloved talk of this medieval romance. The Mandu fort is that refuge; home to love-birds, witness to history. Gulzar, a keen student of history, and a fine practitioner of poetry, appropriately shoots “Kinara” in the township. He turns prose into poetry, his camera transforms still water into a symbol of profundity just as the drooping leaves of ageless trees convey the helplessness of unrequited love.

His lead pair, the consistently unruffled Jeetendra, sometimes in a safari suit, sometimes in half-sleeves short shirts with thick-rimmed glasses and long side-burns with pencil thin moustache; Hema Malini with a collection of floral saris and contrasting shawls flung across her right shoulder; delivers a fine showcase. Neither of them was ever suspected to be a great actor but Gulzar turns their adequate craft into a finely chiselled masterpiece by accentuating their positives. Hema, as good a dancer as any in Hindi cinema, gets plenty of footage to showcase her skills on the dance floor. After all this is the story of a classical dancer who loses her boyfriend – Dharmendra, her then real life beau in a special appearance – and unwittingly finds comfort with Jeetendra, the man who was part of the accident. They are both restrained, Hema (as Aarti) is not allowed the luxury of trademark sighs and drawls, Jeetendra (as Inder) only walks around trees – does not run around them – and through monuments. He is never allowed to come close to his Jumping Jack ways.

But the film is much more than their combined worth. “Kinara”, aptly finds its anchor in the director. It is all about the genius of Gulzar, who extracts the best from some of the players who may not necessarily go down in the annals of cinema as the best. For instance, Bhupendra. He will probably be regarded by posterity as an under-appreciated practitioner of a difficult art. Many of his generation though found his voice not quite suitable for a leading man. Thankfully, Gulzar was not among them. Here he gives Bhupendra songs which will long live in public memory even after the skilful singer says goodbye to his singing days. “Naam gum jayega, chehra yeh badal jayega” is as much about Lata Mangeshkar as Bhupendra. Then there is “Ek hi khwaab kai baar maine dekha hai maine” which is as much about the mischievous rendition of Bhupendra as the wonderful depiction by a youthful Dharmendra, oozing ardour and a bewitching Hema, conveying to us the many joys of love. Of course, Lata and Kishore are not to be left behind, each giving us a memorable song with “Ab ke na sawan barse” and “Jaane kya sochkar”, respectively.

Similarly, he gets R.D. Burman to gives tunes steeped in classicism; much against his image.

Again, the film’s worth is much more than the sum of its parts. In parts it is a delectable exercise in understatements and symbolism. For example, Dr Lagoo breaking into Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s “Kaa karoon sajni” in a game of snooker – the message being that the old are rooted to the values and culture of the land even as they dabble in modern-day practises of recreation. When Inder, an architect, enters the frame, the camera focuses on the walls, the slanting rays of the sun, the jharokhas! Similarly, the focus on the bars and iron grills of the window in the song “Ab ke na sawan barse” speak eloquently about the helplessness of the visually impaired heroine. Then the attention to details in this love story of a dancer and an academic. The dancer, when she does rehearsal at home with her guru, is full of abandon, her petticoat touches her ankles as she dances without any concern. Yet when she is on stage, she is a picture of polish and grace. Similarly, when Inder, wants to publish the research papers of her beau, she reacts in shock. This time her hair is dishevelled.

On such niceties “Kinara” is built. It sails smoothly all the way through. At times reminding you of a river in plains, at times of the plight of a lonely branch striving to find another on an autumn evening, “Kinara” is cinema which offers many memorable moments. Time to drop anchor this weekend?