Starring Manoj Kumar, Jaya Bhaduri, Nanda, Asrani, Prem Nath

One of the biggest tragedies whenever a generational change takes place is the debasement of stalwarts who made a significant contribution in their field of expertise during their heyday. The tragedy galls when someone like Manoj Kumar, whose contribution to Bollywood extends beyond being a mere ‘Bharat’ Kumar, is presented to the current generation as a caricature by small-time artistes pretending to be stand-up comedians on television, and even the likes of SRK/Farah Khan. Kudos to Manoj Kumar for standing up to safeguard his formidable legacy, which comprises a film like “Shor”.

The film, penned by Manoj Kumar, is a beautiful collage of emotions. He scores a smash hit with the anthem of the film, the evergreen “Ek Pyaar Ka Naghma Hai”, written by Santosh Anand and sung in different versions by Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh. The number, which plays throughout the film, retains its chartbuster status till date. The music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal is one of the strongest points of “Shor”, as other numbers, like “Jeevan Chalne Ka Naam” (Manna Dey and Mahendra Kapoor) and “Paani Re Paani” (Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar) stand out for their sheer brilliance.

More than Manoj Kumar the actor, who was always rated average due to a limited oeuvre of histrionics in his kitty, it is Manoj Kumar the technician who deserves a standing ovation for “Shor”. Ably supported by cinematographer, Nariman Irani (incidentally he produced the original “Don” under his banner but died in a tragic accident even before the film was released), Manoj Kumar creates a visual delight of innovative camera angles and symbolism, particularly in the songs. There are wide angle shots of small boats bubbling on the waves of the sea, interspersed with sand on the beach and much more.

For the film which he also edited, Manoj Kumar won the Filmfare award for best editing.

The story of the film is quite riveting – It starts with a grieving mill worker, Shankar (Manoj Kumar) who is appalled by the level of noise in the society, a trait he acquired when he lost his wife, Geeta (Nanda), in a freak train accident, as she dashes to save her son, Deepak (Master Satyajeet). In the accident Deepak is rendered deaf, leaving Shankar with the sole mission of getting his son treated, which is possible after an operation that costs Rs. 1,500 to 2,000. In between he encounters a vagabond Raat Ki Rani (Jaya Bhaduri), a girl who is into begging on the streets, but singlehandedly fights for her honour from hoodlums, even as she takes care of two orphans. After a series of twists and turns, she is adopted by Shankar’s right hand man, Khan Badshah (Prem Nath)

Shankar goes back to his village to borrow money from his father and mother (Kamini Kaushal) but is shocked to know that whatever he had sent has been squandered by his debauched brother-in-law. Finally, he accepts a challenge in the city to cycle non-stop for eight days and break an erstwhile record besides getting the money needed for the surgery. The money is collected and Deepak goes under the knife and regains his voice.

But can Shankar hear his son sing and speak?

Jaya Bhaduri’s portrayal of Raat Ki Rani looks a tad laboured. In some scenes she is ill at ease while fighting street Romeos, wearing clothes in which she looks pointedly uncomfortable. But after she emerges as Rani, wearing simple saris, she gains confidence and is able to do justice to the role. Prem Nath, needless to mention, is effortless as the large hearted and brave Khan Badshah. Master Satyajeet as Deepak is good, even though he makes extra effort to copy the mannerisms of Manoj Kumar so as to look like his son.

But it is Nanda, in a cameo, who is the soul of the film. As the mother of a son and wife of a mill worker, she is a symbol of dignity, grace and fortitude as she tries to make ends meet. Crooning “Ek Pyaar Ka Naghma Hai”, as waves from the sea touch her feet and retreat, she exudes a subtle sensuality.

While the editing is good, it could have been better but for the narrative, in which are woven Manoj Kumar’s fetishes for social issues. As Shankar, he pitches strongly for worker rights and leads a hunger strike against the greedy mill owner with his co-workers. Probably in line with Indira Gandhi’s policies, there are strong references to the benefit of socialism. There is communal harmony with the stereotyped Muslim, Khan Badshah and a medley of workers that include a Sikh and a Christian. The gyaan could have been curtailed. Many characters introduced to provide a few laughs for the front benchers, notably Meena T, Manorama, Asrani and V.Gopal, fail to add any fizz.