Starring Bharat Bhushan, Shalini, Fareeda Jalal, Kamal Kapoor

It is a throwback to the good old times. The opening shot of a steam engine pulling a train gives a pleasant indication of the period and takes you back into a glorious era of good acting, singing and music. Movie making then was an art and a social responsibility and not just commerce. Also, there was nothing called promotion or launch of a movie. It was done through advance music on the radio and word-of-mouth once the film was released at single theatres.

It is a simple story. Obviously you expect a predictably happy ending to a narration that moves along on the strength of vintage music. The sixties were known for quality in every walk of life and this reflects so beautifully in this movie. Melodramatic at times, the music contributes to the melancholy, but it is rich in value.

Rajshri Productions have contributed hugely to the film industry. “Taqdeer” was only their third offering after “Aarti” and “Dosti”, both movies with music as the guiding force. Roshan gave some unforgettable songs in “Aarti”. And “Dosti” confirmed Laxmikant-Pyarelal as creators of melody after a promising debut in “Parasmani”.

Since “Taqdeer” is the story of a music teacher’s fight with fate, it had to feature quality and engaging singers. So, you had Mohammad Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar pouring their heart to Anand Bakshi’s lyrics. The soulful “Jab Jab Bahar Aai Aur Phool Muskuray” lights up the movie at various intervals and marks the stage of the story.

“Saat Samundar Paar Se” is another appealing number, not to forget Rafi’s soulful “Mujhe Bhool Jaana Agar Ho Sake”. Gopal (Bharat Bhushan) is the protagonist. He teaches his children, Geeta (Farida Jalal), Mala (Kajal) and Sushil (Sushil Kumar), a song that later helps him recover his memory in far away Africa when one of his students sings at a function. Geeta keeps her father’s memory alive by singing “Jab Jab Bahar Aai” at every birthday. Few songs carry the appeal “Jab Jab Bahar Aai” does in a movie. It keeps returning and you keep yearning for it. It is so relevant to the subject and so poignantly performed!

Circumstances compel Gopal to undertake a job on a ship to give a good life to his family. A ship wreck in a storm takes him to Africa. His family takes him to be dead and wife (Shalini as Sharda), driven by poverty and starvation, marries Gopal’s friend Vijay (Kamal Kapoor), an affluent businessman. Time flies and Gopal returns only to discover he has lost everything to fate.

His family is now his friend’s family. “Jab Jab Bahar Aai” returns to haunt Gopal. He bears the pain but fate brings him to Geeta when he saves his daughter from the clutches of a goon. The indebted daughter is drawn by the fatherly affection leading to Vijay losing his composure. The businessman-friend, having discovered Gopal’s identity, plots to eliminate him but fate intervenes. It all ends happily with Gopal and his family returning to their old home.

The sixties were times when movie-watching was a social event. Director A. Salaam’s film is a fitting example, a clean film that highlights the bonding among the family members. The film aptly depicts the period too, when a date for young lovers was a picnic with friends and birthday celebrations were marked by piano and a song. The tranquil Goa is also captured well, even if in black and white. Good old Goa, with its serene surroundings, churches, beaches, boats and coconut trees.

Bharat Bhushan displays commendable composure right through the film. He does justice to his role, looking every bit the music teacher. Jalal Agha has a cameo but the star of the movie is Farida Jalal.

At 18, she is endearing in the role of the youngest member of the family. She stands out, as does the music of this film 45 years after it was composed.