Starring Sanjeev Kumar, Rehana Sultan, Anju Mahendru, Anwar Husain, Shakila Bano Bhopali, Manmohan Krishna, Jagdev
Based on his own earlier radio play, Naqi-e-Makani , first broadcast from Lahore in 1944, “Dastak”, adapted for the screen for his maiden directorial venture by the 50-year-old brilliant Urdu short story writer Rajinder Singh Bedi, has been somewhat marred by inconsistent, at times half-developed scenes that jar the overall impact of the narrative which substantially draws upon symbolism bordering on intensity. The comparatives, for instance, between a caged bird, and a free spirited young bride forced by circumstances to lock herself in the available narrow confines.
However, in the unfolding of the narrative, music, acting and technique carried the day. Majrooh Sultanpuri’s lyrics and ghazals — like “ Hum hai mataye-kuch-o-bazaar ki tarah, uthi hai har nigaah kharidar ki tarah ”, “ Baiyan na dharo ”, “ Mai ri kaise kahoon ” (Lata Mangeshkar supported by the composer himself), Tumse kahoon ki baat (Mohammed Rafi) — are set to some fine soulful music by Madan Mohan who won his first National Award. So also did Sanjeev Kumar and Rehana Sultan (for Best Actor and Actress) and Kamal Bose for black and white cinematography, while Hrishikesh Mukherjee received the Filmfare best editing trophy.
A newly married lower middle-class Muslim couple, Hamid (Sanjeev Kumar) and Salma (Rehan Sultan) is misled by the pan shop owner, Akhtar Marativale (Anwar Husain) into renting a set of rooms in the neighbourhood of the red-light district earlier occupied by the infamous singer Shamshad (Shakila Bhano Bhopali). Amongst others, their nights are frequently disturbed by a midnight knock by her old customers. Hamid is an honest God-fearing clerk in a municipality office. Through the couple’s keen desire for alternative accommodation the writer-director seeks to expose the evil nexus between the builders’ lobby, contractors and corporate houses. On the other hand are somewhat long-drawn sequences of Bombay by night which the couple is forced to devise to avoid midnight knocks. The arousal of raw sexuality is depicted through a near rape of the wife by her husband angered by her playing the tanpura. There is the unnecessary sequence of a visit to the village, and singing songs. There is the sympathetic old man, Shahid (Manmohan Krishna) who alone in the locality knows that they are actually a married couple.
They return to the city, and an sos from his father-in-law desperate to raise Rs.1,500 to marry off his young daughter, and when all attempts fail, he falls a victim to the temptation of accepting a bribe. But there again he stands cheated, leading to greater frustration. Unable to bear his agony and her own tortured state, Salma picks up the tanpura and starts to sing for an old Shamshad client, Seth Brij Mohan, to earn an extra buck. It is a defiant act that enrages Hamid so much that he picks up a knife to kill them both. The seth escapes, and to his shock and horror Hamid discovers that his wife was pregnant. That is where the narrative comes to an abrupt halt.
One of the earliest FFC (later renamed NFDC) financed films, it was a story of 50 minutes stretched to 140 minutes.. Despite overworked direction that only an editor of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s calibre could salvage, it was music, indeed, that was a major highlight of this film.
A newly married couple, Hamid and Salma, is misled by the pan shop owner, Akhtar Marativale, into renting a set of rooms earlier occupied by the infamous singer Shamshad.