STARRING Sanjeev Kumar, Sharmila Tagore, Om Shivpuri, Dina Pathak

If we are talking of a film almost 38 years after its release, it has to have something really remarkable to attract repeat visitors. Indeed, Gulzar’s “Mausam” was a delectable feast – a fine orchestra of a film with barely a false note. It had a cast that had just the right mix of oomph and sobriety – Sharmila Tagore and Sanjeev Kumar – and a music score – by Madan Mohan – that had enough shades to colour an autumn evening. It had drama so gentle that anything more than a ripple could have been termed a splash. And even a choreographed dance number – probably a first for a Gulzar film as the filmmaker never felt the need for a specialised choreographer.

Yet, in the year that saw “Sholay”, “Deewar” and “Jai Santoshi Maa”, “Mausam” could well have been a film of ‘almost there’ moments. When the film was being shot, Gulzar was making “Aandhi” too. Their scripts too were written at almost the same time – Kamleshwar, Bhooshan Banmali and Gulzar being involved at various stages. As luck would have it, “Aandhi” was the first to be completed and released. Then came a controversy surrounding the film’s contents and portions of “Aandhi” had to be filmed again. By then “Mausam” was in theatres!

Sanjeev Kumar, the film’s hero, was also doing “Aandhi” at the same time – he played a mature man in both films, successfully imparting different shades to each character. He was nominated for Filmfare award for the best actor for “Mausam” as well as “Arjun Pandit”. However, he had to be satisfied with a mere nomination for “Mausam” – he did get it for “Arjun Pandit” though. Similar was the fate of almost everybody associated with the movie – Gulzar got the National Award for the best director and Sharmila Tagore for the best actress. However, both had to be content with only nomination in their respective categories at the Filmfare awards with Sahir Ludhianvi pipping Gulzar as the best lyricist with his words, “Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khayal aata hai” for “Kabhi Kabhie”. Gulzar’s wife Rakhee walked away with the best actress trophy at the Filmfare awards ahead of Sharmila Tagore, his heroine of “Mausam”. And Madan Mohan, who passed away around the time of the release, lost out to Khayyam as the best music director – Khayyam got it for “Kabhi Kabhie”. Not just these luminaries, even the veteran Dina Pathak came second best to Kajri (for “Balika Vadhu”) as the best supporting actress! Almost there…so close yet so far.

In another year, Mausam could have been a winner by a distance. In 1975, Mausam had to fight for its space under the sun. Ultimately, it never got to experience the high noon but did well enough to hold its own in front of the biggies. However, fate dealt unkindest of cards to Bhupinder. He had come to the Hindi film industry on the urging of Madan Mohan, who had heard him on All India Radio in Delhi. Once in Bombay, Madan Mohan immediately offered Bhupinder “Hoke majboor mujhe usne bulaya hoga” alongwith the legends Mohammed Rafi and Talat Mahmood in “Haqeeqat”. The song was a big hit and Bhupinder seemed set for a long run in the industry. However, it was not until “Mausam” that he really distinguished himself as a noted singer. Gulzar’s song, “Dil dhoondta hai phir wohi fursat ke raat din” brought him into the reckoning once again. The song was a big hit as urban Indians, short of both time and leisure, found in the words a happy depiction of their feelings. Bhupinder was almost there! Fans sang his song, connoisseurs raved about his diction. And “Mausam” rode, at least partly, on it to taste success at the box office. Unfortunately, his next hit songs came after quite a while. And despite “Mausam”, Bhupinder was destined to be in the ‘almost there’ category in Hindi playback singing.

Yet “Mausam” worked. And how! Narrating a time-tested story of a hero who comes from abroad, falls in love with a girl from the hills, has to leave her due to unfortunate turn of events and….he comes back years later to find history is on the precipice of repetition, “Mausam” worked essentially because of Sanjeev Kumar. He was the very anti-thesis of the modern day hero – a prosperous belly, a double chin, not quite handsome. Yet he was always able to hold the attention of the viewers. His unique dialogue delivery, his gait and his smile that faded ever so slowly combined to make him a fine package. Then of course, there was Sharmila Tagore. Married for many years, she scoffed at the stereotypes of married women losing their oomph, their chutzpah with a fine performance here. As the girl in the wrong profession, she is able to instil certain dignity and grace in her role. However, her best comes in the song “Meri ishq ke lakhon jhatke” with a completely outwitted Sanjeev Kumar. Here, Saroj Khan’s choreography comes in handy for Gulzar. Incidentally, Saroj was not part of the team for the film. She was in the studios for some other movie when Gulzar requested her to teach his heroine a couple of dance steps for the song. Saroj happily obliged and the result was a song so enjoyable that one feels like doing a rewind.

Fine as this song was, it too was destined to be in the ‘almost there’ category. The crown was, predictably, reserved for Bhupinder’s solo “Dil dhoondta hai phir wohi fursat ke raat din”. Indeed, today, in the midst of all corruption scandals and unrelenting heat, one longs for those days of leisure, those nights of idle imagination and afternoons of gentle sunshine. Those days of “Dil dhoondta hai phir wohi fursat ke raat din”, that wonderful summer of “Mausam”.

ZIYA US SALAM