STARRING Dev Anand, Nalini Jaywant, Balraj Sahni, David
T he Dev Anand-Nalini Jaywant combination was as effective and popular as his pairing with Geeta Bali and Madhubala. An intense and dedicated actress, Nalini Jaywant appeared opposite Dev Anand in “Rahi” (1952), “Munimji” (1955) and “Kala Pani” (1958) — all memorable and hit films. The really off beat pairing of Dev Anand with Nalini Jaywant was in “Rahi” based on Mulk Raj Anand's, Two Leaves and a Bud, scripted and directed by K.A. Abbas.
After his debut with “Dharti Ke Lal,” K.A. Abbas wanted to again pick up a work of literature as a backdrop to one of his films. Two Leaves and a Bud appealed to him specially and he noticed cinematic merit in it. Along with V.P. Sathe, Abbas produced, scripted and directed “Rahi” which was India's official entry to the first ever Venice and Moscow International Film Festivals in 1954.
“Rahi” was shot in Hindi and the English version was titled “The Wayfarer.” The story centres around Dev Anand, an army officer who has left his regiment and is moving from corner to corner in search of a job. He describes himself as, “Chalnewale Rahi ka na Pata na Manzil.” He reaches a tea garden in Assam and is appointed by the tyrant English owners to supervise the workers and handle them ruthlessly. The owners also give him a whip to stop any protests from the workers. Dev Anand is loyal to his employers and proves a hard task master for the poor, exploited tea garden workers in whose minds a silent rebellion is brewing.
Whilst working in the tea garden he comes across a tea leaf picker played byNalini Jaywant — down-to-earth, good looking and both fall in love with each other. One night when Dev Anand goes on his rounds to the residences of the workers, he is shocked to see a lady he whipped in the morning for not listening to his dictates, mourning her dead child lying on her lap. The episode rankles him and Anand accidently hits a glass window injuring his right palm. The local doctor Balraj Sahni heals his wounds with care.
In another development, David, the loyal yes man to the despotic owners creates havoc amongst the workers when he brings in henchmen to beat up the agitating workers. This leads to a gripping climax where the workers revolt against the garden owners. A changed Dev Anand also becomes a part of the revolution and as they march in protest towards the bungalow of the British owners, Nalini Jaywant is shot dead. This wipes out any feelings of loyalty Dev Anand had and the revolutionaries ultimately take over the garden putting to task the tyrant owners.
Dev Anand loses interest in life and carries on with his journey to unknown lands with his knapsack on his back.
The film has an effective screenplay with meaningful dialogues by K.A. Abbas, though the unnecessary prominence given to Dev Anand-Nalini Jaywant romance disturbs the pace. The song where hungry workers tap their hands on their stomachs and sing , “Bhookha Pet” appears unnecessary. The night scene shot in natural lighting in which Dev Anand sees the tea garden lady singing, Geeta Dutt's, “Chand Dole” with her dead child in her hands still gives goose bumps. The best moment of the film is the climax, when Balraj Sahni shouts at his British masters, “You fool, tum ne apne aap ko goli mara” (You fool, you have shot your self) after Nalini Jaywant is shot. It remains the cinematic landmark of “Rahi.”
Dev Anand sans mannerisms delivers a sincere and honest performance, Balraj Sahni shines as usual in his cameo, David proves his brilliance in villainy but the British tea garden owners appear like card board characters. Nalini Jaywant is at her altruistic best underplaying her character with dignity, charming without makeup and so full of emotion in her death scene in the lap of Dev Anand whom she eclipses with her performance.
The songs melodiously tuned by Anil Biswas are rendered by Hemant Kumar, Geeta Dutt and the chorus though there is no need of them in a serious film like “Rahi.”
Nalini Jaywant once confessed, “Prior to shooting my death scene in ‘Rahi' I was really nervous. In two takes my feet moved slightly and K.A. Abbas scolded me for my blunder. Dev Anand was really co-operative as he advised me about performing the scene and in the fourth take I was able to come near perfection with my eyes open and blank as I am shot and die. K.A. Abbas, Balraj Sahni and Dev Anand shook my hand after the shot was canned.”
RANJAN DAS GUPTA