Dilip Kumar, Vyjayanthimala, Nasir Khan, Kanhaiyya Lal

The drama is punctuated with some stirring romantic interludes between Dilip and lady love Vyjayanthimala

To many of the connoisseurs of Hindi cinema, “Ganga Jamna” is a classic entertainer at its best with a powerful story, outstanding performances and riveting music. In fact, some even advocate it as a must see movie for film students to understand how a taut script under a deft director, can make for an appealing entertainer.

For those brought up on the modern-day cinema and its media built hype, “Ganga Jamna” is an eye-opener as to why good stories will always be the real “super stars” and why content must dictate the form rather than the other way round.

While the story is the king and the film was a precursor to many other about “sibling rivalry”, in the hands of an adroit Nitin Bose, Dilip Kumar is the “super star” as he essays a character that blends rustic comedy, romance, tragedy and villainy in a magnificent role of a lifetime.

The badshah of acting enacts each scene with such ease and finesse that you are left astounded by the sheer brilliance of his genius since his body movements and dialogue delivery change in tune with the development of the character and story.

Despite all the histrionics of Hollywood and Bollywood legends, one doubts if anyone could have enacted the transition of a carefree village lad to a desperate dacoit with such élan and class as Dilip Kumar does with his immaculate simplicity. Just two scenes, one of a kabaddi match, which he plays in gay abandon and the dance to Rafi classic “Nain Lad Jayee Re”, are enough to show why Dilip Kumar is an acting institution in himself.

But this is not to deny credit to the sterling performances by Kanhaiyya Lal and Vyjayanthimala, who lend credibility to the story with their life-like enactments of village rustics, ably supported by Nasir Khan, Anwar Husain, Nazir Hussain and Leela Chitnis. Aided by awesome dialogues (a large quotient in Bhojpuri dialect) by Wajahat Mirza, the 1961 film produced by Dilip Kumar was ultimately a great directorial triumph of Nitin Bose for its gripping emotional drama.

Starring real life brothers Dilip Kumar and Nasir Khan as two brothers on opposing sides of the law, it stirred the imagination of the masses due to its sensitive story of the protagonist (Dilip Kumar) who is upright despite being an outlaw.

The story revolves around the struggles of Ganga (Dilip Kumar) as he fights a corrupt landlord (Anwar Hussain) and turns a desperado to avenge the honour of his mother. Despite the economic struggle, he labours to bring up his younger brother Jamna (Nasir Khan) as a law abiding citizen but, in a strange coincidence, loses his life to the brother-turned-police officer's bullet.

The drama is punctuated with some stirring romantic interludes between Dilip and ladylove Vyjayanthimala as well as great camaraderie between Dilip and village elder Kanhaiyya Lal, providing cine buffs with delicate moments of rustic revelry, comedy and pathos. The exquisite camerawork by V. Balasaheb enhances the exotic appeal of rural India and Naushad's music and Shakeel Badayuni's lyrics only add to the brilliance of the cinematic treatise.

But what sets “Ganga Jamna” apart from the other films is the execution whereby our common everyday struggles are given a lifelike existence on the silver screen. While the songs like “Insaf ki Dagar Pe” (Hemant Kumar), “Nain lad Jayee Re” (Rafi), “Dhoondo Dhoondo re Sajna” and “Do Hanson ka Joda” (Lata Mangeshkar) are immortal favourites, even the background score dazzles in the company of exemplary scenic and costume designing.

Yet what rankles is that though the film bagged three Filmfare Awards (Best Actress Award for Vyjayantimala, Best Dialogue Award and Best Cinematography Award), in a strange travesty of justice, Dilip Kumar lost out the acting award to Raj Kapoor!

DEEPAK MAHAN

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