Jheel Ke Us Paar (1973)

STRIKING THE RIGHT NOTE Dhramendra and Mumtaz in “Jheel Ke Us Paar”  

Unlike Hollywood, where making films based on novels is a normal occurrence, in Bollywood it is an exception . “Jheel Ke Us Paar” is one such film, based on a novel of the same title penned by Gulshan Nanda. Although the film manages to retain the ethos which the author might have envisioned while putting pen to paper for a major part, it loses its moorings towards the end, making the last half hour quite tedious to watch and fathom. The screenplay by an otherwise competent Nabendu Ghosh (who has written the screenplay for several classics like “Devdas”, “Sujadat”, “Bandini” amongst others) and dialogues by Ramesh Pant do not manage to salvage the rather tepid and confusing dénouement.

One also fails to understand what prompted Nanda to introduce the character of Balraj (Ranjeet) in the narrative, which leaves several unanswered questions attached to it, like how Balraj – a pilot – could have managed to stage his death in an air crash. And what made him go after his wife, Maya (Faryal), to get the insurance money which she had claimed on his death.

Another intriguing aspect is the absence of Shatrughan Sinha’s name from the credits, although he essays a prominent role as Dr. Tandon, an eye specialist who performs surgery to restore Neelu’s (Mumtaz) eyesight. Sinha, who was slowly graduating from negative roles (in which he excelled) to those of the leading hero, displays a spark which cannot be missed. His flamboyance, his body language, his screen persona and his distinctive mannerisms and style of delivering dialogues, all give a peek into the long innings that the young actor was aspiring for in Bollywood. He managed to hold his own against Dharmendra (Sameer Rai), who was riding a phenomenal wave of success in his career at this point in time.

Equally riveting is Prem Chopra’s performance (Pratap), as the illegitimate son of Sameer’s father, Kulwant Rai, whose horse drawn carriage had trampled a young Neelu leading to loss of her eyesight as a child. Chopra looks mean and vindictive, his angst on being discriminated by the society scalds his psyche, making the vengeance overflow – he is just outstanding. When Pratap comes to know about his lineage, he decides to inflict a similar fate on the family of Kulwant Rai.

Meanwhile, while painting the picturesque lake in the vicinity of his expansive family estate, Sameer encounters a gorgeous Neelu feeding fish in the same lake. Beholden, he draws Neelu’s portrait, who, it turns out, is treated abominably by her nasty step-mother, something which is deplored by her hapless father, Rasila (Pran, as reliable as ever). When her step-mother sells a beleaguered Neelu to Pratap, Sameer saves her in the nick of time, and before he dies, Rasila tells him how Neelu lost her eyesight. Sameer stung by pangs of guilt at what his father had done years ago decides to get Neelu treated, in the process falling in love with her.

This does not augur well with Sameer’s mother, Rani Maa (Veena, the actress with a steely voice and regal demeanour), and the estate Diwan (Iftekhar) who harbours a desire to get his daughter, Jugnu (Yogeeta Bali), married to Sameer. To pre-empt this, Jugnu devises a plan in cohorts with Pratap. When Diwan comes to know the machinations of his wayward daughter, he reprimands her and asks her to seek forgiveness from Rani Maa. By this time, it is too late, as Pratap and Balraj, both at loggerheads with each other, fight it out, in which Balraj is killed, and the blame is shifted to Sameer. However, after a slew of twists and turns, there is a happy denouement as Neelu, her eyesight fully restored, becomes Sameer’s bride.

Besides his key actors, Bappi Sonie is able to extract commendable performances from his supporting cast as well.

Mumtaz, fabled for her sensuous pout, her unbridled exuberance and her chutzpah gives a surprisingly understated performance, though she does show her sensuous side in the song “Do Ghoont Mujhe Bhi Pila De”. Although she is not as realistic or convincing in the role of a blind girl, as several actors before her (Dilip Kumar in ‘Deedar’ and Naseerurdin Shah in ‘Sparsh’) were, she manages to hold her own because of her brilliant screen presence. Also, sparks might not have flown on her pairing with Dharmendra – like the lightening which stuck the screen whenever she acted with Rajesh Khanna – but the two show sufficient chemistry to ensure success of the film.

Others, like the veteran Veena, Iftekhar, Junior Mehmood, Anwar Hussain and Faryal are competent. As for Yogeeta Bali, she barely manages to pass muster in a role with shades of grey. Her facial expressions leave a lot to be desired, something which contributed to her limited oeuvre in Bollywood.

The movie was beautifully filmed by Jal Mistry, which won him the coveted Filmfare trophy for best cinematography.

A major accomplishment for the film are its songs, written by Anand Bakshi to music composed by the iconic R.D. Burman especially “Kya Nazare” (Kishore Kumar), “Babul Tere Bagan Di Main Bulbul” (Lata Mangeshkar) and “Chal Chalen Ae Dil” (Lata Mangeshkar).

Genre: Social drama

Director: Bappi Sonie

Cast: Dharmendra, Mumtaz, Prem Chopra, Ranjeet, Yogeeta Bali, Pran, Veena, Iftekhar, Anwar Hussain, Faryal, Junior Mehmood

Story: Gulshan Nanda

Screenplay: Nabendu Ghosh

Dialogue: Ramesh Pant

Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

Music: RD Burman

Box office status: Hit

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 12:19:54 PM |

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