Relevant forever

Despite their idealistic protagonists, “Pyaasa” and “Mother India” continue to ring a bell in times when flawed characters are celebrated

Published - November 03, 2017 01:50 am IST

TIMELESS CLASSIC A poster of “Mother India”

TIMELESS CLASSIC A poster of “Mother India”

Outstanding people and exceptional art may age but never get old! Perhaps explains why, even after 60 years of their release, “Pyaasa” and “Mother India” still remain as two of India’s greatest films with an eternal appeal and relevance. While everyone classifies them as ingenious artistic efforts, not many can fathom why, despite holding audiences by the scruff of their neck, these two films have the continuing ability to move, inspire and enlighten audiences across periods and generations.

What perpetually haunts one, apart from their magnificent musical compositions, superb enactments, exquisite shots and dexterous direction, is the fact that the main protagonist of each film is a supreme idealist; characters willing to sacrifice their lives to uphold the noble values they hold dear in their bosoms. Unlike Aristotelian heroes / heroines that are flawed individuals and, hence, liable for their tragic misfortunes, what draws us sub-consciously to these two characters is their virtuous passion for duty (‘dharma’) even though punished by an arrogant and unjust system. This steadfast devotion to self righteousness not only provides them with a graceful halo but also makes people empathise with their lot as well as guts since, without chastising or deriding, they prove themselves as exceptionally superior human beings. Their courage of convictions, amidst grievances and sufferings, holds a mirror to our society and if they remain perpetually relevant and significant, it is because they serve as ideals that are rare to emulate but difficult to emulate in our environment.

A scene from “Pyaasa”

A scene from “Pyaasa”

For millions who regularly suffer from indignities of fate or birth, the nobility and courage of the poet Vijay in “Pyaasa” and the village belle Radha in “Mother India” are in essence their own reactions to the suffocating inequality, immorality and corruption of our system. As the two sensitive protagonists “breathe and live” through their plight with rare grit and gumption, their resolute and strong willed personae provide not just lessons in living but also a solace for a bleeding humanity. Hence, while their pain and despair as well as the trials and tribulations are logical constructs of their milieu and circumstances, it is the stoic responses of the “thirsty poet” and the “sacrificing mother” that makes them extremely endearing since they do not succumb to powerful machinations of the system. Their resounding dismissal of the power structure to carve their own path is a powerful stimulant for the masses to unite with them, thereby making them winners for all times to come.

Severe indictments

Moreover, the universality of the dramatic structure of these films lends magnetic attraction as well as credibility. Reflecting the struggle of the down trodden in our society, both “Pyaasa” and “Mother India” are severe indictments of the material progress whereby the have-nots continue to suffer from pangs of impoverishment, inequality, racism at the hands of the rich and the powerful. Authors who show mirror to the society still find themselves on the margins and rural India contuses to suffer from neglect. So, despite different spectrum of stories, characters and settings, the two films voice their concern that “the more things change, the more they remain the same.”

However, it must be said that the two films are triumphs of the inspired visions of Guru Dutt and Mehboob Khan. Their humane sensibilities and sublime craftsmanship led to execution of common sagas of everyday life in the most uncommon way. They had the sagacity to choose rare luminaries like Sachin Dev Burman, Naushad, Mohammed Rafi, Geeta Dutt, Sahir Ludhianvi, Shakeel Badayuni, V. K. Murthy, Faredoon Irani, Abrar Alvi, Azghar Wajahat as also Nargis, Waheeda Rehman, Kanhaiyya Lal, Johnny Walker and many others to weave screen epics that will forever be cherished in the annals of Indian cinema. Guru Dutt and Mehboob Khan may have been miles apart in temperament and tastes but the two won our hearts over by giving wings to their imagination and by dreaming big, they made sure that they would live forever in our hearts as well as on our screens.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.