Sur Sangam (1985)

Published - May 12, 2017 05:40 pm IST

SCULPTING THE BEST K. Viswanath’s “Sur Sangam” starring Jayaprada and Girish Karnad leaves an imprint on cinema lovers

SCULPTING THE BEST K. Viswanath’s “Sur Sangam” starring Jayaprada and Girish Karnad leaves an imprint on cinema lovers

Wonders that a genius does! A mound of clay in the hands of a lesser mortal is just that. In the hands of a sculptor, it is a masterpiece under construction. And director K Viswanath has been nothing but the best of sculptors Indian cinema has seen. In his able hands, Kamal Haasan, Chiranjeevi, Mithun Chakraborty have shaped up with performances of a lifetime. Same has been the case with Jayaprada. When Sur Sangam was released in September 1985, she was the stuff dreams are made of. Equally capable of a fine performance as announced slip into mediocrity. Unsurprisingly, Sur Sangam was sandwiched between director Krishna’s Singhasan , a film that arrived riding on high publicity blitz and sank without a trace — and director K Raghavendra Rao’s Hoshiyar where in the sweepstakes she played second fiddle to Meenakshi Seshadri. Fortunately, she had K Viswanath to atone for the sins of a Singhasan or a Hoshiyar ; a Sanjog and a Sur Sangam to showcase her talents, to prove her detractors that she could rise over melodrama. Indeed, she made a mark as a woman whose could lend meaning to silence, and simplicity a glamour of its own. And there was only one man she had to thank for!

A sensitive actress

She started her career under his baton in Sargam . And Hindi film audiences immediately labelled her a fine, sensitive actress. Then Viswanath did not make another Hindi film for three-four years. And Jayaprada was unable to keep her fickle fan-base with duds like Takkar and Lok Parlok . Then Viswanath came back to deliver Kaamchor ; a film that defied convention to reap dividends at the box office. Jayaprada was not to look back. And Viswanath only believed in looking ahead.

With Sanjog and Sur Sangam in quick succession at a time when her arch rival Sridevi was busy doing a Masterji and a Balidaan , Jayaprada for a moment could scoff at competition, and say, “It is not easy to look beautiful without make-up.” Beautiful she indeed was, but it was the brush of Viswanath that filled the space with the power of silence. For instance, at the beginning of Sur Sangam , gently rustling leaves convey the mood. And ripples of the river in a confluence make the moment timeless. Jayaprada moves aeons away from her garish Singhasan avatar too; the way she adjusts the sari pallu over her head, the way she slumps her shoulders, the way she caresses the hand of her child gives you a feel of a treasure trove opening ever so slowly. That is something one can say for the film as well. Relating the story of a classical music maestro’s bid to find a successor for his rare craft and a low caste woman who has been wronged in life but retains her love for music and dance, and even manages to send her son to learn at the guru’s feet, the film evolves ever so slowly, it is almost like sitting by the window watching the rain drops slide quietly from a leaf. Birds fly off a temple, autumn leaves falls into the lap of the lady sitting by the steps, and the guru’s well worn dhoti with more holes than a tailor can patch...beautiful symbolism that makes words redundant.

Of course, K Viswanath takes some artistic liberties. Karnad’s classical songs and bhajans are sung by both Rajan and Sajan Mishra together. On screen only Karnad is shown singing. And in some of the scenes, the heroine’s manicured nails are distracting as she plays a character so riven. Yet the way, she is picturised dancing in ecstasy with cows in the background here, a dog there, tells you that the director has his heart in the right place. His films conveys the smell of the soil after the first rainfall of the season.

Wondrous and wonderful

For all its flaws, and it certainly was not better than the Telugu original, Sur Sangam was both wondrous and wonderful. PL Roy’s soothing cinematography, brevity of Vasant Dev’s spoken word, eloquence of silence, the crests of and troughs of the art of Rajan and Sajan Mishra, Sur Sangam had probably the best performance of Jayaprada’s Hindi film career. And left an indelible imprint on the discerning cinegoers about K Viswanath’s love and reverence for the art. A confluence like none.

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