Talaq (1958)

Published - May 25, 2017 10:55 pm IST

OF MARITAL BLUES Rajendra Kumar and Kamini Kadam gave creditable performance in “Talaaq” dealing with the contentious issue of divorce

OF MARITAL BLUES Rajendra Kumar and Kamini Kadam gave creditable performance in “Talaaq” dealing with the contentious issue of divorce

In 1982, when B.R. Chopra was about to finish his film on triple talaq and halala, somebody told him that if he would go with the title, it would lead to divorce in many Muslim families. Chopra quickly changed the title of his Muslim social, the term commonly used for such films, from Talaq, Talaq, Talaq to Nikaah. However, two decades back director Mahesh Kaul didn’t face any such issue because, going by the same parameters, he was a making a ‘Hindu social’ as a response to the Hindu Marriage Act 1955. Writer Pandit Mukhram Sharma , who used to teach Sanskrit in Meerut before moving to Bombay to make a career in film industry, writing progressive films like Aulad and Dhool Ka Phool could not find a Hindi word for divorce. After all vivaah-vichhed would have sounded obscure. Inadvertently, it reflects the vibrancy of our culture.

A kind of romantic comedy before the term gained currency, Talaq opens in a girls school, where the principal, a sort of stereotypical feminist, advising one of her teachers to use divorce, the new tool in the hands of women against abusive husbands. She declares times have changed and women can no longer be subjugated or silenced in the name of upholding family values. In comes music teacher Indu (Kamini Kadam), who tells her students that maintaining khushhali (well being) of family is the zimmedari (responsibility) of the girl through a song. Over the years, things haven’t changed much as we are still trying to find a solution between the two extremes.

Kaul and Sharma find an easy way out. They turn the girl’s father (Radhakrishan) into a widower and a compulsive gambler, who feeds off his daughter. So when Ravi (Rajendra Kumar) enters Indu’s life, the father becomes an easy villain of the piece. Ravi doesn’t like his habits and Indu can’t leave her father. It leads to acrimony and a possible divorce. However, beneath the superficial veneer of conflict, Kaul, known for directing films like Aakhri Dao and Pyar Ki Pyas, drops hints about a society grappling with change. Though an engineer and a progressive poet, Ravi doesn’t want his wife to work. Indu doesn’t mind it in the beginning and leaves her job but over the years it hurts her self respect.

The narrative has two more parallel tracks revealing how different sections of the society were dealing with the same problem. One of Ravi’s friend is an idealist who doesn’t want to have children because the country’s resources don’t match its population. Interestingly, his household help Mangal (Sajjan) follows his principle and gives us a point of view on the newly formed law and social practice. He feels the law has been created for couples whose marriage is beyond repair but these days people are using it to get divorce on flimsy grounds. The thought rings a bell.

It reminds that till 1958, Rajendra Kumar hadn’t fallen prey to the image trap. He looks handsome in waistcoats and achkans and builds his character at the right pitch. A known name in Marathi films, Kamini Kadam made her Hindi film debut with Talaq. As the neighbourhood girl whom you couldn’t resist looking at even when your moral values tell you otherwise, Kamini is perfect for the role. However, her dialogue delivery is a little stilted. In fact, the artifice in dialogues becomes the undoing of the film despite Radhakrishan’s natural flair for comedy and Sajjan’s sage like presence. It is good to see Daisy Irani and Aruna Irani as child artistes and C. Ramachandra’s music is suitably frothy to keep you humming. Amidst the bubbly numbers, Pradeep’s patriotic song which says, ‘Sambhal Ke Rehna Apne Ghar Main Chhupe Huye Gaddaron Se’ lives on .

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