When song is added to script

Ardh Satya  

While watching Atul Sabharwal’s The Class of ‘83, an efficient cop drama that is trending in the OTT space, one realises that the heroic officer on punishment posting is working for the good of the system at great personal cost, but it somehow doesn’t percolate through the screen strongly enough to make one bite one’s nails.

BOBBY DEOL in Class of ‘83

BOBBY DEOL in Class of ‘83  

Set in the rumbustious 1980s, the characterisation lacks the rhythm that can make us feel for the character’s moral dilemmas. It perhaps looks at the period from the prism of today.

My thoughts went back to the real 1983, the year when Ardh Satya, one of the best cop dramas churned out by Hindi cinema, spurred the conscience of the country.

Curiously, in a scene in The Class of ‘83, we can see the posters of potboilers such as Nastik, Justice Chaudhary and Hero in the background but not of the masterpiece by Govind Nihalani who, very much like Atul, believed in the economy of emotions. Like Atul’s Vijay Singh, Govind’s Anant Welankar is also a latent volcano but early in the film, he gives us an insight into the lava building up inside him through a Dilip Chitre poem.

Dilip Chitre (in white shirt)

Dilip Chitre (in white shirt)  

In fact, the film draws its title from the poem that reflects Anant’s moral skeleton: being caught in a chakravyuh, it talks of the danger of becoming the one that he wants to annihilate, and above all the fear of being robbed of one’s manhood by the system that he wants to serve. The line ‘Ek palde mein napunsakta, ek palde mein paurush, aur theek taraazu ke kaante par ardh satya,’ (On one tray of the scale is impotence, on the other manhood, and right at the needlepoint is half-truth) makes you feel the acuity of Anant’s angst better than any other words, and lends meaning to the tight close-up of the actor.

Lyrics with a message

Similarly, the Hindi film song, when brewed with passion, has always communicated more than the text, adding a poetic layer to the script that shapes the response of audiences, and stays on with them as life lessons. It helps actors and directors in creating an audience connection with the character. Of course, 1983 was also the year of Himmatwala and Mawali, but a look at the soundtracks of the eclectic mix of films released in 1983 prove how effective a tool poetry is to convey complex human emotions. We understood the child-woman of Balu Mahendru’s Sadma through Gulzar’s song ‘Surmaiyi Aankhiyon Main Nanha Munna Ek Sapna De Ja Re’, set to Illaiyaraja’s lilting tune and rendered by K.J. Yesudas in a way that evokes the naivety of love. It helps establish the unique love story between a woman suffering from retrograde amnesia and the school teacher who takes care of her in just above four minutes.

Poet, lyricist, film-maker and writer Gulzar

Poet, lyricist, film-maker and writer Gulzar  

In Shekhar Kapur’s Masoom, Gulzar opens a window to DK’s guilt-ridden heart through ‘Tujhse Naraaz Nahin Zindagi Hairan Hoon, Tere Masoom Sawalon Se Hairan Hoon Mein.’ Here is a married man reaching out to his son, born out of his infidelity. It is again an uncommon situation, as the narrative doesn’t want to put the blame on anyone and the song strongly communicates the director’s vision.

In Ravi Chopra’s Mazdoor, poet Hasan Kamal made a statement with ‘Hum Mehnatkash Is Duniya Se Apna Hissa Mangenge, Ek Bagh Nahin, Ek Khet Nahin, Saari Duniya Mangenge.’ Inspired by a Faiz Ahmed Faiz nazm, the song’s tone reflects the confidence of the labour movement in the 1980s in standing against injustice. It is no longer the Nehruvian approach of ‘Saathi Hath Badhana’ of Naya Daur, directed by Ravi’s father B.R. Chopra.

Sometimes, a piece of poetry helps convey something the director wants to hint at but not underline. In Kamal Amrohi’s Razia Sultan, Jan Nisar Akhtar’s wrote ‘Khwab Bankar Koi Ayega’ to convey an amorous relationship between Razia and her confidante Khakun, long before Sanjay Leela Bhansali tried something similar in Padmavat.

In Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth (released in December 1982), Kaifi Azmi wrote ‘Tum Itna Jo Muskura Rahe Ho, Kya Ghum Hai Jisko Chhupa Rahe Ho’ to establish the mental frame of a woman who has just walked out of an abusive marriage and the other man who is keen to welcome her into his world. Again, a complex state of mind captured for posterity in five minutes of screen time.

Even Souten, criticised for its portrayal of Dalits, had the evocative ‘Zindagi Pyaar Ka Geet Hai, Ise Har Dil Ko Gaana Padega’, reflecting the vision of director Sawan Kumar. Written by Kumar himself, it talks of egalitarianism in love in a society riddled with caste and class barriers and it lent the otherwise frothy entertainer some depth.

Most of these songs continue to define not only the films they were a part of but our lives as well. Our cinema has never been about cold intelligence. Shakeel Budayuni said something as fundamental and universal as ‘Duniya Main Hum Aaye Hain To Jeena Hi Padega, Jeevan Hai Agar Zehar to Peena Hi Padega’ (If we’ve come into life, we have to live it. If life is poison, we’ve to drink it) in Mother India, and with its dozen songs it got nominated for an Oscar. In the name of realism or the rush to become ‘global’, if this pool of poetry is allowed to dry up, not only our cinema, but our lives too will be rendered prosaic.

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 1:35:08 PM |

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