Love triangles have dominated human lives since time immemorial and obviously, Hindi films have been no exception.
But “Aadmi” (1968) is perhaps one of the few films which digs deep into the psychic conflict of right and wrong, guilt and obsession and yet portray a simple story. And so, while a lay viewer apparently enjoys it as an engrossing family drama, to a serious observer, it depicts subtle interplay of human emotions amidst conflicting situations.
Despite its long length, the film binds you with its twists and turns, providing an enjoyable cinematic experience. Produced by P.S. Veerappa and directed by A. Bhimsingh, “Aadmi” shines because its life-like characters portrayed by Dilip Kumar, Waheeda Rehman, Manoj Kumar, Simi Grewal and Pran not only share the screen honours but also provide the film with several moments of compelling brilliance.
Based upon how innocent lives are distorted by bizarre interventions of fate leading to inexplicable periods of suffering, “Aadmi” revolves around an insecure, inscrutable yet wealthy Rajesh (Dilip Kumar) orphaned at a young age.
His personal suffering is enhanced when his childhood sweetheart Meena dies suddenly and the family substitutes her presence with a doll, implying Meena had turned into a doll after death.
Obsessed with the doll, young Rajesh guards her with unswerving loyalty but one day, when a young neighbourhood boy mishandles the doll, he kills him in a fit of rage. Years later, the grown up Rajesh falls in love with a woman named Meena (Waheeda Rehman) though he still retains the doll in a closet.
He gets engaged to Meena with the approval of his best friend Dr. Shekhar (Manoj Kumar), who on account of his indebtedness to Rajesh for his monetary support hides the fact that he is Meena's lover.
Shortly thereafter, Rajesh is crippled in an automobile accident and when he learns about the love affair of Shekhar and Meena; his violent passions are aroused again though he is still tormented by his past guilt of a murderer. The subsequent conflict within his heart and home combine together for a gripping story that is studded with some outstanding acting performances.
While Waheeda Rehman does justice to her role of a young carefree girl who turns into an anguished housewife, Pran is the consummate evil practitioner with his gestures and even Manoj Kumar is able to project a sulking lover despite his limited arc of expressions.
But the man who dwarfs everyone in comparison is the legendary Dilip Kumar as he bares Rajesh's innumerable sufferings, guilt and obsessions with his masterly skill.
The Dostoyevskian complexity of facial expressions along with changing tonal inflections of sarcasm, pain, guilt and rage are priceless jewels of silver screen. The several exchanges between him and his friends as well as his tormented soul reveal the overwhelming range of Dilip's histrionic abilities. Many say “Aadmi” has one of the most memorable scenes of Indian cinema wherein confined to a wheelchair, Dilip Kumar recounts the death of his childhood sweetheart and the murder of the boy to his wife. While it is true that it was the director's imagination that created the scene, there is no denying that it is Dilip's mesmerising dialogue delivery that builds the scene into a hauntingly captivating, emotional drama.
Credit must be given to the dialogue team, including the renowned Akhtar ul Iman, for lifting an ordinary love triangle to resounding heights with the aid of brilliant trick work cinematography by Faredoon A. Irani and adroit editing by A. Paul Durai Singham.
Unfortunately, music by Naushad was a major letdown despite two immortal melodies like Rafi's soulful cry “Aaj Puranee Rahon Se” and a duet “Kaisee Haseen Aaj Baharon ki Raat Hai” by Rafi and Talat (replaced by Mahendra Kapoor in the film on Manoj Kumar's insistence and an act for which Talat never forgave Naushad till his death). All in all, despite its serious tone, “Aadmi” was a compact entertainer for all ages.