Amar (1954)

A poster of the film Amar. Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: 03dfr amar3

Mehboob Khan may have been an unlettered entrant into the film world but he certainly wasn't without wisdom, as eminently evident from his wide variety of films. Rising from the grassroots, the man not only taught himself the audiovisual grammar but also gave India's future generations a rare heritage of cinematic brilliance that was easy to cherish but difficult to emulate.

Like most of his film stories from “Aurat” to “Son of India”, “Amar” too was sympathetic to the female protagonist. At a time when many didn't know anything about women's lib, Mehboob's women were stoic, yet admirable, Indian females who stood up to adversity with grit and indomitable courage. These women didn't raise slogans, nor did they understand the legal nitty-gritty, but they had moral courage to fight whatever they fathomed as unjust and unacceptable. If Raj Kapoor was the admirer of the female form, Mehboob was an adroit devotee of the woman's soul!

Moral transgression

The film is about Amarnath (Dilip Kumar), a noted criminal lawyer who is opposed to any moral transgression in public life. In love with a scholarly activist Anjoo (Madhubala), Amar's life is torn apart when his milkmaid Sonia (Nimmi), who too pines for Amar, enters his house on a stormy night while trying to escape an infatuated criminal Sankat (Jayant). Sonia's blooming youth and fragility ignite lust in Amar and he inflicts himself upon her. Though raped by her idol, Sonia seals her mouth about the crime until an accident reveals her carrying a child. Despite remonstrations by many to reveal the name of the offender, Sonia remains silent and is protected by Anjoo from the rabble rousers.

Meanwhile, Amar struggles with his conscience but cannot disclose the truth until one day, Sankat attacks Amar and the ensuing struggle leads to Sankat's death. Though Sonia is accused of murder as she is found next to the body, she takes the blame so as to protect Amar from harm. But her sacrifice moves Amar to blurt out the truth and he seeks Sonia's pardon by taking her as his life partner.

Alas, despite a good story, the film flopped because audiences didn't accept a morally weak hero, as also Dilip's abandonment of Madhubala for Nimmi. Altogether, a great pity — since Dilip Kumar, Madhubala, Nimmi and Jayant gave sensitive portrayals despite an inherently puny script that had immense potential for conflict and drama. In fact, so enchanting is the Dilip-Madhubala duo that their parting makes one cringe with heartache, explaining why moviegoers didn't forgive Mehboob for his ‘mistake'.

“Amar” was one of the rare flops of Mehboob's career, yet many still admire the film for its well designed sets, wonderful sound effects and delicate photography done under his talented eye. The black and white canvas lent the story a quiet dignity, appropriate to the ethical tussle between truth and desire, moral turpitude and justice. Faredoon Irani's photography is worth a study for its lighting, especially an outstanding underwater scene of the heroine trying to escape from the villain. Similarly, the shot taken by Mehboob of thunderstorm, rape and temple precincts is enhanced by brilliant lighting and movement of the camera. For modern-day masters who cater to basic instincts by exposing female flesh in the garb of necessity, it's a worthy lesson to learn how the rape is never shown but metaphorically conveyed through facial expressions.

Sublime bhajan

Despite three immortal numbers by Naushad and Shakeel Badayuni, there are too many decrepit songs that bore rather than please. But one is prepared to forgive the duo in exchange for Lata's haunting “Jaanewaale se Mulaaqaat na Hone Paayi”, Asha's teasing “Ek Baat Kahun Mere Piya Sun le Agar Tu” along with Rafi's ethereal “Insaaf ka Mandir Hai Ye” — the sublime bhajan outlining the crux of the story. What one regrets is that while R. Kaushik won Filmfare laurels for sound recording, the box office didn't do ‘insaaf' (justice) to the painstaking efforts of Mehboob Khan!

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 5:03:26 PM |

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