Chirag Kahan, Roshni Kahan (1959)

Meena Kumari in a still from the film. Photo: Special Arrangement.   | Photo Credit: mail

It was a casting coup that Devendra Goel, producer and director of “Chirag Kahan, Roshni Kahan” accomplished for his film, which saw the undisputed czarina of tragedy in Bollywood, the brooding Meena Kumari (Ratna) endowed with rare grace and poise, being pitted against the prince of heartbreak, Rajendra Kumar, who had earned the distinction of belting out so many hits in a row that he was christened Jubilee Kumar.

In the movie, Kumar showcases just why, despite having a limited array of emotions in his armoury, and an acting style that on occasions seemed stilted, he managed to maintain suzerainty over hearts and minds of millions of fans. He had great screen presence that during his career saw him lock horns with thespians like Raj Kapoor, as in “Sangam”, and being pitted against leading heroines of the day.

The role of a brooding, sacrificing doctor, Anand, who becomes a widower when his wife dies in the labour room after giving birth to a male child, was tailor made for him. The story takes off from there, as the bereaved, but large-hearted doctor, in a proof of his commitment towards his patients, gives the child to a widow, who has delivered a still born baby at the same time, to save her from certain death.

Meena Kumari as Ratna, the widow who unknowingly rears Anand's son as her own, is as dependable as ever in these sorts of roles that demand histrionic skills. Caught in the web of suspicion by her in-laws who frown over her purported closeness to Anand, she repeatedly seeks solace and guidance at the feet of deities in the temple.

She wards off the aspersions, while harbouring a secret desire in her bosom for the dapper doctor, who meanwhile gets hooked by a devious and spendthrift nurse in the hospital he works in. The secret of the child, Raju's, (played by the precocious Honey Irani), parentage would have remained buried in Anand's heart were it not for his greedy wife who to get his father's inheritance spills the beans.

The end is a predictable happy ending with the two suffering leads finally getting married with the concurrence of all and sundry. The music of the film, scored by Ravi, to lyrics by the talented Prem Dhawan, who never managed to get his due in the industry despite having penned several memorable songs, is a strong point of the film, considering the prevailing trend and public tastes in the decades of 50s and 60s.

The cherubic lullabies, “Chal Mere Ghode Tik-Tik-Tik” and “Tim-Tim-Karte –Taare-Yeh-Kehete Hai Saare”, both sung by Lata Mangeshkar, the latter in two – a happy and a sad – avatars are evergreen numbers from the film that have managed to retain an indelible mark in the public memory.

Rafi, who sings only one song in the film, the angst ridden title track “Ajab Hai Malik Tera Jahan” displays his prowess as an ace singer, with the capacity to carry his voice to celestial heights. Suman Kalyanpur, who sang the self-pitying “Aaye Ho To Duniya Dekh Le Zara” is another talented artiste, who despite mastery over her singing skills, never quite got her due.

The debate that rages in civil society about the prudence of putting children in front of the arc lights at an age that robs them of their innocence obviously has its genesis in the infancy of the film industry. Honey Irani, the cute moppet who essays the role of Raju with the ease and conviction of a professional, is a foremost example of talent suffering burn-outs at an early age. She could not get a foothold in the film industry as an adult.

Devendra Goel, who directed films like “Ek Phool Do Maali”, “Ek Mahal Ho Sapno Ka”, “Aadmi Sadak Ka”, “Dus Lakh”, “Pyaar Ka Sagar” and “Narsi Bhagat” faltered in the screenplay and editing of this film. After an interesting start, it lapses into an interlude that becomes a tad boring. However, he can be credited with extracting good performances from the support cast, including Sunder, who manages to elicit a few laughs with his trademark funny act.

The veteran baddie of the screen, Madan Puri, got a positive makeover in the film, as the noble Dr. Mehta, and gives a restrained performance. However, Minoo Mumtaz, sister of the ace comedian Mehmood, as the nurse who entraps Anand with her guile, and ultimately pays for it with her life, tends to overact and go over the top in some scenes.

Although the film was nominated in two categories of Filmfare awards, Best Actress for Meena Kumari and the Best Story for Dhruva Chatterjee, it failed to pick up any of these.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2022 8:29:52 AM |

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