Paigham (1959)

Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthimala in the film.  

Though not very common, but it wasn’t also rare when S.S. Vasan, the movie magnet from South, attempted this somewhat contrived and complicated story of brothers – living together in the same house but at cross purposes in a conflicting situation. What made “Paigham” interesting was the pairing of the two diverse, intense actors trying to overshadow one another. And even though Dilip Kumar was a better performer, Raaj Kumar often succeeded in putting him in the shadows. So much so that all subsequent attempts to hoist them together failed until Subhash Ghai pitted them against one another 32 years later in his blockbuster, “Saudagar” (1991). Although during the making of “Paigham”, Dilip Kumar was a major star and Raaj Kumar a relatively new actor, it is believed that, during a conflict scene, he hit the thespian so hard that after pack-up the shooting had to be cancelled for a day for the actor to recover from the shock and impact.

The great divide

Like most other films of the ’50s, the story revolved around the rich-and-poor divide and exploitation, social values, education and loyalty. What set it apart was the fact in this case it wasn’t the poor and the illiterate who raises a war cry against injustice, but the educated. While the narrative, complete with comic relief, moves in a somewhat predictable manner, it is individual performances and taut direction that gives the movie its longevity. Another relatively lesser known fact is, it was the fourth consecutive Dilip Kumar-Vyjayanthimala hit ( Devdas (1956), Naya Daur (1957), Madhumati (1958)) in a row that also, according to the actress, (who later became Mrs Bali) led to a wild speculation about a non-existent romance.

For a summary recall, the story revolves around a widow, Mrs. Lal (Pratima Devi), her two sons, Ramlal (Raaj Kumar), his wife Parvati (Pandaribai), Ratanlal (Dilip Kumar) and an unmarried daughter, Sheela (Sitalakshmi). Ram, who worships his employer, works in Seth Sewakram’s (Motilal) mill as a labourer while Ratan is an engineering student in Calcutta who doubles up as a rickshaw puller in his spare time. On his return, a highly impressed Sewakram makes Ratan a lucrative offer and he joins the mill but it is not long before he discovers how the workers were being cheated and raises the flag of revolt much to the disapproval of Ramlal.

Meanwhile, he flips for Manju (Vyjayanthimala), a typist in the mill whom he had earlier given a rickshaw ride, a fact disapproved by Malti (B Saroja Devi), Sewakram’s daughter who had fallen head over heals for the engineer. After several twists and turns, romance and envy, slogans, comic relief and songs comes the ultimate truth: Manju turns out to be Seth Sewakram’s long lost daughter who, in anger and sheer disgust, tries to set the mill afire but it is Ratanlal who is arrested for arson and treason before they lived happily after climax.

While Ramanand Sagar’s somewhat progressive, populist dialogue bring cheer, neither Kavi Pradeep’s 10 lyrics nor C. Ramachandra’s music lend any strength to the 188-minute black and white narrative, though after two insignificant attempts (“Mr Sampat”, (1952) and “Insaaniyat”, (1955)), Vasan, and Gemini Productions succeeded in setting their feet firmly in Hindi moviedom.

Kothamangalam Subbu’s story and P. Ellappa’s cinematography were just passable. Only three songs, the Manna Dey-led chorus “Insaan ka insaan se hai bhai chara, yehi Paigham hamara”, Asha Bhosle-rendered bhajan, “O ameeron ke parmeshwar”, and the Mohammed Rafi number “Kaise diwali manayen hum lala, apna to barah mahine diwala” continue to play till the day.

“Paigham” brought Ramanand Sagar his first Filmfare trophy as a dialogue writer.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 1:18:29 AM |

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