Yeh Rastey Hain Pyar Ke (1963)

STARRING Sunil Dutt, Leela Naidu, Rahman, Ashok Kumar, Motilal

August 12, 2010 08:14 pm | Updated 08:14 pm IST

Sunil Dutt and Leela Naiduin a still from the film.

Sunil Dutt and Leela Naiduin a still from the film.

“Yeh Rastey Hain Pyar Ke” is Sunil Dutt's debut production during his phase of working in sensitive films like “Sujata” and “Sadhana”, not to forget B.R. Chopra's “Gumrah”, “Waqt” and “Humraaz”. Dutt's favourite writer Aghajani Kashmiri scripted “Yeh Rastey ” which is based on the sensational K.J. Nanavati adultery and murder case in Mumbai.

In the real-life story of crime and passion, Cdr. Nanavati, on his return from an assignment one day in 1959, was outraged to find that the British-born wife he adored had allowed herself to be seduced by his friend of 15 years, Prem Ahuja.

After being talked out of committing suicide by his repentant wife, a mother of three, he went to the naval base, picked up a revolver and headed for his friend's house. There he confronted him and asked if he intended to marry his wife and accept their children. Philanderer Ahuja is reported to have retorted that he could not marry every woman he slept with. This resulted in a scuffle between the two men in which Ahuja got killed.

In an impassioned verdict, the jury in the sessions' court acquitted Nanavati by a near unanimous vote maintaining that he was the wronged party and had been provoked by Ahuja. The session's judge, however, referred the case to the Bombay High Court which held Nanavati guilty of a planned murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment. The verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court. The sentencing led to a public outcry and abolishment of the jury system in India. After three years in prison, Nanavati was pardoned by the government and he reportedly migrated to Canada with his wife and children.

Despite a disclaimer at the outset, the black and white “Yeh Rastey Hain Pyar Ke”, directed by R.K. Nayyar, is a re-play of the Nanavati case.

Only, the end is altered to show that the ‘guilt-ridden' wife (Leela Naidu) feels ‘defiled' for having slept with another man and dies in her husband's (Sunil Dutt) arms in the courtroom after he is pronounced ‘not guilty'.

Even though in real life Nanavati forgave his wife or saved his marriage for the sake of his children, our male-dominated film industry must show the man as either ‘patronising' to stay with the wife or play up the woman's guilty conscience to the extent that she gives up her life. No equality here. To show a “different end”, the film ends up perpetuating the cliché that a woman must be ‘Sita', though the man need not be ‘Ram'.

Sunil Dutt and Leela Naidu make an odd pair and lack the chemistry of an adoring husband and a loving wife. Both are stiff and fall back upon songs like “Yeh Khamoshiyan, Yeh Tanhaiyaan” (Mohammad Rafi-Asha Bhonsle) and “Koi Mujhse Pooche Ke Tum Mera Kya Ho” (Rafi) to show them as a much-in-love couple. A Raj Kapoor and Nargis, for instance, would have set the screen on fire in this crime of passion. By the time this film was made Sunil Dutt had tied the knot with Nargis, who, as ‘Mrs. Dutt', never looked back. Leela Naidu, dubbed by “Vogue” magazine as one of the most beautiful women (along with Jaipur royal Gayatri Devi) of her time, was perhaps chosen to resemble Nanavati's wife Sylvia, and to fit into the partying upper echelons of the society. The classic beauty fails to convey the multi-layered emotions of a happily married woman seduced by an artful dodger played by Rahman. But why blame her when director R.K. Nayyar does not challenge her enough to reveal the innermost dilemmas of a woman who succumbs to temptation? As the betraying friend, Rahman carries the camouflaged playboy image with élan.

Without doubt, the courtroom scenes played out by stalwarts Ashok Kumar and Motilal are the highlights of the film. In every scene one tries to be up on the other and both are an absolute treat to watch. Without these two superb artistes and the riveting courtroom performances this film would have been hollow. As it is, there are too many empty spaces when Dutt and Naidu are in the same frame.

Exuding mystery and intrigue, Shashikala manages to steal the show in the title song, “Yeh Rastey Hain Pyar Ke, Chalna Sambhal Sambhal Ke”, sung beautifully by Asha Bhonsle to Ravi's composition. In fact some of the solo songs like “Aaj Yeh Meri Zindagi” (Asha Bhonsle) and the title number take the story forward.

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