blast from the past Cinema

Laila Majnu (1976)

28dfr laila   | Photo Credit: 28dfr laila

Ah! To be young and in love in the 70s! The decade had many attractions for love-birds, each more intoxicating than the other. It opened with the epochal love story “Heer-Raanjha” where young men could not have enough of the ample charms of Priya Rajvansh or the peerless voice of Mohammed Rafi in “Yeh duniya yeh mehfil mere kaam ki nahin”. Then came Raj Kapoor’s “Bobby” that introduced the fresh-as-dew Dimple Kapadia with Rishi Kapoor; the boy teeming with baby fat. Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s a music score touched the pulse of the youth in a way that was yards ahead of Madan Mohan’s score in “Heer-Raanjha”. Three years after “Bobby” came the greatest love story of them all, “Laila Majnu” that once again presented Rishi Kapoor; this time with Ranjeeta, the girl who could have retired post this film yet be known to posterity.

Relating the ageless love story of Layla and Qais, the mad man – Majnun in Arabic translates to a mad man – the film’s message of love, eternal, undying, unflagging, struck a cord at the box office. The theme won over those who had read a bit of literature and knew a thing or two about the warring tribes of the Arab world – apparently, the tribes would rather perish than give away their girl in marriage to a guy from the rival clan.

The lead pair had plenty of takers; Ranjeeta was not your typical Hindi film beauty, curls, curves and fair skin. With her unconventional looks, she presented an indefinable extra. Laila’s beauty, they say, lay in the eyes of the beholder. Same was the case with director H.S. Rawail’s heroine here. Rishi had won over plenty of teeny-boppers with “Bobby”. In the intervening period they had grown up a little and could appreciate the travails of Majnu better. With long locks, fierce eyes and bruised body, Rishi was aeons removed from the sugar-as-sweet debut performance. He was loved all the same. Never mind he was not gaunt like Majnu, he conveyed the spirit even if the flesh was not always there.

So far so good, but “Laila Majnu” worked primarily for its songs and music. Madan Mohan gave music to most of the songs before the hand of fate snatched him away, leaving Jaidev to take care of the unfinished task. Sahir Ludhianvi, then probably at the peak of his popularity – “Kabhi Kabhie” which propelled him to another level came around the same time – dished out lyrics that conveyed the angst of denial, the joy of the one madly in love, and the final inescapable surrender to the Almighty. With songs like “Tere Dar Pe Aaya Hun”, “Hoke Mayoos Tere Dar Se”, “Ab Agar Hum Se” and “Likh Kar Tera Naam Zameen Par” Sahir covered the spectrum from belief and faith to open defiance and blasphemy. The youngsters, not far from either of the two experiences, nodded in their approval.

Then of course was the small matter of Mohammed Rafi scaling newer heights; the film helped him recover much of the ground he had lost to Kishore Kumar over the past few years. He was particularly memorably in the higher scales of songs “Likh Kar Tera Naam” and “Ab Agar Humse”. Lata Mangeshkar gave him able support, but hers was essentially a supporting role in a music score that was clearly designed to present the best of Rafi.

The film’s arrival at the box office was preceded by a mad interest in its audio cassettes; set-ups at the cinema halls usually just had a cut-out of Majnu covered in sweat and blood. Next to his bruised frame were written Sahir’s lyrics and Abrar Alvi’s heart-piercing dialogues which drew heavily from Persian-Arab myths and traditions. At most places, the film had a long and remarkable run, necessitating a new round of hoardings to mark the silver jubilee. At others, where it had a limited engagement, it came back for a second round, then the third, each time cinegoers turned up in hundreds to soak in the travails of the love-birds.

“Laila Majnu” scored with all those who believed in love, all those who were in love, all those who wanted to be in love. That was in the 70s. Today, it will score with….well, wasn’t love supposed to eternal, undying, unflagging?



Genre: Romantic

Director: H.S. Rawail

Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Ranjeeta Kaur, Danny Dengzongpa, Aruna Irani, Ranjeet, Asrani, Raza Murad, Iftekhar, Tom Alter

Story adaptaion: Anjana Rawail

Screenplay: H.S. Rawail

Dialogue: Abrar Alvi

Music director: Madan Mohan and Jaidev

Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi

Box office status: Superhit

Trivia: Madan Mohan had recorded six songs for the movie and passed away during the making of the film. Three songs were composed by Jaidev. However, both were credited for all the songs.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 6:13:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/laila-majnu-1976/article5839471.ece

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