Blast from the past Friday Review

Piya Ka Ghar (1972)

Jaya Bhaduri and Anil Dhawan "Piya Ka Ghar".

Jaya Bhaduri and Anil Dhawan "Piya Ka Ghar".   | Photo Credit: HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVE

Mumbai. The city of dreams. The city that never sleeps. There is fight for space, for air, for freedom, for expression. It offers frightening challenges. But mind-boggling solutions too. Aspirations never die in Mumbai. You live for the future. But struggle in the present. Skyscrapers and chawls co-exist and have their places under the sun. Life in Mumbai is different from the rest of the world. It is vibrant even for those striving in shanties. Some find it dark even in posh apartments.

Jaya Bhaduri is the soul of the movie, playing her role close to perfection as the bewildered simple girl from a village who comes to a big city and adopts it gracefully. The rest of the cast, including Anil Dhawan who plays her husband Ram, delivers but Mukri stands out. His cameo livens up the narrative as he steals the scenes each time he appears on it. Three songs –– “Yeh zulf kaise hai” by Mohammad Rafi, “Yeh Jeevan Hai” by Kishore Kumar and “Piya Ka Ghar Hai Yeh” by Lata Mangeshkar –– are hummable classics from a movie that stands out for its clean entertainment.

When Malti (Jaya Bhaduri) comes to live in Mumbai she encounters a busy city, a vast multitude bursting at its seam, and finds herself lost. Newly-married, she pines for privacy. Just as Ram who resides in a chawl with parents, two brothers and sister-in-law. Privacy is not an easy commodity to buy or acquire. It comes at a heavy price and the young pair realises it amidst phases of frustration at being denied the bliss of coming together.

Malti has grown up in a village in a calm ambience. Comfort is visible in a house that can accommodate many, especially her uncle Gauri Shankar’s (Raja Paranjape) mansion which houses the wedding party. The film is set in times when people communicated mostly through letters. The sight of a postman at the door would ring alarm bells of news good and bad. But this is a narrative that moves at a rollicking pace with some delightful contribution by an array of fine actors.

The family head is Girdharilal Sharma (Agha). His elder son Shiri (Suresh Chatwal) and daughter-in-law Shobha (Ranjita Thakur) are stage actors. His youngest son Hari is a cricket-mad student but Girdharilal’s life revolves around card and tea sessions with friends Baburao Kulkarni (Kesto Mukherjee) and Kanhaiya (Mukri). It is a wonderful little world in a small tenement that ushers in joy at every knock on the door.

One such knock brings the match-maker with a proposal that the Sharma family finds hard to reject. Here begins a journey that has the Basu Chatterjee trademark –– every character getting importance to flourish. The wedding party reaches the venue after a train and cart ride bringing nostalgic memories of middle-class values. A glimpse of the village-bred bride becomes a life-time achievement for the bridegroom from the city. It has been so realistically portrayed by the director and the principal actors.

The wedding party returns to the chawl in Mumbai. The chawl life makes for interesting viewing. Every one has an opinion on every one. Life is simple too. The two-room tenement is the stage for rehearsal for some and a tool of entertainment for others, especially Kanhaiya and Kulkarni, constantly bickering when testing the other’s skills at cards. There is little thought given to the newly-weds who can’t find the retreat to fall in to each other’s arms.

Ram is helpless. As an insurance agent he can’t think of supporting an independent house. Malti wants to break free from the suffocation of sharing a home with the rest –– the kitchen is transformed into their make-shift bedroom. Even your easy breathing is audible to the rest. Ram and Malti look for private avenues outside the house and one such adventure leaves the young wife embarrassed. Their plan to hire a hotel room ends in humiliation when police come searching for a couple and mistakenly haul up the innocent Ram and Malti.

Malti sees her world crumbling. Her home is not home. She mumbles returning to her parents unless Ram finds a decent place to stay. On returning home, Malti is confronted by her uncle, who is obviously livid at the state of affairs. “You call this a home,” he thunders. The story meets its turning point.

Having realised their folly, the elders of the family decide to leave on a pilgrimage. The idea is to vacate a room for Ram and Malti. Even Shobha suggests she and husband would find a new place to stay. Malti discovers a new world, a pleasant home, where each cares for the other, the affection so enduring. The angry Gauri Shankar mellows and accepts Malti’s decision not to return to the village. “This is my home,” she declares. She has found her privacy in the crowd of a city that never sleeps. How to do you dream then?

Genre: Social drama

Director: Basu Chatterjee

Cast: Jaya Bhaduri, Anil Dhawan, Agha, Sulochana, Suresh Chatwal, Ranjita Thakur, Raja Paranjpe, Keshto Mukherjee, Mukri, Paintal

Story: Vasant P. Kale

Dialogue: Basu Chatterjee

Screenplay: Ram Kelkar

Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal

Box office status: Hit

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Printable version | Sep 30, 2020 9:42:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/Piya-Ka-Ghar-1972/article14501058.ece

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