Blast from the past Friday Review

Bairaag (1976)

Saira Banu and Dilip Kumar   | Photo Credit: HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES

For more than 25 years Dilip Kumar was the king at the box office. His name was almost a guarantee of success not only at the time of the releaseof the film but even in reruns his films made more money than fresh releases of many of his contemporaries. “Bairaag”, the 1976 musical, marked the end of the golden period. Its lukewarm box office performance convincing the tragedy king to take a break, reinvent himself and come back for a second innings with films like “Shakti”, “Mazdoor”, “Vidhaata” and later “Karma” and “Saudagar”. So in its own way, “Bairaag” helped prolong his career. It was probably the last time he appeared as a leading man in a solo hero project; preferring to share the limelight with the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Anil Kapoor and Raj Kumar, etc in his later films.

Not much was going his way when “Bairaag” released. For a few years then Rajesh Khanna had been the hot romantic hero. And post-“Sholay” Bachchan was an angry young man like nobody else in history. Dilip Kumar evoked nostalgia, not much else. He tried hard though, even daring to play three roles in “Bairaag” though he was very much on the wrong side of 50.

“Bairaag”, directed by Asit Sen, was based on a story penned by S. Khalil, which if not too hackneyed was not too original either. Much like the dialogues are by Abrar Alvi and Rahi Massom Raza.

Based on the old ‘lost and found’ formula, it is a tale of Kailash (Dilip Kumar) and his twin sons (both essayed by Dilip Kumar), the blind and simple Bholenath whom Kailash had abandoned at birth in a temple and the spoilt brat, Sanjay whom he raises in the city. Unknown to each other, the two brothers lead their own life –– Sanjay in the company of his fiancée Sonia (Leena Chandavarkar) and Bholenath with Tara (Saira Bano), grand-daughter of Thakur Chandrabhan, in whose house he is engaged for small chores. Things take a turn in the village with the entry of Sonia’s brother, Kunwal – Prem Chopra. He is a suitor for Tara and demands a hefty amount as dowry. Bholenath, who wants to see Tara well settled, uses wrong means to garner funds for dowry. Kunwal meanwhile dupes the villagers and decamps with the money. In the midst of all this, Bholenath’s eyesight is restored when he is bitten by his pet snake.

The chastened Bholenath leaves for the city to recover the money from Kanwal where he gets sucked into a deadly game of intrigue being played by Grasco (Madan Puri) and Lucy (Helen) with whom Sanjay maintains a dangerous liaison. Herein begins a tale of murder, deceit, mistaken identities ending on a predictable note.

Even though Dilip Kumar retains his fabled charisma and flavour, he cannot prevent a sense of déjà vu from afflicting the viewer. He seems distinctly uncomfortable and even awkward in song sequences enacted with the much younger Leena Chandravarkar. The presence of Saira Bano and Leena Chandravarkar is confined to petite looks and pleasing screen personality.

As a director Asit Sen failed to experiment and was unable to extract the best from some of the leading actors of Hindi cinema, namely Madan Puri, Helen, Nazir Hussain and Prem Chopra. If only he had repeated what he did with Nadira in “Safar” and Lalita Pawar in “Khamoshi”, “Bairaag” would have been different.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 6:11:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/bairaag-1976/article7684867.ece

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