Blast from the Past Friday Review

Gharaonda (1977)

Zarina Wahab and Amol Palekar in Gharonda.

Zarina Wahab and Amol Palekar in Gharonda.

That year! Summer of 1977 was clouded with big banner releases. Raining at the box office were films like “Amar Akbar Anthony”, “Parvarish”, ‘Hum Kisise Kum Nahin”, not to forget “Chacha Bhatija”, “Aadmi Sadak Ka” and “Doosra Aadmi”. Of course, Satyajit Ray’s “Shatranj Ke Khilari” and Shyam Benegal’s “Bhumika” too found a release in the same year. Then there was Rajshri’s “Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Mann Bhaye”, the film ran and ran to houseful shows for a year, coming to Kamal cinema in south Delhi on its way to a golden jubilee. It even graced the relatively unsung Chanderlok in the 49th week. It was heady stuff. Then there was Bhimsain’s “Gharaonda”. This too travelled to Kamal, staying on for a month, but building a more lasting dwelling at Ritz. Not as successful as the Rajshri’s offering, the film ticked many boxes. It elicited smiles, it left many humming. It also brought a tear to many a sensitive eye.

While newspapers carried big advertisements of the mainstream multistarrers, the Amol Palekar-Zarina Wahab-Shreeram Lagoo film could only manage a single column insertion on most days of the week in the film advertisement pages of the popular daily Patriot . Interestingly, Urdu dailies like Partap and Milap carried the same advertisement in two columns, probably saying something about the target audience for the film. For weeks on end, the advertisement was repeated with only nominal changes. For instance, if at one time, the exhibitors wooed cinegoers with Gulzar’s lyrics “Ek akeyla is shahar mein”, at another they called it “a realistic romance in urban India”. At others, they simply focussed on the understated appeal of the lead pair. Mattered not a bit as “Gharonda” attracted cinegoers in great numbers. It celebrated 50 days, at the box office, before marching ahead to complete 100 days too. That was the stuff of dreams. No big stars –– Amol Palekar and Zarina Wahab were fine actors but no stars –– no big director or music director –– both Bhimsain and Jaidev were masters of their craft but were probably destined to live under the shadow of bigger names of their generation. Yet many wove their dreams with “Gharaonda” –– young men on their Lambretta, women in their first bellbottoms headed to its shows.

But honestly, “Gharaonda” was anything but a dream. A scathing take on the problems of urbanisation, Bhimsain’s film starts off as a sweet love story where romance blooms between an affable man and a fetching young woman working together. They plan to settle down soon. There is that little question of a nest though giving Gulzar a wonderful opportunity to pen lines like “Do deewane shaher mein aboodana dhoondte hain”. The usage of the word “aboodaana” meaning water and grain, is an apt choice for a young couple looking for home and hearth.

They need a place of their own before getting married and soon realise that urban dwellings do not come easy. So, like the proverbial middle class couple they save every penny and put it all for a flat which is coming up. The problem is, and this is where modern day couples will find an echo, the flat never comes up. The builder dupes them of their money leaving them stranded. Not a place to call their own, nothing in the bank, not a penny in their pocket. So far so good. It is at this point that the film takes an unexpected turn with the still single hero suggesting to the heroine to get married to a rich old man, and wait for his innings to end shortly before the two of them get married. A little contrived but this is where Zarina’s speaking eyes come into play. She holds her own as old man Lagoo’s wife, nursing him back to life and health. Amol, meanwhile, is a picture of restraint as he alternates between simmering anger and plain hurt as the man waiting for his beloved to walk out of the nuptial match he himself suggested.

The story proceeds ever so slowly, just like you build a house, slowly, brick by brick. Once ready, “Gharaonda” gleams as afresh little apartment Bhimsain can own up with pride. But it was as much as Bhimsain as the lead trio –– Zarina, Lagoo and Amol, in that order, invest their roles with an easy identifiability and refrain from overstatements with ease.`

So “Gharaonda” was all about middle class dreams made personably by the director and lead artists? No, There was more. That was Bhupinder’s voice. His slipped into the character of Amol in two of the best songs of his well dotted career. “Ek akeyal iss shaher mein” and “Do Deewana shaher main” are two gems. Hardly surprising, that post “Gharaonda” Bhupinder went on to have a successful innings as the voice of an urban middle class hero with hits like “Masoom”, “Ahista-Ahista” and “Aitbaar”, etc. Then there was the Jaidev-Gulzar duo in sparkling form. Incidentally, Gulzar’s words “jeene ki wajah to koi nahin, marne ka bahana dhoondta hai….ek akela iss shaher mein” found a reflection in spirit with Shehryaar’s “Seene mein jalan aankhon mein toofan sa kyun hai, is shaher mein har shakhs pareshan sa kyun hai” a little later in “Gaman”.

With all these little buds, little twigs, “Gharaonda” remains a wonderful treat for lonely afternoons, silent nights. Fine, but what about the cinemas of the ’70s? Well, Kamal shut shop many summers ago, Chanderlok a few years back. And Ritz? It has had a stop-start innings too. “Gharoanda” though is for all seasons.

Genre : Social drama

Director : Bhimsain

Cast : Amol Palekar, Zarina Wahab, Shreeram Lagoo, Jalal Aga, Dina Pathak, Sadhu Meher

Story : Dr. Shanker Shesh

Screenplay and lyrics : Gulzar

Dialogue : Gulzar and Bhushan Banmali

Music director : Jaidev

Box office status : Hit


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