Blast from the Past Friday Review

Seema (1971)

Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner Gulzar. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty  

Nutan as Seema was a rebel. The gifted actor matched the genius of Balraj Sahni and gave a sterling performance in a movie that still appeals for its music and story. Sixteen years later, “Seema” made an appearance again. But this time, the protagonist was timid and a slave of superstitions, an anti-thesis of the character that Nutan portrayed. The original Seema would not hesitate to thrash someone to prove her point. But this Seema, played so elegantly by Simi Garewal, would not hurt a fly. Nutan’s Seema was unglamorous. Not the one that Simi brought to life.

One is not attempting to analyse the acting skills of Nutan and Simi. Or their cinematic appeal. Nutan dominated an era when male actors were far more in demand. Simi was part of a transition phase when woman-centric movies had begun to appeal to the audience. Simi was exceptional, combining beauty with good acting in “Seema”, lighting up the screen with her graceful presence. Kabir Bedi, with a huge female fan following, was a debonair partner. Simi’s accent was held against her but she gives a brilliant performance. If she earned critical acclaim for her work in “Seema”, she certainly deserved every bit of it.

Genre: Romantic drama
Director: Surendra Mohan
Cast: Simi Garewal, Kabir Bedi, Rakesh Roshan, Bharathi, Abhi Bhattacharya, Sulochana, Raj Mehra, Padma Khanna
Story, Screenplay and Dialogue: Gulzar
Lyrics: Varma Malik, Indivar and Gulzar
Music: Shanker-Jaikishen
Box office status: Hit

Termed a glamorous doll for long, Simi did not disappoint her fans in “Do Badan” and “Saathi”, both award winning acts, “Mera Naam Joker” and “Do Boond Pani” before Seema elevated her status. She could act. And she could deliver dialogues without English accent. Well, Simi had never set out to claim a niche slot. But she had a niche following as one saw in later years when she indulged in television and produced a few documentaries. She was a star and “Seema” proved she was a fine actor too. Many years later “Karz”, opposite Rishi Kapoor, her awe-struck pupil of “Mera Naam Joker”, and the daring Kamala of “Siddhartha”, only reiterated her claims as an actor to reckon with.

This was a role marked for Simi. As a girl who loses her parents early, brought up by a caring uncle (Abhi Bhattacharya), she grows into a complex character. She yearns for affection but then dreads the very thought for she is convinced that death will engulf her loved ones. The loss of parents leaves a scar on her mind. Seema finds herself alone, a friend (Rajni) for company apart from the doting uncle. Seema looks after the orchards but it all seems a burden when Sunil (Bedi) walks into her life and brings about a pleasant change in her attitude.

Sunil is smitten with Seema, who has apprehensions firmly in place. She would not reciprocate his love for the fear that she might lose him. He manages to win her heart and Seema finds the love of her life. They marry at a temple but the superstition returns to shatter her life. Sunil dies in an accident and leaves Seema to bear her child. She gives birth to Banke (Rakesh Roshan) in secrecy since her marriage was not known to the world. Banke is brought up by one of Seema’s maids even as she monitors his movements. Driven by the superstition, she keeps her son away for fear of losing him.

It was Roshan’s second movie and as Banke he did not have much scope in the movie other frolic with Chamki (Bharathi) or try to discover his identity, which he eventually does, thanks to Rajni, who reveals the truth to the world. Banke is her brother’s son. Seema embraces Banke to bury the superstition that her loved ones would be snatched away. The movie, after many melancholic moments, ends on a happy note with Simi towering over the rest with a performance that confirmed she was not just an icon of style but an actor of substance.

Shot in Kulu Valley, “Seema” was Simi all the way, convincing as a lover and later a mother. “Waqt Thoda Sa Abhi Kuch Aur Guzar Jaane De”, a fine duet by Kishore Kumar-Asha Bhosle, and a Suman Kalyanpur gem “Ek Thi Nindiya Do Thay Naina” stand out for their composition. The best, however, is Rafi Saab’s “Jab Bhi Yeh Dil Udaas Hota Hai”. Simi lists this as one of her favourite songs along with “Ek Thi Nindiya….”. “Seema” brought Nutan much acclaim and awards in 1956. Sadly, “Seema” did not fetch Simi any award though she certainly deserved one.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 7:17:51 PM |

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