Tapasya (1976)

January 08, 2015 04:35 pm | Updated 04:37 pm IST

Actor Rakhee in Tapasya

Actor Rakhee in Tapasya

For Rakhee Gulzar (her name as it appears in the credits of the film), 1976 was a bumper year, as two of her films, the Yash Chopra opus, “Kabhie Kabhie” and “Tapasya”, produced by the formidable Tarachand Barjatya under his illustrious banner, Rajshri Productions, were acclaimed critically, and also did exceptionally well at the box-office. While “Kabhie Kabhie” had Rakhee pitted against an impressive array of top rung actors, in “Tapasya” she had the entire script woven around her character of Indrani Sinha, which she portrayed with amazing restraint and conviction.

Seen from a different perspective, it was a calculated risk for Rakhee, as the role required her to be shown in a mature, somewhat middle aged role at some point in the story, although she was not even 30 years in 1976. In a way, it set her on the path of similar roles, which were way above her age, a case in point being the character of Amitabh Bachan’s mother in the Ramesh Sippy directed “Shakti”, released in 1982.

As for “Tapasya”, the film had all the trappings of a typical Rajshri film, a low budget, a family-centric story, wholesome and clean entertainment, good music, assiduous direction and competent acting by the ensemble cast. Later day film aficionados who swear by the success of “Maine Pyar Kiya” and “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun” can soak in the rich legacy of films that the banner has spawned over the decades.

The story by Ashapurna Devi, is one of the favourites in Bollywood and works on the premise of sacrifice of the self over larger interests of the family. Thus, we have Indrani Sinha, eldest daughter of an ailing professor, Chandrakant Sinha (AK Hangal), caring for her father and three younger siblings. The college going Indu (as Indrani is fondly called) and the ailing professor’s doctor, Sagar Verma (Parikshat Sahni) fall in love, and just when Indu goes to Sagar’s house to meet his mother (Lalita Pawar), disaster strikes.

Tapasya (1976)Genre: Social drama Director: Anil Ganguly Cast: Rakhee, Parikshat Sahni, Asrani, A.K. Hangal, Gayatri, Nazir Hussain, Manju Bhatia, Om Shivpuri, Sunder, Viju Khote, Lalita Pawar, Manju Asrani, Urmila Bhatt, C.S. Dubey Story: Ashapurna Devi Screenplay: Anil Ganguly Dialogue and lyrics: M.G. Hashmat Music Director: Ravindra Jain Box office status: Hit Trivia: Won the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment

Chandrakant Sinha bids adieu to the world, leaving the responsibility of his three younger children on the shoulders of Indu, who takes the selfless decision of not getting married. In the midst of heart tugging drama and poignancy, she spurns Sagar’s proposal for marriage, even though he offers to take the three siblings to his house and care for them. Her decision is moulded to a certain extent by Sagar’s mother’s belief that being saddled with her family’s responsibility, Indu might be unable to fulfil her commitments as a wife and daughter-in- law.

To make ends meet and take care of her siblings, Vinod (Asrani), Madhu and Chanda, Indu leaves her studies and starts a school on the advice of her father’s colleague (Nazir Hussain). The first sign of dissent in the house surfaces when Vinod is exhorted to leave his house by his prospective father-in-law (Om-Shivpuri) in lieu of a good job. After the marriage, Vinod and his wife, Pinky comes to Indu’s house to attend a function. During the course of song and dance, an irritated Pinky (Manju Asrani), has an altercation, first with Madhu and Chanda, which results in an escalation of tension, at the end of which Indu slaps Vinod for offending Sagar.

A chastised and hurt Sagar decides to stop meeting Indu, and leaves on a pilgrimage with his mother. In his absence, Indu concludes the marriage of her two sisters. Thereon, she decides to leave her house for a sabbatical, but in the nick of time Vinod and Pinky come, with Pinky atoning for her prudishness. With everything settled, the only question is the outcome of Indu’s sacrifice and Sagar’s wait?

Of the cast, Asrani is a revelation. One cannot but rue the penchant of Bollywood to typecast brilliant and versatile actors into silos which they are unable to break again. Parikshat Sahni, in a restrained portrayal that suits his limited histrionic prowess, is ideal opposite Rakhee. Rest of the character actors, including Hangal, Lalita Pawar and Nazir Hussain are competent in their roles.

Certainly, Anil Ganguly, who donned the director’s hat and wrote the screenplay as well, was instrumental in the kudos earned by the film, which won the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment for the year, in addition to the Filmfare Best Actress trophy for Rakhee. Ganguly was able to extract a scintillating music score from composer Ravindra Jain, especially the exemplary Kishore Kumar track “Jo raah chuni tune” (which runs through the entire film as part of the storytelling experience). Other tracks are the hummable “Do panchi do tinke” (Kishore Kumar and Aarti Mulherjee) and “Bhabhi ki unglee” (Hemlata and Chandrani Mukherjee). Indeed, lyrics (as also dialogues) by M.G. Hashmat are nothing but the highest level of poetry.

Technically, the film could have been better in terms of art direction (Kartick Bose) and cinematography (Dilip Ranjan Mukhopadhyay). Although running time of the film is just over two hours, at times the pace is a tad slow. A better tempo could have been maintained by the editor Mukhtar Ahmed.

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