Blast from the past Friday Review

Footpath (1953)

Dilip Kumar.  

Dilip Kumar excelled in method acting. His refined underplaying in films like “Andaz”, “Aan”, “Jogan”, “Daag” and “Babul” won him high praise. Low pitched modulated dialogue delivery, heart-touching expressions and perfect use of the right arm were his acting hallmarks. “Footpath” where he played a tragic, romantic image with shades of anti-hero showcased his talents at their best.

Nashu (Dilip Kumar) is an idealist educated youth who writes for a small daily run by Ghosh Babu. His elder brother Bani (Romesh Thapar) and sister-in- law Meena (Achla Sachdev) live with Nashu who loves Mala (Meena Kumari) and both support each other’s views.

Times change and Nashu falls on bad days making it difficult for him to earn an honest living. Though Bani sympathizes with his brother, his sister-in-law does not. Conflicts start in the family and Nashu has to bear a lot of humiliation. Out of sheer desperation he opts for the path of crime and black-marketing.

With Nashu taking to crime the story takes a dramatic twist. He becomes the most trusted associate of Ram Babu (Anwar Hussain). Plunging into the world of evil, Nashu starts earning a lot. He adopts the motto “success at any cost”. Being aware of this Mala maintains a distance from him. Bani’s heart bleeds in grief and with poverty gripping him, his comfort loving wife Meena deserts him.

At a juncture when Nashu has almost sold his soul to criminals, he receives the news of his beloved elder brother Bani’s death. Nashu breaks down in agony. He reaches Ghosh Babu and asks him to expose the entire black-marketing racket he works for. Nashu also confesses to Mala, he is solely responsible for degrading himself. “Han main bahut gira hua insaan hun,” he admits.

In an excellent climax, “Footpath” has Nashu surrendering at the police station and admitting his anti-social and criminal activities. Receiving all required information from him, police arrest the main criminals. Nashu is united with Mala.

A taut screenplay and meaningful dialogues penned by Zia Sarhadi make “Footpath” a truly memorable film. Sarhadi showed a lot of promise and eye for detail. The sequences shot indoors as well as in the black-marketing den shot in natural light sans cinematic jugglery by N. Raiaram are really convincing. However there are flaws in characterization. Some of the characters who appear as criminals do not appear realistic. One is unable to fathom if Nashu sings “Shyam-e Gham-Ki Qasam” remembering Bani or Mala.

Dilip Kumar delivers one of his outstanding performances as Nashu. As he breaks down, “Bani uh Nashu a gaya re,” he does not use of glycerin. In fact, unable to get into the mood for the sequence, Dilip Kumar opted to play cricket at Brabourne stadium. After batting for a while he called the director, came on the sets and gave the shot in one take. His questioning look to Meena Kumari is a lesson in acting.

Meena Kumari performs very convincingly matching Dilip Kumar’s intensity in every scene. She never appears vulgar during her bathing scene. Romesh Thapar is restrained and Achla Sachdev tries hard to appear heartless. Anwar Hussain does not impress too much. The other actors are just adequate.


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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 11:03:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/footpath-1953/article8000805.ece

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