Blast from the past Friday Review

Nadaan (1971)

Navin Nischol   | Photo Credit: HINDU ARCHIVES

For Deven Verma, the veteran Bollywood actor, celebrated for his comic timing and poker-faced humour, this was the first of the four films he was to direct in his long career which was mostly in front of the camera. And despite some hiccups in the screenplay (penned by Verma himself), the film went on to become one of the biggest hits of the year – pitted against some serious competition. Perhaps, it was a hangover of the film making style prevalent till the late sixties, and in some cases the early seventies, which helped it crack the complex box-office code.

Verma managed to infuse the screenplay with some compelling moments, whose impact was exacerbated by high tension dialogues written by Akhtar-Ul-Iman, although the script has some lacklustre sidetracks in the form of comic interludes attempted by Asit Sen (Bhola Shankar) and Sunder (Sunder Lal) –– completely avoidable as they added unnecessary length to the film without eliciting any laughter. The only comic track which seems viable and encouraging is the one played by Verma himself (Vicky lawyer).

The story moves through a fair number of twists and turns, commencing in a village where Ranjana (Nirupa Roy) is duped by the lascivious landlord, who, after making her pregnant tries to kill her. In the ensuing tussle, the landlord loses his balance and falls to his death in a ravine, leaving Ranjana to face the charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and a seven year jail sentence. Before going behind bars, she disowns her new born son, who is taken up for adoption by an estate owner, Ramprasad Jain.

After her sentence is over, Ranjana is assisted by the kind hearted jailor to get the job of a caretaker for the small daughter, Seema (Asha Parekh) in the estate of another landlord (AK Hangal). However, the two families are at loggerheads from a long running blood feud, a rivalry which takes the life of Hangal. After this debacle, Ranjana assumes the title of Ranimaa and lords over her estate with an iron fist, often brutally, in front of Seema.

It is indeed heartbreaking to see Parekh act as a caricature of her glorious self –– donning funny, misfit attire and open, weird hair –– in the role of a spoilt brat, shouting crazily in high decibel grunts. Instead, she ends up looking like a child with special needs for most part of the film. Her graceful moves and aesthetic dancing are all missing, jolting her fans. It is only in second half of the film that one gets to see a glimpse of her true self. Certainly, not one of her memorable performances!

On the other hand, Ajay Jain (Navin Nischol) uses welfare measures to win the goodwill of workers, like distributing free blankets, providing them with better accommodation and increasing their salary. During this period, his parents take a decision to get him married to Rita Saxena (Helen, who, predictably is shown as a highly westernised danseuse and the daughter of a rich landlord). By this time Ajay and Seema are already hooked in a bond of love, which makes Ajay make a concerted effort to bury the animosity between the two families which is repeatedly thwarted by Manghu (Madan Puri) who is aware of the dubious past associated with Ranimaa.

The film, shot in locales in Dalhousie by cinematographer Anwar Siraj, has some breathtaking visuals which make it a pleasure to watch. However, art direction by K. Baburao, although well executed in keeping with the times, could have been a notch higher. Editing by Subash Gupta and Khan Zaman Khan is quite polished, let down only by speed breakers of screenplay.

Of the cast, Navin Nischol looks fresh and dapper as the heir to an affluent estate. He gets under the skin of his character with consummate ease. It is indeed a pity that despite some noteworthy performances he never managed to reach the pinnacle which he justifiably deserved.

Helen, in dance sequences is full of grace and verve. However, it is tragic that filmmakers could never see beyond her dancing skills and Westernised looks. As for the support cast, Nirupa Roy, Madan Puri, Sulochana and others, they seem to be entangled in a time warp and are unable to contribute to the film in any substantial way.

The musical score was disappointing. With veterans like Shankar-Jaikishen and Hasrat Jaipuri at the helm, one surely expected a slew of chart-busters, which, unfortunately, are missing.

Genre: Romantic drama

Director: Deven Verma

Cast: Asha Parekh, A.K. Hangal, Navin Nischal, Helen, Madan Puri, Nirupa Roy, Asit Sen, Sunder, Deven Verma, Jairaj, Bela Bose, Karan Dewan

Screenplay: Deven Verma

Dialogue: Akhtar-ul-Iman

Lyrics: Hasrat-Jaipuri

Music: Shanker-Jaikishan

Box office status: Hit


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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 12:40:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/nadaan-1971/article8447448.ece

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