This one was for me Guru Dutt’s less interesting films. In my teens I just couldn’t warm up to it as I had for Pyaasa, Kaagaz ke Phool or Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam or for that matter even Aar-Paar. Although nearly everybody loves the title song, even that didn’t much to me. All this changed completely when I read Cory Creekmur’s notes on the film on Philip Lutgendorf’s site. I cursed myself for being blind and re-watched it. One thing is to be said of it: this film created more waves of contradictions in my heart than any other film ever has.
The film begins with a song singing paeans of glory of Lucknow and showing its wonderful architecture or what was to be seen through this shoddy print.
We learn that Pyare mia (Rehman), Shaiza (Johny Walker) and Aslam (Guru Dutt) are fast friends. Aslam is an orphan and Pyare’s family brought him up and got him started with his business. Shaiza’s father is a police inspector and not at all impressed by his son’s antics. He reminds me at times of Bertie Wooster’s friends.
During one of their strolls Pyare gets a glimpse of a lady’s face (Waheeda Rehman), who is wearing a burkaah and falls in love with her and is dead intent at marrying her.
His mother though has other plans for him. Due to her ill health she can’t go on Haj, but the religion allows sending somebody else instead of her and she gets the merit of it. The maulvi, whom she has chosen for the task is reluctant to go since he has a young daughter of marriageable age. She, the mother, promises that she will get the marriage arranged and thinks of Pyare, who in turn pushes this duty on to Aslam, who readily agrees.
Aslam’s wife is Jamila, the mystery lady! Since Aslam has not seen her, he doesn’t know that it the same lady, whom his friend craves for.
By accident he learns that his friend’s object of desire is his wife. Meanwhile Pyare’s marriage is settled with Aslam’s cousin, who he thinks is his beloved.
So what happens with this comedy, sorry tragedy of errors? Who gets the girl?
I don’t know what to make of this film.
On one hand you have this wonderful bromance Aslam-Pyare. You have to see the looks, which Aslam gives Pyaremia!
And then you have lots of Sitagiri. One would think it is out of place in a muslim-social. No, Sitagiri knows no such boundaries. It makes one feel like going and banging one’s head against the wall.
Women are treated as mere accessories to men’s lives. When Aslam trying to get counsel from his wife on their love triangle. He gives the example of two friends, one of whom covets a gem and the other has found it and regards it as his. His question: should he give the gem to his friend? Jamila thinking that the gem is meant as a gem asks him to ‘return’ it.
It is the purdah system, which is the main protagonist of the story. It is which creates the whole misunderstanding. I thought at the beginning, this would be a scathing criticism of a society, which bars men and women from freely communicating with each other. My hope lay in the fact that all the three friends are shown not to be so particular about purdah, mostly Aslam, since he always jokes of showing Jamila off to his friends.
In the end when Pyare has committed suicide and asked Aslam to let the secret remain a secret, the latter goes and closes his wife’s face with the niqab. I was schocked!
Lata Mangeshkar sings for the first and last time for Guru Dutt Film Produtions
Geeta Dutt has only one song, a background song at that. Starting with this movie she stops singing for Waheeda Rehman.
Conclusion: good art, bad story