Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Lala Kedarnath was a joyous man, celebrating his success and singing to his lady love Aye Meri Zohrajabeen. He was a self-made man who never believed in astrologers or predictions; and making it on his own was one of the reasons for his pompous party. But little did he know that destiny had other plans for him.
Soon after the song and dance, a massive earthquake shook Lala Kedarnath off his feet. The entire town was in chaos, and a stampede took place. With people running helter-skelter in search of safety, his entire family was separated from each other. This was the grand premise of the movie Waqt. A premise that soon became a formula for many a lost-and-found movies. Not just that, Waqt was also one of the first multi-starrers. Manmohan Desai mastered this genre and made a name for himself, but much before him, it was Yash Chopra who provided the template for Naseeb, Amar-Akbar-Anthony, Suhaag etc.
The movie had a vast scale at the production level itself. Yashraj’s elder brother Balraj Chopra, wanted to cast Prithviraj Kapoor and his 3 sons in the movie. But Yash was quick to point out that the audience would easily recognize the three brothers and then the movie would just be a matter of ‘when’ , rather than ‘how’ the entire family comes together. After much thought, Balraj Sahni was cast as Lalaji. And only Shashi Kapoor stayed on from the original casting, owing to his previous performance in Dharamputra which was also directed by Yash Chopra. He played the role of the youngest brother Munna who grows up to become Vijay. Rajkumar entered the scene and was cast as the eldest of the 3 brothers, Raju who becomes Raja. Sunil Dutt was cast in the movie due to his previous association with BR Films, and of course his acting skills. He played the middle brother, Bablu who becomes Ravi, who is older than Vijay but younger than Raja.
Although the movie was already getting bigger in grandeur, the Chopras went ahead and signed the biggest actresses and the most beautiful faces for the female leads. There was Sharmila[as Renu] opposite Shashi, earlier she had starred opposite Shammi in An Evening In Paris; Sadhna [as Meena] was cast opposite Sunil Dutt.
Back to the story, when the 3 brothers were separated, Munna being a toddler was in his mother’s arms. So, he grew up with his mother, in abject poverty. Munna wasn’t able to pay for his education while Bablu went to vilayat to study law. Blame it on luck! Munna even takes up driving to eke out a living.
Ravi was adopted by a rich family while Raja ends up with the anti-social elements. While Vijay lives an impoverished life, his brother Ravi and Raja have a lavish lifestyle. This was one of the first movies which celebrated opulence. Chopras did not shy away from showing people from higher strata of society indulging themselves. Ravi’s family while away their time in clubs and holiday spots, they swim and play badminton. All this was being picturised when socialism was at its peak and film makers shied away from showing richness.
But Chopras were always liberal, traditional but liberal. And here in this movie, we see the prototype of Rahul/Raj’s character in Ravi. He was the kind of guy who could sweep women off their feet with his smooth talk and suave style. His ‘gul-e-gulzar, jaan-e-bahaar, toofan-e-humdum‘ was an oft repeated phrase for addressing his lady love. Ravi is a nonchalant guy with no hang-ups, and he handles life with ease. He forgets about the party that his family has hosted to celebrate his becoming a barrister and is instead found fishing in the blue waters and under the blue sky soaking some sun; there was a similar scene in DDLJ where SRK forgets about the valedictory function. Ravi also indulges in a car race with Raja to woo the woman with speed and machismo. He loses the race and still walks off with the heroine, very graciously. Ravi was the ‘cool dude Rahul’ of those times.
Interestingly, the sript-writers also managed to squeeze in a love triangle here, in an already formulaic setting. Raja’s affection for Meena is more than obvious by his overtures. And in a classic sequence, to showcase that his love will not bloom, Raja gives a buoquet to Meena at the airport, Meena gives that buoquet to Ravi as she welcomes him back home, Meena introduces Ravi to Raja and in a flash Ravi gifts that buoquet back to Raja to mark the start of their friendship.
The movie had some really romantic moments, again a first for the silver-screen was the locker room conversation after a swim, and the sweet-nothings exchanged between Ravi and Meena which were brow raising for those days. Sadhna was so sexy and comfortable in the bikini, and Sunil Dutt in his boxers was a hunk; both singing Hum Jab Simat Ke Aap Ki Baahon Mei Aa Gaye. The two get so cosy that we become uncomfortable after a point. But that’s how Yash Chopra shoots lovey-dovey scenes, he gets into the moment and captures it so well. Its never vulgar, just sensual; this is one of his trademarks.
Fantastic composition by Ravi and lovely lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi to express the closeness of the couple. The movie had good hummable music. There was another beautiful song Din Hain Bahar Ke that was filmed on Shashi and Sharmila. Both songs were sung by the duo Asha Bhonsle and Mahendra Kapoor. The album is an Asha Bhonsle special, as she has leant her voice to 4 of the 6 songs. Kaun Aaya Ki Nigaahon Mei Chamak Jaag Uthhi sung by Asha and the title song still rings in our ears, Aage Bhi Jaane Na Tu. Manna Dey has of course, immortalised the song Aye Meri Zohrajabeen. Yashji’s keen sense of music is another notable feature. All his movies had great music and meaningful lyrics.
Great directors etch memorable characters and Raja was one of them, created so well by Yashji. He gave the character an edge and made him stand out. Rajkumar walked away with the meatiest role and all the accolades. Who can forget the ‘Chinoy Seth, jinke apne ghar sheeshe ke hon woh doosron par pathar nahi phenka karte‘ or even the line ‘yeh bachchon ke khelne ki cheez nahin, haath kat jaye to khoon nikal aata hai‘. He had a heart of gold but his hands were blackened with illegal deeds, his suit was clean but his job was dirty, his words were harsh but his mannerisms were soft, Raja was a character immersed in gray.
In a scene of passion and desperation, Raja is shown trying to murder Ravi and thereby remove the thorn and pluck the rosebud Meena. Many years later, this particular love triangle gave rise to Darr where SRK played out Raja’s character of an obsessive person wallowed in one-sided love.
In comparison, Vijay’s life was much more simpler than Ravi and Raja’s. He was poor and so he had very limited choices in life. Renu loved him, but then love is the propriety of the rich who can indulge in such luxuries. Vijay always took it that, he was born to serve and work his way up in life. His priorities were clear, his ailing mother and his incomplete education was to be taken care of.
How the trio’s life shapes-up and what kind of situations they face as they cross paths many a times, unbeknownst to themselves of their kinship, is interesting. Multi-starrer, lost-and-found, love triangle, and if all this was not enough, they even added a murder mystery and a court-room drama in this magnum-opus. In a twist of fate, Raja is prime accused in a murder and Lalaji gets him arrested while he was trying to flee from the scene of crime, Vijay became the key witness and implicated Raja and Ravi defends Raja in the court. Such was the whirlwind story and screenplay, that inspite of being long it keeps you hooked.
The court-room proceedings flouted all norms of legal procedure, but it did make for a thrilling watch. The manner in which Ravi tries to sway the jury and the strange ways that he adopts to establish Raja’s innocence was fresh and filmy. What Yashji did in Waqt, inspired Subhash Ghai to do the same in Meri Jung.
Be it the love sequences or the brotherly affection or the scene of the murder or the court-room setup, everything was perfect. The setting was great, music was good and acting was awesome. The movie won 5 Filmfare awards – Best Director, Best Story, Best Dialogue [Akhtar Ul Iman], Best Supporting Actor [Rajkumar] and Best Cinematographer [Dharam Chopra]. Only Sadhna lost out on the Best Actress award which went to Meena Kumari for Kaajal; and rightly so.
Yashi ji took the story written by Akhtar Mirza to a different level with the casting and direction. It isn’t an easy job to handle so many stars and give them all meaningful roles to play. But Yashji was excellent at that. He managed to give justified screen time to all characters, big or small. This is reflected even in his later works. And he always believed in casting mature and good actors, one of the reasons being that, with mature actors even a simple scene looks great. Actors like Sunil Dutt, Rajkumar, Balraj Sahni etc lent credibility to the character, they made it look believable. After 180 + mins of laughing, crying, romancing, singing and dancing, the entire family finally re-unites and the film ends on a happy note.
“There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be…”
This post was also published on MadAboutMoviez