Phir se aayee…

I just saw Namkeen, a film I hadn’t previously seen, and nor had I heard any of its songs. The highlight was undoubtedly “Phir se aaiyo, badariya bidesi,” a song of heartbreaking loveliness. Asha and R.D. Burman suffuse this song with great longing as well as restraint (the latter embodied in Asha’s low vocal ranges here); this has to be one of the best songs from the 1980s that I’ve encountered — it is simply bewitching:

In both Namkeen and Mausam, Gulzar uses the somewhat discomfiting trope of the woman/women who need rescue, and can’t be free unless and until saved by a man; that is hardly new, but in both films Gulzar also features the empathetic male figure who seems to be culpable precisely because of his engagement with the women stuck in a horrible situation; this commitment is in fact what enables him to be a traitor of sorts, to enable irreparable injury out of feebleness. The result isn’t entirely satisfying, but perhaps Gulzar is best appreciated as an evoker of mood, of a nameless melancholia that pervades so many of his films: I don’t find it the most successful aesthetic when married to the figure of the lost woman, but transplanted to the terrain of a ruined city — the Mandu of Kinara — it works a quiet magic.

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4 Responses to “Phir se aayee…”

  1. Insightful piece though I personally won’t call this trope ‘discomfiting’.
    the ‘empathetic male figures’ cap/culpability (lack thereof) is crucial to this world-wherein ‘less is more’ thus explaining the aptness of Sanjeev kr.
    Incidentally I find Shabana awards Azmis & Saifs mom over rated.

    Theres an element of melancholy also manifest in ‘lekin’…

    Hope to catch the highway soon to explore the trope–

    ‘In bondage, she found freedom’…

  2. Namkeen was a beautiful movie and Sanjeev Kumar’s interaction with the 3 ladies and their mother was interesting. Simple but effective. I dont remember the songs that well, But I remember the bond between the sisters and Sanjeev Kumar. I have to revisit the movie and it is one of the movies worth revisiting. So many talented actors in one film.

  3. Two comments from a reader of this blog:

    “I love that movie and yes that song is lovely. The other songs are also very nice. It’s truly a very moving film. I love one of the last scenes when Sanjeev Kumar sees Kiran Vairale in that song ‘Aisa laga jaise surma najarma’ and he lectures her and the way Kiran Vairale responds to him. The whole dead end, going nowhere kind of feel to the whole household is depicted so well in the movie.”

    &

    “I read what you wrote in your blog and it’s so true that in both Mausam and Namkeen, the men do irreparable damage by their actions or the lack of them so to speak. In fact in Namkeen, one is left wondering if only Sanjeev Kumar had never stumbled upon this household! I felt Mausam had some lighter moments in it but Namkeen right from the beginning gives off this air of hopelessness! Also, I didn’t get the same idea of man as the rescuer in Namkeen the way I got it in Mausam. Because in a way, I always felt that even if Sanjeev Kumar had stayed behind with Sharmila Tagore, so what? What would that do for Shabana Azmi (who’s in love with him and who is living with a handicap in a place where she has no outlets) or for Kiran Vairale (who seems to be suffocated by the place she lives in) or Sharmila Tagore (whose life has been at a standstill for years). Anyway, it’s definitely one of my favorite Gulzar films even if I do have a slightly greater weakness for Mausam.”

  4. Gulzar is one of my favourite people in the industry – I love just about everything he’s done so was happy to see this post. I really like Namkeen a lot (though it would be in my top 5, Gulzar movies, but that’s just a reflection of the extent to which I appreciate his cinema).

    Enjoyed reading your thoughts, as always. And am gonna check out Queen too – thanks for the post on that.

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