The Paheli of Duvidha

I don’t know what had become of me. But I was direly seeking refuge. Refuge from the subterfuge and terror surrounding me. And so that I could escape from this terror, I decided to watch horror. Horror movies I mean 😛  That was when I first came across ‘Duvidha‘. I was careful not to read the spoilers but from whatever little I could fathom, it had the makings of a good psychological horror ala “The Tenant” or “The Haunting”. I was sold.


[SPOILER ALERT] The story is purportedly about a ghost impersonating a newly-wed groom to cohabit with his bride in his absence (which is for 4-5 long years). This ghost however, is conscientious and he discloses his identity upfront to the bride; so that whatever follows is with her full consent. As expected, things get tricky when the bride returns to his now pregnant wife about to deliver. His family takes him for an imposter and it is finally left to the local shepherd to trap the ghost and render justice. The concluding scene shows the bride sitting with her back toward a waiting husband and cradling the newborn. This was the scariest it got to. [SPOILER ALERT OFF]

The movie was later remade into Paheli by Amol Palekar with SRK reprising the role of the groom/ghost and Rani Mukherji playing the bride. The climax was also altered to make it more conclusive/decisive. I love anything by Amol Palekar but I’m not particularly fond of SRK, if you can take the hint. One SRK is hard enough to handle and here I had two. More than a handful. As WG Grace might have said – If the movie has SRK, give it a miss. If you have doubts, think for a while and give it a miss. If you have still graver doubts, consult a colleague and then give it a miss ! And so a miss it was.


But I digress. Back to ‘Duvidha’. There are quite a few things remarkable about the movie. This was the 2nd of Mani Kaul’s (MK) many movies and made probably sometime in 1972, a time when storytelling in Bollywood wasn’t without a pall of inhibitions. Therefore, in-spite of his bold championing of contemporary issues, MK probably felt comfortable relating the story in form of a parable. No macabre, scary, disturbing, or erotic content. And that’s a huge plus. It makes the movie suitable for all age groups and audiences. For the innocent moviegoer, it is just another Rajasthani folk tale and yet it has more than its share of “food for thought” for someone looking to ruminate at the larger issues of Life. The other thing is the story is enacted in a very dispassionate manner, almost as if a case was being discussed before a learned court that’s actually learned ! Now any movie-lover worth his salt knows that cultivated expressionless-ism isn’t the same as being expressionless by default. The characters do very little talking. Add to that the white confines of limestone buildings that are so typical of Rajasthan, and you have a very unique method of storytelling.

Clearly, this was a movie ahead of its times. Under the garb of the ghost parable, MK wanted to highlight other issues including (but not limited to) ‘Marriage of Convenience’ and by extension ‘Workplace Romance’. If partners are physically separated, is it okay to latch onto someone else especially if s/he is to one’s liking ? Afterall carnal desires had better be taken care of in their own good time, failure of which might have other ramifications harder to deal with. And if duration of time spent were the yardstick, wouldn’t all workplace romances be legit ? Again if mutual liking is justification enough, isn’t it kinda hard on the fist guy ? Afterall he’s the one who’s got married and he’s the one who’s sacrificing his desires at the altar of his father’s whims and directives. Is that why societal justice (in this case ‘Gadariya’ justice) sides with him ? And what about the Compensation (in this case 5 gold coins paid daily to the groom’s father) paid to the guardian/overseer to keep attention diverted ? Can one buy his way into an otherwise forbidden liaison and thereby reduce his guilt ?

Funny thing is – on the crossroads of Life, one can find oneself in shoes of any of the 3 lead characters; possibly even two during Lifetime. The obedient son, the deprived ghost or the bride who must have what she must have, this way or the other. I haven’t read the book by Vijayadan Detha (on which both the movies are based) but MK has very cleverly chosen to have an open ended climax (apologies if this sounds like double entendre. It’s not meant to !)

I fancy answers to these questions would have been different back then compared to what they may be now. They invariably are !


Of Amnesia & Music

Amnesia isn’t such a bad thing. At least it gives you a chance to revisit and enjoy your favorite artists, musicians and writers over and over again ! Especially if you have already exhausted your favorites and crave for even more.

Come Diwali, I found myself cursing my neighbourhood. They had been tormenting me for a month now with their blaring loudspeakers. Not one or two but three-four speakers working in tandem from different directions. The cacophony was more than I could bear and there was just too much commotion out on the streets to merit any thoughts of going out. The dilemma was killing me. I couldn’t go out and I couldn’t stay in. After much deliberation, I decided to stay put and insulate my self from the loudspeakers by sealing my apartment.

Just I was about to draw the last curtain, a faint fleeting piece of music entered my ears. I could hardly make out the words – Ae raat tomar aamar….oi chaand tomar aamaar, shudu dujoner…. followed by one of those trademark whistles that needed no identification for me. Something as uneasily haunting as this could only be made by Hemant Kumar !

Now, I am a sucker for anything by HemantDa. And this was more than anything. A bit of googling was all it took to identify the tune – “Ae raat tomar aamar” from the Bengali movie “Deep Jwele Jai“, the film that was later remade into the monster called Khamoshi. The tune itself was used in a Hindi Song “Yeh Nayan Dare Dare” in the movie Kohraa, which in turn was a remake of Rebecca. I had watched the movie a couple of decades ago but remembered very little, if at all anything. And so it was that my amnesia became a blessing in disguise as I set out to rewatch the movie and revisit the tune.

Kohraa explores more of the genre that was so successfully created in Bees Saal Baad, except that it just doesnt come out so good. The movie is typical of HemantDa’s style. Gothic backgrounds, wide scapes, mountains-trees-and-seas all rolled into one and tastefully shot footage showing nature in all its glory. Scenes of dark, gloom and foreboding cleverly alternated with sunshine and light to maximise the element of suspense and horror. They had even altered the climax to make it more palatable to Indian audiences. However, HemantDa’s contribution is a lot slashed here in terms of the musical input. He has two solos – the introductory Rah Bani Khud Manzil and Yeh Nayan Dare Dare – the object of my pursuit. The other song “Jhoom jhoom dhalti raat ” is the supposed equivalent to “Kahin deep jale kahin dil” in “Bees Saal Baad“. Its a song with a lot of wasted potential. Wasted since it falls short of being the theme music for the movie the way “Kahin deep jale kahin dil” was for “Bees Saal Baad“.

The movie was but of little interest to me. I was more keen on the Hindi rendition of “Ae raat tomar aamar“. Shot in tete-a-tete style, the song shows Waheeda Rehman play that elusive combination of stunning beauty, coyness and mischievous playfulness – a trait I haven’t seen any actress emulate ever after. But the mood is that of an unsettled wife being assuaged by a loving husband. To me it somehow didn’t go down well with the tune. Neither did the lyrics – “Main maan bhi loon kabhi haar, tu maane na….”. But who cares ! I got another piece of HemantDa’s haunting melodies to relive and I’m not complaining. One of these days I’m gonna die of overdose.

I love my Mukesh and I love my Kishore. They make music worth dying for. And yet if you must breathe life into a soul-less corpse, nothing but HemantDa’s tunes can do it for you !!