Amar Prem portrays a pure and selfless form of love which happens to take shape and grow in adverse situations and places.
“History repeats itself”, I’d read somewhere.
I wish if the Golden Era – the finest phase of the Indian Cinema – could repeat itself.
Anyway, by the time this impossible happens, let’s revisit the glorious period of Indian cinema, when frames rolled on the celluloid like sheer poetry.
Amar Prem (1972), starring the first superstar of Indian cinema Rajesh Khanna and ever beautiful Sharmila Tagore, has always been one of my favorite films.
A remake of Bengali film Nishi Padma (1970), Amar Prem portrays a pure and selfless form of love which happens to take shape and grow in adverse situations and places.
Tormented by her husband and his new wife, Pushpa (Sharmila Tagore) is forced to go back to her ailing old mother in her village. While she is about to commit suicide after being disowned by her mother too, a wealthy villager Nepal Babu (Madan Puri) stops her from taking her life. At the pretext of saving her from misery, he takes her to Calcutta and he sells her to a brothel.
Pushpa’s musical voice doesn’t take long to charm the people at the brothel. Drawn by her lilting and melodious voice singing the semi-classical “Raina beeti jaye, shyam na aaye”, Anand Babu (Rajesh Khanna), a successful but lonely businessman who had come to the red light area in a half stupor stumbles in to listen to her.
He takes an instant liking to Pushpa, as her innocence reflects through her clear, lucid voice. Lata Mangeshkar’s rendition of this classical gem which is based largely on Raag Gurjari Todi with suggestions of Raag Lalit went on to become one of the most celebrated compositions of R D Burman.
Love blossoms between Pushpa and Anand Babu as two lonely, neglected individuals find solace in each others’ pain and happiness.
The story takes another turn when Mahesh, who belongs to the same village as Pushpa, moves in to her neighborhood with his second wife and son, Nandu.
Nandu, who is constantly at the receiving end of his step-mother’s ire, develops a bond with Pushpa. The childless Pushpa who never had a fulfilling marriage showers her motherly affection on Nandu, much against the will of Mahesh and his wife. Even Anand Babu becomes fond of Nandu and looks upon him as Pushpa’s son.
The beauty of the film lies in the depiction of pure and selfless love. Nandu, who never got love in home, finds it from a woman who never had a home. He provides her the emotional support when she needs it the most.
Anand Babu has all the luxuries of world at his disposal but still he discovers true love and mental peace with a woman who understand him, gives him the respect he needs and lets him get the feel of coming back home, although the place is a brothel.
Pushpa – who was forced to sing and entertain customers at a brothel after being abandoned by her own family and relatives – finds respect and true love from a businessman who’d first met her as a customer.
The film almost gives you a heart-break when Pushpa reluctantly has to abandon Anand Babu at the insistence of his brother-in-law. She takes this self destructive step as she didn’t want to cause any rift in his marriage, although Anand Babu had made it clear that his marriage had failed as his wife was never interested in him.
Anand Babu’s deep respect for her is evident in the way he accepts her decision and stops visiting her but never stops loving her.
The highpoint of the Amar Prem movie is the chemistry between the lead pair – Sharmila Tagore and Rajesh Khanna. Who can forget the famous dialogue, “Pushpa I hate tears.”
The scenes between Pushpa and Nandu are really sweet. Even the brief cameo from Om Parkash gels well with the story. Vinod Mehra’s guest appearance as a grown-up Nandu at the climax when he reunites with his long lost mother, Pushpa, completes the cycle of the eternal love and concludes an immortal love story with a fitting end.
Performances from the lead and supporting cast are exceptional. Direction by Shakti Samanta is awe-inspiring. Arabind Mukherjee’s screenplay is superb.
But what I loved the most are the dialogues (by Ramesh Pant) and the evergreen Amar Prem songs, thanks to the combination of Anand Bakshi and Rahul Dev Burman.
The simple but impactful lyrics embellished in the soulful music of R. D. Burman created a magic that is intoxicating listeners since last four decades. “Chingari koi bhadke…” is arguably Anand Bakshi’s best written lyrics. “Kuch toh log kahenge…” became proverbial as it spoke the heart of anyone who has been at the receiving end of criticism for a taking any bold step that does not conform with societal norms.
Classics are meant to be watched over and over again so watch this one and celebrate Amar Prem – the ‘Immortal Love’.
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