(Yes this post is a day early – but I am a bit tied up tomorrow and hence this post now.)
November 6, 2014 will mark the 29th death anniversary of one of Indian cinema’s finest actors – one of my personal favourites – the talented, versatile and charming Sanjeev Kumar. (Check him out in his early films – he was hunky!)
It is ironical that he gained popularity for playing middle-aged or older men (Sholay, Parichay, Aandhi, Trishul) when he was barely in his thirties. In real life, he did not even touch 50. He was 47 when he died. Born Harihar Jariwala in a Gujarati family in 1938, he started his acting career on stage where legend has it that he played an old man in an Arthur Miller play at the age of 22. Gulzar (who went on to become a close friend) spotted him here and was to cast him in Koshish and Aandhi later. They worked together in nine films – each one a classic remembered till date.
I am not too fond of movies from the seventies , to be honest. But when writing this post, as I went over Sanjeev Kumar’s filmography, I realised that I have watched almost all his movies from the seventies! Sanjeev Kumar made his debut in the Sunil Dutt-Asha Parekh starrer Hum Hindustani (1960); his first role as a leading man was in the 1965 Nishan. His filmography reveals his amazing range as an actor. Perhaps one of the early actors who did not restrict himself to playing just one type of roles, Sanjeev Kumar excelled in all his roles. Just look at his range – a mad man in Khilona, a deaf and dumb man in Koshish, the Lucknow nobleman obsessed with chess in Shatranj Ke Khiladi, or as the Thakur in Sholay… the list goes on. My favourite movies are Aandhi, Anubhav, Angoor, Anokhi Raat, Anamika and maybe Shikar.
Shikar had the good looking (back in those days!) Dharmendra as the main hero – I was smitten by Sanjeev Kumar though, who played a policewala and won a best supporting actor award for this role! What can one say about Angoor? It is an absolutely hilarious movie based on Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. I have watched it way too many times and it doesn’t fail to tickle. Sanjeev Kumar had acted with Tanuja in an earlier movie based on The Comedy of Errors called Gustakhi Maaf (1969) The difference was that Tanuja played the twins. Haven’t managed to get my hands on it yet – but would love to watch that. Even in the godawful movie, Gauri (1968), which starred my favourite Nutan, (who had by then turned into a weepy, wailing, wallowing Devi), the only person I did not want to whack was Sanjeev Kumar! Make no mistake – his character was awful too – just that he was a bit more bearable! And in the classic Yash Chopra romance, Silsila, I was rooting rather vociferously for Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bachchan, despite the beautiful songs picturised on Amitabh and Rekha in Keukenhof! (Call me ‘old fashioned’, tales of “true love” and “extramarital affairs” do not interest me much!) And all I remember of the movie Aap Ki Kasam (1974) was what an ass Rajesh Khanna was and that Sanjeev Kumar was a good guy and a nice neighbour!
Now that I have suitably demonstrated that I have watched most of Sanjeev Kumar’s movies (a bit late to realise that one is more of a fan than one thought one was!!), here is a list of my favourite songs.
1) Haye tabassum Tera (Nishaan, 1965, MD: Usha Khanna): A song from his first movie as the lead hero, sung divinely by Rafi saab. This is also one of those tandem songs that had a female version sung by Asha Bhosle. No clue what this movie was about – but do watch the song. Sanjeev looks young and charming.
2) Sochke Yeh Gagan jhoome (Jyoti, 1971(?), MD: S.D. Burman): One of my favourite Lata Mangeshkar – Manna Dey duets, this melodious number has Sanjeev Kumar paired opposite a lesser known actress, Nivedita. They do look good together and the song is beautiful.
3) Oh re Taal Mile Nadi Ke Jal Mile (Anokhi Raat, 1968, MD: Roshan): This movie was the last movie of the legendary music director, Roshan Lal Nagrath. If I am correct, he died during the making of the movie and Salil Chaudhary was brought in to compose some songs or the background music.
I am not much of a Mukesh fan in general – prefer Rafi and Manna Dey any day. Having said that this is one of the few Mukesh songs that I am very fond of. Everything about this song is alluring – the starting alaap (is that by Manna Dey? Doesn’t sound like Mukesh), the singing, the picturisation and the philosophical lyrics. Scenes of a simple rural life in an era gone by are captured poignantly. A newly wed bride is going to her marital home, the boatsman singing his own song and ferrying people across, and Sanjeev Kumar (as Baldev), a simple villager taking his bride home. Mukri, his best friend, is also there.
Anokhi Raat is a heart-wrenching movie – a sensitive, intelligent movie made by Asit Sen (the brilliant Bengali director who also directed Mamta and Khamoshi.) Sanjeev Kumar is excellent, both as Baldev the villager and then as the fearsome dacoit. Parikshat Sahni makes his debut in this movie (and looks quite good too!) and there is Tarun Bose as the widower that Rama is forced to marry. (I am particularly fond of this Bengali actor.) And then the songs – lovely. Has a lovely Lata solo, Mahlon Ka Raja Mila and that haunting Rafi number Mile Na Phool Toh Kaanton Se.
Anokhi Raat is a must watch – if you have not already watched it yet.
4) Meri Jaan Mujhe Jaan Na Kaho (Anubhav, 1971, Kanu Roy): This sensitive movie on a married couple (Sanjeev Kumar and Tanuja) by Basu Bhattacharya is remembered even today for it’s memorable music by Kanu Roy. It was Geeta Dutt’s swan song and what a swan song it was. Each one of the songs she sang for Tanuja is a classic, be it Mera Dil Jo Mera Hota (Tanuja looks so pretty in the bath-tub!) or Koi Chupke Se Aake. There is this brilliant Manna Dey song as Sanjeev Kumar reminisces about his marriage.. Phir Kahin Koi Phool Khila, Chahat Na Kaho Usko.
The movie is an interesting take about a marriage that has lost its spark after the initial years and how the couple copes when the wife’s ex-flame (played by a creepy Shashi Bhushan who is as creepy as he was in Rajnigandha (1974)!) enters their lives.
The song of the movie for me is the romantic Meri Jaan Mujhe Jaan Na Kaho… Geeta Dutt at her sensuous best, the minimalist use of instruments, and Tanuja, Sanjeev and the rain on screen. Mesmerizing.
5) Is Mod Se jaate Hain Kuch (Aandhi, 1975, R.D.Burman): I guess, there is no introduction needed to this Gulzar classic. Sanjeev Kumar won the Best Actor award for his role as the hotel manager / supportive husband G.K. in this movie. It is a pity, Sanjeev Kumar never married in real life. He plays the role of a supportive husband convincingly in most of his movies – and he comes across as such a nice, genial man – he probably would have been one in real life!
Suchitra Sen (despite her grating accent) does a very decent job as the politician Aarti Devi (said to be modelled on Indira Gandhi). The film was banned for this reason. Om Prakash as her right hand man and A.K Hangal as Binda Kaka are efficient and then there is my old favourite Rehman as Aarti Devi’s ambitious politician dad! The story is gripping, the direction masterful – this is a classic to this day. The music by Pancham is brilliant – again each and every song is haunting but this one is my personal favourite. What lyrics by Gulzar!…. In Reshmi Raahon Mein, Ik Raah toh woh hogi, tum tak jo pahunchti hai, is mod se jaate hain…
6) Meri Bheegi Si Palkon (Anamika, 1973, R.D.Burman): This movie stars one of the best onscreen pairs in Hindi Cinema – Sanjeev Kumar- Jaya Bachchan (nee Bhaduri). They have acted together in a number of movies, playing a wide range of characters – as father-daughter (Parichay), a deaf-dumb couple (Koshish), father-in-law -daughter-in-law (Sholay) or just two people watching their respective spouses have an affair (remember Rang Barse in Silsila?). Their chemistry onscreen is simply amazing. Anamika is one movie where they play a fairly normal couple in love. Sanjeev Kumar plays an author, a misogynist at that. One day on his way back, he rescues this lady who was being kidnapped. He names her Anamika, as she has had a bout of amnesia and remembers nothing. As she gets better in his house, he falls in love with her. And then she disappears and they meet again and she doesn’t recognise him! While I don’t remember much of this movie, having watched it when DD played it ages back, I do remember the wonderful songs. There is the very playful Asha number – Logon Na Maaro Isse Yehi toh mera Dildaar Hai and the romantic Lata ditty, Baahon Mein Chale Aao among others. But since this is a Sanjeev Kumar tribute post, here is one of his most famous solo numbers, sung by Kishore Kumar.
7) Beete Na Bitayi Raina (Parichay, 1972, R.D.Burman): Parichay was inspired by the Sound of Music. Jitendra plays the tutor hired by Pran to educate his unruly grandchildren. The eldest girl is Jaya Bhaduri. Sanjeev Kumar plays a small part as the dead father and the rebellious son of Pran. This song has an ailing Sanjeev singing with his daughter. Sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Bhupendra, this is one of Pancham’s best.
8) O Saathi Chal (Seeta Aur Geeta, 1972, R.D.Burman): Seeta Aur Geeta (1972) belongs to that amazing tradition of lost-and-found masala movies that was started by Waqt (1965). A sort of remake of Ram Aur Shyam, this one has Hema Malini play the twin roles. Sanjeev Kumar is the suave doctor who is to wed the demure Seeta but falls for the boisterous Geeta (he thinks she is Seeta though!). This wonderful Asha -Kishore duet is my fave song from this film.
9) Teri Meri Yaari Badi Purani (Charitraheen, 1974, R.D.Burman) : This song is one of my fave Asha Bhosle numbers. I had been looking for the DVD of this movie till some time back – but haven’t yet gotten my hands on it. The story of the movie looks to be fairly simple and here it is as conjectured purely by watching this song. Sanjeev Kumar and Sharmila Tagore fall in love (presumably in their younger days and in their village, which is in West Bengal(?) Sharmila’s character was called Rama Sen) Sanjeev would have left the village or city and gone somewhere else, probably gotten married as well (?). Sharmila becomes a prostitute, Rosie, after falling upon some hard times … wonder if she is an unwed mom as well? (Uff, that seemed to be the go-to-profession for destitute gaon ki goris in the seventies!). They meet after ages and Sanjeev is in shock and looks suitably horrified.
10) Dil Dhoondhta Phir Wohi Fursat Ke Raat Din (Mausam, 1975, Madan Mohan) : This is Madan Mohan’s swan song (if one doesn’t consider Veer-Zaara). This is also one of the movies where Sanjeev Kumar plays an old man. An old doctor comes to Darjeeling (his place of birth) after 25 years. He sees a girl (Sharmila Tagore as Kajli – she has a double role in this movie) who reminds him of his long-last love Chanda (Sharmila again) whom he had deserted ages back. His conscience pricks him and he tries looking for them again (do not remember much – but he had come back once before to look for Chanda). Anyways, Chanda naturally had fallen upon hard times and had been married off to a cripple and had a daughter Kajli. This daughter is now a prostitute. The old doctor (to atone for his sins) takes Kajli home. Kajli who is unaware of this doctor’s role in her mum’s life falls for him.
This movie won Sharmila Tagore a National award. Gulzar won the Best director award at the annual Filmfare awards while Mausam was adjudged the best film. Sanjeev Kumar was nominated for this role but won the Award that very year for another role (Arjun Pandit).