Perhaps today’s generation don’t understand the poverty and food crisis of 60’s & 70’s when prices of basic things soared to unrealistic prices. It’s time when poor and middle class of India suffered survival hell under Nehruvian socialistic state. Even today we complain about rise in sugar and pulse price and petrol-diesel hike but this is not the same middle class which was there in post globalization stage. Perhaps the best thing that liberal economy of globalization has done is uplifting the middle class. Today any middle class educated youth can have job with MBA degree. Working for private company gives us an air of satisfaction with hefty salary and yummy pay packages. Imagine a time where some of the most intelligent and smart young men were sleeping without a morsel of food on Metro footpath and running pillar to post in search of job.
So we’re lucky because we’re not born in that era. Fine, but don’t you think it’s the easiest escape. Don’t you think we become too hedonist in this eat, drink and be happy culture. Because with money comes a feeling of being different in class and status. It corrupts human mind with snail pace and makes him indifferent in approach towards the class exists lower to them. Sorry for being too emotional but this is what my lasting feeling after watching this classic Hrishida film.
“Jisse kisi ka dukh, dard dekha nahin jata na…uska ilaaz wohi kar sakta hai. Uska vivek use is dukh, dard se moonh mod ke jane nahin deta,” said aged A K Hungal to Rajesh Khanna in the film. That is the scene which I would like to compare with Holy Bhagvad Gita’s conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjun in dilemma. Which other filmmaker can make such a refined and yet such simple cinema for audience than legendary Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Hrishida’s every film is concerning cinema of middle class which bridge the gap between an artistic and popular escapist cinema of entertainment.
Colored by the ideology of communism and class differences between capitalist and middle class, Namak Haraam is the story of two close friends, one rich another poor. Richer one guided by his father’s impulsive and arrogant, egoistic capitalist ideology hates poor class and feel severely humiliated when he has to confess ‘Sorry’ to one of the union leader working in his own factory. Khanna who initially come to aid his friend to win the game in his favor but slowly drama takes a different turn and strikes the right chords. He started listening the voice of conscience, which becomes chasm between two friends. Can friendship transform a person and bring a sea change in him? Who is real friend? Is he the one who remain your shadow and be convenient to you? Is he the one who is sharing cigarettes and drinks and life with you? Or he’s the one who shakes you from lumber and makes you better human being.
Two ruling superstars of era (Amitabh and Khanna) shed all their popular image conscious stardom and surrendered themselves to work with Hrishida and the result is one of the finest and memorable film of their career. After ‘Anand’ second time the credit to bring the finest side of these two actors goes to none other than our own Hrishida. And how can I forget Raza Murad’s act of kite selling drunkard poet named Alam. He has done number of films but it’s this one where he gave his consummate best.
Though the story was Hrishida’s idea, it was Gulzar who penned the screenplay and dialogues of the film and one feel the touch of both of these gifted artists.
Kishoreda’s three classy tracks ‘Diye jalte hai..’, ‘Nadiya se dariya…’ and ‘Main Shayar badnaam…”composed by none other than genius Pancham. The song picturisation is so natural and almost creates the essence to the story. Wow that’s what I called a true artist named Hrishida. Without being preachy or melodaramatic he made us felt the emotional chord of being human through his simple stories and characters familiar enough to our everyday middle class life and though seems so socially, economically and politically relevant to today’s time. That’s what I called ‘Touchstone Cinema’.
Like every Hrishida film, it has many memorable scenes and probing dialogues. Here’s few which I translated in English to cater non-Hindi speakers. When Amitabh’s capitalist father warned him in one of the scene and said, “As being no beggar and no rich, this middle class is very dangerous. We can’t rely on them. Most of the treachery and honesty happens from their side only. On one side they dream about making big and that’s why it is so easy to make them betray. On the other side, there’s one thing sticks to them and that is conscience. And that’s the reason why they become our enemy any moment.” It’s a brilliant and yet simple line I ever heard in any film revealing the deeper analysis of proletariat Vs bourgeois.
In one of the most striking scene Rajesh Khanna revealed to Amitabh while sharing a drink, “The value of this one premium single malt peg is equal to the food budget of a single worker family. We are starving atleast one worker’s family while drinking it.” How many filmmakers of today passed such a fine message in their cinema?