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As an avid film enthusiast, I rejoice in traveling back in time and revisiting the golden classics from the 70s and 80s of the Indian film industry that we commonly refer to as “Bollywood”. This week, I re-watched Gulzar’s national award-winning film Mausam starring Sanjeev Kumar and Sharmila Tagore. When these larger-than-life personalities are associated with a single film, there is absolutely no doubt the film will be spectacular.
Mausam which translates into “Season” is a phenomenal work of art that sheds light on a complex love story with an fateful ending but filled with regret, compassion, missed opportunities, and forgiveness. Inspired by AJ Cronin’s The Judas Tree, Gulzar added extra layers to each of his intricately crafted characters while unleashing multiple aspects of emotions and suspense.
To those who are unfamiliar with the storyline, the film begins by introducing us to the wealthy and successful surgeon Dr. Amarnath Gill portrayed by the legendary Sanjeev Kumar who hails from Calcutta but has come to the beautiful picturesque Darjeeling for a well-deserved and relaxing vacation with the melodious “Dil Dhoondta Hai Phir Wahi” playing in the background. Based on his appearance, you can tell that he has aged but his eyes are searching for someone special. Within the first 10 minutes of the film, we are joining Amarnath Gill on his quest to locate his beloved “Chanda” portrayed by the legendary Sharmila Tagore. The story travels back to a flashback to his life 25 years ago while he was a young medical student studying for his medical exams in Darjeeling.
While climbing down the stairs with his medical textbooks, he falls and sprains his ankle-the place where he bumps into his beloved “Chanda” for the first time. Chanda sees him with his sprained ankle and immediately informs him that he should visit the local Ayurvedic healer for treatment. Amarnath listens to her and visits Harihar Thapa, the local ayurvedic healer unaware that he is actually Chanda’s father. After this visit, a beautiful and cordial friendship forms between the three of them. But a wooden “chhadi” translated as “cane” acts as a cupid between Amarnath and Chanda.
Chanda is someone who values money and always thinks about saving money. She especially gets irritated when her father who is a man of ideals refuses to take money from Amarnath since he is a student, “desh ke bhavishya” (country’s future). Due to his sprained ankle, he ends up taking the wooden “chhadi” that belongs to Chanda’s father which irks Chanda since it is a prized commodity.
Then, we have the melodious and chirpy song “Chhadi re Chhadi kaise gale me pari” which tickles our heartstrings to the core! All is going amazingly well between the two lovebirds but Amarnath has to leave Darjeeling to appear for his medical exams in Calcutta promising to reunite with Chanda soon via marriage.
However, the reunion never happens and their love story remains incomplete. As Dr. Amarnath Gill is striving to put bits and pieces of information together, he discovers that his beloved Chanda got married off to a crippled man and had given birth to a daughter. It turns out her husband died a year after their marriage and she became mentally ill while continuing to wait for his return. As a result, this dialogue comes out of him, ““Bahut bari bhul ki mane, iska anjaam iss tara hua yeh maine socha bhi nahi tha, wapas aana chahiye tha mujhse, wapas aana chahiye tha.” To translate: I made a huge mistake. Never in my life have I thought the consequence would be like this. I should have returned… I should have returned…”
On the other hand, Kajli showcases another side of the female personality as despite being depicted as the exact visual replica of her mother, she is the complete opposite of her. Amarnath Gill first sees her using filthy language while talking with other prostitutes and realizes she is one herself. It truly takes a lot of stamina and persistence to portray such a versatile character and we see the awe-inspiring Sharmila Tagore performing with exemplary finesse. Honestly, the way in which she portrays both roles of mother and daughter (Chanda and Kajli) speak volumes of her versatility as an actress. In her portrayal of both these unique characters, we realize how much pain a woman can experience without venting anything and how maturity can develop due to the earth-shattering adversities experienced in life.
Later in the film, we hear the legendary Lata Mangeshkar’s rendition of “Ruke Ruke Se Kadam” which translates to a pause in the steps. Tagore is picturized in a despondent state of mind in which she is torn between her love for Amarnath and societal expectations due to her profession as a prostitute.
Once again, Sanjeev Kumar excels in his performance as a man who unfortunately was unable to fulfil his promise to his beloved Chanda and then coming to terms with the fact that he should focus on atoning for his guilt by improving the shattered life of Kajli. Throughout each and every dialogue, the audience was able to visualize his range of emotions and his internal battles coinciding with his desire to alleviate his guilt. Sanjeev Kumar truly was an immensely talented and rare gem in the Indian Film Industry who was known for his ability to breathe life into each and every character whether they were young or old in age.
Gulzar does an exceptional job of portraying the mother and daughter’s differing circumstances. Just like the mother, the daughter also ends up falling in love with Dr. Amarnath and is in complete awe of him since he was the one who rescued her from the defamed life as a sex worker and strived to inculcate moral values in her. But things change once Kajli discovers that the savior in her life is actually the man who her mother fell deeply in love with and kept on waiting for his return. Thus, the film culminates in the development of a father-daughter relationship where the common thread remains Chanda, the woman they both love and miss dearly.
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