Director: Yash Chopra
Music: Ravi; Lyrics: Sahir
Running Time: 2 hours 58 minutes
Waqt is a big, sprawling gorgeous spectacle
that will draw you in with its pure distilled aching melodrama and then
completely delight you with its lush sense of 60’s nouveau rich gaudy style.
Nearly every frame simply seems to ooze with glamour, glitz and opulence
- from the thick rich deep red wall to wall carpeting, the pastel colored
décor, the round velvet covered beds, the sleek swift convertibles,
the indoor fountains, the casual but elegant attire – it is like getting
a glimpse into the lives of the rich and glamorous circa 1965. Back when
this film was made, this was a giddy eye opener for the masses within India
and was eaten up like sticky sweets by the mouthful.
Though his brother B.R. had already been in the
film business for a few years, this was one of Yash Chopra’s earliest films
– and the one to really mark him as a new talent on the scene. Waqt also
featured a number of traits that Chopra was to utilize in many of the films
that he came to direct or produce in the future – high production standards,
strong family values, big stars (and often multiple ones in the film) –
and a theme that he was to return to many times – the lives of the very
wealthy in India. In the next forty years, Chopra was to establish himself
and his production company as the premier film company in India and they
had many classic films to show for it – Kabhi Kabhie, Silsia, Chandni,
Lamhe, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Dil to Pagal Hai to name a few.
Fate or co-incidence? Or are these the same thing
depending on your perspective? This film has more co-incidences than Radio
City Hall has Rockettes and they come at you in waves like a chorus line
– to such a degree that it would be absurd unless of course you simply
mark it down to fate – fate takes care of a lot of absurdities in life.
In either case you simply have to go with it – put your heart into it and
the payback here is an emotional wallop. Many Bollywood films are based
on co-incidence – chance encounters that would get you huge odds in Las
Vegas – that to Western cinematic sensibilities may stretch one’s incredulity
– but to some it is simply fate playing its inevitable hand.
The film begins with a very satisfied Lala (Balraj
Sahni) surrounded by his family – three young sons and his loving wife
(Achala Sachdev) – his beautiful home and his good friends. He is a self-made
man from poor beginnings and he has much to be proud of. They are celebrating
the birthdays of all three boys, as they all happen to share the same date
of birth. An astrologer tells Lala that as time has given him so much it
can just as easily turn around, slap him in the face and take it all away
(“Everyman is a slave to time”). The proud patriarch refuses to believe
this, as it wasn’t luck that got him where he is, but hard work. Clearly,
something bad is waiting around the next corner!
That night an earthquake hits the town (with the
use of models to nicely re-create a town being demolished) destroying nearly
everything and separating the family. One boy is found and placed in an
orphanage, another is picked up by a wealthy family and adopted and the
youngest is reunited with his mother while Lala is unable to find any of
them. He nearly tracks down the one son at the orphanage only to discover
that he had just run away because of being beaten by the warden – and in
a rage Lala strangles him to death – and is sentenced to twenty years in
prison not knowing if his family is alive or dead. Twenty years pass –
and fate (or a scriptwriter) then begin to pile up co-incidences like autumn
The son who ran away from the orphanage (Raja
played by Raj Kumar) has become a jewel thief – mentored by Mr. Chinnoy
(Rehman) who found him and brought him up to be slight of hand and smooth
of tongue. He is a gentleman thief though and when he realizes that one
lovely diamond bracelet that he lifted belongs to the beautiful Miss Bombay
(Meena played by Sadhana) he graciously returns it to her but has his heart
stolen in return. He begins to love her madly, but she is hopelessly in
love with Ravi (Sunil Dutt) a joyful playboy high-spirited fellow who enjoys
his life style very much.
Another romantic sub-plot involves Ravi’s sister
(Renu played by Sharmila Tagore) who falls for her classmate Vijay (Shashi
Kapoor) but he comes from a poor family, has an ailing mother and has to
take a job as a driver for Mr. Chinnoy. When Ravi discovers his sister
is interested in a mere driver, he forbids her to see him. Meanwhile Raja
is stewing in his love for Meena and decides that murdering Ravi is the
only solution. Unless you have been sleeping, you should realize that of
course these three men are the three sons of Lala. Their lives become even
more intertwined as the father is released from prison and sets about to
look for his long lost family as all roads lead to Bombay – and then a
murder and a trial bring them all together still unaware of their relationship.
It may sound corny, but it is done wonderfully well and the ending though
predictable still carries quite an emotional impact that almost takes you
by surprise. This is just a terrific melodrama that grabs you in its clutches
from beginning to end.
The cast is fabulous – the main five characters
were all big stars at the time – and each is given solid screen time though
the main story centers around Sunil Dutt, Raj Kumar and Sadhana. I have
come across both Sharmila (such a sweet coy smile) and Shashi Kapoor in
other films, but this is a first meeting with the other three. With his
large ears, small moustache and stiff posture, Raj Kumar doesn’t really
look like much of a film star at first sighting, but he has an intensity
in this film that is fascinating – his character is somewhat immoral and
yet he totally captures the viewers sympathies (and he won the Filmfare
Best Supporting Actor Award for his performance). Sunil Dutt is the father
of current star Sanjay Dutt – his wife was the glamorous actress Nargis
(Sunil played her son in Mother India!) and at least in this film he is
all easy going boyish charm – very different then the screen persona of
his tough guy son.
The real discovery for me was Sadhana – though
the film doesn’t really revolve around her – the camera certainly does.
She is 100% style in this film – dressed in a stunning array of outfits
and beautifully made up and photographed. The camera sometimes just stops
and becomes mesmerized by her. Both her outfits – the well-fitted Muslim
styled churidar kurtas that she wears became very popular and her hairstyle
became known as the “Sadhana Cut”. According to one thing I read, much
of the film’s interior décor was modeled from her home! She was
a very popular actress at the time – in one hit after another – but sadly
within a few years she was to develop a thyroid problem that caused damage
to her looks and she was soon out of film.
The music is quite good – a few classics within
the bunch. Most of it is fairly traditional – generally ballads with only
one really upbeat song among them. There are eight songs in total – two
that I love - the romantic “O Meri Zohra Jabeen” that Lala lovingly sings
to his wife and the mournful “Aage Bhi Jaane Na Tu” in which a number of
little poignant dramas play out while a club singer intones:
The future is uncertain
The past is unknown
What we do have however
Is this moment.
My rating for this film: 8.5
Thanks to Bollywood 501 for his review
images of Waqt that got me to see this film!