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From Aashiq to Agneepath

By : Shri Arun Bajaj

Aashiq released in 1962 with a star cast of Raj Kapoor, Padmini, Nanda and Abhi Bhattacharya, directed by Hrishikesh Mukherji, remains the Cindrella-girl of Hindi films which has still to find her pumpkin chariot to go to the ball. It is a mystery wrapped in an enigma as to why and how for so long, such a gem of a movie has not caught the eyes of the discerning cinegoers and critics alike ; even when retro films have become the latest flavor of the season.

The story of Aashiq depicts the conflicts confronted by all creative artists who at the end of the day, have to go back to their hearth and home. The protagonist in Aashiq looks for creative fulfillment in a talented, sensual danseuse and is attracted towards her while the silent, suffering beau at home, eternally waits for him to come back. It is a remorseless choice which over the period has traumatized the best minds as they struggle to appease their conscience in selfish pursuit of excellence.

Nanda dons the role of a submissive plain Jane with a golden heart but her virtues have no place in the world of commerce.Conversely, Padmini tantalizes not only with promises of fame and money but also with creative fulfillment to a small town singer. As the singer gets recognition, he realizes that he has become a moth in the hands of the sensual and devouring flame of passion; hence the symbolic song“ O shama ! mujhe phoonk de, visualized so eloquently by Hrishikesh Mukherji.

The reel life gets mixed up with real life as we recall how Raj Kapoor fell for Nargis to fulfil his own creative aspirations, which though created some of the finest motion pictures, yet at individual levels generated a deluge of tears and heartbreaks, including his own.Of course, the transient fame in no time unfolds its brazen brass and there is no mistaking on where the actual gold lies. But the final realization comes at a tremendous cost : the lover (Aashiq) has taken a beating and returned home but the viewer is faced with a moral dilemma : is it worthwhile to have a morally upright life but with no creative fulfillments ? That is something the viewer has to figure out.

Abhi Bhattacharya essayed the best role of his career giving expressions to a wide spectrum of emotions ranging from despair to compassion to calm acceptance of destiny’s quirks in a baritone voice which was a counterpoint to Raj Kapoor’s flamboyant portrayal. However, it was Shankar Jaikishan’s music which overpowered all the artistic verticals of Aashiq in such an obtrusive manner that even today, 50 years after the film’s release, the songs transport you to a different world on a flying carpet. O shama Mujhe Phoonk De begins with strains of violins reaching a crescendo with multiple instruments followed by the slow, sweet cadence of Mukesh’s voice is a treat to listen. The flute pieces dominate to produce an eerie montage of burning candle with fluttering moths . Conversely, “Ye To Kaho Kaun Ho Tum” has heavy orchestration but maddening beats of dholak with jazziness of accordion. Mukesh sings this number with a gay abandon and surprisingly covers an entire octave with a felicity of expression. Tum Aaj Mere Sang Hans Lo, Mehtab Tera Chehara, TumJo Hamare Meet Na Hote and Lo Aayee Milan Ki Raat Suhani are another gems.

Raj Kapoor with a duf in his hands, leading the troupe, singing “Ye toh kaho” makes one think that here is one actor who sports a violin in Barsaat, an accordion in Sangam, a duf in Jis Desh mein ganga behti hai, and conversely today you have Amitabh Bachchan who has a dagger in Kaalia, a revolver in Don, a sword in “Mard”. This is how Hindi cinema has degenerated to its lowest depths. From spouting love and brotherhood we have stooped to preaching violence and blood. No wonder, today’s youth speak in a tapori language, using four-letter words, without respect either to elders or to women.

From Aashiq to Agnipath is a long journey and this journey tells you the changing dynamics of Hindi films. Aashiq did not have even a fistfight, Agnipath, from first frame to last is full of blood, gore and stench: Aashiq had the finest songs, Agnipath did not have even one hummable song, Aashiq’s dialogues are literary and evocative of a distinct culture, Agnipath’s characters mouth screaming profanities, : and perhaps for all these reasons Aashiq was a commercial flop while makers of Agnipath laughed all the way to the bank.

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