5 June 2014 | jmathur_swayamprabha
Do we deserve to call ourselves as Indians ?
India got political independence on 15.08.1947 and emerged as a sovereign nation-state. However we, the Indians, could not absorb the concept of a nation-state and a feeling of belongingness for our brethren and sisters spread all over the country for decades after that and that feeling, quite unfortunately, is still not there in the desired form. We are North Indians. We are South Indians. We are Gujaratis, we are Bengalis, we are Punjabis, we are Marathis, we are UP Waalas, we are Biharis, we are Tamils, we are Telugus and so on and so forth. However do we take pride in calling ourselves purely as Indians, rising above these provincial identities? The answer applicable to a major chunk of the citizens of this great nation is 'NO'. Unfortunate, very unfortunate.
The British cleverly and successfully divided us on several grounds and thus ensured that we continued with our slavery to them for a sufficiently long period. Those divisions are still there even when they have left us with a right to govern ourselves. Regionalism, i.e., identifying more with our respective regions and less with our nation as a whole is one of them. And when it comes to matrimonial ties with the people of a different region, there's a big NO-NO for most of the Indian parents. New Delhi(1956) starring Kishore Kumar and Vyjayantimaala in lead roles is an admirable movie made on this theme.
The story of New Delhi starts with the arrival of a Punjabi youth - Anand (Kishore Kumar) at the capital of India who is shocked to see that it's quite difficult to find a rental accommodation in Delhi because of his coming from Punjab because Maarwaris are allowing only Maarwaris as tenants, Gujaratis are allowing Gujaratis only, Bengalis are allowing Bengalis only and so on. He comes across an open-minded and noble Bengali youth of his age-group - Ashok (Prabhu Dayaal) who is a painter and they become good friends despite Anand's not being able to become a tenant in Ashok's home because of his father's bias for non-Bengalis. Finally, Anand approaches a Tamil landlord but to gain tenancy, he presents himself before him as a Tamil only. Shortly, things take such a turn that Anand falls in love with a Tamil girl - Jaanaki (Vyjayantimaala) who is a music teacher. Within no time, she also falls in love with him. She is the daughter of Mr. Subrahmanyam (Nana Palsikar) who is as staunch a Tamili as Anand's father Mr. Daulatraam Khanna (Nazir Hussain) is a staunch Punjabi.
Anand's parents and younger sister also arrive at Delhi after some days and since Anand's father's employers have arranged an accommodation for him, Anand shifts to the new residence with his family, leaving his fake Tamil identity behind. However he continues to meet Jaanaki and puts up his marriage proposal to her father, i.e., Mr. Subrahmanyam who is a colleague and subordinate of Mr. Daulatraam Khanna in the same company. Anand's younger sister - Nirmala (Jabeen Jalil) is fond of painting. She comes across Ashok and both fall in each other's love.
One day the truth of Anand's maintaining dual identity and his love with Jaanaki is exposed to the parents of both the sides. Mr. Subrahmanyam reproaches his daughter so much that motherless Jaanaki decides to commit suicide. On the other hand, Mr. Khanna comes to know that his daughter Nirmala is in love with Ashok, a Bengali boy; then he curses both his son and daughter like anything for choosing non-Punjabis to make their life-partners. He humiliates Ashok and fixes Nirmala's matrimonial alliance with a Punjabi boy. How the loving couples finally unite with the help of a friend of both the families - Saadhuraam (Raadhakishan) forms the remaining part of the movie.
The movie was made within the first decade of the independence of India and the subject matter was quite relevant at that time because the patriots and the fervent leaders of that period wanted the whole nation to feel united, rising above all kinds of differences and variances prevailing in the different parts of it. Six decades later, this theme is still relevant because instead of losing their significance, the regional and cultural differences have strengthened their roots in the psyche of the folks.
The movie is thoroughly entertaining. It starts very impressively, underscoring the problem of regional and cultural discrimination, making life hell for the innocents. Several comic moments have been arranged in the first half to amuse the audience and the performance of the lead pair has made the director's job easier. The first half is full of comedy whereas the second half contains drama. Both are equally good.
The way Kishore Kumar was not only a great singer but a great actor also, the same way Vyjayantimaala was not only a great classical dancer but a great actress also. Their on-screen chemistry is admirable. Prabhu Dayaal as Ashok and Jabeen Jalil as Nirmala have got less scope but they are also well in place. However I will choose Raadhakishan as the best actor in this movie. Today's generation must not have even heard the name of this brilliant actor with a peculiar dialog-delivery style who was a prominent comedian of his time (he used to do negative roles also).
I advise all my friends to watch this gem from the black and white era of Indian cinema. It's not just a hilarious comedy but also provides enough food for thought. It's up to us to decide whether we want to imprison ourselves in cages of region, culture, religion, caste, creed, class etc. or become Indians in the true sense.