2 January 2010 | Peter_Young
"Flowers in The Dust" - the story of a woman, the story of a child...
'Dhool Ka Phool', Yash Chopra's amazing directorial debut is a classic of classics. The film is about the social norms of those times, showing their effect on people of that time. This is the story of Meena (Mala Sinha), a young and orphaned woman who lives with her aunt and uncle. Meena meets Mahesh, and the two fall in love. However, when she finds out that she is pregnant, Mahesh leaves the city and the next time she meets him is on his wedding with a rich girl in the big city. Meena is thrown out of her uncle's house and upon giving birth to a baby boy, her despair and Mahesh's further rejection cause her to abandon him in a dark forest. When she comes back to senses and runs to take him back, she is too late: the baby was already collected by an old and kind Muslim named Abdul. Abdul decides to adopt the kid, much to the charging of the Hindu/Muslim communities. He re-locates to the city, but is unable to shake the stigma of bringing up an illegitimate child, Roshan. Meanwhile, Meena has got married to a lawyer, but her son Roshan is often subjected to all kinds of taunts by fellow classmates. He has only one friend, and it is Ramesh, who happens to be none other than his biological father Mahesh's son.
A powerful and poignant picture, 'Dhool Ka Phool' shows how destructive social prejudice can be, mainly through the characters of Meena and Roshan. The fear Meena feels when she discovers she is going to be a single mother, the insults Roshan has to bear every time he goes to school - all show that something is very wrong with our society. I still remember the scene when Meena comes to reproach Mahesh with the baby in her hands and threatens to scream that it is his son for all to know, and he replies that she has no way to prove that and that she can throw him as far as he is concerned. That's what prompts her to do something that will torment her for the rest of her life. When Abdul Rashid takes the kid, he gets excommunicated by the people because the boy's religion remains unclear. In one wonderful scene, he sharply criticises them for their double-standards and leaves the neighbourhood. The stories of Roshan and Meena get intertwined in the form of a court case in which the boy is accused of a theft for no fault of his own, and the judge is none other than Mahesh.
The film is brilliantly written, narrated and acted, and is done realistically with almost no exaggerated dramatisation. It starts as a romance and then turns into a moving drama. Mukhram Sharma's dialogues are exceptional and Narayan Datta's music is wonderfully composed with fantastic lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi. One great song that remains relevant even today is "Tu Hindu Banega Na Musalmaan Banega", which is pictured on the Abdul Rashid character when he decides to take the boy despite his neighbours' opposition, meaning "You will grow up to be neither Hindu nor Muslim; you will grow up to be a human being." Another song I like is "Jo Tum Muskura Do", pictured on the romantic sequences between Mahesh and Seema early in the film. Towards the end, the film becomes increasingly more intense and touching. There are many moving scenes, and what I find particularly good about them is that they are never overdone, enhancing the emotional impact.
The acting is roundly excellent. The film belongs to Mala Sinha, and she is absolutely astonishing. She displays the fear, the confusion and the pain of a wronged woman, and later the suffering and the guilt feelings of a mother who has lost her child with total conviction. Sushil Kumar, the child artist is amazing as Roshan. This is according to me one of the best performances by a child actor in Indian cinema. Speaking of child actors, Daisy Irani is fantastic as Ramesh. Manmohan Krishna is a show-stealer. He makes Abdul Rasheed, the simple and kind Muslim man, a memorable character which should set an example to all of us of how important it is to be a good human being rather than a religious person. Rajendra Kumar's character is not sympathetic, and he is appropriately hateful. The great Ashok Kumar, on the other hand, is very likable, delivering another brilliantly restrained and elegantly understated performance as Meena's loving husband. Other cast members include Nanda and Leela Chitnis, both of whom lend excellent support in smaller parts.
The most disturbing scene in the film, which remains symbolic even today, is when Meena abandons the baby in the forest. The crying baby instinctively grabs her saree, as if pleading not to leave him. But she does. This is followed by an impressively miraculous moment when a snake approaches the baby, and while one would worriedly expect it to attack him, it instead stops by to guard his life. It is particularly heartbreaking to see Meena hurriedly returning to take him back, only to find he is not there anymore. But the best scene in the film happens later, when Meena and Roshan meet for the first time, obviously not knowing that they are actually a mother and son. The moment the boy breaks down as he tells her of his loneliness post a very tragic incident (see the film to understand which one) and accidentally calls her "mom" when she hugs him, is so deeply moving. This is one of the most powerful scenes I've ever seen on film, and Chopra captures it with great intensity. The film's ending is bittersweet. It is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, and the same can be said about the movie itself. 'Dhool Ka Phool' is Yash Chopra's ultimate masterwork, his first and perhaps his finest. It is one of my all-time favourite films. I highly recommend that you see this gem.