Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Satyakam was a veritable lesson on how to pull the viewer's emotional strings. Dharmendra was gifted his career's finest role (those of you who scoff at "Garam Dharam", visit his past with movies like Anupama, Chupke Chupke, Ankhen and innumerable others). He plays Satyapriya, an individual who values lofty ideals of truth above all else; his career, family and life itself. This movie could so easily have degenerated into a soppy melodrama, but Hrishikesh Mukherjee's skills are at the forefront. Satyapriya and his friend Naren (the inimitable Sanjeev Kumar) finish engineering college, and set out on different career paths. Sanjeev Kumar remains honest, but practical, and works hard to become successful. Dharmendra remains in his world of idealism and resolute resistance to compromise, and struggles through every step. Yet, not for a moment does he waver from adherence to truth.
In his very first job, he works for a debauch prince (this was set in the pre-independence/ early independence era). The prince desires to "own" Sharmila Tagore (the illegitimate daughter of his manager, David). Through chance occurrences, Dharmendra lands in a situation to protect Sharmila, but in a moment of weakness, wavers. The prince rapes Sharmila, and the idealistic Dharmendra then marries Sharmila.
How is this different from any other sixties flick, you ask? It is here that Hrishikesh Mukherjee's talent in portraying human nature, and developing characters shines through. Dharmendra, though the supreme idealist, is unable to accept Sharmila or her child completely, and even through his idealism, his completely human nature shines through.
Later Naren (Sanjeev Kumar) reappears, and beautifully personifies the every-day man, one of us, who would compromise (but only so slightly) in order to move ahead in one's career. Yet the compromise would be "practical", never something that would weigh on one's conscience. The contrast between the two characters is one of the movie highlights. Dharmendra is unable to accept these compromises, and the conflict is beautifully wrought out. Dharmendra eventually dies of cancer, and the film leads to its incredibly moving climax.
Ashok Kumar (Dharmendra's father) wants Sharmila Tagore's son to light Dharmendra's pyre. Sharmila (who is not accepted by Ashok Kumar) in a moment of stark honesty, says that the child is not Dharmendra's son, but is illegitimate. Satyapriya's honesty lives on.
It is one of those touching climaxes where it is far easier to let tears flow, than hold them back.
Satyakam is another Hrishikesh Mukherjee classic. Dharmendra is the main protagonist who gives the performance of his career in this film. We see no shades of the action man we get to see in later blockbusters like Sholay or Dharmveer. Here Dharmendra underplays a soft righteous man treading on the path of truth at every step despite conflict and hardship. Sanjeev Kumar plays the supporting lead extremely well, he had only done 17 odd films before this one.
Great performances and worth a watch!
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