#57 #Scriptors100BestFilms #NayaDaur
The year 1957 saw many aspects of changing stories of Indian Cinema, Mother India became flag bearer of feminism, Pyaasa mocked on superficial appreciation and sad state of art and poetry and it was B.R.Chopra’s Naya Daur which talked about impact of growing capitalism and its effect on the lower strata of society, and also glorified Marxist views on industrialization. Its entertaining yet keeping social issues aside, it also centres around the romantic triangle of Dilip Kumar, Vyjayanthimala and Ajit with songs, dances, fights, comedy – the works – but extremely well-blended into the narrative, one must admit. One has to admire Akhtar Mirza’s effective screenplay in this regard, in particular the Dilip Kumar-Vyjayanthimala track that is extremely well-worked out.
Whenever I watch Lagaan, it makes me recall Naya Daur instantly, Only difference is that Naya Daur, has lesser players to be a part of that final match and Adrenalin rush. Except the character of Rachel Shelley (the Englishwomen who is the sister of the villain but helping the hero), Lagaan is new age Naya Daur. The only difference is, they have just changed the bus-tonga race in the village to the cricket match between the Indian villagers and the English team. Rest the complete story framework, characters, their mutual relationships, situations and climax, everything has been inspired from Naya Daur, and an idea like that worked in 1957 and even today’s times. The highlight of the film is the climactic bus v/s tanga race which holds up quite well even today as the race is intercut with cheering villagers and has all the drama as Chand Usmani and Ajit valiently hold up the bridge the latter had destroyed, so that the tanga can go over it. This is because the the race is involving and has you rooting for the underdog and you cannot help but feel good at the end as man finally defeats the machine!
The premise behind Naya Daur is noble. Naya Daur begins with a quote from the Mahatma Gandhi, but in many ways also addresses Aristotelian ethics, that it is incumbent upon us to try to fulfill the potential we have in innate nobility. The manner in which an honest portrayal of this is accomplished in the film is fun and engaging, with a beautifully crafted narrative arc that is absorbing. Naya Daur is thoroughly engrossing and very impressive. Legendary director B.R. Chopra has directed the story of Akhtar Mirza quite nicely and maintained the momentum of the narrative through the duration of the movie which is a little less than three hours. The sets, costume designing, editing etc. are all praiseworthy. Production value is high matching the great B.R. Films tradition.
The movie has some of the most power-packed performances.Naya Daur sees fine lead performances from Dilip Kumar and Vyjayantimala. It was BR’s good friend Ashok Kumar who suggested Dilip Kumar for the film and put in a word with him to hear out the story. Dilip Kumar, though initially reluctant, agreed to do the film once he heard the story. He is spot on in the film as the sensitive but tough hero, a natural leader of the village who takes on the challenge of development and progress at the cost of humanity. He went on to win the Filmfare Award for Best Actor that year. Vyjayanthimala comes across as that rare breed of Hindi film heroine, one who has a mind of her own. She shows a strong independent streak inside her in the film. Though Shankar is willing to give her up for his best friend who also loves her, she refuses to be a pawn in their game of friendship. Even later on, she joins his struggle on her own rather than it being foisted on her. What’s more she has her own ideas on how to ford a stream and risks her life to save the bridge.
Interestingly, Vyjayanthimala wasn’t the first choice for the film. The film was launched with Dilip Kumar and Madhubala at the height of their romance. A 10-day schedule was held in Bombay which was to be follwed by a 45-day schedule in Bhopal, followed by another in Poona. However Madhubala’s father, Ataullah Khan, refused to let her go out of Bombay citing her ill-health as the cause though the actual reason was that he thoroughly disapproved of her romance with Dilip Kumar and did not want them to go outsdoors for such a long period of time. Chopra then dropped Madhubala from the film, replacing her with Vyjayanthimala. An enraged Ataullah Khan took Chopra to court. The case made headlines as Dilip Kumar sided with Chopra against Madhubala even though he loved her saying the film could not be made without the Bhopal schedule. When the movie was released, the judge saw the film and maintained that Chopra and Dilip Kumar were right. The film could indeed not be done without the Bhopal schedule, he declared. Madhubala lost both, the case and Dilip Kumar.The lead pair are ably supported by Ajit, Chand Usmani, Leela Chitnis. Jeevan makes a good villain and Johnny Walker lights up the screen whenever he is on. On the technical side, special mention must be made of MN Malhotra’s superb on-location photography.Dilip and Vyjayanthimala’s together scenes are characteristically unique. Hurting for his friend, an angry Dilip rebuffs her saying that if he had known it would affect his friendship, he would have never looked at her. A devastated Vyjayanthi with stricken eyes says, “Itna toh mat girao. Main apna mol jaan gai hoon.”It is a wonderful scene between two stars whose chemistry is undeniable. Ajit and Jeevan also excel in thier respective parts with apt performances.
The timeless music of Naya Daur composed by O.P. Nayyar (lyrics by Saahir Ludhiyanvi), boasting of immortal songs like Ude Jab Jab Zulfen Teri, Ye Desh Hai Veer Jawanon Ka, Reshmi Salwar Kurta Jaali Ka, Saathi Haath Badhaana, Maang Ke Saath Tumhaara Maine Maang Liya Sansar and Main Bambai Ka Babu Naam Mera Anjaana cannot be compared to the music of any other movie. Even today listening to the songs in the enchanting voices of Asha and Rafi is a great experience.
Naya Daur is a ‘socially relevant film’ that sees brave and traditional rural heroes taking on the might of modern city-clickers, it primarily remains a mainstream Hindi film at heart showing the triumph of the human spirit.Recently the film was colourized and re-released but did not do well at the box office. The colourization was hideous and is a potent reminder that some classics like Naya Daur are best left untouched.
Head - Business Development at SCRIPTORS
Movie Buff. Yohaann is a film critic with Jagran Prakashan Limited. He has been associated with Print and TV media as a branding professional. Presently he is a screenwriter trying to bring in some good scripts up for Bollywood. At Scriptors he works as a writer and handles business development.