On birthday of Raj Kapoor, we present to you one of the best acts by the showman himslef.
Teesri Kasam, A simple short story ( “Maarey gaye Gulfaam”by novelist Phanishwarnath Renu) with a rustic backdrop of the nautanki culture of rural Bihar is transformed on celluloid by Basu Bhattacharya to create a celebrated classic . Often regarded as a reference point for connoisseurs of cinema for its direction, music ,performances and unconventional theme.
An endearingly simple, uncluttered story of platonic love tugs at the heartstrings throughout with Raj Kapoor playing a naive villager who ,through the course of the film, takes three vows:: the last one resulting from the myriad display of an extremely well conceived screenplay and thoughtfully researched dialogue reflecting the Mithila zone of Bihar with full authenticity. The lyrical quality of the screenplay as it slowly unfolds and takes up the curiosity of the viewer who slowly gets completely emerged and soaked in the village mela around which the story revolves with its complexities exhibited with master simplicity.
Hiraman (Raj Kapoor) is a village bumpkin but an honest bullock cart driver. Owing to altercations with police, he first vows never to carry the contraband goods and in the second instance, while he is transporting bamboo in his cart, an accident with a motorist, causes him to vow that he would never carry bamboo again.
From here on the plot builds up for his third vow( Teesri Kasam) ,that is never to ferry a a Nautanki Company woman in his cart. To an unsuspecting audience, the logical explanation for this third vow becomes a completely humbling experience, and allows seeing the inherent simplicity of the character, thereby justifying why he took the first two vows despite their apparent frivolities.
Raj kapoor emerged from his comfort zone of either an urbane hero or a ‘Chaplinsque’ character of his previous films, to don a role which is indisputably his best performance (since Boot polish ). Waheeda was an apt choice: her dancing skills and vast range of histrionics are a visual treat. The guilt she portrays in being unworthy of the pedestal on which Hiraman has placed her is in itself an epitome of performance sans any melodrama or high voltage dialogues: it becomes quite hard to imagine her as he fiery Rosy she played in GUIDE almost at the same time.
Teesri Kasam was Shailendra’s foray into production. The initial cold response to the film caused him much heart break and monetary losses. Little did he know, that over the course of time, Teesri Kasam would emerge a cult classic of Indian cinema . The most outstanding feature of Teesri Kasam is that it relies only on dialogue exchange to propel the story forward. There are no sub plots,, comedy tracks or gimmicks to add masala . Shailendra declined taking any cinematic liberties for his film, as he was passionate about retaining the rustic local flavor of the novel with its Bihari setting .The film was purposely shot in B&W, despite colour processing facilities being available by then, This retained the local village milieu. (Khamoshi is another example)
The film won the President’s Gold Lotus Award for Best Feature Film of 1966, Best Lyricist (Shailendra) and Best Director (Basu Bhattarchaya), but Shailendra did not live long to see all the critical acclaim and accolades that were bestowed on this masterpiece. The film also remains one of the finest works of Basu Bhattarchaya, who went on to direct several films(Anubhav, Avishkar , Griha Pravesh) but he could never match the rustic appeal of Teesri kasam.
Music was another highlight of this film. Shankar Jaikishan and Shailendrea created several everlasting melodies ranging from coqettish nautanki numbers (paan khaye saiyan, Maarey gaye gulfam, Aa bhi ja ) to sheer philosophcal lyrics (Sajan rte jhooth mat bolo, Sajanva bairi ho gaye hamaar, Duniya bananey wale).
Some scenes stand out due to their simplicity of expressions
- Raj kapoor offering Chooda-Dahi to Waheeda and saying “Pehle aap pa lijiye.” So authentic.
- The scene where Waheeda is forbidden by Raj to bathe as its not meant for maidens, Waheeda’s expression of guilt and anguish are priceless
- This painfully poignant tale of platonic / unrequited love and sadness, of beauty and melancholy; of maturity and emotions : simply told but marvelously executed enchants you, it pulls you along, it arrests you: in short it’s a little jewel.
The critical acclaim for Teesri Kasam, is absolutely justified; considering its unconventional storyline , authentic regional flavor, stunning cinematography and finely crafted performances by commercial superstars who took the risks and deglamorised themselves.
(Special Thanks to our reader Mr. Mohnish Bajwa for contributing to the post)