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)

Yohaann Bhaargava
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Yohaann Bhaargava

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.
Yohaann Bhaargava
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