Prem Rog, one of the biggest social dramas directed by showman, Raj Kapoor is one my favorite Raj Kapoor movies. Inspite of its regressive storyline and high octane melodrama it works on many levels. Premrog is about the stigma attached to a widow’s remarriage in then contemporary times and also hits hard on other evil social practices like castes and suppression of women.
The original story was by Kamna Chandra for which the screenplay was written by Jainendra Kumar Jain. Manorama,(Padmini Kolhapure) a charming bubbly daughter of a rich landlord, suddenly finds herself in a desolate state when her newly wed husband passes away. When the whole world seems to send her to dark dungeons of harshly imposed widowhood and its mean practices, her childhood friend Devdhar (Rishi Kapoor) rises amongst the society and fights for rights of Manorama and his love wins over in a male chauvinist violence ridden feudal society.
This film happens to be a case of perfect casting. Every actor fitted into his or her role like a hand in glove. Padmini as Manorama delivers a performance of a lifetime, as a leading lady. The emotions that she portrays, from childish innocence, haughty rich brat and lovable naive to a woman who awakens to the meaning of true love amidst the misery and harsh chaos in her life, takes this portrayal to level that shines as a landmark performance of Hindi Cinema. Rishi Kapoor breaks out of his perennial loverboy image in Prem Rog to tackle a role head on which showcases his talent in a highly underplayed, subtle characterization of Devdhar, an educated village boy secretly in love with Manorama. In histrionics, Rishi proves his mettle as a versatile performer as much at ease with a guitar in Karz as he is here as a couraguos youth who matches Shammi Kapoor’s colossal portrayal of a feudal zamindar. Not only to the prime leads, Prem Rog is also memorable for the surprise package of Nanda and Tanuja, in supporting roles which turn out to be marvelously etched within the tight script.This was Nanda’s comeback film. She excels as Manorama’s helpless mother, emoting with her eyes , displaying affection and empathy at one end and fiery defiance of the useless customs at the other end in the pre-climax. Tanuja holds her forte :giving a realistic performance of a suppressed thakurain who has to witness the tyranny of the males in her household.
Music is one of the biggest highlights of the movie. This was the last creative association of Laxmikant Pyarelal with Rajkapoor after delivering stupendous scores in RK Banner movies like Bobby and Satyam Shivam Sundaram. Every song in the movie is worth a mention specially ‘Meri kismet mein tu nahin shayad (Written by Amir Qazalbash)’, Mohabbat hai kya cheez’, ‘Ye Galiyan ye chaubara’ (By Santosh Anand) and ‘Bhanwre ne khilaya phool’ (Rendered by Narendra Sharma).
The film has many standout scenes like-
The one in which Manorama is dragged amongst a group of old widows for shaving her hair.
The one in which Devdhar brings Manorama to his home to eat a decent meal that she had been deprived of due to insane customs.
The one in which Nanda confronts Shammi Kapoor to plead for her daughter’s happiness and her budding love for Devdhar.
The game changing pre-climax dialogue between Shammi Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor, where Raj Kapoor has used lights in a very metaphorical manner.
The ease with which Raj Kapoor always used to point fingers on the ill practices of the society was amazingly artistic and brave. In present time when writers and film makers thinks 100 times before writing anything regarding age old practices in our society, Raj Kapoor’s cinema always inspires to be brave.
Film was highly successful and was nominated for 12 filmfares and went on to win 4 trophies to namely Padmini Kolhapure (Best Actress), Raj Kapoor (Best Director and Editor) and best lyricist to Santosh Anand for ‘Mohabbat hai kya cheez’. Film’s art direction is grand and very elaborate.
All said and done PremRog , comes gift wrapped in Lata Mageshkar’s vocals in velvety smoothness which have kept on echoing in our ears over the decades.
This film stands as one of the finest films made under the RK Banner.