Aslam (Guru Dutt), Pyare Nawab (Rehman), and Mirza Shaiza (Johnny Walker), are best friends in Lucknow. Nawab suggests Aslam marry a religious scholar's daughter Jameela (Waheeda Rehman), not knowing she's the same woman he's bowled over by and wants to marry (faulty intelligence is prevalent at federal levels in the twenty-first century, this misunderstanding hardly compares :P). Aslam and Jameela marry, and life is about to go on happily, except that Aslam soon discovers of Pyare's love for the woman. Aslam is an orphan, and given he is indebted to Pyare for having ensured his well-being since his parents' death in his early youth, he is caught between love for his wife and love for his most loyal friend. Several other plot lines are delightfully integrated therein, but this central question remains unanswered until the very end: How will the Aslam-Jameela-Pyare love triangle end?
The weaknesses in the script are quite glaring. There are inconsistencies in character tendencies. Best friends don't communicate as clearly and as often as 'best friends' do, by definition. Sensible characters demonstrate an unwillingness to learn from precedence (mistakes are repeated). They also believe in love at first sight (for the record, I stopped believing in fourth grade). Apparently, there is one (and only one) person in all of Lucknow who can be sent as a proxy to perform the Hajj (Islamic pilgrimage)! The list goes on.
Yet, I absolutely love this film! I've often said I'm the ideal audience for filmmakers, and this only confirms it. Sure, suspension of disbelief is required, but the film makes a very strong case for its audience to want to play along. The biggest reason for this is fine performances by the four leads, who are absolutely fantastic. Character sketches generally enhance the scope of their acts -- there isn't a main character who isn't likable to the audience, which is testament to the portrayal of each in a film driven by misunderstanding and envy. They really make up for a lot with the execution in nearly all respects.
Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman are splendid together.
There's always room to include commentary on social issues of relevance.
There are scenes at masala film's favorite destination.
The first frame in this post hopefully says all that needs to be said of what I think of Waheeda-ji. What's not to like about her? She's got the brains and knows what to say and when to say it.
And she's just gorgeous, commanding respect throughout.
Nawab means what he says and says what he means. That Johnny Walker outfit would have looked interesting in color.
Johnny has a significant role throughout. As always, he is delightful and provides ample and effective comic relief. I've said this before, I'm convinced he's the best comedian of all time.
This dialogue among three good friends reminds of a scene in Dil Chahta Hai (2001 -- Akash to Sameer: "Mard ban, be a man!")
Had the masses in this part of the world seen the film beforehand, this shoe-throwing incident might not have (initially) been a mystery.
Among the elements that stand out is the exquisite dialogue (Saghir Usmani and Tabish Sultanpuri). Much of it is in authentic Urdu, which works beautifully given the characters, theme, and setting. Allusions to specific events from Islamic history are infrequent but significant. The Eros Entertainment DVD contains decent subtitles, and the strength of the narrative, universality of dialogue, and body language are more than good enough in conveying an understanding of the circumstances in the film, prior knowledge of history notwithstanding.
The art direction is brilliant (Lucknow looks and feels like it -- the wardrobe is indicative of the demographic, for example), and shines through in the two songs shot in color. Which brings us to the music (Ravi) and accompanying lyrics (Shakeel Badayuni). No introduction needed to the immaculate title song by Mohammad Rafi. I think it's the best love song of all time, and no translation can do it justice.
There are several other fantastic songs, most very well integrated and used to enhance the plot. Here's a sampling:
- Sharma Ke Yun Parda Nashin by Shamshad Begum, Asha Bhosle
- Mera Yaar Bana Hai Dulha by Mohammad Rafi
- Yeh Duniya Gol Hai by Mohammad Rafi
- Mili Khaak Mein Mohabbat by Mohammad Rafi
- Badle Badle Mere by Lata Mangeshkar
- Dil Ki Kahaani Rang Laayi by Asha Bhosle
While the title song (here's a little, cool instrumental tribute) is primarily a ghazal (you might recall mention of this style of poetry in the discussion of music to Delhi-6), #s 4 and 5 seem strongly rooted in the marsiya form of Urdu poetry (interestingly, its Wikipedia entry notes a relationship to the city of Lucknow). They're both exceptionally well-written, and it helps to have two of the best ever singers providing the vocals. #3 is delightful -- its beginning is perfect, and especially hilarious is a little confrontation about 2:43 into the video.
Chaudhvin Ka Chand is a treat all around. Four stars and then some for a beautifully executed film. It has its issues, but it is thoroughly enjoyable and nothing short of quality entertainment once the viewer appreciates and accepts the melodrama for what it is. If you have seen other works by Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman, you know how good they can be. If you have yet to see them, what are you waiting for?
Movie rating: 4.25/5 (Excellent!)
My Classification: PG
Music rating: 4.75/5
It's in the lyrics. Beautiful!
Also see: Songs with the moon, the eternal performer