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27 October 2011

Manzil (1979)

Directed by: Basu Chatterjee
Music: RD Burman
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Moushumi Chatterjee, 
Rakesh Pandey, AK Hangal, Lalita Pawar, 
Satyen Kapoo, Urmila Bhat, Dr Shreeram Lagoo
I saw this movie when Doordarshan showed it on TV as part of their Sunday evening entertainment. I remember seeing the announcement and thinking why I would want to watch Amitabh in a churidar kurta and a Nehru jacket (yeah, snob, me.). And Moushumi had never been one of my favourite heroines (though I did like her eventually – I thought she was a scream in Angoor, but that’s a tale for another day.), because I’d only seen her in those South tearjerkers until then. The usual sacrificing wife roles.

But Sunday evenings were reserved for sitting in front of the television, and that Sunday was no different. Unlike today, there weren’t a thousand channels vying for your attention. (Idle comment no.1: I find that when I had *only* Doordarshan, I saw most of the programmes and found quite a few very nice; today, with over I-do-not-know-how-many-channels, I find myself flipping through and then turning the TV off. Strange!) So, for want of anything better, and because it was Amitabh Bachchan, I sat and watched, and before I knew it, I was pulled into the story of a man who is aiming higher than his arms can reach. A man like you and me; with hopes, dreams and ambitions, and very limited means of making them all come true. 

A young woman decides to get down and walk to her friend’s house when her car breaks down. As she strolls along, she is perturbed to hear footsteps behind her on the deserted suburban road. She walks faster only to see that the young man is walking rather fast too. More than a little worried, she begins to walk even faster, almost breaking into a run and then is left feeling very foolish when the man walks right past her without breaking his stride.
Relieved, she makes her way to her friend's house, only to find the same young man at the party – and he is singing.
She is both impressed and embarrassed at the same time. As he is leaving, her friend ensures she meets Ajay (Amitabh Bachchan). As they talk, Ajay launches into his usual spiel.
His mother (Lalita Pawar) is fed up of his wandering here and there, but Ajay is nonchalant. A mechanic, Anokhi Lal (AK Hangal) come to meet Ajay with news of raw material that can be acquired cheaply. He also feeds Ajay’s dreams of making money hand over fist.
Meanwhile, the young woman, Aruna (Moushumi Chatterjee) is falling head over heels in love with Ajay. She even invites him home to meet her mother. Ajay is impressed with their home and obvious wealth, contrasting it with his reality. In turn, he is impressing Aruna’s mother (Urmila Bhatt).
One lie soon leads to another – he is forced to tell them that his car is in the garage. Aruna offers to drop him home. He demurs, and ends up having to take a cab.
Ajay’s mother is annoyed – why can’t he just get a job? After all, he is a graduate. Ajay goes to to Prakash, and tells both him and his servant Shankar (Sunder) that from that moment on, Prakash’s flat, car, clothes, telephone all belong to him.
Aruna is weaving her own dreams. Ajay thinks nothing about calling Aruna, and faking about his business appointments. Then, he lies some more more about how much time and energy his business takes out of him. And while Anokhi Lal is taking Ajay along on a sweet ride, Ajay’s romance with Aruna is going on full swing. (And I’m suddenly homesick for Bombay during the rains.)
Prakash is astringent about Ajay’s schemes – he’s heard them before. Ajay is sure that this time things will be different. He is beginning a business in scientific precision instruments. It’s Prakash’s money that is funding Ajay’s ventures. Prakash is supportive but cautious. Ajay has no such doubts. It’s been raining orders and he has full trust in Anokhi Lal.
Aruna finally succeeds in dragging Ajay home to meet her father (Satyen Kapoo) who is also impressed by the self-made (self-professed) youth.

For the first time Ajay’s conscience is beginning to trouble him. Aruna’s belief in everything he says makes him feel conscious of the lies he is telling her every time they meet. He assuages his guilt by promising himself that once his business takes off, she won't have to know the truth. 

But his business isn’t taking off the way he expected. Consignments have been returned. Anokhi Lal is no longer available when Ajay calls. When he is available, there is only talk of how he needs more money. Ajay is at his wits’ end, but is not willing to pay attention when Prakash cautions him about Anokhi Lal. Finally, he coerces his mother into giving him the money he needs.
Ajay still has the hope that he will be able to tide things over. He has even invited Aruna and her parents to Prakash’s flat – which he tells them is his. Her parents are impressed with his flat and his obvious wealth – and since their daughter loves him, they are all for getting the two of them married.

Despite Prakash offering to get him a job, Ajay still feels that his troubles will disappear once his business gets off the ground. Only, Anokhi Lal has disappeared, and with him, Ajay’s investment. When he does reappear, it is to disclaim all responsibility for the returned consignments. Ajay is finally beginning to see his true colours.
What will happen when Ajay’s feet hit the ground? Will he ever have the courage to tell Aruna the truth? Will he repent in time? Can he prove his basic innocence? What about Aruna's parents? Can things get any worse?

One would think that after a stupendous year filled with blockbusters that reinforced his ‘Angry Young Man’ image, Amitabh Bachchan would have stuck to his comfort zone. But, defying the naysayers and marking yet another feather in his acting cap Amitabh donned the role of a young man who is educated, has big dreams of social mobility (upwards) and ambitions of striking it rich, and learns that determination and hard work trump shortcuts when it comes to success. It is interesting that this film is also made by a middle-of-the-road film maker, Basu Chatterjee, who takes such care of tiny details - which may not be important in themselves, but when you see it, you think to yourself "I'm glad they showed that!" (I *loved* the scene where Ajay, a BA, decides to make scientific instruments himself and spends nights mugging up old Physics textbooks.

Manzil is full of little vignettes from ordinary life; how many of us have walked on lonely streets and quickened our steps because we felt that the man walking behind us was actually following us? How many of us have tried to impress the person we love? Aren’t there those among us who have placed ambition before anything else, only to realise (too late some times), what has been lost on the way to realising them? How many of us have tripped and fallen on our faces and then been picked up and supported by the people we love? 

Manzil is a simple story about simple people – no one is deliberately evil; they are flawed, sure, but that merely makes them human. It is the story of Ajay who falls in love and pretends to be something he is not so he can impress his lady love. And of Aruna, who, upon hearing how she was deceived can still forgive her man; not because she is a doormat, but because she knows that whatever else was a mirage, his love was true.

Add Ajay's mother, who doesn’t think the sun rises and sets on her son. Like any other mother in real life, she chivvies him into getting a secure job; berates him for his fly-by-night schemes; is saddened by his despair, and finally, when push comes to shove, comes through for her son. Take Aruna's mother who is willing to listen to her daughter and give the young man another chance instead of tarring and feathering him; she even voices her displeasure of her husband’s views. Openly and without equivocation.

It is also the story of Aruna's father who takes his daughter’s boyfriend to court, but steps back and forgives the young man once he learns that he has truly repented. Which means: they are all human. And so, somewhere it calls to something deep inside you. Mistakes can be, and are, made, and rectified; mistakes can also be, and are, forgiven; anger is a momentary passion; love does triumph, not with a clash of the cymbals of rebellion, but with the quietness of faith and trust. 

It’s a simple tale. Simply told. 


  1. Oh, goody! I did hope a) that your next review would be about Manzil (or Kala Patthar) and b) you would post them when I had the time to read them. I haven't seen either of the movies and I'm glad to get some idea of what they are! This sounds really wonderful. It's on my I-need-to-get-it-now-! list. :)

  2. This sounds so good. And it's another film I haven't seen yet. Anu, what am I going to do?! There are only 24 hours in a day, and I do need time for some stuff other than watching films. This way, with one must-watch recommendation every week (and I'm counting only your recommendations, not those from others), I'm going to need at least one more lifetime to finish watching my growing pile of films. :-(

  3. This sounds really nice. I feel I must have seen it, but in fact, I can't really remember it. So a good excuse for watching it again.

  4. I agree with you about Doordarshan, there really were some good programmes and now---- well yes all we do is change channels. Manzil was a remake of the Bengali hit 'Aakash Kusum' featuring the then top stars of Bengal Aparna Sen and Soumitro Chatterjee. The Hindi version has a happy ending but not so in the Bengali version , however it ends on a hopeful note.

  5. I'm glad to have obliged then. :) Yes, it is a wonderful movie.

  6. I hear you! I have been burning the candle at both ends this past month. Somehow I don't think my employer would be happy if I began to blog when I'm supposed to be working. I keep buying DVDs when I go to India, and there are so many that I haven't watched yet! :(

  7. It is a very nice movie. It's these movies that underline the fact that if you have a good story, then you really don't need SFX or foreign locales or one thousand extras bursting into song behind the hero / heroine when they fall in love.

  8. I didn't know that Manzil was remade from Bengali, Shilpi. Thank you for that bit of trivia. I'm glad that the ending was changed in the Hindi version. :))

  9. Love both versions of the song "Rimjhim Gire Saawan", as a song Kishore's is better, but (as you mentioned) Lata's song picturization of a rain-soaked Bombay is brilliant.
    Amitabh does a good job, and A. K. Hangal is a really good at portraying -ve shades.
    I wonder as to why he was not used in this capacity more often, one grew tired of him playing those docile/servile roles.
    Nice review, and this movie is a good watch.

  10. Samir, I too think that Kishore's song is wa-a-y better than Lata's version, but oh, the picturisation. It was unbelievably romantic.

    Wasn't AK Hangal a treat?! I hated seeing him in those goody-two-shoes martyred roles.

  11. I don't know how my reply went way up there! I was saying that I was glad I obliged you, then...

  12. Another Amitabh film,w hich I haven't seen as yet. Though i am sure that it was aired on DD some time. I confuse this film with the other AB-Moushmi film, Benaam!

    Rhim-jhim gire sawan is, I think, everybody's fav rain song, right there near 'O sajna' from Parakh!
    I think I will like this film! Thanks for reviewing this. I hope it will help me to differentiate it from Benaam now! :-)

  13. You're welcome, Harvey. Do watch it, I am sure you will enjoy it. And oh, Benaam is *nothing like* Manzil :)

    Rhim jhim gire saawan always brings back memories of Bombay during the monsoons. I worked at Nariman Point for a time, and during the monsoons would take the long walk from Churchgate to Nariman Point - along the causeway. It was wild and beautiful (oh, and I lost an umbrella too; the wind just whipped it away from my hand.). I used to have a spare change of clothes in my bad so I could indulge my love for getting drenched in the rains.

  14. Rains at Nariman Point is an important event for everry Bombayite. When I was in Xaviers, we used to go often there, but not often enough as we would have liked to!

  15. You are a Bombayite?? Shall I start the 'It's a small world' thing all over again? Bollyviewer and I began that, then Madhu and I discovered many things common, and now this! *shaking head in disbelief*

  16. Well, that is not really surprising, is it? I mean Bombay has nearly 14 million inhabitants. ;-)

    But you are right, Choti si yeh duniya...

  17. I mean Bombay has nearly 14 million inhabitants. ;-)

    You had to go and spoil it, didn't ya? Are you also the sort of person, who while watching an absurd film (read Hindi film) is always bemoaning the lack of logic? :)

  18. You got me there!
    Chor pakda gaya!

    no, now seriously, bemoaning logic in a hindi film! marna hai kya? I would love to watch films like AAA (not the batteries) with other like-minded people, par yaha milta kaun hai! So I end up watching serious films like Benazir (because I saw it few weeks ago).

  19. Good! For a minute, I really thought Dost dost na raha... :)

  20. It's nice to come back after a long trip, take a well-deserved day off, and sit back and enjoy your reviews. You are quickly becoming my favourite reviewer. I watched Manzil in Delhi - IIT days. First date and all. So, it is really special. It was a wonderful movie too. ;) Thanks for bringing back memories.


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