Directed by: Ram Daryani
Music: Anil Biswas
Lyrics: Prem Dhawan, Kaif Irfani, DN Madhok
Starring: Dilip Kumar, Madhubala, Shyama, Gope, M Kumar, Jeevan
Almost a decade before Mughal-e-Azam released, however, Dilip and Madhubala set the screen on fire in what would be the first of their films together. She was 18. If the story line was trite, who cared? Tarana had a lovely score by Anil Biswas, and every scene between the hero and heroine was evidence of their growing intimacy with each other. It is inevitable that we be touched by its intensity.
Dr Motilal (Dilip Kumar) has come to the hospital though it is his wedding day. He is clearly not happy, and snaps at his colleagues’ congratulatory messages, though he does apologise later on. His mind is not on his job, though he has surgery scheduled. As he comes back to his room after the surgery (which goes off well despite his qualms), he remembers how he was coming back home after completing his medical studies abroad.His plane crashes amidst the mountains, and the inhabitants of a small village nearby offer them a place to stay until the plane can be repaired. Motilal is unharmed, and is soon busy taking care of a woman who is grievously injured. A blind man, Surdas, sends his young daughter Tarana (Madhubala) to help take care of the guests.
Her first meeting with Motilal doesn’t go off too well, and she considers him rude and uppity. However, her father tells her gently that she must behave, and she tries very hard, though she cannot stop herself from answering the doctor in kind.
However, the two sort out their minor differences, and are soon very friendly. Tarana is not above teasing him a little; just when Motilal is beginning to feel attracted to her, she informs him that if she didn’t go ‘off duty’ now, her Saiyyan (beloved) would be displeased. Moti is taken aback. (I giggled.) Upon further questioning, she informs him that her Saiyyan would die if she weren’t near him; that he would not eat if she didn’t feed him; then, she offers to introduce Moti – obviously, Moti wants nothing to do with the whole situation. She insists on taking him along, and Moti goes, unwillingly, until he meets Saiyyan.
Their growing friendship and mutual attraction does not go unnoticed by Tarana’s friends; or by Toteram (Gope), a tobacco merchant, who is also in love with Tarana. Off he goes to consult the village jyotishi (astrologer), who, for a fee and a dakshina (offering) to his ‘gurudev’ tells him that there is an obstacle in his path. ‘Tell me something I don’t know,’ says Toteram, whose life is made miserable by the village belles who taunt him about Tarana’s pardesi (foreigner).
Tarana and Moti are lost in their own world. Between caring for the old woman and falling in love, they have no time to spare for the village gossip. Soon, however, the time comes for Moti to leave. Tarana hears the news from the pilot of the aircraft, and is very angry. Her anger turns into happiness when it turns out that Moti is not leaving after all – he’s only sending a letter to his father, Diwansahib (Jeevan), asking him to send some medicines for his patient.
Diwansahib is upset! His son, whom he hasn’t seen for seven years, is staying on in some godforsaken place instead of coming to meet him! Besides, he has fixed Moti’s marriage with the beautiful daughter of an old friend. Sheela (Shama) has never seen Moti, but already deems him her husband.
Back in the village, Surdas is very happy that Moti has dedicated his life to the service of others. When he wishes he had his sight so he can have one glimpse of this devta (God), Moti tells him that if he hadn’t been born blind, perhaps something could have been done about his vision. Surdas answers that his blindness is of recent vintage. Moti is almost sure that he may be able to cure Surdas; but, before that, he has to go to the city to meet his father and make the necessary preparations for the treatment.
Tarana is once again in tears. Moti teases her unmercifully. (Meanie!) What if he forgets her once he returns home, he asks. The city is so big, and so full of people. What if he even forgets her face? Even Moti cannot continue teasing her when he sees how unhappy she is, but he has to go. Tarana refuses to see him off, promising instead to be waiting for him at the quay when he returns.
He sets sail in a little boat, and Tarana watches sadly from a distance. He returns almost immediately since he cannot bear to leave her either. (I melted!!)
Now that the woman passenger (who has, in the meantime, adopted both of them) has recovered, he sends her to his father with another letter – this time, asking for medicines to treat Surdas. Diwansahib is furious at what he considers to be his son’s lack of respect. The woman snatches the list back from him, and goes off to send the required medicines. She also sends a lot of gifts for Tarana.
Surdas’ operation is successful. In gratitude, he decides to go off on a pilgrimage. Tarana and Moti spend all their time together, and Toteram’s jealousy increases by leaps and bounds. When Surdas returns, Toteram incites the other villagers to malign them both. Unfortunately for the lovers, they had been caught in a storm and found sanctuary in the ruins. It is dawn by the time the storm breaks, and they are caught ‘in sin’, or so Surdas believes.
He insists that Moti leave, never to return; it is not part of the villagers’ hospitality to murder a guest. Thinking discretion is the better part of valour, Moti leaves (hoping to talk to Surdas when things calm down) only to turn back when he hears Tarana scream when her father hits her. The villagers, besides themselves, beat him almost to death.
Back home, Diwansahib has had enough of his son’s recalcitrance. With Sheila and her father in tow, he makes the cumbersome journey to get his son. They find Moti half dead in the ruins, with only Saiyyan for company. They bring him back and Sheila takes care of him day and night; when he recovers consciousness, Moti writes to his Tarana promising to marry her as soon as he is well enough to travel.
The letter falls into Toteram’s hands and, he, in a bid to force Surdas’ hand, conspires with the dai-ma (mid-wife) to malign Tarana further. The poor girl had just managed to make her father believe in her innocence when the second blow falls. Unable to bear the shame, Surdas sets fire to his house – with Tarana in it.
Moti reaches the village just in time to see Surdas enter the flames in repentance – having lost Tarana, as he thinks, the dying Toteram has confessed to Surdas. The villagers have a tough time stopping Moti from entering the burning house to search for Tarana. Lost in memories, Moti has nothing to live for; it is Sheila who perseveres in the face of his grief and, invoking Tarana’s name, persuades him to live and work again.
Tarana, however, is alive. With no one else to call her own, she sets off in search of her Moti.
Moti is now throwing himself into his work at the cost of his health. He comes home tired, but his sleep is disturbed by thoughts of Tarana. That night, he asks Sheila to give him two sleeping pills. Sheila, as is her wont, is sitting by his side as he sleeps when Tarana finds them.
Broken-hearted, Tarana leaves, not wanting Sheila’s life ruined by her love. (I sniffled quietly.) Moti gives in to his father’s emotional blackmail, and agrees to marry Sheila, though not before telling her that he has nothing to offer her – he doesn't love her, will never be able to love her. Are you still willing to marry me? he asks, and she happily concurs. (‘Why?’ asked my saner self. ‘Because’, whispered my sentimental side.)
The flashback ends, and the film meanders to its inevitable conclusion. (Spoiler ahead, but I cannot resist saying that I was glad it didn’t end in tragedy. For a moment, I thought it would.) While the ending seemed rather hurried, who can watch Dilip and Madhubala and that intensity of feeling not believe that the tales were true and they were deeply in love? They make you want to believe it.
Anil Biswas’ score reached deep into more than one heart - if Nain mile nain hue baanwre bespoke the happiness of falling in love, then Seene mein sulagte hai armaan sang of the anguish of unfulfilled desires. If Ek main hoon ek meri bekasi ki shaam hai was an anthem of helplessness, then Woh din kahan gaye bata underlined the sheer agony of separation. There was also the light-hearted Yun chhup chhup ke and the lovely Lata-Sandhya Mukherjee duet Bol papeehe bol. And this is only half the soundtrack.
Shama. Why did this beautiful actress never get her due? While it is hard to completely buy into her character's motivations, she does a wonderful job as Sheila, who loves her affianced husband unconditionally, selflessly, tirelessly.
Madhubala came up with a striking performance. She was almost luminous in her beauty, and her ‘happy’ scenes with Dilip had the patina of reality. Did she fall in love because she was ‘acting’ that love? Or did her love for him overshadow her role? Did ‘reel’ become ‘real’ or vice-versa? One could say the same about Dilip; he is tender, romantic, passionate, happy, teasing – and one could almost feel his pain when he’s separated from his beloved. Again, reel or real? Where did one stop and the other begin?
I know I’m going berserk with the comparisons to fire, but sparks flew when the two appeared in the same shot. They squabbled with each other, made up so tenderly, laughed so much - and that rather bald word ‘Chemistry’? Well, they had it in spades! If you don’t believe me, take a look at the screencaps below. If that wasn't love, I don't know what is!
And because I have so many, many more screenshots I don't know what to do: here they are, the main leads, happy and sad, and above all, beautiful!
Watch Tarana for the sheer romance. This is what a lovestory should be!