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12 April 2012

Paigham (1959)

Directed by SS Vasan
Music: C Ramchandra
Starring: Dilip Kumar, Vyjayanthimala, 
Raj Kumar, Saroja Devi, Motilal, 
Johnny Walker, Pandhari Bai, 
Pratima Devi, SN Bannerjee
I had put Paigham on my to-watch list a long time ago, but just never got around to watching it. I would keep bypassing it in favour of other films, good, bad, indifferent. For some reason, it just didn't seem interesting enough. Until, some time ago, fellow blogger Richard posted a song from the film. That made me curious enough to watch it during one of my insomniac nights. 

Best friends Manju (Vyjayantimala) and Malti (Saroja Devi) are looking up their results - Manju has come first in her BA exams, and Malti has failed, (but is totally insouciant). The differences do not end there - Malti is the daughter of a mill owner driving a Rs30,000 car, while Manju, the daughter of a single mother, is in dire need of a job. 
Malti promises her a clerical job in her father's factory; when Manju's mother hears the name of Malti's home town, she swoons. When she doesn't regain consciousness even after awhile, Manju, desperate, sets off to get a doctor. She is looking for a rickshaw-wala and is intrigued by the fact that the one she meets is a rather well-dressed young man who is reading Gandhi's autobiography under the light of the street lamp.
Her interest is further aroused when he remonstrates - in English - with the doctor who refuses to make house calls unless he is paid. He also pays the doctor, since Manju, in her hurry, has forgotten all about money. But she's too worried about her mother to bother too much about him.

Ratan (Dilip Kumar), the young rickshaw-wala, has passed his Engineering with honours; a letter announcing the marriage of his niece brings him back to his mother (Pratima Devi), brother Ram (Raj Kumar) and his family in Rangpur.
They are overjoyed to see him, though Ram is apologetic that he had not been able to send money for Ratan's expenses the past two months. Ratan tells him not to worry; he had managed to make enough money plying his rickshaw. He waves his brother's objections away by saying that he had worked at an honest job, and had not duped anyone.

The mill that Ram works in is owned by Malti's father Sewakram (Motilal), who is a jovial man who cannot say 'no' to his daughter. Thanks to Malti, Manju is appointed as a typist there. Soon, Manju is on her way to Rangpur despite her mother's misgivings.
The next day, Ram takes Ratan to the mill; while he is there, an expensive imported machine breaks down. The mill's chief engineer opines that the part will have to be ordered; the mill cannot work without the machine, and will have to be shut down leading to much loss. Ratan offers to fix the machine; Malti, who has accompanied her father to the mill is taken by the young man's looks and confidence, and encourages her father to give the youth a chance. 

Manju is happy to see him too. Soon after, she meets him ostensibly to return the money that he had paid the doctor on her behalf. He puts it back in her purse, telling her that he will ask her for it when he needs it. They are well on their way to falling in love with each other, though Ratan keeps it light, teasing her at every opportunity.
Sewakram, pleased with Ratan's work with the machine, and egged on by Malti, offers him a job as chief mechanic. Both Manju and Malti are pleased to hear him accept. Malti visits Ratan at the mill, and is not too pleased either with his ignoring her, or with Manju's interruption. 
Manju, on the other hand, is jealous, and upset with Ratan for yelling at her. He soon makes up with her, teasing her into admitting she is jealous.  
They are spotted by Malti, who is furious at being spurned.

It is on his first payday that Ratan realises that something is seriously wrong; the workers had been working overtime to fulfil orders and the Diwali bonus has been announced. Only, Ratan discovers that the workers are being cheated of their dues – they sign for three months’ bonus, and are given only one. He questions the discrepancy, but is informed by everyone, including his own brother that that is the norm. Ratan is troubled. To him, suffering injustice without raising his voice against it is as bad as committing the injustice in the first place.
More trouble follows. There's an accident at the mill. In order to avoid paying indemnity, Seth Sewakram has it publicised as a suicide attempt. Ratan is aghast. How can his brother stand for something so unjust? Ram, on the other hand, though accepting that his employer is wrong, is old-school, and prizes loyalty to the company and his employer above anything else.
With Ratan at the head of the enraged workers, they go to Seth Sewakram’s house to demand justice. Ratan is even more troubled when he realises that Seth Sewakram has coerced the injured worker into signing his claims away for a paltry 200 rupees. His ideals, his integrity, does not allow him to remain silent. His idealism inspires the workers to establish a union, and they elect him the leader. This puts him into direct confrontation with not only Seth Sewakram, but also his brother. Manju’s friendship with Malti, meanwhile, has already developed cracks. 

Dismayed by the workers’ loyalty to Ratan, and their continued intransigence, Seth Sewakram decides to fire both the brothers. As it is, Ratan’s involvement with the union has led to his niece’s engagement being jeopardised. Ram wants him to make his peace with the mill owner, and Seth Sewakram himself does not want to let a good worker go. 

Will Ratan give into family considerations? Will he dissolve the union and stay back? What is the secret that Manju’s mother keeps from her until her death? Will the workers receive justice? Before the movie ends, there will be a death, an attempted murder, attempted arson, and a court case. 

Paigham is certainly not a 'great' film; it's a simple story of class conflict, interspersed with the usual mix of romance, drama (which rarely descended into 'melodrama'), and comedy. But Dilip Kumar, Raj Kumar and Vyjayanthimala lifted it up a couple of notches. Both Ram and Ratan are upright, decent folks  - the difference is that Ram is old school, and lives by his loyalty to his employer - namak halal, while Ratan is idealistic and places honour and integrity above everything else, including his family. 

As the man who believes that the worker and the employer share a symbiotic relationship, Ratan is idealistic without becoming preachy, and that's a fine line to tread. Dilip Kumar handles it well. Of the trio, it was always Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand who were considered the romantic heroes, but the romantic scenes in this film make you wish Dilip Kumar did more such roles instead of being slotted into tragic, melancholic roles. He has neither RK's intensity, or Devsaab's sophistication, but he was real and believable, humorous and self-deprecating, and oh, so melt-into-a-puddle earnest. (I fell in love.)

The chemistry between him and Vyjayanthi is sparkling, and he is wonderful in the scenes where he teases her until she admits that she was jealous, and later, annoys her with a story of a previous love. She gets more and more hot and bothered, until he confesses that he was 12 years old when it happened. 
Vyjayantimala had something more to do than just be eye candy in a couple of songs and dances. She lit up the screen in the light, romantic scenes, and it is easy to believe that her character was totally in love with Ratan - the shyness, the jealousy, the love - she used her eyes to great effect. She was equally effective in the dramatic scenes, reminding you that behind the danseuse was a fine actress, who never really got her due. 

Raj Kumar, who, I must confess, is not usually one of my favourites, was really, really good as the affectionate older brother, who nevertheless cannot understand his brother's uncompromising idealism. He was restrained, without a trace of his usual mannerisms, and became Ram with aplomb.
The comedy track was unnecessary. I can't believe I found Johnny Walker irritating, but I did. He made me want to take his butler's cap and shove it down his head to keep him from talking. Yes, it was that bad. 

What let me down completely, though, was C Ramchandra's music. The composer must have had a bad day, or this was one of the films where he was given the job in the morning, and tossed off the tunes four hours later. Pleasant enough tunes, but probably something he thought of while brushing his teeth. 

Yet, on the whole, it was a pleasant watch, especially if you like Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthimala.

Trivia: The role of Vyjayanthimala's reel mother was played by her real-life mother, Vasundhara Devi.


  1. Paigham! I knew it till now as the only film with Raj Kumar and Dilip Kumar together (before Saudagar). I have been meaning to watch this film for a long time. But I still haven't been able to see Deewar, so when will I find time for this. It sounds good enough.
    BTW I always found Dilip Kumar to be ver yromantic. I find him to be more romantic than say Raj Kapoor.
    The message sounds good, maybe we need more such films, what with neo-capitalism at large.
    Pandhari Bai plays Raaj Kumar's wife?

  2. I looked up the songs on you tube. The Vyju number main kyun na nachhu is good but the other songs are just about okay.
    It seems to be the time, when C Ramchandra had quarelled with his long-time muse, Lata. It seems that she didn't have any song to sing in this film

  3. Harvey, I was pleasantly surprised with this film; no melodrama, no hitting us over the head with the message with all the subtlety a sledgehammer, no all-evil villain with no mitigating goodness, a fairly mature romance, with no scope for misunderstanding...

  4. Nyeh, brush, brush brush my teeth, tum-ti-tum-ti-tum... Okay, song 1.

  5. I don't like Raj Kumar either, so a film that has Raj Kumar as one of the reasons to see it (besides Dilip Kumar in romantic mode - I think he's awesome when he's being teasing and light-hearted) is a must watch... when I get the time. And I do like Vyjyanthimala. Especially when she gets to act a bit - I loved her in Sadhna, for example. 

  6. Nice filmn. I saw it a couple of years ago, and was satisfied.
    I've always found Dilip Kumar very romantic. The intensity he lends to it makes it very interesting. His teasing of the heroine is in a class of its own.

    Agree about the music.
    I like Raj Kumar inspite of his theatricals :-D
    That's an interesting bit about Vyjayanthimala's mother. Have to take out the DVD and watch her.

  7. I don't like Raj Kumar either

    I'm not surprised. :)

    Truly, what I really liked about the movie was the fact that while Ratan is campaigning for the workers' rights, he is NOT saying that 'capitalism' is *bad*. There is no 'workers=good, maalik=bad' trope here; in fact, there is even the scene where the worker tries to abuse the system; so, it's more a case-by-case scenario. People *do* bad things; they are not inherently bad (or) good.

    And the acting was remarkably restrained - even the scenes which could have descended into pathos (like the niece's engagement being broken) were reined in - I don't think any of the women spend their time weeping.

  8. And what I liked about the teasing is that it is not stalkerish. It is a very affectionate, very loving interaction. They looked so right for each other - the comfort level was unmistakeable.

    ps: About Rajkumar - I don't hate him. :) In fact, I'd much rather see him than a few others I could name. It's just that sometimes, his mannerisms became unbearable. Reined in, he's a fine actor, and has a wonderful voice.

  9. In a radio program named "Picture Pandey", the anchor Anubhav Pandey says that Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar never worked together in another movie after "Insaaniyat" (1955) . Reason - Dev was given a raw due in that movie thanks to the director Vasan being a good friend of Dilip.

    I think I should applaud Raaj Kumar for working with the same duo though he may have an inkling of how his role may have shaped up.

    I remember this movie was publicised heavily during the release of "Saudagar" (1991) since the two stalwarts worked with each other only after 3 decades.

  10. Shashi, I love how 'reasons' like these get perpetuated to eternity. Insaniyat was the first film in which Dilip was working with SS Vasan - they weren't 'friends' by any means. Dev didn't act with Dilip after that because a) he *didn't* act in two-hero films and b)he *hated* the moustache / dhoti get-up and is on record (in his autobiography) as saying that he was very, very uncomfortable in the role. And Dilip Kumar is on record saying that Dev had been busy with shooting for one of his films (I think it was Kala Bazaar) and he was grateful that Dev still made time for this film.

    Remember, Dev was as popular, and as successful as Dilip at the time. Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar (and RK, until the Zeenat imbroglio) remained friends until Dev's death. I know it sounds so much better when there's a conspiracy theory, but... :)

    Raaj Kumar was much 'younger' in the film industry, and it certainly wasn't a parallel role; I don't think that anyone would have thought he would have as much screen time as Dilip, not if they read the script. Because the film is not about the two brothers and their clash, but a clash between an idealist and a capitalist.

  11. Sharmi Adhikary18 April 2012 at 04:54

    Wow, you've really made me want to watch this film fast!! Awesome it sounds 

  12. It was a good watch, Sharmi. I think you'll like it. Very quiet, very restrained, and very well-handled.

  13. That's useful information for me, Anu, and thanks very much for that. I guess I should cross-verify "facts" by RJs going forwards.

    What you say is correct since its backed by truth. Dev did not act in 2-her projects later. I guess "Hum Dono"(1961) is the only film which may come under this category.

    On Dev being busy, I guess it must have been some other movie since Kala Bazaar released a good five years later in 1960.

  14. Sharmi Adhikary19 April 2012 at 05:42

     I saw it yesterday Anu and quite liked it. BUt while sometimes I found Dilip Kumar's Ratanlal resort to a bit of pontification, I loved Raj Kumar in it. Awesome he was. And Vyjayanthimala was so pretty. While she and B Saroja Devi look quite similar, the former has a very pleasant disposition, while the latter looks unpleasant. I do not like B Saroja Devi coz she looks angry all the time. BUt yes, a good film on the whole and well handled indeed. Thanks for the recommendation.

  15. On Dev being busy, I guess it must have been some other movie since Kala Bazaar released a good five years later in 1960.

    Shashi, Paigham was released in 1959, Kala Bazaar in 1960. :))

  16. You're welcome, Sharmi. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I found Ratanlal bearable simply because people who believe passionately in something are always vehement in their opinions.

    Poor Saroja Devi. :)

  17. And Dilip Kumar is on record saying that Dev had been busy with shooting for one of his films (I think it was Kala Bazaar) and he was grateful that Dev still made time for this film.  I thought you were referring to "Insaaniyat" here. No?

  18. And Dilip Kumar is on record saying that Dev had been busy with shooting for one of his films (I think it was Kala Bazaar) and he was grateful that Dev still made time for this film.  I thought you were referring to "Insaaniyat" here. No?

  19. Yes, it was Insaaniyat that I was referring to - if you read that sentence as "Dev Anand was shooting for Kala Bazaar and Dilip Kumar was grateful that Dev still made time for Insaaniyat", would that make better sense? :)

  20. Yes, that makes sense. There were several releases of Dev in 1955, so he may have been busy with some other movie.

    My gut feeling is that he wasn't busy with Kala Bazaar since it released a good 5 years later. So he may have not been shooting for that movie.

    Do you get my point? I am sorry if I am sounding very "argumentative", but I guess I am not very good at putting my thoughts the first time round.

  21. No, you are not being argumentative at all. I read your comment and mine, and then realised *I* was getting our wires crossed. You are right - it wasn't Kala Bazar. By the time I got around to commenting, I was getting Paigham and Insaniyat mixed up. Mea Culpa. Sorry about that. I need to find that article again to see which film it actually was.


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