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16 June 2018

Raat aur Din (1967)

Directed by: Satyen Bose
Music: Shankar-Jaikishan
Lyrics: Shailendra, Hasrat Jaipuri
Starring: Nargis, Pradeep Kumar, 
Feroz Khan, Harindranath Chattopadhyay, 
Anwar Hussain, Anoop Kumar, 
KN Singh, Leela Misra, 
SN Bannerjee, Laxmi Chhaya
The Nargis saga continues. This time, it’s her last film, a psychological drama about a  woman suffering from multiple personality disorder (or Disassociative Identity Disorder, as it is known today). It seems apt that in the late 60s when garish Eastman colour was the order of the day, this film should be shot in black and white – a reflection of the shades of darkness and light that plague the protagonist’s mind. This is mirrored in the title song as well – Raat aur din diya jale, Phir bhi mere man mein andhiyaara hai…

Raat aur Din begins, as do all good psychological dramas, on a dark, rainy night. A gate slams behind an ultra-sophisticated woman (Nargis) who, clad in a glamorous evening gown, cigarette holder in hand, hails a cab.
‘Firpo’s’, she tells the cabbie, and there, the patrons perk up as she sashays in, the carefree Dil ki girah khol do on her lips. None more so than an attractive young man (Feroz Khan), who seizes the opportunity to dance with this beautiful woman. 
As the dance ends, they walk companionably to his dinner table, where he orders two large whiskies. The young man is a bit taken aback, when she asks him for a cigarette. He met her in Shimla, he tells her, and it’s the woman’s turn to be surprised – she’s never been to Shimla. The young man grins; they haven’t introduced themselves – he’s Dilip. Just as she’s beginning to speak, there’s an interruption.
A man (Pradeep Kumar) rushes up to their table – he wants ‘Baruna’ to come with him. Now! Who the hell is he? Her husband, he snaps. The woman bursts out laughing – she’s not Baruna, she’s Peggy. And she’s not married. 
Dilip begins to intervene, but Pratap (that’s the man’s name) has had enough. He punches Dilip and the two men have a set-to. Which is when Peggy decides to do the flit. While Pratap mutinously returns to his house to await his wife, Dilip walks slowly back to the table. He spots ‘Peggy’s’ handbag on the floor; inside is a card – Mrs Baruna Verma.
Meanwhile, at home, Pratap discovers that their bedroom door is locked but Baruna doesn’t answer his calls. He sits outside, chain-smoking, until in the early hours of dawn, Baruna comes out of the bedroom. A very different Baruna, this – simply clad in a dressing gown, hair loose, face scrubbed free of make-up… She’s solicitous as well – where was he last night? When she woke up he was gone.
Pratap’s anger flares up again when Baruna denies she ever went to Firpo’s or that she knows anyone named Dilip. The argument turns serious when an angry Pratap pulls out a revolver to threaten Baruna. Dilip walks in just then and matters get more confusing – Dilip insists he’d met Baruna at a party a few years earlier in Shimla, and then, for the first time at Firpo’s the previous night. Baruna denies knowing him at all, let alone dancing with him.
Pratap is yelling, Dilip is protesting, and Baruna is almost in hysterics. Amidst the confusion, she faints. The two men take Baruna to a psychiatrist, Dr Dey (Harindranath Chattopadhyay), whose hospital is named Psycho Clinic. (?!) Dr Dey and his assistant Dr Alvares (Anwar Hussain) discover that while Baruna cannot remember anything of the previous night, let alone her past, she’s been having frequent headaches.
She usually takes an aspirin and sleeps it off, she tells them. With nothing to go on, Dr Dey is sure that the answer lies in Baruna’s past. What can Pratap tell them about Baruna?
Pratap doesn’t know much. He’d met Baruna when his car broke down on the way to Shimla. The locals directed him to a contractor’s house nearby. Unfortunately, his daughter, Baruna, could not offer him shelter; her father is away in the jungles. But she provides him with some food and a thermos of hot tea. The night is spent companionably enough (outside, due to a fortuitous snake sighting) and by the time morning rolls around, Pratap is already smitten. 
Her father (KN Singh) arrives just as they are eating breakfast. Talking to the father, Pratap reveals that he was on his way to Shimla to meet the daughter of a family friend. The news seems to affect Baruna badly, though Pratap doesn’t understand why she’s so moody. In Shimla, Pratap, discovering that Sheila, the girl he’d come to ‘see’ is not at home, makes his excuses and quickly returns to Baruna. His roundabout proposal is met with a blushing ‘Papa se pooch leejiye.’ 
Papa has no objections whatsoever, but Pratap’s ‘mummy’ (Leela Misra being obnoxious as usual) is a different kettle of fish. ‘Go to see one girl and get married to another?! (She has a point, there!) 
Pratap’s father (SN Bannerjee) feels they shouldn’t sacrifice their only son’s happiness (sensible chap) but even he cannot persuade his wife to attend the wedding. 

Strange things begin to happen on the wedding night itself. Pratap wakes up in the middle of the night to discover Baruna missing. When he discovers her lost in thought in the garden, she has no recollection of how she’d reached there. 
She also has frequent headaches, is terror-stricken when a boulder rolls down the hill at a picnic, wanders around the house at night (frightening the devil out of her poor father-in-law) and dances in the dark while the household slumbers. One morning, Baruna is surprised when her sister-in-law questions her about the previous night – she’d had a headache and had taken an aspirin before going to sleep. How could she have been dancing? But her husband and mother-in-law saw her? Strange!  
‘Strange,’ echoes Baruna’s father to whom Pratap addresses his concerns. This has never happened before. Meanwhile, Pratap’s mom, declaring ‘Bahu’s possessed’, invites an ojha to exorcise the ‘spirit’, despite her husband’s misgivings.
Informed by his sister, Pratap arrives just in time to see the ojha burn Baruna’s hand. Livid, he turns on his mother, and takes a now-laughing, now-crying Baruna away from his parental home. 
They move to Calcutta, where Pratap hopes Baruna will be normal again They are very happy for a while, until at a party, a drink is forced upon Baruna. (She throws away the first drink but is offered a doctored soft drink.) When Pratap sees her again, Baruna is drunk. 
As always with such episodes, it ends with Baruna losing consciousness. And having no recollection of it the next morning. Baruna is embarrassed when she learns of her behaviour the previous day, but Pratap reassures her. 
 
Soon, Pratap has to leave for Dhanbad. When he returns a couple of days later, he discovers that the bottles of liquor that he’d left behind in the bedroom are now in the bathroom cabinet empty. Baruna denies any knowledge of them. That night, Baruna sets off on her nighttime wanderings again – Pratap wakes up just in time to see her hail a taxi.  

This is Pratap's story. The doctors suspect the root cause lies in Baruna’s past – before Pratap met her. What can Dilip fill in? Not much; Dilip remembers meeting Baruna at a Christmas party in Shimla. He was visiting a friend there. Dr Dey requests Dilip to find out what he can, and Dr Alvares asks Pratap to admit Baruna to the hospital – they need to keep her under observation.

The new house surgeon, Dr Kumar (Anoop Kumar) is understandably overwhelmed by Baruna – he finds her whistling in the dark, she bums a cigarette off him, flirts with him, compels him to dance with her, demands a drink, and generally makes his life miserable.
Just when the poor man is at his wits’ end, he’s rescued by a knock on the door – it’s Drs Alvarez and Mehta. ‘Peggy’ has no clue who they are; but as they watch, she loses consciousness and turns into Baruna – a Baruna who not only recognises the doctors but is stunned by the cigarette still in her hand and her state of undress. Dr Alvarez’s questions only brings on another headache – and a return to Peggy– furious, because there’s no music. 
Baruna’s mental issues are increasing, ‘Peggy' taking over for longer periods. Drs Dey, Alvarez, Mehta – none of them know what’s triggering these episodes. Pratap, helpless, is beginning to break, and his mother doesn’t help matters – she wants him to divorce Baruna and marry Sheila.

And then… Baruna runs away from the clinic.

Will they ever find out the truth? Just what is the truth? Does it really lie in the past? The ending is intriguing and unexpected.
Nargis could have done the quiet, good, Baruna role in her sleep. But it's her turn as Peggy – wild, licentious, a woman who drinks, smokes, dances with abandon, flirts with every man in sight – that’s a revelation. Her change from Baruna to Peggy and back again – every nuance is reflected on her expressive face. 
The changes are like quicksilver – her eyes and her body language say a lot more than dialogues, and yet, her voice modulation makes every sentence quiver with appropriate emotion. Even if those emotions change from laughter to sadness to anger to flirtatiousness within a scene. That gamin charm is still on display even if this film had been a long time in the making, and it shows in her physical features. She won a well-deserved National Award for this performance, and it was a fitting swansong to a glorious career.
I wish I could say the other characters were as fleshed out. Unfortunately, in focusing on Baruna, they get shafted. Pratap, for instance, is supportive enough of Baruna and is shown to be very understanding of her illness, to the extent of being traumatised by her plight. Yet, his character, who stands up for his wife in the early part of the film, is shown to be rather spineless in the latter half. Feroz Khan gets even less to do, though he’s certainly eye-candy. KN Singh is certainly not eye-candy, but he too, is in a blink-and-you-miss-it role.
I’m glad there weren’t many attempts at ‘comedy’ but even the songs (a beautiful score by Shankar-Jaikishan) weren’t fully incorporated into the narrative. The title song, for instance, deserved a better fit into the plot. (There seems to be a male solo version sung by Mukesh, but it wasn't there in the print I watched; in fact, I don't remember it in the film either.) The ‘picnic song’ was merely a filling; and how did Baruna get out of the clinic to sing ‘Awara ae mera dil? ‘Medical science’, of course, was as imaginative as ever, but luckily, they didn’t spend too much time giving us gyan about multiple personality disorder.

Tightly edited to around an hour and a half? This film would have been a brilliant psychological suspense movie. Still, watch it purely for Nargis – and a performance that has as many shades as the night and day.

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