Hindi cinema today has its set of glories. Current producers, directors and even stars have nevertheless grown up and nourished their creativity on yesteryear’s Hindi films. The likes of Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Bharat Bhushan and of course Dev Anand defined what cinema was to become and what a son, a husband, a lover and simply a man was all about. Likewise, Nargis, Madhubala or Nutan incarnated the ideal of feminity on the silver screen for generations.
In a renewed effort to bring back the glory days of Indian cinema in all its splendour to audiences today, ‘Hum Dono’ has been released in its colour (rangeen) version at multiplexes throughout the country and abroad.
Nearing my forties, it was definitely not difficult to convince me to watch this classic in the comfort of a multiplex. But what about convincing a friend in his twenties that this film would be a delight to watch at the cinema and sensibly a better option than waiting to watch it on DVD or on television? Would he accept following us forty year olds to the cinema for a film made in 1961 instead of watching a recent and more modernly commercial release such as ‘Patiala House’?
The challenge was on.
After doing a bit of convincing work, the gentleman accepts to follow us ladies to the multiplex. Dev Anand is indeed a legend too. Chalo, theek hai. Let’s watch ‘Hum Dono’.
We take a seat at the cinema. The room goes dark…
Watching Sadhana appear before Dev Anand in full beauty and colour on a multiplex screen is incomparable to anything I had experienced before in Indian cinema. The sole starting sequence with two lovers going for a proverbial walk in the forest beside a stream, while “Abhi na jao chhod kar ke dil abhi bhara nahin...” fills the room with the impeccable remastered voices of Mohd. Rafi and Asha Bhosle is so magnificent it sweetly hurts.
I immediately realise why these films are called golden and as I turn to observe my younger friend in the minutes that follow, I can see that the 62 year old Nav Ketan experience has also captured him.
A war saga at its base, the film spans a wide range of values and emotions: from loyalty to trust, from integrity to motherly love, Vijay Anand’s story pulls at you, tugs at you, moves you and takes you through a fantasy that feels so true it feels like you can touch the past. Dev Anand in two different roles showcases a genuine command of his style and craft in one of his most memorable films. Seeing him come to life with the different voice, mannerisms , hairstyle and even eye-spark of his two avatars is an experience in itself while the beauty and subtle poignancy of both heroines skillfully surpasses many a performance by today’s highest rated screen beauties.
Cinematography and editing belong to a universal school, where cuts were classic and had a tightness to them that seems refreshing even today. Symbolism is also used in a traditional manner by going into detail in the way a quality theatre play would be managed. The story’s atmosphere may be conveyed for example with the progressively higher-pitched singing of a bird when husband and wife are playfully daring each other while crows immediately start cawing before a husband announces that he has been called to war.
One of the film’s evident highlights is Jai Dev’s music score, which shines and gleams through the speakers of the multiplex. Evergreen songs such as 'Allah tero naam' or 'Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya' heighten the magical and enduring charm of the film to the point that one has the impression of attending a high quality opera performance or a live moonlight sonata. The chords and voices are an effortless and refreshing walk in the clouds while lyrics requesting the end of war include pleas for the well-being of soldiers and their families irrespective of their nationality.
I know, as I listen and am transported by the film, that what defines golden cinema is its immortal character. Once we exit the cinema there is only one thing to do: head to the streets under the light of a red moon singing “Abhi na jao…” with my friends, age gaps forever erased. Isn’t that what immortality is all about? I had a brush with it yesterday at the multiplex indeed. Unforgettable is a word that lingers on.