Thursday, January 12, 2006

Home Sweet Home

If there was one film that depicted the monumental import of housing in Mumbai, it was Bhimsain’s Hindi film Gharonda (The Nest), released way back in 1977. A moving story of a starry-eyed couple braving all odds to own a dwelling place in the bustling metropolis caught immediate resonance in the hearts of all those who fight similar demons in real life. Hero and heroine, both members of the bourgeoisie, work for the same establishment run by an ageing widower who openly nourishes a soft corner for her. He is all alone with his roommates in a dingy lodge; she shares the responsibility of her younger sibling with her elder brother and sister-in-law. In the hope of a rising career graph and the riches it would bring along, the duo invest their savings and hopes in a match box “Flat” taking shape in the concrete promise of a “builder” – the supreme entity selling dream abodes in the big city. The initial euphoria does not last long as the builder flees with the money leaving all dreams shattered. The dead-end facing the couple is made even more poignant by the suicide of a roommate ruined by the same fate.Crushed under the cascading effect of the doom, the hero suggests a practical way out to his sweetheart in a momentary wave of disillusionment…. get married to their employer. …and outlive the separation only to reclaim the lost paradise…this time round on the solid foundation of a rich grave. The heroine dismisses the idea outright but as things would have it, ends up doing exactly the same- partly driven by circumstances, partly led by the stanch reality of an assured life. And she is not disappointed. In the affluent surroundings of the elite class, she also finds an understanding mate in her husband, who is ready to discount her past life in return for warm companionship. The hero in contrast, invites a catastrophe as pressure mounts upon pressure. The loan he took on himself for the dream house now turns life threatening. In trying to guard the remnants of his self-respect, he shuns his job to make matters even worse. Yet, he can still live with the despair, but not without her memories. The conflict in his mind takes him to her doorstep where he confronts her with fundamental questions. In the litany of abuses is also an invitation to rejoin him in a fresh crusade. The husband, eavesdropping the conversation, pines for her support but unsure of her true feelings for him, leaves it to her. The director could have pulled the curtains on the tragedy in a thousand ways. But the end, aptly at the railway station is stoic in its brilliance, as the hero in a diametrically opposite transformation, decides to shun his past… to start alone and the same city. Husband and wife return back to their world, he relieved of the debt he bought with the marriage and she, happy in the world, once thrust upon her but now her dream abode. The film stood out in many respects – the delightful music of Jaidev, Bhupinder and Runa Laila with some outstanding numbers, Gulzar’s fantastic screenplay and amazing portrayals by all players…. Amol Palekar and Zareena Wahab as the protagonist couple, Dr. Sreeram Lagoo as the widower boss and Jalal Agha, Sadhu Meher, T P Jain, Sudha Chopra and Dina Pathak in their brief appearances, only to name a few. But for some needless melodrama, (Zareena Wahab bears perfect resemblance to the deceased wife of her boss) the script is devoid of any simplistic black-and-white portrayal and makes room for pathos of exceptional quality in the tragic love story but more importantly, the note of fresh hope towards the end is free of any run-of-the-mill self-destructive prescription of shattered love.