Rishte Naate (1965), a quiet family drama

Publié le 17 Décembre 2012

New mother

Rishte Naate (family relationships) is a 1965 Gopalakrishnan movie, with Raj Kumar, Nutan, Nazir Hussain, Jamuna and Ameeta as main actors. It does seem like I’m exhausting my reserves of Nutan movies, because while this film has more than a few qualities, it certainly cannot match Nutan’s greats, and she imperceptibly seems to underplay her character. The story is one of its good points: half-way between quirky and exaggerated, it is sufficiently original to attract attention. It revolves around Thakur Narendrapal Singh (Hussain), a rich landowner who, while having a son and a daughter, dispossesses his son from his normal inheritance and thrusts it on one of his workers, Sundar (Raj Kumar, a little lank and wimpy), whom he also asks to marry his daughter Kalpana (Jamuna).

dance with kalpana

Sundar accepts the deal, even if he realizes he’s a sort of pawn on his master and father in law’s chessboard. We get to see Raja, the rightful son, an upstart from the city who arrives home with his fiancée Roopa (Ameeta), whose penniless father has thrust upon him to pay his debtors. Anyway, they marry, and Roopa has a baby girl, who is immediately looked after by her bhabhi. But after one or two painfully contrived scenes, during which Narendrapal compares the two young men (one hard-working, the other a profiteer) and declares his own son’s undoing, they leave and wait for the right moment to deploy their plan.

my father

Meanwhile Sundar and Kalpana also marry, and keep the guardianship of baby Meenakshi, who considers them as her parents! Kalpana’s friend, Savitri (Nutan, above), daughter of her father’s childhood buddy (a jolly Collector played by David), celebrates her wedding with her, and all seems fine. The baby grows. One day, perhaps out of motherly shame, Roopa comes back home to take her daughter to her own house, but the feisty little girl runs away and goes back to her granddad, and her aunt and uncle. So life continues, and marital bliss is described at length, even if the two don’t seem to be able to have children of their own, and strangely avert the subject of their dear Meenakshi being taken away from them again. The little girl becomes a sort of Troy horse within the coveted fatherly estate. But disaster hits the happy household, Kalpana is hit by a bull and dies. Sundar is devastated (or at least he looks it), and feels keenly once again the precariousness of his situation at his master’s home.

Separation

But without waiting for any delay, the sarkar, who is ever the family inspirer, and almost insensitive to the fact that he’s lost his daughter, thinks it is best to supply his surrogate son with another wife. He immediately thinks of Savitri, the Collector’s daughter. Dear Sundar, nevertheless, cannot accept to be remarried, and so soon! But he relents after his master pulls the worst of all tricks, pretending to leave his house because Sundar won’t marry and give him the child his old age would love. Safe at her place, Savitri rejoices, because she’d secretly loved Sundar. The wedding is thus quickly organised. We understand now that Sundar is completely at Narendrapal’s mercy. He will do whatever his master thinks right. But he cannot forget his dear Kalpana, and pines away.

Be Kalpana

This is when Savitri takes over. Asked by the master of the house to make herself loved by Meenakshi (yes, she’s still there, unreclaimed by her rightful parents) as a mother, this way she would open Sundar’s heart and become his wife completely, she takes upon the task of befriending the frank little devil, who’s understood she can do what she wants. There’s a funny scene where she’s used by Narendrapal to bring closer together her two estranged foster-parents: she brings Sundar in the kitchen, indicates his sitting place next to Savitri, pushes him there, turns both their heads one towards the other and orders her uncle to smile, smile, smile!!

Maker of new parents

The episode finishes sadly with Sundar carrying the girl away, and Savitri shedding tears as she realizes the pressure on them. Still, she bravely carries on, in the face of Sundar’s open deploration of his lost wife, and criticism of Savitri as a poor replacement…

Pitaji's pain

There are no essential debates in Rishte Naate; but there’s the father’s insistence to be present in the younger ones’ lives. Of course, he replaces a departed mother, and this (often annoying) sensitiveness has to be attributed to his mission as purveyor of the generations and social order. So when he wants Sundar to remarry, in order for him to have a grand-daughter, we understand he’s fulfilling his role. Still, I thought there was more to his role than just that of the well-meaning, and even plotting, elder. Mother and father all bundled up in one, he resists evil, fights against deceit, checks moods and dissent. Even though he’s without personal family interest (his daughter dies and his son is disowned), he suffers as much for Sundar’s fate and needs as if he were his real father. There’s a sort of enigma there: the film doesn’t fully explain why he is so intent.

Second couple

Then there’s Nutan’s role as second wife. This is by no means an odd character in Indian cinema, but the fact it’s Nutan, and that the role is in such focus here makes it rather unusual. First she’s ordered to be like Kalpana, then she defends her husband against his step-father, when Sundar cannot sleep at home with his wife, and appearances have to be kept up. It takes the ghost-like intervention of Kalpana herself to start set things right:

For my sake

Nutan finds in this role a sort of justification of her presence in the film. It isn’t as if she has to sacrifice herself as in other more resonating productions, but there’s a humiliating process, a burning of her desires, that she’s apt to personify like no one. Unfortunately for her, Raj Kumar isn’t a very fiery bachelor-husband! He explains to her the weight of his past, his feelings, but somehow it doesn’t reach red-hot intensity:

Past love

And so this lukewarmness is itself another dimension of the film: Savitri will indeed sacrifice herself in the end (see for yourself) but in a rather unromantic way. So the strength of the film lies in this unheroic level of feelings, lived at family height, with everyday family concerns and cares. Far from perfection, certainly, but we often equate perfection in human affairs with a certain romantic intensity that doesn’t necessarily belong to it. Savitri’s attachment to her Sundar doesn’t reach heights of devotion, but it’s honest and selfless, and sufficiently warm-hearted to be earmarked as beautiful. Somehow Nutan’s secondhandedness, her disinterestedness, evokes Indian women’s courageous acceptance of a tradition of subservience which they know they won’t change individually. But they also know it depends on them, even within this frustrating environment, and in spite their own personal aspirations, to bring peace at home.

What Pitaji wants  khushu

Rédigé par yves

Publié dans #Film reviews

Commenter cet article

Anu Warrier 12/01/2013 16:19


Yves, Mahesh Bhatt and 'great' do not belong in the same sentence. :) That said, Naam  was a good film. Unfortunately for Nutan, she got slotted into those roles
and by the rules of the industry, those roles were all she got.

yves 12/01/2013 16:31



I must have had a similar-sounding name in mind! I think I now remember having had a discussion some time ago along the same line, the person deploring some aspect of one or some of his films.
Well...



Anu Warrier 12/01/2013 01:30


Yves, it was as I was in the middle of reading your review that I realised that this film had been remade as Vishukkani in Malayalam. Only, the Malayalam version changed the story quite
a bit. The hero is not so much of a wimp, the father is not so manipulative, the second wife is not such a martyr - on the whole, a far, far better film. :)


By this time, I could hardly bear to watch Nutan, because she seemed to be martyred all the time, I expect to see a halo around her head! Thanks for the review.

yves 12/01/2013 15:44



Yes, it is rather disapointing, isn't it, that Nutan should have been given only such roles in the second part of her career, as if what she defended at first, the women underdogs of Sujata and
Bandini, had trapped her in the saintly position that everybody thought she would fit in. What's also upsetting is that she didn't get to be used by great film-makers in her later career... Well,
there was Mahesh Bhatt with Naam in 1956, but I haven't seen it. Do you know it?



Suja 20/12/2012 19:46


Hi Yves, yet another Nutan film, hmmm? I havent seen this one but I am very familiar with the genre - family drama of the 60s, promoting a certain ideal of worship of elders (however illogical
they are), of self-sacrifice, of a ideal of womanhood which I generally object to as well. Reading your review it seems to me that this is the kind of film I find very objectionable. I guess I am
less able to divorce myself from emotion than you are - I know at first hand what these kind of attitudes led to in social situations. I guess I wont be seeing it, but I am glad you did and I got
to read of it.


Cheers. Suja

yves 21/12/2012 17:39



You're probably right, more right than I can fathom, and it's in fact an interesting problem: Indian audiences (and probably women more than men) would indeed see such a film with presuppositions
which I don't have, and therefore I do not judge things present in them (notions such as sacrifice) in the same light. On the other hand, I might be seeing them with less bias? But then I know
that even if this is so, it doesn't help the situation very much. I mean, seeing sacrifice as positive from an outsider's point of view isn't very helpful is indeed its depiction favours those
locally who have something to benefit from it. It might even be what they're looking for!



Ashok M Vaishnav 19/12/2012 07:59


You are right. In so far as expression of your views on the film and Nutan's role in it, I have no means to agree or disagree, since I have not seen the film.


But, I do apprecaite the contenet and intent of your review.

yves 19/12/2012 17:34



OK thanks Ashok!



dustedoff 18/12/2012 05:28


This sounds very much along the lines of those self-sacrificing, suffering daughter-in-law roles that Nutan tended to play in the mid-1960s, mostly opposite Sunil Dutt. The Bhai-Bahen, Meherbaan,
and Khandaan type of film, too much harping on being a 'good' (read self-sacrificing!) woman. I haven't seen this one, though...

yves 18/12/2012 22:32



Yes you're right Madhu, and I don't think you really need, either! It certainly doesn't come into any "list of ten Bollywood films I'd die for"!



Ashok Vaishnav 18/12/2012 04:56


Hindi Films have been known to gamely take up quite complex social situations, that may appear quite
bizarre to people who are not aware of similar situations and contexts.


Thus, apart from dealing with a rather off-beat subject, the Director has to tackle the complex human
relationships and emotions that such situations evoke.


In hands of a very sensitive and skilled director who can handle the complexities of the story, screen
play, evolution of emotions as the film progresses, while retaining interests of the viewers for the entire length of the movie, such subjects become eternal classics.


In fact, reviewing films of such complex nature also calls for a very incisive , yet objectively
empathetic analysis and narrative.


So, if I say that the review was interesting and does justice to analysing performance of Nutan, by some
one who is a declared Nutan fan, am I able to convey my views clearly enough? Well, any meaningful discussion can take place only if the reader(s) of the review also has had seen the film.


 

yves 18/12/2012 22:25



Ashok, do you mean you don't quite agree with what I wrote? Or agreed, on the contrary? I wasn't quite able to say! Thanks.