Khamoshi-mesmerizing, captivating, timeless

By Rohini Mohan
My motto is – it is better to watch a good movie again than to put up with the dreck that passes for entertainment these days. I decided on “Khamoshi” – not the Manisha/Salman one, but the old black and white Waheeda Rahman starrer. Not really what you would deem “Bollywood”, Khamoshi is one of those timeless classics in the genre of greats like “A Million Pound Note” or “Madhumati” or “Casablanca” that gets better every time you watch it- and this was only my third time!. With scintillating music by Hemant Kumar and magnificent lyrics by Gulzar, I know it will not be my last.

Probably one of Waheeda’s best performances, she effortlessly plays competent nurse, jilted lover, nurturing companion and manic depressive, shifting with ease from one to the next, her eyes doing most of the emoting. Rajesh Khanna is pretty good, but I would give higher marks  to Dharmendra who engages the audience without really being there – a “Rebecca” like scenario where you catch glimpses of him every now and then, hear his unmistakable voice a few times but feel his presence through and through.
The story is simple; Dharmendra is a victim of unrequited love, and is institutionalized for acute mania. The chief of the department at the Mental Care Facility has a theory that if the patient is given unconditional love and care by a woman, he is likely to forget and forgive the previous mental trauma he has suffered at the hands of the other woman and completely recover. What the Chief does not bargain for is the whole transference and counter transference phenomenon. He commissions nurse Radha (Waheeda Rahman) to take on the case; she throws herself into the job but falls in love with the patient – who falls in love with the concept of love, and not the person. So when he recovers from his mental condition he is able to forget the nurse and shift his emotions back to his old girlfriend. He moves on, but she is shattered.

Oblivious, the Chief commends himself on the success of his experiment and takes on another similar case, this time Rajesh Khanna. Radha has still not recovered from her previous experience, but circumstances force her against her will to take on the new patient, with unexpected results.

I will say this though – you need to have a pretty good command over the language, a keen appreciation of poetry and of course, a big dose of patience to see the plot through. It does move slowly, so don’t expect instant gratification like you would from true blue Bollywood. My husband (whose Hindi language skills are quite shaky) invited himself to watch with me. 1969 was not really the age of political correctness, so some of the carelessly used words prompted the classic “Can they really say that?” reaction from him. 

I am not sure Gulzar himself completely understood the sheer genius of lyrics like “Humne dekhi hai un ankhon ki mehekti khushboo”. “Tumhara intezaar hai” will give me goosebumps everytime. “Woh shaam” is another unforgettable number. Even the drunken Deven Varma number “Dost kahaan koi tumsa” was inspired.

I had a really good time. Wept buckets. Value for time and money? Totally. I would give Khamoshi a perfect 10. How I wish Naz8 would air some of these dusty old classics from time to time.              

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