Tuesday, October 26, 2021

New year, young blood

Deepa Gahlot takes a closer look at a little-known film based on a rather familiar theme

– Nai Umar Ki Nai Fasal (1966)

A new year begins with hope, and this one needs even more to wash off the darkness of the year gone by. So, here’s looking at a little-known film, Nai Umar Ki Nai Fasal (1966), that talks of a new generation and the path it has to forge for itself to move ahead in this world. 

Produced and directed by R Chandra, funded by the government-backed Film Finance Corporation which a few years later morphed into the National Film Development Corporation, it introduced his son Rajeev opposite Tanuja. If the actor bears a strong resemblance to Bharat Bhushan, it’s because the star was his uncle.

Student politics

A well-meaning look at student politics
A well-meaning look at student politics

The film was a well-meaning if amateurish look at student politics, echoes of which were found in later films like Yeh Woh Manzil To Nahin, Holi and even Rang De Basanti. Shot at the majestic Aligarh Muslim University campus, the film has a group of boisterous boys with Rajeev as their head, squabbling with a bunch of girls with Shail (Tanuja) as their leader. They participate in a college debate about the participation of students in politics—he is for it, she is against. He believes it is a way of giving back to society; she thinks education is paramount and there are better ways to be socially committed than entering politics. The debate ends with a fight among the followers, so there is no winner.

The whole gang then goes to Delhi to participate in the mandatory youth festival, where he writes a poem (Thi Shubh Suhaag Ki Raat) about brave queen Hadi Rani who cut off her head so that her newly-wedded husband would go without encumbrance into battle against the Mughals. Shail performs in the show, and they fall in love. In spite of their obvious difference in financial status, there is no opposition from their mothers—played by the redoubtable Shobhana Samarth (hers, on and off screen), Leela Chitnis (his)—who agree to get them married after the exams.

One could mistake Rajeev for Bharat Bhushan - and that's because they were uncle and nephew
One could mistake Rajeev for Bharat Bhushan – and that’s because they were uncle and nephew


Slimy villain

What comes in the way is his standing for elections against Shail’s wishes. He is instigated by a slimy villain (SK Prem) who makes money from the candidates. Rajeev’s cohorts think it is a good idea and go all out to canvas for him. The university dean (Bhalla), however, is opposed to the hooliganism that is an inevitable part of politics and rusticates them all. In retaliation, the students go on strike.

At home, Rajeev’s younger brother Ramesh (Raj Kumar, not the ‘Jaani’ star, but a namesake) is furious that he has stolen their mother’s savings to pay for his misguided adventure, and it ends with Rajeev walking out of the house in a huff. The college authorities then decide to shut down the hostel and evict the trouble-making boys.

Meanwhile, the shady agent contrives to get Ramesh a job in the mill of Rajeev’s main opponent, Seth Jagannath (Ulhas), and the workers are drawn into the mayhem too. Just in time, the boys halt a conspiracy to start a riot and realise what they are up against.

Tanuja's career had a steady rise but her leading man was not so fortunate
Tanuja’s career had a steady rise but her leading man was not so fortunate

Everything to lose

Rajeev now has everything to lose if he does not win the election; his mother, who has fallen ill, is afraid of what will happen to her son if he fails. Even Ramesh and Shail soften a bit and stand by to offer support. The students eventually come to their senses as Rajeev’s mother pleads with the dean for forgiveness.

Tanuja’s career had a steady rise, though not as high as her talent and beauty deserved, but her leading man (that pencil moustache was a deal-breaker) was not so lucky. Raj Kumar did a few mythological films; some of the actors – like Raj Kishore and Khurshid Bawra – in Rajeev’s gang of boys were seen over the years in small supporting roles. 

The film made a few valid points, even if it is all depicted in a wishy-washy way, but what lifted it various notches was Roshan’s music set to Neeraj’s exquisite lyrics. The film may have sunk without a trace, but the songs like Aaj Ki Raat Badi Shokh Badi Natkhat Hai, Dekhati Hi Raho Aaj Darpan Na Tum, Nai Umar Ki Naye Sitaron and the memorable Karvaan Guzar Gaya have stayed afloat and alive.

The film may have sunk without a trace but the songs were memorable
The film may have sunk without a trace but the songs were memorable

Deepa Gahlot
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best-known entertainment journalists. A National Award-winning fim critic and author of several books on film and theatre, she has had an extremely successful run as head of theatre and film at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai, during which she helped nurture several original productions.

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