(To all the Poets and Poets at heart; and to PARACKRAMS!)

When at high school our major subjects were, Movies, Music, Girls and How-to-change-the-World!

We were 4-5 of us seated in my room, waiting for the summer vacations to start. It was a hot summer night. I recall the air was very heavy and still. The fan was whirring at a slow speed, warming up the discussion on how peace, love and trust can change the world; how economic blocks are a stepping stone towards borderless world….and such like. The discussion crept towards a heated argument. Someone was debating that this is Utopia and anyway politics will overrule any such conceptions of a peaceful human species. Angry Young Man style!  Just at the point where half-baked passions were about to boil outside the pot of logic; one of our friends, changed the subject (quite unartfully, I thought initially).

He said, ” Guys I do not care whether collective human kind can change for better or not, but I know love can change an individual’s life.”  I threw a pillow at him which he ducked. while CB on my right lunged for a knife (swiss army knife wasn’t somehow illegal in the hostel).

” Seriously, look at Amitabh in the movie Kabhi Kabhie; love changed his life….. who says people do not or cannot change” he continued.

The very mention of “Kabhi Kabhie’ had a dramatic effect on us. Every one froze in his tracks. Frowns dissolved into gentle smiles. A thin fresh breeze, found it’s way through the open window and caressed our sweaty temples. Swiss knife was forgotten!

The topic was successfully changed. We discussed the movie all night! (Kabhi Kabhie aisa bhi hota thaa.) I have more personal memories around this movie than possibly the movie itself. Even though, I remember half of the dialogues by heart and almost all the songs and poetry there-in.

A movie which was a great love story ( or should I say many love stories), entwined through a promise, an accord born to a sacrifice, woven through two generations, using guilt and pain of past, whose shadows came haunting in the present. Amitabh’s character (Amit) and Waheeda (Anju) who lives metaphorically in a villa called Ateet becomes the battleground to reconcile the past with present, towards the second half and ending scenes. A reminder of  the forgotten promise of Amitabh to Rakhi ( “Tum khush rahna ……aur main achcha Insaan banne ki koshish karoonga”) where he did not quite keep his part of the promise, when it came to his own wife’s past.  It was a pleasant surprise, as to how beautifully these scenes were carried out and how much punch they were left with (in terms of storyline); considering when I watched the 1st 20-30 mins. or so of the movie up untill the casting and the third song when Rakhi gets married to Sashi Kapoor (to the surprise of the audience). I thought this is it. This 20 mins. is a complete story! An ultimate, beautiful short story ever told!

The first part of the story itself had all the twists and turns, it had very mature handling of whether to tow parents wishes or to rebel and go against theirs. I particularly liked the sub plot where Amit gives to Rakhi (Pooja); his first book (obviously titled Kabhi Kabhie) as her wedding present and parting gift; and Sashi Kapoor (Vijay) who is incidentally also a fan of Amit’s poetry, gifts the very same book to Pooja on their wedding night; and asks her to sing from it.

Amitabh is standing, leaning on a tree outside the place where Rakhi is getting married to Sashi Kapoor and in a flashback he remembers their accord and decision to let Rakhi bend to her parents wishes. He also remembers himself gifting her the book and saying- “Socha tha apni pahli kitab, pyaar ka tohfa samaz ke tumhein doonga; kya pata tha tumahre shaadi ka tohfa ban jayega”

This first part of the movie became the premise for the rest of the movie, which in itself was in no way inferior to the first part; completely connected and built upon this foundation.

Music and Lyrics

I am unable to decide what I should highlight as the best part from an outstanding-in-all-department movie, such as this. Whether I should talk about Amitabh’s acting, who broke the then recent mould of Angry young man to act as a love stricken poet, or his smart Polo-necks or greying moustache; or should I talk about the beautiful picturization of Kashmir’s snow laden mountains, trees and gardens; …oh and the dal lake. Should I talk about Vijay (Sashi kapoor) who would have easily given the best performance of his lifetime in this movie; or about his character that can very well make a role model of a husband and a father. Or should I talk about Rakhi Gulzaar, for whom the movie was written, and for her it was the last film after marriage as a lead actress. Or, should I talk about the music and the lyrics of the film, as a starter. These two elements that made this great movie into an absolute cult classic.

I think the latter first! Khayyam and Sahir got their well deserved Filmfare* for this movie. Kabhi Kabhie, main pal do pal, mere ghar aayee and all other scores, immortalized the music and movie alike. Interestingly the songs composed for the newer generation (Vikki, Sweety and Nitu) were fast, catchy and hummable ….Dil aane ki baat hai jab jo lag jaye pyara…..”

The picture opens with Amitabh reciting these lines from Sahir ( You’ll probably not find this in the Music Album)

“Kal nayi koplein phootengi, Kal naye phool muskayenge,
Aur naye ghaas ke naye pharsh pe, naye paaon ithlayenge.
Woh mere beech nahin aaye (2)
Main unke beech kyoun aaon,
Main unki subahon aur shaamon ka(2)
ek bhi lamha kyon paaon.
Main pal do pal ka shayar hoon,
Pal do pal meri kahani hai……”

Khayyam could not have composed such soul-stirring music without divine inspiration. I cannot be sure, but it is impossible that he would have created the music anywhere other than the Jannat that was Kashmir. Notice some of the flute playing and the title tunes as background scores during emotional scenes. During painful confrontations, and during the intervals of delivered questions and seemingly endless wait of a balanced reply. Same goes for Sahir, what he wrote for the movie was dipped in music. They were not only relevant and apt, but dare I say, the soul of the film itself.

Love is life – (Plots, Subplots and memorable scenes)

While this movie was primarily about the so-not-happening-love of Amit and Pooja; the movie, as I said before, was also about many other love stories. One of them was Vikki (Rishi Kapoor) and Nitu Singh’s. They both acted well, fresh, modern, catch life-by-the-horn types. I thought Nitu did a great job! Parikhshit Sahni and Simi Grewal as Guradian-Parent of their adopted child (Nitu) played their beautiful part effortlessly in potraying a doting parent as well as responsible human being. Wahida was outstanding (as always); torn into conflict between her family which was her life and Nitu Singh who was her child ( from a subplot of her previous marriage or relationship). A longing to call her own and heal her most holy, fulfilling yet sinful temptation (aka duty), that you must desist. Not to forget, Amitabh’s love for his daughter Sweety and his over protectiveness towards her. At the verge of loosing Sweety, the love of his life and infact the very raison d’etre he realizes that he values his family and his wife Anju, whom he had asked to leave their home (…well almost). He rushes back to her and asks for forgiveness admitting that living for the present is more important than dragging with the past.

True to her promise (given to Amit), Pooja leads a happy life (albeit with Vijay). They have potrayed a perfect middle aged couple. In one of the funny scenes she wants Vijay to say something in Shayari. The lame attempt from Vijay goes something like this – ” Tumhari Ankhen………Tumhari Ankhen……..” haan age bolo….”tumhari ankhen jaise andheri raat mein do lantern” to which both of them burst out laughing. There are many such lovable moments.

You’ll notice there was no histrionics or overt melodrama in the entire film. The movie flowed through the tributaries of these subplots and merged into one mother river of the main plot; with a natural ease & uncompromising grace.

I would have watched this movie many times and there are many more scenes that stand out; but wait, hold my hand and I’ll lead you to one of the last scenes. Vijay, (SK) has just learnt that Amit and Pooja were known to each other and in fact had something more than mere acquaintance. He is blinded and spiteful and wild for few minutes, before he analyzes and curses himself for thinking small and cheap. This must be a scene of a lifetime for Yash Chopra and he handled it beautifully. The dialogue writer did not disappoint him either. In this scene ( a climax of sort before the actual climax), Vijay says “Mard kitna chota hota, joh aurat 20 saal se apke bachche ki ma ban kar, apki achi patni ban kar, apka ghar banati hai, usi aurat ke past se itna sarokaar rakhta hai, ki woh kise pyar karti thi, kise chaha tha….Amit Sahab, ek shikayat hai apse….apko bata dena tha, us roj jab aap mere ghar aye the, ki aap pooja ko chahte thaey. Arre, Pooja hai hin itni khoobsurat ki koi bhi uspe mar mite…….etc. etc.

To which Amitabh gives a seemingly fitting reply, which goes something like “…….mera dard, mera nasoor, aap ko kya pata….badi himmat chahiye Vijay sahab is vaade pe chalne mein…..(i.e Kahbi raste mein mil jao to katra ke guzar jaana……..***)” It was not supposed to be a fitting reply! Unfortunately, for the director, Amitabh’s dialogue delivery was so powerful that even wrong assumptions looked like gospel truth. I give the screenplay writer (Sagar) full marks for this scene for making the truth sink slowly and without any melodrama; as this scene was really a moment of resolution for Vijay and to some extent Pooja. At this point in the movie Amit had not yet reconciled to Anju ( Wahida’s) past. It was to happen in the very climax.  To show that Pooja led in reconciling her present with her past, making Amit look like an obstinate and slower wit character, was I thought rather brave of Yash Chopra. But then, I learnt it was meant to be a story about a Woman first ( written by Pamela Chopra with Rakhi in mind), and anything else later. Another thing, Vijay’s statement about the Mard ka dohra mapdand (double standard); was unwittingly a truer accusation on Amit.  This scene was directed, enacted and written so beautifully that even the hardest cannot go without having a moist eye.

As I write this, a feeling of humility overwhelms me…..whatever words I have written here is only a feeble attempt to describe the indescribable (experience), that was Kabhi Kabhie!


*(Here is the complete list of Awards and Nominations)

  • Best Music: Khayyam
  • Best Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi: “Kabhi Kabhie Mere Dil Mein”
  • Best Male Playback Singer: Mukesh: “Kabhi Kabhie Mere Dil Mein”
  • Best Screenplay: Sagar Sarhadi
  • Best Actor: Amitabh Bachchan: Nominated
  • Best Actress: Raakhee: Nominated
  • Best Supporting Actress: Waheeda Rehman : Nominated
  • Best Supporting Actor: Shashi Kapoor: Nominated
  • Best Male Playback Singer: Mukesh: “Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shayar”: Nominated

***  “Kabhi Raste mein mil jaao to Katra ke guzar jaana,
Hamein is tarah takna jaise Pehchana nahin tumne.
Kabhi jo hamara jikr aaye to youn anjaan ban janaa,
ki naam sun ke bhi……. hamein janaa nahin tumne”

This topper below, which was on my dad’s LP and I had by-hearted even before I was out of teens.

(This isn’t the Kabhi Kabhie song’s lyrics, but recited as a “dusra rukh” of the poem. Recited by Amit, in the famous and touching interview scene of his, done by Pooja on TV….post their respective marriages, ofcourse)

Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mein
Khayaal Aata Hai
Ke Zindagi Teri Zulfon Ki Naram
Chaaon Mein Guzarne Pati
To Shahdaab Ho Bhi Sakti Thi

Yeh Ranj-O-Gam Ki Syahi
Jo Dil Pe Chhayi Hai
Teri Nazar Ki Shuwaon Mein
Kho Bhi Sakti Thi

Magar Yeh Ho Na Saka

Magar Yeh Ho Na Saka Aur
Ab Yeh Aalam Hai
Ke Tu Nahin, Tera Gam,
Teri Justaju Bhi Nahin
Guzar Rahi Hai Kuch Is
Tarah Zindagi Jaise
Ise Kisike Sahare Ki
Aarzoo Bhi Nahin

Na Koi Raah, Na Manzil,
Na Roshni Ka Suraakh
Bhatak Rahi Hai Andheron
Mein Zindagi Meri

Inhi Andheron Mein
Rah Jaoonga Kho Kar
Main Jaanta Hoon
Meri Hum Nafaz
Magar Yun Hi

Kabhi Kabhie Mere Dil Mein
Khayal Aata Hai…..”