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Shattered dreams and Nasir Husain’s Baharon Ke Sapne

The largely black and white feature was a departure from the late writer-director’s usual style of filmmaking. On Husain’s 15th death anniversary today (13 March), we revisit his underrated film which turns 50 this year.

Sonal Pandya

Nasir Husain’s fifth film as director was unlike the previous ones he’s written and produced. Titled Baharon Ke Sapne (1967), the film opened with a title card that said, “This film is dedicated to the sacred memory of the greatest sons of India – MAHATMA GANDHI, the apostle of PEACE & NON-VIOLENCE.” On those strong words, Baharon Ke Sapne opens to show its setting — a small industrial town near Mumbai where everyone knows each other.

Starring a fresh-faced Rajesh Khanna in his third film and Asha Parekh, the film highlighted the pitfalls that the young people faced after they couldn’t find a job to match their education. Khanna played Ram, the son of mill worker Bhola Nath (Nana Palsikar), who is trying to land a job after acquiring his bachelor’s degree in arts. His partner in crime is most things is his childhood friend Geeta (Parekh).

Bhola Nath is constantly optimistic that Ram will find a job equivalent to his degree. Ram, meanwhile, is on the edge of despair. His father tries to get him a proper administrative position at the mill by asking the manager, Mr Kapoor (Prem Nath) but he is rudely turned away. Ram witnesses this humiliation. Pretty soon, after 30 years of services, Bhola Nath’s job is terminated with two months' salary.

Ram attends the engagement party of the mill owner’s son where his lack of finery and present stand out like a sore thumb. He feels the class divide between him and his former classmate keenly, turning to the bottle for the first time and lashing out at his parents about his situation. Ram’s mother Gauri (Sulochana Latkar) berates him and reveals there is no money coming in the household after his father has lost his job.

Sulochana Latkar, Nana Palsikar, Azra and Rajesh Khanna in a still from the film.

Ashamed, Ram goes to Mumbai in search of job unsuccessfully. He returns home after some time and reluctantly takes up a job at the mill. This doesn’t improve the family’s position. Ram’s younger sister Champa (Azra) is getting married and Bhola Nath is heavily under debt. Pushed to his limits, Ram steals to cover the debt, but suddenly get involved in the union politics at the mill on his way to redemption.

With a large cast of characters who inhabit the small town where Ram and Geeta live, the plot of Baharon Ke Sapne is a little uneven. Written by Husain, with dialogues from Rajinder Singh Bedi, the story gets heavy when Ram becomes a union leader and clashes against the another leader from the union, Das Kaka (P Jairaj), whose socialist, destructive policies are at odds with his Gandhian principles of non-violence.

Husain’s younger brother Tahir Husain was the production executive on the film. Baharon Ke Sapne was offered to Nanda after Asha Parekh did not have the available dates but when Nanda turned down the role, Parekh accommodated the film. Khanna was chosen as the winner of the Filmfare-United Producers Combine contest and offered the part afterwards. Parekh, already an established star, was billed over Khanna.

Rajesh Khanna and Asha Parekh in Baharon Ke Sapne

Author Akshay Manwani felt Husain was making a conscious attempt to do something which was a subject very close to his heart. Manwani wrote a book on his filmmaking career titled Music Masti and Modernity: The Cinema of Nasir Husain. He also revealed that the idea for the film came to Husain when he was in college. He published it as a short story in the Urdu magazine, Aaj Kal, and it went on to win first prize in a competition amongst the universities of Lucknow, Allahabad and Aligarh.

Originally the film had a tragic ending where the main protagonists, Ram and Geeta, both die. But he changed it to a more happier ending when the audience response was not up to the mark. Manwani writes, “The movie-going janta had come to the theatres, expecting a frothy song-and-dance, experience, the hill-station settings, the holiday romance, but Baharon Ke Sapne had none of Husain’s standard tropes.” It was in fact, Manwani states, “the very kind of film Husain stayed away from.”

The previous hit from the banner, Teesri Manzil (1966) was a song-and-dance extravaganza set in colour. This sombre black and white film, with only a single song ‘Kya Jaanu Sajan’ filmed in colour. Husain still retained his musical touch as his frequent collaborators, lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri and music composer RD Burman, came up with some hits songs like ‘Aja Piya Tohey Pyar Dun’ and the lively ‘Chunri Sambhal Gori’.

The film was acknowledged for the stylistic cinematography of Jal Mistry who won the Filmfare award for his work. Even the song shot in colour is decidedly muted — Parekh wears a white outfit and the sets are a far cry from his previous films.

In an earlier interview with Cinestaan.com, Manwani had said, “For him to turn to something that was about the Gandhian idea of non-violence versus militant trade-unionism was a brave decision. Unfortunately, the audiences couldn’t relate to this sudden change of tracks on part of the filmmaker.” For his next film, Nasir Husain went back to what audiences expected of him with romance in the foreground in Pyar Ka Mausam (1969) starring Shashi Kapoor and Parekh.

The film’s hero, Khanna, didn't suffer much of a loss. Director Shakti Samanta saw his performance in Baharon Ke Sapne and cast him in Aradhana (1969) which propelled him to superstardom. Khanna later reunited with his co-star Parekh in the hit film, Kati Patang (1970), also directed by Samanta.