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Rakesh Roshan entered Hindi film industry with a bold experiment: Birthday special

Roshan's debut film Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani makes a comment not only on parenting, but also speaks about the focus on books rather than education.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Rakesh Roshan made his acting debut with T Prakash Rao's Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani. However, he unfortunately has very few scenes in the film. But like the enthusiasm that one notes in Hrithik Roshan many years later, Roshan senior plays the role of the smitten lover rather well. The lilting melody of ‘Sama Hai Suhana Suhana’, picturized on the budding romance of the young lovers remains a much loved tune.

As Roshan turns 68 today, we revisit the film that gave him an entry to Hindi cinema. 

Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani (1970) presents us with an everyday scenario of a family which struggles to fulfil the ever-increasing demands of its children. Given that the film released in 1970, the demands of the children are far simpler than they are in current times but they nonetheless put pressure on the household.

Shankar Nath (Balraj Sahni) is a principled and honest man who earns Rs700 every month. The sum is just enough to run the household which includes his wife (Nirupa Roy) and three children.

The children desire certain things — the eldest son Ravi (Mahesh Kothare) wants to go on a school trip, the daughter Roopa (Neetu Singh credited as Baby Sonia) wants a dress for a performance and the youngest, Raja (Master Ripple), wants a new bicycle. The father refuses as he cannot spare the cash for it.

Thinking him to be a miser, the children adopt the Gandhian method and go on a hunger strike, insisting that their demands be met. The anguished parents try to forge a peaceful pact but the children remain adamant. Finally, Shankar Nath decides to adopt a novel course of action — he hands over the financial reins to the eldest son, making him in-charge of running the house, in order to make the children understand that money, while easy to spend, is very hard to earn and save.

L-R: Balraj Sahni, Mahesh Kothare, Nirupa Roy (Photo: Screenshot from YouTube)

It’s a bold experiment, to allow children to take on such a huge responsibility but this is where the ingenuity of the narrative lies. In a true test of character, the children rise up to the challenge and desperately try to save money at the end of each month.  As Shankar Nath says, “Kai baar bachpan aur jawaani mein ek kadam ka faasla hota hai” (Many a times the distance between childhood and youth is that of just one step).

They tighten their belts, make stringent budget cuts, and sacrifice comforts to squeeze the most out of every paisa. But things are expensive and everyday sustenance is hard for the honest.

While the Nath family is the moral centre, we get glimpses into other not-so-ideal families, where Sadhu Ram (Om Prakash), a junior colleague at Shankar Nath’s office showers his family with gifts from ill-begotten wealth and another family where the mother is so beholden to her son Gopi (Mehmood Junior) that she spoils him rotten, leading him to take to gambling and become a wastrel. In showing us these families as a foil to the Nath family, the film is as much a critique of bad parenting as it is critical of wayward children.

Children running the show
Hindi films with child actors often tend to veer towards being overly preachy and feature precocious children with a sanctimonious air but Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani maintains a fine balance as the actions of the children suit their age, with the eldest son bearing the burden of responsibility and making mature decisions, while the youngest child gets swayed by firecrackers and the prospect of making easy money.

The child actors are all well cast but the versatility of Mehmood Jr. stands out as being truly remarkable. He plays a manipulative child who is only interested in watching films and exploits his mothers’ feelings towards him to the hilt. There is a scene where he earnestly tells his mother that he is learning history from films like Mughal-e-Azam (1960) and Taj Mahal (1963). When asked by his father who made the Taj Mahal (monument), he promptly answers, “Pradeep Kumar!”

Born as Naeem Sayyed, Mehmood Junior started acting at the age of 8, became a huge hit at the young age and continued to act in films till his late teens. He got his moniker when actor Mehmood took him under his wing. There is an entire song picturized on him in the film, which bears testimony to his amazing talent.

Mehmood Junior

While primarily concentrating on the value of money, Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani comments on other facets of children’s lives as well, especially education. Shankar Nath comments on this saying, “Aaj kal kitabon par zyada aur padhai pe kam zor diya jar aha hai, bachchon ke dimagon ko godam banaya ja raha hai” (These days, there is more emphasis on books rather than on education, and children’s brains are just becoming storehouses).

Stellar performances
In addition to the lead actors, the film has a stellar additional cast that includes Shashikala as Sadhu Ram’s wife, Jalal Agha in a miniscule role, and

Jagdeep who plays an annoying relative of the Nath family, mooching off them, much to the annoyance of the three children.

The moral of the story
Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani is a moralistic tale of children realising the value of money. The analogy of Shravan Kumar and his eulogised tale about his dedication to his parents drives the point home a bit forcefully. However, the unusual story and the way in which the kids face their challenges is engaging and the lessons of the film remain especially pertinent today in a world where parents rush to fulfil every desire of their children. The film certainly makes one yearn for a less consumerist world, where one appreciates the value of money.