Guru Dutt's Chaudhvin Ka Chand remains immortal for its title song rendered by Mohammed Rafi and for the luminous beauty of Waheeda Rehman.
60 years of Chaudhvin Ka Chand: An ode to nawabi culture and the romance of a bygone era
New Delhi - 04 Jul 2020 23:42 IST
Directed by M Sadiq, the classic Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960) came right after the failure of Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), which shattered actor-filmmaker Guru Dutt who vowed never to take credit as director again. Although Guru Dutt's subsequent films bore the great director's unmistakable stamp, he never did take credit for any of them.
Guru Dutt produced and acted in his next project, Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960), a Muslim social set in the era of the nawabs of Lucknow. The film tells the story of two friends who fall in love with the same woman.
Aslam (Guru Dutt) is an ordinary man who is deeply indebted to nawab Pyare Miyan (Rehman) for having helped him out when he was in dire straits. To get the nawab out of a difficult situation, Aslam agrees to marry the priest’s daughter Jameela (Waheeda Rehman).
The nawab is secretly in love with a young woman but does not know that she is none other than the priest's daughter. Aslam realizes the mix-up, which is the result of veiled faces and gender-based cordoning of spaces. Intent on being a good friend, he prepares to make the ultimate sacrifice. In the end, caught in a rather impossible situation, one decides to bow out but in keeping with the tehzeeb (culture) of the place.
The milieu, nawabi culture and centrality of Lucknow as a place of genteel manners and grace are eulogized in the opening song which is an ode to the town. The place is, of course, an imagined one, where friendship and loyalty still matter and one’s honour and word are fundamental to one’s being.
Chaudhvin Ka Chand captured the imagination of the audience, transporting it to a finer time. A review in Filmfare magazine said the film 'recaptures romance of a bygone era, when veiled maidens held secret trysts with their lovers in the corridors of the great mansions of Lucknow'.
What remains most memorable in the film, 60 years after its making, is the immortal title song sung by Mohammed Rafi and the luminous beauty of Waheeda Rehman. Ziya Us Salam in his book Houseful: The Golden Years of Hindi Cinema narrated the story behind the idea of the song: 'One night Guru Dutt and [music composer] Ravi were coming back from a mushaira [poetry session]. Ravi had a line on his lips: Chaudhvin ka chand ho ya aftab ho. But it was not a complete couplet. Once home, he shared it with [lyricist] Shakeel Badayuni who immediately responded, Jo bhi ho tum khuda ki qasam laajawab ho! And so was the song born.
The song was filmed on the mesmerizing Waheeda Rehman. Speaking about the song later, the actress recalled that after the film became a big hit, the makers decided to remake the song in colour, since colour film had only just started coming into India. And so they did, but, curiously, the Central Board of Film Censors, as the body was then, asked for a shot to be cut out.
Perplexed, the producer asked why the shot needed to be cut when it had been passed in the black and white version. The censors said Waheeda’s eyes were red and looked too sensuous. In reality, her eyes were turning red due to the heat of the harsh lights on set!
Chaudhvin Ka Chand won Filmfare awards for Best Playback Singer (Male), Best Lyricist and Best Art Direction. It was also the biggest commercial success of Guru Dutt’s career and enabled the filmmaker to undertake his ambitious project, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962).