Amar
India 1954
Directed by Mehboob Khan.


Ahhh, the idyllic village life! Sweet, childish milkmaid Sonia (Nimmi) wakes up with pleasure and takes care of the animals, joyful yet lamenting that her stepmother always beats her -- she even dreams of beating her while she sleeps! ("That's why they call her 'stepmother'," her father says with a shrug). She crosses paths with young, idyllic lawyer Amar (Dilip Kumar), who protects the innocent and tells the guilty to suck it up and face their crime like a man. He takes a liking to Sonia but is sent a picture of his fiance Anju (Madhubala) by his father. Anju is also quite spirited, a defender of the peasantry, even though she is the landlord's daughter and from a wealthy family. The village villain (seems every village has one) is Sankat (Jayant), who tears down the villagers festival tents because they are on his land and menaces Sonia with his sexual advances at every opportunity.

One day Sonia the milkmaid stops Amar's car to garland him with flowers. But, she is too shy to do so, and he says loving things to her, like, "Go away you filthy thing." She bathes and puts on clean clothes in response (then, immediately hugs her farm animals while telling them how clean she is. Oops). Sankat, meanwhile, flashes his knife around town and tells her he will kill her if she dances at the festival, which she promptly does. At the conclusion of the dance, the weather turns foul, and Sankat chases her through the pouring rain and thunder and lightning, beating her and attempting to possess her. She finds safety in Amar's house.

And this, my friends, is where AMAR parts company with 99% of Bollywood movies. Because this is when our hero Amar sizes up the wet, trembling, newly bathed Sonia, eyes wide in terror, and abruptly rapes her, the same night he received a telegram about his father passing away.

His father's last wish? That he marry Anju, of course. But now, Amar moans about his ruined, black life, Sonia's beatings increase, and Anju grows desperate trying to pierce the darkness that has engulphed Amar. And all of them have to endure Sankat's pearls of wisdom, like "What good is a man who does not have a knife and a mustache?" So Amar plans to go ahead with marrying Anju, and Sankat moves in on Sonia and convinces her abusive stepmom to marry her off to him. Neither marriage goes entirely to plan, and even Sankat we discover is not as bad as all that. No, when it comes to being a shiftless bastard, no one can top Amar.

A pretty good story, if rather depressing, Mehboob Khan considers AMAR as one of his best works. I like it as well, it has a very clean and clear plot, hinging upon a man's weakness in one night and how this can ruin lives. There are several arresting sequences in the film. The first happens right when the film opens. Sonia wakes up, stretches beautifully, her midriff exposed in her sari, her eyes half open. She walks out into the yard, milks the cows, feeds the chickens, and tends to the animals. It is a lyrical scene of pastoral bliss. It is the most beautiful, celebratory moment in the film, typical of Mehboob Khan's oevre, the most pure character in the one closest to the earth. Another amazing scene is the pivotal one in the movie, the lightning, the storm, the wet sari, Sankat outside and Amar inside, violence raging in both, Sonia not even a human being to either of them. In the end, taking responsibility for our actions becomes the only path to restore our humanity.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on February 09, 2006.


Comments

One the most underrated Mehboob Khan films. In some aspects better than his more celebrated films like 'Mother India'.

Posted by: Saif Khan at December 13, 2007 03:24 AM
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