Sunday, November 2, 2014

Silsila 1981

I saw Yash Chopra's Silsila again last night. I saw the movie when it came to theatres in the early 80s years ago. It was interesting to see the movie again without the Rekha-Amitabh-Jaya hype that had dogged the movie then. At the time it was touted as a movie based loosely on the lives of these three actors.
Despite the hype, the movie did not do well. Rightly, I thought, as I watched the movie again last night. The movie was a bit dull and slow in pace. The theme was interesting very unlike most Hindi movies. While most movies (certainly during the 80s), stuck to tried and tested formulas, this movie a good look at adult relationships.
The movie starts with a lovely song 'Sar se sarke sar ki chunariya'. To me, it looks like the Punjabi festival of Teej is being celebrated in this song. During Teej, girls and young brides dress up to the nines, gets mehendi done and sing and dance amidst Jhoola's. We see Shekhar (Shashi Kapoor) and Shobha (Jaya Bhaduri) romancing together. They are a young couple in love. Shekhar is an Air Force Officer, and Shobha is a school teacher.
Shekhar's brother, Amit (Amitabh Bachchan) also lands up and the three have a great time together partying.
Later, Amit attends a Sikh friend's wedding and runs into the beautiful and feisty Chandni (Rekha) at Sangeet. Sparks fly between them and they sing a lovely number together "Pehli pehli baar dekha aisa jalwa". Amit woos Chandni and there is love and happiness all around. The brothers are set marry lovely women and lead a happy life together.
Right then, tragedy strikes and Shekhar dies. Shobha is distraught. She is pregnant with Shekhar's child and does not know what to do. Amit marries Jaya in a bid to protect the child of his brother. Chandni, ditched royally by Amit, marries Anand (Sanjeev Kumar).

A chance meeting with Chandni reignites Amit's feelings for her. He pursues Chandni and explains the reasons for his sudden marriage. Chandni softens towards him they are pulled together by their impulses and seek every opportunity to get close.
It is at this time that the story gets a bit slow, lingering on their clandestine meetings. It does give rise to an amazingly beautiful song "Yeh kahan aa gayeham", which is interspersed with some lovely poetry recited by Amitabh. A little more passion and emotion at this stage onwards would have helped.
The movie is acted out very well. Jaya was simply superb as a wife who has to stand on the sidelines and watch her husband flirt with another woman. Sanjeev Kumar was topnotch as the husband who has to watch his wife slipping away from him. Rekha puts in a powerhouse performance as a woman torn between her husband and her lover. She brings oodles of glamour to her role. She is beautiful, and she knows how to seduce the camera to bring out the maximum effect of her personality. It is hard to fault Amitabh in acting. I did think he looked a wee puffy here. 

I do think the women steal the show in this movie. Both Jaya and Rekha essay their complex roles with ease. Sanjeev is a scene grabber, but his role was quite slim. If only the movie did not have such an episodic feel to it. If only there was more cohesion and drama to it.
What comes up is a spoiler. The movie is an old one and there is hardly an aficionado of the movies of this kind who has not seen the film yet. But in case you do not want a spoiler, do not read on.

I liked the fact that the aspects of adultery were well depicted here. The adulterous couple, Amit and Chandni have to wrestle with the internal and external problems. They are forever afraid of bumping into someone they know. Also, they have to wrestle with their sense of right and wrong. However, once their impulses get the better of them, they decide to take off.
Amit tells Shobha about his love for Chandni and tells Shobha he is leaving her. Chandni does not confront Anand directly, but he implies that he knows her heart is engaged elsewhere. As he leaves for a conference in Bombay, he says he hopes he will find her home when he returns.
Amit's friends are generally un-supportive of his move and tell him so in no uncertain terms. Chandni and Amit go to the anniversary celebrations of his Sikh friend. At the paath, they find they have to sit apart because they are not married. While doing the aarti, Amit is reminded of the holy vows he took with his wife. This ignites a different emotion in him.

Just then, Shobha calls to say that Anand has been in an accident. When Amit tells Chandni about the accident, she is reminded of her ties with her husband and is eager to get back to him.
Thus their little post-marital obsession with each other ends. The sudden melodrama of the burning planes and helicopter rides at the fag end rankles. It does not fit in with the slow pace of emotional journey that the characters are going through till now.
Spoiler ends
The adultery was more in the mind. Although in the song "Yeh kahan aa gaye ham" Amit does fantasise about a complete relationship with his beloved, they just seem to be going around spending time with each other. Nothing wrong with it. If a person is emotionally pulled towards another person, it is adultery as well, one does not need physical relations to break one's vows. Amit and Chandani feel they are in love with each other and not with their spouses. That is a good reason enough to break their marriages.
I find myself curiously engaged by this movie. It is too slow paced, I feel. Yet I am charmed by the theme of love and how it transcends other ties at times.
The music is very classy. The songs are beautifully written by Javed Akhtar and the lovely score composed by Shiv Hari. They are very well filmed as well. Amitabh's version of Neela Aasmaan was not particularly appealing. The tulips of Amsterdam are well utilised in "Dekha ek khawab to". Ever since yesterday's viewing, I am really taken by "Yeh kahan aagaye ham". It is such a lovely song. "Jo tum todo piya" is very beautiful too, and Jaya emotes it very well. There is no need to say anything more about "Rang Barse", which has turned into a Holi staple now.This song was written by Harivansh Rai Bachchan.   "Pehli pehli baar" is a another song that will never die away. "Sar se sarke" is a song steeped in Punjabiyat that Chopra was so fond of flaunting in his movies. So are the paath's that are put in thanks to the Sikh wedding and anniversary celebrations.

Last word, though it does not quite make the cut as a must watch romantic drama, it is an above average more than a decent watch.


  1. Hi Ava,

    I think this is the first time I'm commenting on your blog; I didn't realise (or have forgotten) that you blog as well! I'm glad that Google Plus brought me here.

    I quite liked Silsila actually; I thought it was a very good look at adult relationships as you said. I did hate that Yash Chopra chickened out at the end because of the real-life mirroring of his reel-life relationships. It would have been far better to have Amit stay with Chandni = though I suppose the moral police wouldn't have liked that an adulterous couple could be happy!

    Thanks for reminding me of one of AB's better films - he plays a very grey character in this; he's not very likable, is he?

  2. Whoa...With that sort of review I've got to see the movie once again.. Last time I saw that ages was a boring one with hardly any action. A true flick regarding crimes of passion. Have heard the song..''yeh kahan'' and can relate as well. I remember Rekha is at her very best.Period.

  3. Anu,

    This blog hardly ever moves, its maalkin is very lazy :)

    I like the movie, yes. But not too much. The end was too sudden. Its ok if they did not want to stay together, but it could have been better explained.

    It was as if YC was not able to express himself properly.

    Yet such songs! Wah! The Acting! Wah!

  4. Sonam,

    Thanks. Maybe now that your are a grownup (maybe) you will like this movie better. But it is kind of slow.

    The songs are amazing though.

  5. Very good - and very professional - review, Ava.

    I've seen this film a few times because it seems to be on Indian TV fairly regularly. As you say, the songs are lovely - as is everyone's acting.

    I also felt the movie slowed down a bit in the Amitabh-Rekha rediscovery part of the film. But otherwise, it is a very watchable movie, esp if one keeps aside any moral judgments.

    The end did seem very sudden - and typically filmy, going against the way the whole film had been built up till then. Maybe Yash Chopra was forced to wrap it up soon due to some complications that we are not aware of.

    In any case, thanks for such an excellent review.

  6. Thank you Raja. Yash Chopra tried to make movies on relationships, but was perhaps thwarted by the people on his team pandering to the box office.

    Which is why the movie seems to fall down between two stools.

    Yet I like what the movie promises, a close look at love sans borders.

  7. I have to admit I've never seen Silsila. I was deemed to small to watch it when it was first released, and even after that, I've somehow never ended up looking for it. I think I may watch it now, if only for the performances (oh, and Yeh kahaan aa gaye hum, which is my favourite song from the film - lovely).

  8. Yes, watching it for the performances, and the songs is a good idea.

    Don't expect to be bowled over and you will be fine.

  9. Are you sure the adultery was limited to the mind, and no body-action took place ? I would not really consider that as adultery :)
    In any case, I thought the movie was slow, boring, and over-hyped. By then, Amitabh's image did not allow him to play a sensitive lover & husband, and he is just OK at it. Jaya does not have much of a role, and neither does Sanjeev. Rekha just looks good, and so if Amitabh did not consummate the adultery; there is not much point to the movie :)

  10. Return of the Pink Bee!

    Well done, Ava!

    I found the movie, like many of Yash Chopra's films, very promising at the beginning, but the sudden and fast-paced end spoiled it all for me.
    It was same in Kaala Patthar, Silsila, Chandani, Lamhe and Veer-Zaara. Well, these are all the Yash Chopra films I've seen except for Waqt, Deewar and Joshila, but they were also films he directed for other banners. So Yash Chopra has always been: good themes, slow plot (not necessarily a bad thing, I love slow movies) and an hurried end.
    I think I saw Silsila, sometime in the 80s on TV or on video and I just couldn’t understand what the big hype was. Rang barse was, though always a bit embarrassing to watch.
    I personally would have liked if Sanjeev and Jaya would have come together and Amit and Chandni. Wow, that would have created some scandal, but in the present form, it ended up being just embarrassing and not bold. That is Yash Chopra for you, going only half way up the path and disappointing everybody.

    Good review, Ava! Waiting for new ones!

  11. Well Sameer,

    I remember a very passionate dialogue in The Good Wife, where the husband, who cheated, tells his wife. "I cheated, but it meant nothing".

    The wife snapped back, "I'm sorry, but when I cheated, it meant something to me."

    I liked her spirit there.

    I would like to call it Sorta Culpa.
    Not quite Mea Culpa.

    I do think everyone acted well, and I love the songs.

  12. Harv,

    You hit the nail on its head. YC's characters lack passion. They need to really go all out.

    Doosra Aadmi was a YC production and had a better story. It was directed by Ramesh Talwar, but produced by Yash Uncle.

    Waqt is the best movie of the lot. It was the first masala (dosa) movie of its kind. Wo to zaroor dekho.

    I like Kalaa Pathhar. Woh bhi sort of.

    Lamhe, Chandni, Veer Zaraa - meh meh meh.

    They are like sugarless desserts, good to look at but bekar taste.

    Silsila is ok-ish.

    I like Doosra Aadmi very much. Aur kaunsi picturen banayi uncle ne?

  13. Ava your review is remarkable. I have seen this movie twice only for the songs

  14. Thank you Ushaji. The songs are very lovely.

  15. Ava.... First and foremost, I appreciate you reviewed this movie as we read latest movie reviews today.

    I have seen Silsila many times (say more than 15) I have this on Blu-ray, even I have seen his (Yash Uncle) mostly movies many times. If we talk about as a director movies in various genre, I would name few of my favorites.

    Waqt, Daag, Ittefaq, Kaala Patthar, Doosra Aadmi, Deewaar, Trishul, Silsila, Kabhi Kabhie.

    Now back to Silsila, no doubt the story is slow and the end is quick. Songs are amazing, great lyrics/poetry. I have its one LP edition record, Double LP Edition and also Shabad EP record in which they have included those Gurbanis/shabad when Amit and Chandni were in Gurudwara Sahib (Baanh Jinah Di Pakadiye etc.) Here is the songs sequence I love.

    Ye Kahan Aa Gaye Hum
    Neela Aasman So Gaya (Amitabh) Romantic stanzas are good
    Neela Aasmaan So Gaya (Lata) Sad stanzas are awesome
    Dekha Ek Khwab I-II
    Ladki Hai Ya Shola
    Jo Tum Todo Piya
    Rang Barse :)

    At the end, I would like to say..... Keep writing such kind of amazing reviews.

  16. Thank you Dinesh for the detailed comment. I love the shabds in the film. It was very significant because they could not (not being married) do the arti together. Also that the news of the crash comes right after they have listened to the shabd about sticking to the sanctity of marriage.

    The songs are really very good.

  17. Yes, I love the singing style of "ये कहाँ आ गए हम", One of the best by Lata Ji. She felt each word in the song.... remember "हुई और भी मुलायम, मेरी शाम ढलते ढलते". Wow! when she says word "मुलायम" it feels like what she is talking about.