Great Indian Movies - Prem Rog
Legendary filmmaker Raj Kapoor is known for his powerful, meaningful, enlightening social dramas. He knew what he wanted to tell, what audience wanted to hear, and how to make actors, distributors, and trade market happy including himself. He was one of those directors along with Bimal Roy and B.R.Chopra who tried their best to combine entertainment with a purpose in cinema medium. These guys thought they have social responsibility; they can achieve anything, and send out any kind of messages thorough medium like cinema.
In Prem Rog, Raj Kapoor tackles outdated but critical social issues of widow re-marriage and rehabilitation. He raised issues like widows should be given a second chance; widows mustn't be buried alive under age-old traditions, class barriers, prejudices, social customs and codes. Even though widow rehabilitation doesn’t seem big concern in modern 21st century India, it is still very common in rural India, and easily applicable to modern conservative communities.
Prem Rog is a pledge for widow rights regardless of their social stature. Prem Rog is set in a feudal Rajput Thakur ruled village.
Deodhar (Rishi Kapoor) is a poor orphan from the lower Brahman caste who in his childhood had tutored Manorama (Padmini Kolhapure), the only daughter of the rich and powerful Thakur family led by Bade Thakur(Shammi Kapoor). She is loved and cherished by her large family. The benevolent Thakur helped Deodhar to go to the city for higher studies. Now eight years later Deodhar has returned to his village and Manorama is no longer a young girl - After meeting her, Deodhar has fallen in love with her, but keeping his lower caste status in mind he is unable to express his love for her.
A chain of events leads to Manorama being married off to another rich and handsome Thakur at an early age. On the wedding night itself, her husband gets killed in an accident. She becomes widow, only to be returned back to her parental home. When Deodhar is told of this, he takes it upon himself to rebuild Manorama's life, and bring back a smile to her face. Little did he know that in reviving Manorama's life, he would have to face the wrath of the powerful Thakurs armed with aged old traditions and ancient customs in their favor.
I personally believe this is Raj Kapoor's best movie in his entire career as a director. He had a great command over the subject and mesmerizing RK stamp over dramatic sequences in the film.
After making Prem Rog, Raj Kapoor once said - ''We Indians are hypocrites. On the one hand, we eulogizes womankind as being noble and as the embodiment of motherhood. When we want to give our nation the highest respect, we address it as Bharat Mata. But in practical life, we always give our women the worst possible treatment. They are burnt alive. They are treated as slaves. The birth of a girl is considered a curse in our families. To me, womankind symbolizes love, affection and warmth. Women deserve to be respected. They have as much right to happiness as any man. My film is a fight for their right to happiness.'' - We all know this is nothing but bitter truth.
Prem Rog starts with usual love story but ends with powerful social message. For first hour, it is all about happy go lucky thakur family girl and sincere poor lower caste boy and their innocent relationship. As movie gets close to half way mark, it gets serious and becomes serious plea for sanity, new ideas, and progressiveness in our oppressively traditional Indian society. It depicts how inhuman rituals and customs of our society traumatised young widows and forced them to live simple life to prevent any sexual urges.
Prem Rog was blessed with one of most powerful story and flawless screenplay. There are many unforgettable scenes like Deodhar and Manorama’s first meeting, Manorama’s hair-cutting ceremony, and Deodhar and Bade Thakur’s conversation when light went off.
I will never forget one of the most moving sequences I ever seen in Indian movies - Once Manorama comes back to her parental home after being widow, her oppressive family applies all traditional customs and codes on her. She has to live simple life, sleep in simple bed, make and eat simple food. After a long time Deodhar visit Manorama. As they entered into the haveli - very touching sequence starts – As they entered into ground level cottage, Deodhar asks her why she is not living at upstairs, why she is living in simple room and sleeping in simple bed, and she replies that its close to haveli temple. As cook dropping only one royal dinner dish at the entrance of the room and Manorama picks up, Deodhar asks why cook didn’t bring dinner inside and she says he might be in hurry. Suddenly Manorama's mom (Nanda) enters into room and gives Manorama her pre-made simple dish and Deodhar asks again why she is eating this kind of food and she answers - ''Badi ma said widow should eat simple food to avoid any usual bride kinda feelings.'' Mom asks her we have Kheer for tonight, would you like to have some? Even before Manorama nod her head, her badi maa overheard this and says – “'yes, give her Kheer, why don’t you eat in front of us instead of eating behind the door? Why widows wants to feel royal again?.'' This makes Nanda cry and she storms out of the room. This gives us inside knowledge how our ancestors treated widows under rigid customs. The ritual of torturing and stripping widows from all color and attraction are the most painful parts of this poignant saga.
Just like Yash Chopra films, RK films are always blessed with melodious tunes, great music and rich lyrics. Prem Rog was no exception and music numbers are orchestrated by Laxmikant-Pyarelal - Yeh Galiyaan Ye Chaubara, Main Hoon Prem Rogi, Mohabbat Hai Kya Cheez, Meri Kismat Mein Tu Nahi, Bhanvare Ne Khilaya Phool. My most favorite song of the film is Yeh Galiyaan Ye Chaubara sung by Lata. Its a innocent teasing number from to-be-bride in wedding ceremony without knowing man she is teasing unconditionally loves her. Bhanvare Ne Khilaya Phool is most beautifully shot number in the movie. RK and Yash Chopra (Silsila – Dekha Ek Khwab) both shot their songs within same week at tulip farm in Amsterdam.
Rishi Kapoor was amazing as reformist Deodhar who is nothing but strong, dignified, educated, and sensitive human. He was revelation while underplaying his character especially when he was interacting with any member of Thakur family. Padmini Kolhapure was masterful at her different shades of Manorama. I heard she was screen tested for all three roles - that of a young girl, a bride, and a widow. There is no doubt that this is one of her best role in her entire career. RK assembled some of the best star casts around Padmini. Watch out for powerful characters played by yesteryear stars like Shammi Kapoor as uncle, Nanda as Mother, Sushma Seth as aunt (Badi Maa), Vijayendra Ghatge as husband, Tanuja as sister-in-law, Kulbhashan Kharbanda as father, Raza Murad as brother-in-law, Om Prakash as village priest, and Bindu as housemaid.
Although it is one of the great movie, its ending letting it down. It has overblown climax and one could easily argue that movie would have been succeed sending out message anyway without showing caste war and overdramatic action drama.
Even though Prem Rog mainly a love story, it is story of a clash between old traditions, customs, and prejudices against new wave of liberal human progressive values. This is very poignant film and replays one of the darkest aspects of our 18th-19th-early 20th century societies. A very powerful social film and one should not miss.
Story is taken from YashRaj DVD text.