Teesri Kasam was screened at the Film Festival currently on at the Habitat Center which is screening the films of the celebrated actress Waheeda Rehman in its 'retro' section.
The film is a delight to watch. The role of 'Hirabai ' is played to perfection by Waheeda Rehman. Set on the haunting lyrics of Shailendra, the film moves on the strength of its stellar performances by both Raj Kapoor and Waheeda Rehman. It's songs like 'paan khaye saiya hamaare' and 'duniya banane wale, kya tere man me samaye, kahe ko duniya banaye ' are a treat to the perfect symmetry which existed between the intellect and the soul in that bygone era.
Raj Kapoor's cute sound of 'issss' he makes every-time he's embarrassed or blushes about something in his conversations with Waheeda, are unforgettable.
Watching Raj Kapoor on the screen, made me realize that he's been such an inspiration to so many actors which followed his mannerisms, his charm, his charisma. Rishi Kapoor, Anil Kapoor and even Ranbir Kapoor, have shades of Raj Kapoor present in them. Rajesh Khanna also, to some extent, although, I would say he developed a 'style' of his own.
The story of Teesri Kasam starts with Hiraman played by Raj Kapoor being caught on the wrong side of the law when unknowingly he 'loads' grains which are being transported by grain merchants for hoarding. The grain merchant is caught while Hiraman manages to escape with his bullocks, but has to leave his cart behind. He vows never to load grain meant for hoarding, and narrates the whole incident to his sister in law who is his 'support system'. Next day when he's transporting bamboo sticks, his cart gets stuck on a stone and people coming from the opposite direction are hurt, who badly beat him up. He solemnly vows never to load bamboo sticks too and makes this crystal clear on every subsequent trip he gets to undertake. So these are the 'two kasams' he takes.
How both the 'Hiras' meet and their love story develops is what the film delightfully portrays thereafter. Hirabai has to do perform at the nautanki of 'The Great India Nautanki Company' which is holding its shows at the village fair. Since she can't appear publicly for them she undertakes the whole journey in the bullock cart of Hiraman shielded inside the veiled hood of the cart, and on the journey itself she senses the goodness and kind heart of this young, innocent yet gullible man.
When night falls, Hiraman starts to get scared by the noises coming from all around and stops at a temple to pray for his safety because he fears that a 'ghost' maybe sitting inside his cart. Later, when he comes to know his passenger is a 'pari' he's besides himself with amusement.
The film brings out the day to day problems of the common man who would like to remain immersed in the 'nautanki' performance of Hirabai and live in the present, rather than keep dwelling on the future.
Waheeda handles the love blossoming in her heart for the innocent Hiraman with so much ease, care and candidness and she actually shows herself being drowned in his uncontrollable love for her singing and dancing. Although she's a character playing the dancing girl, Hiraman can't bear anything being said about her and is prepared to beat any body calling Hirabai names which are derogatory in nature. It is this noble quality of Hiraman which endears Hirabai to him and brings both of them closer together.
The close attention to fine details of human affection, natural bonds of love which exist and develop between Hirabai and Hiraman are the main attraction of the film. The sexist approach of male dominated society towards the courtesan is also reflected sharply when the Thakur Zamindar of that area, Vikram Singh played superbly by Iffthikar, goes to any extent monetarily, to attain the charms and attention of Hirabai and then ultimately tries to force himself on her, and is physically and publicly rebuked by her.
The end where Hirabai decides to leave the village and life of Hiraman in order to save his life and depicts a kind of sacrifice, a Teesri Kasam, which is self inflicted on her to preserve her love for Hiraman. It is said that many prevailed upon Shailendra who is also the producer of this film, to change the end in order to make it a happy ending, but he did not relent, saying the relevance of Teesri Kasam on both the main characters, would be lost.
Ultimately the film did not do very well at the box office. It's only after Shailendra's death, and it being nominated for a National Award which it won for Best Feature Film that the film picked up, and was acclaimed universally.
The print made available at the Habitat Film Festival now is the complete and original print and has all the songs on it.
All in all, a masterpiece, with brilliant performances by Waheeda Rehman and Raj Kapoor. The film was ably directed by Basu Bhattacharya, and lovely music by Shanker Jaikishen with haunting and melodious songs composed by Shailendra are the main highlights of the movie.
Cheers for now....!