Dare I repeat myself by admitting that one of the reasons I wanted to see this film was the music? Shagoon (which I think should have been spelt Shagun) combines Sahir Ludhianvi’s lyrics with Khayyam’s music, to stunning effect. But my other reasons for watching this film were equally valid. It stars the matchless Waheeda Rehman in the only film where she co-starred with Kamaljit, later to be her husband. What chemistry there must be here, I thought. Plus the film featured some of the most dependable character actors of Hindi cinema: Nasir Hussain, Achla Sachdev, Pratima Devi, Chand Usmani. This one had to be worth seeing, I thought.
The film begins well enough, in picturesque Nainital. (The cinematography, by the way, is first rate from the first frame itself; crisp and beautiful. And there are some fine camera angles and striking frames scattered across the length of the film). A group of girls, who’ve come to Nainital to help raise funds for charity by participating in a show, are boating on the Naini Lake. Among these are Geeta (Waheeda Rehman) and her pal Shobha (Chand Usmani).
Geeta is being pestered by a man (Kamaljit, looking rather jowly) in a motorboat. He keeps whizzing by dangerously close to the girls’ rowboat, and Geeta, exasperated, remarks to Shobha that he seems to be one of those “men who think if you pester a girl long enough, she’ll fall in love with you.” Yay! This is a film, I think, that’s going to be offbeat. Geeta is going to be a smart cookie, the type who won’t fall for a man just because he sings songs or pursues her.
Alas, the smart cookie turns out to be a complete wimp. After he’s bugged her a bit more (chomping noisily on food at a nearby café table: now that is irritating, isn’t it?), Madan (that’s his name) sings a song at the same charity show where Geeta is supposed to sing and dance—and she is entranced. One song, and poof! Geeta is obviously not one of those who believe in doing what you say.
Oddly enough, despite the fact that this is Waheeda Rehman—a very fine dancer—we don’t get to see her dance at the charity show.
Instead, we get treated to a few quick glimpses of Geeta and Madan’s romance. They just about get time to sing the lovely Parbaton ke pedon par shaam ka basera hai, then Madan gets a telegram summoning him home to Delhi because his mother is ill.
Madan’s mother (Achla Sachdev) is anything but ill. She is, instead, getting various poojas and havans performed because a pandit has told her that the planets are in a very inauspicious mood right now. Over the next couple of scenes we get to know a bit more about Madan’s clan. They’re a wealthy family. Father Rai Sahib (Nasir Hussain) has a weak heart. Mother is incorrigibly superstitious. Younger sister Sheila (? Neena?) and little brother Gappu (Master Pradeep) are Madan’s siblings. Right now, the pandits seem to have taken over the house.
Also almost a part of the family is Girdharilal (Nana Palsikar), Rai Sahib’s right-hand man, manager and assistant. Rai Sahib trusts Girdharilal so implicitly that he doesn’t even read papers Girdharilal gives him to sign, and he gives blank cheques to Girdharilal whenever Girdharilal asks for them. I know where this is heading…
A few scenes down the line, Girdharilal tries to encourage Rai Sahib to make a tidy profit by mixing sand in more expensive cement for the construction of a hospital. Rai Sahib, though he does forgive an apologetic Girdharilal, is so shocked he nearly (?) has a heart attack.
Around this time, Girdharilal’s orphaned niece Rekha (Nivedita, in her debut film; she’s billed as Libi Rana) returns from America after being educated there. Girdharilal immediately sets about trying to present her as a prospective bride for Madan. Rekha is made to give up her dresses and her love for rock-n-roll:
… and has to start wearing saris (which she seems thoroughly uncomfortable in, at first). Fortunately, everybody—including Madan—remembers her from her childhood and is kindly disposed towards her. Madan is even affectionate, and his parents openly praise Rekha. Rekha falls swiftly in love with Madan.
All the while, of course, totally unaware that Madan has Geeta up his sleeve. Having ensured that his mother’s good and well, Madan goes back to Nainital and his lady love. He proposes, is shyly accepted, and following the dictates of good society, goes to meet Geeta’s mother (Pratima Devi) to seek her permission, which she gives gladly.
Back home in Delhi, Madan’s parents have been trying to look for a bride for Madan (Girdharilal’s broad hints about Rekha’s being a fine girl have been of no avail). Madan easily manages to slip Geeta’s photo into the pictures being perused, and soon after, everything falls happily into place. Madan’s mother goes to meet Geeta’s mother and ‘see’ Geeta, whom she approves of, heartily. In fact, Madan’s mother gushes so lavishly about Geeta and her beauty, one imagines nothing is going to ever stem the flow.
—except superstition. Geeta’s horoscope, when shown to the family pandit, reveals that Geeta is a manglik. Any household into which she marries, declares the pandit, will be ruined. She will bring destruction and poverty, death and strife, in her wake.
Madan’s mother does a complete about-turn and refuses to let Madan marry Geeta. The poor girl suddenly goes from being a beauty and a Lakshmi to being inauspicious beyond belief.
Madan’s father tries reasoning with his wife, but she doesn’t listen. When Madan goes to Geeta’s house to convince her of his love, he finds that his girlfriend is acting as silly as his mother. This superstition is idiocy, Madan says; their love for each other should be powerful enough for them to ignore the hurdles that Madan’s mother tries to erect. He incites Geeta to marry him, no matter what, but she refuses. She feels her inauspiciousness will ruin his life. She loves him too much to do that.
So Madan goes mooning about, staying out and roaming the streets till late—until one night, when his mother, under the mistaken impression that Madan has committed suicide, capitulates. Madan can marry Geeta, if it makes him happy.
Madan’s father therefore goes to meet Geeta to get her to agree. He talks long and convincingly, and tells Geeta that Madan’s happiness lies in being with her. Finally, better sense prevails and Geeta agrees. She and Madan are married.
And as Geeta and Madan are entering the house for the first time after the wedding, Madan’s mother digs in her heels and refuses to come down the stairs to welcome the new bride into the house. She’s an inauspicious witch, bringing misfortunes with her, says the crone (okay, Achla Sachdev is hardly a crone, but I got tired of going on referring to her as ‘Madan’s mother’). Rai Sahib tries to reason (poor man, he seems to spend most of his time doing that) with her. But she’s obstinate as a mule, and he loses his temper so completely, he has a heart attack and dies right there.
Which gives Madan’s mother the perfect proof of Geeta’s inauspiciousness: the new bride, even before she’s entered the house, has already killed her father-in-law. Horrors! What more will she do? Will she spare the husband she purports to love so much, or will he fall prey too? Will health, wealth, reputation, everything the family holds dear, withstand the misfortune Geeta brings with her? Or will all—including her marriage, shaky under the assault too of a still-hopeful Rekha—collapse?
What I liked about this film:
The music, and when I say that, I mean not just the tunes but also the lyrics. Parbaton ke pedon par has some lovely imagery of nature as a backdrop for love, and Tum apna ranj-o-gham has to be one of the classic empathy songs. There are others too: the immeasurably sad Bujha diye hain khud apne haathon or the romantic Tum chali jaaogi parchhaiyaan reh jaayengi, for instance—or the wedding song, Gori sasuraal chali (which, by the way, is used in a very humorous way right at the end of the film).
Purely as far as eye candy is concerned, Waheeda Rehman and Libi Rana, both so very pretty.
What I didn’t like:
Where do I begin? Over the first hour of Shagoon, I found myself wondering why this film was never a hit. I mean, the story seemed interesting—a romantic triangle, plus the superstition angle—and the songs were fantastic. The scripting seemed good, and with a lead actress of the calibre of Waheeda Rehman? By the end of the film, I’d figured out all the many problems it suffered from.
1. Kamaljit is just not hero material. Other than the fact that he’s not especially good-looking (an important consideration in Hindi cinema, especially back then), there’s the fact that he’s somewhat hammy in places. And his chemistry with Ms Rehman is really rather close to nil.
2. Libi Rana, while very pretty, leaves a fair bit to be desired in the acting department.
3. The characters are all wonky, especially the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Geeta, otherwise educated and modern and supposedly not believing b******t like the stuff Madan’s mum touts, suddenly decides that she does indeed not want to ruin Madan’s life. She lets Madan’s mother ride roughshod over her for the silliest of reasons, and doesn’t have the guts to stand up—not even for her love.
And Madan’s mother is the most horrid, cruel, selfish, unreasonable and one-dimensional wretch I have ever seen on the Hindi silverscreen. Her love for her children is probably genuine, but it doesn’t stop her putting her superstitions first.
4. I would think the basic premise of the story is that superstition is wrong. This means that whether or not Geeta was a manglik should have made no difference—if one had to be formulaic, I guess the film would have ended with it being revealed that though Geeta was a manglik, the family’s misfortunes were attributable to other reasons. But no; we discover that Geeta wasn’t a manglik after all. So, lesson learnt? A manglik can ruin your home, but if you examine a horoscope well, you may discover that someone you thought a manglik isn’t actually one.
My advice: Watch the songs. They are the nicest part of the film, and look the nicest too. Otherwise, it’s just a lot of screeching and hollering (Achla Sachdev) and weeping (Waheeda Rehman) and looking dissipated (Kamaljit).