Teesri Kasam (1966)

One reason I’m glad I began this blog is that, because of it, I’ve met (although in most cases only in cyberspace) a lot of other people who are as enthusiastic about cinema as I am. Through these friends, I’ve been introduced to ‘new’ old films, to songs and directors and actors and styles of cinema that I hadn’t known before. Occasionally, too, my friends have been able to persuade me to give up a prejudice and watch a film I had no great expectations from. This is one of them.

At least four fellow bloggers/readers/friends – Yves, Bawa, Harvey and Pacifist – had been advising me, for a while now, to watch Teesri Kasam. I was assured that Raj Kapoor wasn’t at all Chaplinesque (something I dread in RK’s films) here, and that the film itself was excellent. I’d been trying to get hold of Teesri Kasam too, but the DVD rental company I subscribe to never seemed to have it in stock. Finally, last Sunday, I watched the film on Youtube. And yes, it is a wonderful film. Sensitive, lyrical, quiet, and easy to like.

We’re introduced to the protagonist, Heeraman (Raj Kapoor) very early in the film. Heeraman owns a bullock cart which he drives, transporting passengers and cargo for a fee across the rural countryside. Within the first few minutes, we see the result of two decisions Heeraman takes: one, to transport stolen goods; and the second, to transport a load of bamboo.
The first lot – the stolen goods – nearly get Heeraman arrested. He just about manages to escape with his bullocks, and vows to his sister-in-law (Dulari) that he’ll never ever carry stolen goods in his cart again.

The second time, Heeraman’s cartload of bamboo nearly collides with a racing tonga, narrowly avoiding skewering the tonga horse and its driver on the projecting bamboo. Heeraman ends up getting beaten. Another vow follows, this time that Heeraman will never again carry bamboo in his bullock cart.

Heeraman’s managed to save up enough money to enable him to buy a bullock cart with a good thatched cover. He’s barely got it home and finished showing it off to his brother, his bhabhi and little niece, when a man called Birju (C S Dubey) comes along and hires the cart, for Heeraman to take a woman passenger to a village far, far away.

All Heeraman sees of his passenger is a shapely leg as she climbs into the cart. He (though he’s too polite to raise any objections) is immediately on his guard: surely this is some ghastly witch or sorceress, disguised as a beauty. Who knows when she’ll throw off her sheep’s clothing and devour him? He stops en route at a temple and offers up some quick prayers…

… and is very pleasantly surprised when he catches a glimpse of his passenger asleep.

The woman (Waheeda Rehman) soon makes friends with Heeraman. They share a first name, she says: her name is Heerabai. It turns out that she’s a dancer (the dancer; she’s immensely popular) with The Great Bharat Nautanki Company. The Company, as all the villagers refer to it, will be holding a series of dance/theatre performances at a village fair – that’s where Heerabai is headed.

And so begins the saga of Heerabai and Heeraman. This film, so vastly different in tone and mood and setting from the last film I reviewed (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), still has something in common with that film: it is not dependent so much on action and plot developments as on emotion, on what is said and what is left unsaid. Also, like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Teesri Kasam was based on a work by an award-winning writer: in this case, the original was a short story called Maare Gaye Gulfaam by Hindi writer Phanishwar Nath Renu.

As they travel on together, over the next 30 hours, Heeraman and Heerabai will get to know a little about each other. He will discover that she is obviously more literate than him, more a ‘woman of the world’ – in the sense that she uses the occasional English word (‘gramophone’, ‘rehearsal’); she can read fluently, and she has travelled a fair bit. This is an urban woman, not polished and highly educated or fashionable, but certainly not the country bumpkin that Heeraman himself is.

And he is, even though the utter simplicity of Heeraman is more endearing than insular.
Heerabai will come to know the simplicity and the innate goodness of Heeraman. She will discover that he sings beautifully (folk songs from the hinterland); that he had been married as a child but his bride died soon after; and that he has not remarried – because his bhabhi would make him marry a little girl, and he couldn’t do that.

Between them, the shy village cart-driver and his relatively sophisticated passenger, will arise a friendship so warm that Heerabai, when they reach the fairgrounds, will plead with Heeraman to come and watch her perform. She will even be generous enough to arrange for free passes for Heeraman and his four friends.

But the Heera Devi (as Heeraman refers to her) that he knows as a gentle, sweet and dignified lady is also the coquettish Heerabai who will dance and sing and flirt, and will smilingly accept the often lewd accolades of the all-male audience that comes to see the nautanki.
Even Heeraman’s best friend (Krishan Dhawan) will leer at Heerabai and try to get a few moments alone with her.

And the local zamindar (a surprising but effective bit of casting: Iftekhar, almost repellent in his arrogant licentiousness) will approach Heerabai to stay back at the village after the fair is over, so that he can spend some time with her, alone…

So we come to Heerabai’s dilemma. The nautanki is her life; she cannot imagine living without it. Yet, she realises that to Heeraman, she is Heera Devi, not Heerabai. She is the ‘devi’: the goddess, the personification of all that is good and virtuous. He plunges into a brawl with a stranger when he overhears the man referring to Heerabai as a randi, a whore. He tells her—when they are trundling along in the bullock cart—that according to local folk lore, she cannot, as a maiden, bathe at a certain spot in the river.

But Heerabai knows, knows all too well, that she is not the pure maiden Heeraman believes her to be. As she says in one moment of anguish to a friend of hers: “How long will I pretend to be the Sati-Savitri to Heeraman?” How long? And will that pretence not eventually take its toll on both Heeraman and Heerabai herself?

What I liked about this film:

The gentle, almost lyrical quality of it. In an era when action—not necessarily violence, but things happening, events and occurrences and plot twists—are the norm, Teesri Kasam concentrates on conversation, on the interactions and relationships between people. And that is combined with some of the most sensitive, non-melodramatic characterisation I’ve seen in Hindi cinema in the 50s and 60s. Part of that lies in the fact that the actual speaking cast of Teesri Kasam is very small: Heeraman and Heerabai are the main speaking parts, with only a handful of other people involved. The result is an uncluttered story, the story of a man who loves a woman he has put on a pedestal, and the woman, who realises, uncomfortably, that she is not really worthy of the man.

And yes, I have to agree with everybody who told me that the Raj Kapoor of Teesri Kasam is not the ‘lovable tramp’ I find so irritating in a lot of other Raj Kapoor films. Heeraman is a shy, sweet man, simple and innocent but without the mannerisms I find so irritating in most of RK’s other films.

Last but not the least: the songs. Teesri Kasam’s songs are the result of a well-proven collaboration: Shankar-Jaikishan, Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri. There are plenty of wonderful songs here, both with outstanding music and great lyrics: Sajan re jhooth mat bolo, Sajanwaa bairi ho gaye hamaar, Paan khaaye saiyaan hamaaro, Maare gaye gulfaam, and Chalat musaafir moh liya re pinjre waali munia.

Thank you, Bawa, Harvey, Yves, Pacifist. I liked that, a lot.

Little bit of trivia:

Teesri Kasam was the only film produced by the lyricist Shailendra. From Prahlad Agarwal’s Teesri Kasam ke Shilpkaar Shailendra:

“Shailendra ne likha tha ki wah Raj Kapoor ke paas Teesri Kasam ki kahaani sunaane pahunche toh kahaani sunkar unhone bade utsaahpoorvak kaam karna sweekaar kar liya. Par turant gambhirtapoorvak bole, “Mera paarishramik advance dena hoga!” Shailendra ko aisi ummeed nahin thi ki Raj Kapoor zindagi-bhar ki dosti ka yeh badla denge. Shailendra ka murjhaaya hua chehra dekhkar Raj Kapoor ne muskuraate hue kaha, “Nikaalo ek rupaiya, mera paarishramik! Poora advance!”

Translation: Shailendra has written that he went to Raj Kapoor to narrate the story of Teesri Kasam, and Raj Kapoor, having heard the story, enthusiastically agreed to work in the film. The next moment, however, he said with a very serious face: “You’ll have to pay me my fees in advance!” This was a blow to Shailendra, who had not imagined that Raj Kapoor would so summarily overlook the friendship of a lifetime. Watching Shailendra’s crestfallen face, Raj Kapoor grinned and said, “Out with it! One rupee, my fees! All in advance!”

And that was how much Raj Kapoor took for working in Teesri Kasam: one rupee.

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115 thoughts on “Teesri Kasam (1966)

  1. I simply love the music of this film. Had heard my dad say that it’s a different kind of a film, but I had no clue as to what it was about – I had never thought it would be such a sensitive story. Waheeda looks so gorgeous, love the screencap where she’s sleeping. She looks like a true chaudhavi ka chaand :-)

    • Yes, Waheeda Rehman is really beautiful – and she looks gorgeous even when she’s dressed so simply and is wearing very little makeup. Truly a chaudhvin ka chaand.

      And yes, it’s a very unusual sort of film. I figured out very early on what Heeraman’s teesri kasam was, but still – it made for very satisfying viewing.

      • I think one of the reasons I love this film so much is that Waheeda is the focus. Ridiculously gorgeous, but also the centre of the film, a strong character not saddled with playing second fiddle to an actor with a God-complex playing a character who ends up thinking he’s God. Even the ending I wished for that could never be had her as the dominant character. Beauty and brains, the complete package. And on a frivoloys note, one of the screencaps of RK you’ve used reminded me very strongly of a description of his looks that I can’t shake: “Karishma with a moustache”

        • :-D :-D That ‘Karishma with a moustache’ bit is new to me, but oh, it’s so appropriate!! Brilliant.

          By the way, you have seen Khamoshi, haven’t you? The depth of the character Waheeda Rehman played in Teesri Kasam reminded me a bit of that. Very different films, of course, and her character in Khamoshi has even less control over her own life than Heerabai does, but it’s another fine example of a superb Waheeda Rehman film.

  2. YAY! I don’t have a blog, but I never miss an opportunity to plug one of my all-time favourite films and I’m so happy that you liked this one. I have been waxing lyrical about this gem on every filmi blog I find, and to see it get such high praise from you is wonderful. Thank you, too, for the lovely story about RK’s fee – that was a very generous thing he did, and probably explains how such a progressive film for the time managed to get to market, as it were.

    • I am so glad you like this film as much as I do, Stuart! Yes, it is lovely, such a refreshing change from the run-of-the-mill Hindi film, even though I do love nearly all old films so unconditionally! :-)

      Incidentally, that anecdote I’ve recounted has a bit of a story to it. My fifteen-year old niece, who of course knows that I’m passionately fond of old Hindi cinema and blog about it, told me a few months ago that her school Hindi text book had a chapter on the making of Teesri Kasam. Ever since, I’ve been waiting for Neeti’s exams to get over, so I can borrow her text book and read it! And this was the result…

  3. I am SO glad you finally saw it. I have always loved the music, but when I saw the fim as a whole, the song that really stood out was the one sung by the village children; the whole scene is just so “layered”, it takes my breath away.

    And for once, the ending was one that fitted in with the story and characters as shown in the film (not saying anything more so as not to give anything away).

    Thanks for the mention: if all mentions were as easy to earn :)

    • And thank you, bawa, for recommending this film! I really, really, liked it a lot. Such a lovely film, and with so much depth – and yes, the ending was exactly what it should have been. Nothing else would have fitted in quite so perfectly.

      Agree re: Laali-laali doliya mein laali re dulhaniya; there are lots of interesting layers in that song. Actually, I thought that was also true of Chalat musaafir moh liya re pinjre waali munia. Loads of meaning there too.

    • I’m glad the ending came in for special mention. I think it was a tribute to the strength of the film that the ending was just right, but it still left me a bit wistful that there hadn’t been another, very unconventional ending. So unconventional that it would probably still not happen in a Hindi film made today.

      • This was a case of a Hindi film ending I didn’t – deep down – really like, but on the other hand, it was also the only ending that would actually fit. A truly unconventional ending of the sort I’d have wanted would have probably been thoroughly unrealistic. And it would have meant another name for the film – or could Heeraman have still made his third vow? Perhaps.

  4. I wonder if you and I wanted the same sort of ending – there’s an English phrase involving the word “kept” that might describe what I was hoping for :)

    • Yes, a ‘keep’ could certainly have been applied to what I’d been hoping would transpire. But it really wasn’t even a hope, just a wish that things could have been different. Because Hindi cinema has been, like Indian society, too bound by certain strictures to proceed along anything except very carefully drawn lines. If Heerabai, by virtue of being a naachnewaali (and also, it seems, more) has given up her right to be a married ‘good’ woman, so too has she given up her right to be the beloved – Heeraman, if he loves her, is damned simply because she is ‘fallen’. She can never be a wife, and Indian society, especially in the villages of the 60s, will not accept her as anything other than the sweetheart of all men.

      So sad. But also so bitter-sweet.

      • But Madhu, tell me if I’m wrong – but doesn’t she have to leave Heeraman in the end because the zamindar threatens her family if she doesn’t comply with his lustful demands? It’s got nothing to do with her giving up her right to be beloved. We see Heerabai’s family coming to speak to her about their fear if she carries on with Heeraman, don’t we?

        • Somehow I thought what really seemed to weigh with Heerabai was what Birju and the others told her – that if she left them to go to Heeraman, she would ruin him. There’s this telling comment where she’s alone with Najma and says, “If any man can pay eight annas to watch me dance, how am I any different for Heeraman?” I think matters came to a head after the zamindar tried to force himself on Heerabai – after that, Birju, Najma, and the others are forced to discuss the possibility of Heerabai leaving them high and dry.

  5. That you have done away with the;
    ‘What I didn’t like about the film’ section says it all :)

    Loved the rusticity of the whole film. Raj Kapoors body language and mannerisms were perfect.
    The way he joins the group under the tree to sing ‘pinjre wali munia’, and not even becoming the lead singer as would have happened in most films. Only other such song I can recall is Naya Daur’s Johny Walker song ‘main Bambai ka babu’ where Dilip Kumar was a sidey like Raj Kapoor here.

    It was only after this film that I was able to shed my dislike of Raj Kappor, and have since then watched quite a few good films of his where he isn’t ‘Chapline like’. A few scenes maybe.

    That bit of trivia makes me respect RK a lot now. Thanks for it, and the review. Really glad you saw it.

    • Pacifist, can you believe it? Until you pointed it out, I never even realised that I’d left out the ‘What I didn’t like about the film’ section – and this after having re-read the review a couple of times before posting it, just to make sure I hadn’t left any errors there! Just shows – I really didn’t NOT like anything in the film. So beautifully made, so emotionally intelligent, so mature.

  6. This was one of the first Raj Kapoor films I saw (along with Chhalia and Chori Chori) and I liked it very much…I was blown away by Waheeda’s beauty, still am! Those three films unfortunately then led me to Self-Indulgent Raj, but I’m glad to have seen it anyway ;-)

    • Chhalia is one RK film I don’t care for, but this one and Chori Chori certainly rank among my favourites from among his films! If I’d been in your place, Self-Indulgent Raj would have come as a very bad shock after this. :-(

      • I know what you mean about spoiling it for other films.
        You could watch Saudagar, starring Amitabh. I know it’s 1973, but you won’t regret it. It has the same rustic background, beautiful photography, and very good acting by everyone, and above all a different theme completely.
        Of course, would miss your reviewing it here, but never mind. :)

  7. I have stored Teesri Kasam for a long time now. I think It’s time I see it. It sounds like such a good story. Must watch it soon. Thanks for the reco :)

  8. Hello Madhu,
    My turn to say thank you and appreciate your lovely summary of the movie’s quiet and sensitive tone; this “third vow” reminds me of Aladdin’s tale, and how he had three wishes to do: here, Heeraman has Waheeda Rehman as his third wish… I wish I was such an Aladdin!
    cheers

    • That’s a lovely little simile, Yves. Yes, an Alladin who had a Heerabai-Waheeda as his third wish is certainly to be envied!

      The worst thing about a film like this is that it spoils you for other films. I began watching the Sunil Dutt-Madhubala starrer Insaan Jaag Utha yesterday, but couldn’t summon up enough enthusiasm for it… it’s probably going to take me a couple of days to finish watching it. And a further few to write a review!

      • Sunil Dutt-Madhubala? Now that sounds interesting. Never thought they were together in the same frame ever.

        There’s a Jaag utha insaan with Sridevi & Mithun which I really liked – on the theme of love between a Brahmin girl and a Harijan boy. Very poignant story. Mithun’s great in it – subdued acting with none of the disco-mania and glamor.

        • I haven’t come across the Sridevi-Mithun Jaag Utha Insaan (but that may be because neither is one of my favourite actors!); it sounds wonderful, though. Mithun, when he wasn’t doing disco stuff, could be a very good actor, actually – I remember watching Mrigyaa when I was a kid, and thinking, even back then, what a different Mithun that was.

          I have shelved the Sunil Dutt-Madhubala Insaan Jaag Utha for the time being; I just wasn’t getting involved in it. Will get back to it sometime soon.

  9. I am back after a long gap, no thanks to my injury but when I saw Teesri Kasam on your blog I had to comment, even if it meant typing with my left hand. One of the advantages of having a film actor as a parent is that you have access to a film appreciation class free of charge. When TK(Teesri Kasam) was being made I was just a little girl, obviously therefore I have no memory of what used to be discussed at home. But when I grew up and saw this film along with my mum on TV, she began recounting what dad used to say about this film. Before I go into that I agree with you, this is one of my favourite Raj Kapoor films though he did not exactly look poor, for once he did not camouflage his acting talent with that irritating “Haanjee main kya bolojee” style of acting. My other favourite RK film is ‘KalAaj AurKal’ where once again I got a glimpse of RK the actor.
    Coming back to TK the films highlight besides the story and of course the songs was the excellent cinematography by Subrata Mitra, Mitra shot Satyajit Ray’s early films. He contributed a great deal in building up the mood of the film, since it is not possible for me to go scene by scene, but there is this song Aa aa aabhi ja, dad was bowled over by the picturisation of this song take a look and watch for those sequences where RK feels Waheeda Rehman is dancing behind him.

    For me personally I love the choreography by renowned Kathak exponent Lachchu Maharaj. The base is Kathak but at the same time he has taken care to introduce a touch of folk and some simple steps as a nautanki dancer will not have the finesse and knowledge of a full-fleged classical Kathak exponent, so unlike the cheap and obscene choreography of present day bollywood.
    Here are some tidbits, Shailendra wanted dad for the role Kishan Dhawan played, dad could not see himself doing that role. I for one cannot imagine dad singing chalet musafir with the gusto Kishan Dhawan did. Dad always ran a mile from lip synching to songs. RK who was a successful director was a dream actor for other directors, why? Unlike other stars he never ever interfered with the director’s vision, on the sets of other directors he was just an actor.
    Such a wonderful film but a huge flop leaving Shailendra a heart broken man.

    • Oh, Shilpi, you poor thing! Hasn’t your arm got okay yet? :-(

      You are so right, both the cinematography as well as the choreography of Teesri Kasam were excellent. I hadn’t paid much attention to the choreography, but the cinematography struck me with its beauty even when I was watching the film. Those sequences where it appears as if Waheeda is dancing beside Raj Kapoor, of course I remember, but what also struck me was the beauty of the sunsets, the lake, the palm trees sticking up into the sky as the bullock cart trundles by… lovely.

      I can’t imagine your father playing Krishan Dhawan’s role either – only because of Chalat musaafir moh liya re, nothing else! Ever since I read on memsaab’s blog your recollection about how your father just couldn’t lip-synch, I realise that I actually had never noticed it before.

      Thank you for those little reminiscences (I hadn’t known RK the actor was so popular with other directors – it must take a lot of fortitude to keep from trying to be director in another director’s film). And I hope your arm gets well soon!

    • Thanks for that bit of trivia, Shilpi!
      Thanks also for the name Subrata Mitra. I loved the cinematography of the film, particularly of the plains, with the bullock-cart caravan and the river-scene. Was he also the cinematographer of Bandini?
      But I am of quite the opposite opinion as to your dad’s lip-synching. Surely, Kishan Dewan has done a very good job of ‘Chalat musafir’, but many actors (incl. your father) do quite a good job, when they take up certain challenges and your dad was a very versatile actor and once he had taken up the challenge I’m sure he would have seen it through.
      Love your narratives of your dad’s memories!
      AND a BIG GET WELL SOON! :-)

  10. This is indeed, as you say, a quiet, lyrical sort of movie that my dad recommended constantly. I’d heard the songs many times and saw it a few months ago on DVD.

    Legend has it that Shailendra went broke after the movie and died of a broken heart. Dunno how true it is though.

    RK is very sweet and has revived some of the quiet charm of his Anari role. His smile at times is so bewitching in this movie! I wish he’d not put on so much weight. He’s quite handsome without the added burden. No Shashi or Shammi but quite handsome.

    Speaking of Shashi – the months of Jan and Feb of this year were major Shashi mania for me. I am not a particular Shashi fan, in terms of acting or looks, but after I watched Jab jab phool khile one evening in January 2011, I was completely smitten. I watched the movie practically everyday and even carried the DVD with me during an international conference trip, watching bits of it every evening on my laptop in my hotel room. The mania has subsided now, thankfully because it was getting a bit too worrisome, even for me! :-)

    • Yes, even Shilpi Bose said that Teesri Kasam was such a flop that it left Shailendra a heartbroken man. It’s sad that a film which is now so well-loved should have brought no commercial success to the man who made it. I should think Shailendra wouldn’t have been so keen on commercial success anyway, but it obviously didn’t bring him anything else either – not even satisfaction at a job well done…?

      Hah! I can well understand your Shashi mania! It hasn’t happened to me with Shashi Kapoor, but I’ve had those moments (maybe weeks/months is a more appropriate term) with actors like Shammi Kapoor – or Sadhana, or Asha Parekh – when I just can’t get enough of them. I too have copied a DVD or VCD onto my laptop and taken it abroad with me when I went on a project, and spent evenings sitting huddled up in my hotel room, watching a favourite film. Bliss! :-)

      • What a relief to know others have mania moments/weeks/months too! I thought I was the lone traveler on such mental paths – with suspicions sometimes of losing the mental path!.

        Artists can be such emotional wrecks sometimes. Too sensitive. John Keats coudn’t handle the criticism of his work and it contributed to his ill health (again according to legends). Same with Guru Dutt after Kagaz ke phool. And it is really sensitive artists that make masterpieces because they see things others can’t. Wish they’d be stronger too – as strong and full of conviction as their work(s).

        • Yes, unfortunately the sensitivity that lifts their work above others is also what makes people like Guru Dutt extremely sensitive to what others say or think about their work. (Come on, one needn’t be exceptionally good at what one does to be sensitive about it – I am terribly sensitive about criticism of what I write!) Some stuff, yes, I am okay with people disagreeing with; other stuff – I will stay up nights worrying over what someone said. It’s all a question of how deeply attached one is to one’s brainchild. I suppose that is why, if you’re a film maker and you’ve spent months (years?) nurturing and creating a work, only to have people reject it completely – it can be so devastating.

          • Heu came across you blog and loving it so far. Teesri Kasam is one of my all time favorite Indian films.

            Btw I have heard Shailendra’s daughter speak about the making of the film. Both Shailendra and Phaisehwar Nath Renu lived together for almost 4 years, worked on each and every line, frame. they had become the closest friends. The film originally was meant to be shot in 1 year time but took 5 years to make. The budget shot from 3-4 lakhs to 20-25 lakh(big amount for those days). and this was mostly because the people Shailendra trusted the most were intent in delaying the film for their won benefits and took advantage of his naïveté and idealism. Initially the distributors backed out, owing to it unconventional nature and the climax, and the film did not even find a release. But it found a release a few months later in some select cities only. Everybody was there, but Shailendra couldn’t attend that owing to his bad health.

            What broke him wasn’t as much the film’s commercial failure as the personal betrayals, he just could not reconcile the betrayal of those whom he so blindly trusted. He was very very proud of the film, said so in a letter to Renu “Friend, even you are not here, everybody’s gone and I feel lost and lonely; but the only thing I don’t regret is making Teesri kasam, we have made a fine film that I am proud of, thank you”.

            Another trivia, Shailendra fell really ill and his wife called Raj Kapoor, who referred him to a family doctor. On the way to the hospital Shailendra asked his wife to take him to Raj Kapoor’s home as he wanted to meet his friend. There he gave him one antara of the still to be compelted Jeena yahaan marna yahaan for RK’s passion project MNJ. He passed away next day in the hospital. It was RK’s birthday!

            • Thank you! That’s really interesting trivia – I hadn’t known that.

              I feel so sad about Shailendra’s death; he was one of our finest lyricists (and, I later discovered, also the man who wrote a school song I sang through most of my growing years). To imagine him dying broken-hearted and in such dire straits breaks my heart.

    • Hey, its a good thing that I never had those moments of mania over a performer in a film… Not the actors or actresses, and certainly not the singers or dancers. Just kidding. LOL

      • :-D :-D I guess we owe our blogs in large part to our manias! It’s good to know, too, that there are others out there who share this madness, and who don’t really think it’s madness anyway…

  11. If you please could tell me what happened to Sadhna Singh after her acting in Nadiya Ke Par. Where did she go? What did she do thereafter? I have seen just one movie and not other. Why did she not make any other movie?

      • Sadhana Singh went on to do serials. One of her best serials was ‘Ghar Jamai’ featuring Satish Shah, Mandira Bedi, and R.Madhavan, before he became a successful filmstar. This was the era before the never ending television soaps. It was weekly comedy soap with independent episodes. This was directed by Anant Mahadevan. Incidentally Anant played the title role in the earlier version which was aired on Doordarshan.
        As for my arm, going through a battery of painful tests.

      • That reminds me of a long-ago and very distressed remark by my (then 4 year old) cousin: “I no like Nadiya ke Paar!” (He meant the 80s film, which he’d been taken, much against his will, to see).

        Last Christmas, I bought the old Nadiya ke Paar for my father. My mother, (whose knowledge of 50s and 60s Hollywood is better than her knowledge of Hindi cinema), saw the DVD lying on the table and said, “I no like Nadiya ke Paar!” She was quick to assure me that she was certain she’d like any film with Dilip Kumar in it, but hadn’t been able to resist the temptation to blurt out my cousin’s review of that other film.

  12. Dustedoff, that was a nice list of people who recommended this film to you. I would have been happy to do so as well. :) Actually, Tom recommended this film to me a couple of years ago (I think) before he put it on Veoh.com. I imagine it’s still there for free viewing, for those who can use the site. But they changed things so that I never seemed to have the right flash and it always seemed to mess up my browser in some way after some point. Still, for those who want to give it a try…

    This is far from my favorite film with Raj Kapoor… I do love some of his “Chaplinesque” movies; I think Shree 420 is a masterpiece and Awara close to one. (Oh, and I also love Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai – but that’s because I got aforementioned mania over someone in that film, for quite a long time (and for people who don’t “know” me, well, it wasn’t a Kapoor).) But, yes, this is certainly a good one too, and quite different, as you said…

    • Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai is also on my list of have-to-be-watched films, though I must admit that has more to do with the music of the film than the people who star in it! I remember watching O basanti pawan paagal in one of the numerous Hindi film song TV programmes Indian TV channels used to air back when I was a kid, and I’ve wanted to see the film just for that song – it was so lovely. :-)

      • Be warned about Jis Desh.. — it’s Raj Kapoor’s at the extreme of his needy preachy simpleton character. The last hour is him lecturing the Dakus on why they should give themselves up to the police. :!

        • Thank you so much for warning me! ;-) Yikes – that does sound terribly preachy. Will steel myself and watch it. Or will probably push it to the bottom of my playlist…

  13. Cheers! Yeah this is a lovely film. I watched it recently as well. One of the best Indian films and Shailendra’s tour-de-force. Shame it wasn’t successful at the box office leading to problems for him. :(

    I wish Hindi cinema had more lyrical human movies like this (and Guide).. :)

    • That’s interesting, upendra, that you pair this film with one I really dislike – Guide. Of course, both have excellent performances by Waheeda and great songs, but Dev Anand’s god complex ruined that film completely for me, especially the ending, blatantly abandoning the ambiguity of Narayan’s story to stroke Anand’s egotisitcal belief that he truly is a Dev. Teesri Kasam had nothing like that to spoil it, thank goodness

  14. Oh…

    You didn’t mention Moolchand’s great performance as the stolen ware Munimji! That was so cute..!! I love his little appearances in every Hindi movie ever made. :)

    Dulari is great too. The way she tells Raj Kapoor to take a bath. :)

    • Yes! Both Moolchand and Dulari were great in those scenes you mentioned. :-) And you’re so right about Moolchand being in every Hindi movie ever made – he seems to be there, everywhere I look!

      By the way, another really lovely film that I’d put in the ‘lyrical’ category would be Parakh. Such a wonderful movie, such awesome music, and such fabulous acting.

  15. It was delghtful to read such a sensitive review of a film I just adore. I love evrything about the film, especially its ending – Raj Kapur just making it to the railway station as Waheeda Rehman is about to depart, the sad realisation in both that their paths intersected for a brief while and they are doomed to part (and pardon me, not because she thought herself to be fallen as you suggest, but simply because they belonged to different worlds – I find it more beautiful to view it this way), Raj Kapur returning in his bullock cart with the last stanza of the poignant Duniya bananewale streaming from the background in slow tempo, the steam engine puffing away. I can not think of a more beautiful ending of a film – Bimal Roy’s Devdas and Bandini come close.

    Another bit of trivia. After the film won Nation Award in 1967, it had a resurgence and got commercial success as well, but alas, by then Shailendra was no more to see the acclaim his film got.

    Talking of sensitive films, let me recommend for your viewing Naseeruddin Shah, Kulbhushan Kharbanda starrer Godhuli (1977) and Manohar Singh, KK Raina starrrer Deeksha (1991), based on UR Anantha Murthy’s story Ghatshradh. These movies may not be easily available, but they are out of this world in the sensitive treatment of some aspects of social reality.

    • You’re very right, AK – in fact, I didn’t actually think that Heerabai thought herself too ‘fallen’ for Heeraman. Perhaps what I wrote seemed to indicate that, but I didn’t exactly mean it – perhaps more a case of realising that Heeraman had put her on a pedestal on which she would not be able to stay very long? (After all, she does wonder how long she will be able to go on pretending to be the Sati-Savitri Heeraman thinks she is). You hit the nail on the head. Yes, it is a case of two completely different worlds.

      Thank you for the recommendations. I seem to have heard of Godhuli – I recall the name, at least – but not of Deeksha or Ghatshradh; will look out for them.

      • Another beautiful ending because of two different worlds is Raj Kapur’s parting from the Russian woman in Mera Naam Loker Part II

  16. Looks like “Teesri Kasam” is the movie for all of us non-fans of Raj Kapoor.:-) I echo everyone’s admiration and love for the film. It’s like its leading lady – utterly beautiful and nuanced. And I can’t possibly listen to the heartbreakingly innocent “laali laali doliya” without shedding a tear or two.

    • @Shalini: No, no, there are some actual Raj Kapoor fans here. And if you don’t “normally” like him, you might at least be persuaded to watch Aag, Shree 420 and Jagte Raho. I also think that Sangam (1964) shows a mature RK who owes nothing to the chaplinesque RK everybody seems to dislike.
      bye!

      • Yves, I think what Shalini was trying to say was that Teesri Kasam is one of those Raj Kapoor films that appeal even to people who don’t really like Raj Kapoor. I completely agree with you about Jaagte Raho (which I thought was unforgettable), and to a lesser extent, Shree 420. The latter did have the Chaplinesque touches that I don’t care for in RK’s acting, but it had a lot of other things to compensate – its fantastic music, for instance, and some very fine acting by Raj Kapoor.

      • Awaara, Aag, Jagte Raho, this film, Barsaat — the best of Raj Kapoor. (need to see ‘Sangam’ and ‘Mera Naam Joker’)

        ‘Jis Desh’ is good for the first half but really his the skids in the second.

        Dare I say it ‘Aan’ is good for the first half (before he becomes sick) and then just sucks really badly. The death of his non-simpleton character occurs in that second half I think (the one we saw in Aag and Barsaat and arguably in Awaara).

        Shree 420 is well made and has one of the greatest soundtracks ever but it really falls apart story-wise. Kapoor adopts the simpleton character fully and the film’s comedic elements include him deceiving compulsively (lying about Nargis saying she tried to kill herself forcing her to take him home, selling fake medicine, etc.) — we never see him being honest in the film — so the dramatic element of him supposedly losing his ‘honesty’ never really holds any weight and this is the major component of the second half of the film.

        • I have seen all the films you’ve listed, except for Mera Naam Joker, and I’d still say that I don’t like Awara, Aag and Barsaat that much. :-( Shree 420 irritates me where RK is being the simpleton. I’m okay with Sangam, but again only in places – I hate bits where he’s being so utterly obtuse and unfunnily funny. Jaagte Raho, I like – and Andaz, though tragic, is surprisingly un-dated.

          Do you mean Aah, by the way – that was the film in which Rk’s character falls ill…? The film Aan starred Dilip Kumar and Nadira, Prem Nath and Nimmi. No Raj Kapoor in that.

          • You don’t like Awaara? :! How come? That’s such a major film.

            Aag and Barsaat I love for the great cinematography with great shadows and all that.. I sort of like that young man angst in Aag too. And the ending is such a fairy tale. :)

            Andaz is well made and Dilip, Nargis, VH Desai and Cuckoo are great in it but I’m sort of hesistant towards fully liking it because of the ‘husband is Bhagwan’ message and the anti-modernity message in it.. If they only avoided becoming so preachy in the second half… That’s one of Raj Kapoor’s least likable character’s also I think. He rejects Nargis on a simple suspicion and tortures her all the way up till she kill Dilip and is convicted. He even shows up in court to mock her. Can’t say I liked Raj much in that. And it’s the joker-simpleton character in its early stages.

            yeah, Aah.. not Aan.

            • I must see Aag. again, then – fairy tale endings never fail to appeal to me! And Andaz, I suppose – it’s been a long time since I saw that, so I guess only the best parts of the film have stuck in my mind. It does sound rather medieval.

              Yes, I know Awara was a very major film, but that doesn’t have to mean that everybody must like it! ;-) I actually don’t much like Mother India either, even though that seems to be the mother of all Hindi classic films! Too depressing.

              Oh, one RK film that I do like: Chori-Chori, probably because it’s not very RK.

          • Good interpretation but I think you’re giving the film too much credit. Tramp Raju’s contradictions and lies seem just part of the intended comedy of the film and not some deep message about treating the poor and the rich the same. Shree 420 paints in broad strokes of black and white — dancing poor good guys here —- gambling bad guys over there. Pool all your money together and start the socialist revolution!

            • Upendra, I’m surprised you value so much Awaara, and seem to consider Shree 420 as just sketching the opposition about the rich and poor. I might be giving the film too much credit, but I think you’re underrating it.

  17. AM soooooooooooooooooooo glad that you saw this film at last and then you go and write about it I am gone! ;-)

    I’m so glad that you watched it.
    I wish everybody had paid Raj Kapoor only a rupee, thus ensuring that he doesn’t fall back in his chaplinesque mode.
    Though Shailendra produced the film, in the newer edition of the DVD and VCD somebody else is named as the producer. I read somewhere that his son is fighting a court case against it.
    Reading your review gave me a feeling as if I watched the film again!

    • Thank you for recommending it to me! This was really such a good film. I must admit, I watched it with a lot of trepidation – I wasn’t sure, even though all of you had reassured me, how I’d like Raj Kapoor. But yes, he was Heeraman, not Raj Kapoor, and that made all the difference!

      I do hope Shailendra gets due credit for producing the film, even in the newer versions of the DVD and VCD. Anybody who could create a film so poignant deserves to get the credit for it!

  18. Madhu, thank you so much for this review. I was simply bowled over by two of the songs and they continue to be favorites–Sajan re jhoot mat bolo and duniya mein ..? What I like most is the rustic simplicity of the setting and the story (in the song). And yes it is Raj Kapoor the actor who drew me in. I wanted to be there on the cart listening to him tell his story. Thanks to your reivew, now I know I will have to watch this movie.

    • You’re welcome, sophy! Yes, this film had fabulous music, and all the songs have lovely settings. I believe the filming was done in Bihar somewhere; there’s a sort of pristine rural charm about the entire setting that I found utterly endearing. And the tone, the acting, the story – everything is just right. Don’t miss this one.

  19. Beautiful movie and a lovely review.

    I read in an interview (think it was LataJi’s) that Basu Bhattacharya was initially hesitant working with Raj Kapoor as he thought he would interfere a lot in the making. So he made Shailendra take a promise from RK that he wouldn’t say a word. RK stood by his promise till the climax, where he wanted a more conventional ending. I’m glad Basu da didn’t listen to him :)

    • Thank you for your kind words, Ankit – and thank you for that anecdote! Whew. Thank goodness RK didn’t insist on a more conventional ending for the film – that would have ruined the beauty of Teesri Kasam, fully and utterly.

  20. Lovely trivia, what a sense of humour he had, I’ generally love Raj Kapoor in most things including all those lovable tramp roles and I shall check this out, thanks for the translation for Ardhangini, I’ve seen it and I love it, I hope i’ll be able to write it up soon

  21. My recollections of this movie could be a figment of my imagination although – and except that- I do not have a very fertile imagination.

    In about 1972-73, television finally arrived in Bombay in all of its Black & White glory. The expensive vacuum tube TV sets took a minute to warm up, broke down frequently and showed a single channel – Doordarshan of Indira Gandhi’s socialist era. One of the few things worth watching was the hindi movie that Doordarshan showed each Sunday evening. I recall that “Teesri Kasam” was one of the first films shown and one that my family looked forward to with great anticipation. As a young lad of 9 or 10, I was touched by the movie except that, in the end, it made no sense!!!

    It left me confused, disappointed and perplexed.

    All was explained later that evening when an announcer came on the air to apologize, rather sheepishly, that Doordarshan had mixed up the sequence of the reels of the films. (Hum aapse shamma chahte hain….we seek your forgiveness).

    Haven’t re-watched it since.

    • Oh, lord! That is such a horrid thing to happen. I can imagine how confusing it must have been. Trust Doordarshan to do something like that! I remember watching TV for the first time only in 1982, during the Delhi Asian Games. It was better by that time, but the frequent ‘disruption of transmission service’ and the very limited number of programmes one could really watch if one wasn’t either a Grameen bhai or interested in Krishi. Still, it was better than nothing, and since we didn’t know the West was watching hundreds of channels, it was fine.

      But do give Teesri Kasam another chance. It is a good film.

  22. I do not know hoe many people remember this but an interesting puzzle director had related with making of movie Teesri Kasam, about which I had read when the movie was released is the following.

    In the movie hero a village bullock cart driver (Raj Kapoor) feels presence of in his cart the famous dancer (Waheeda Rehman) riding and the hero a bachelor, who never thought about girls earlier feels shy about it. He feels tickling in his back, just thinking about this fact. I had read somewhere that the director Basu Bhattacharya was quite puzzled for days how does he to show this feeling of shyness and tickling in the back. He could not think of a very satisfying way. Ultimately he had hero go to a Hanuman temple and tell Hanumanji about his feeling. Though Basu Bhattachrya was not very happy about it, he wanted some better way

  23. Indeed a great review of a great story picturised in a very memorable film having already achieved a cult status. What I find somehow missing in the discussion section is the role of the author of the original story “Teesri Kasam urf mare gaye gulfaam”, that is, Shri Phanishwar Nath “Renu”. I guess the original title of the story was “Maare gaye gulfaam” but
    after the movie was entitled “Teesri Kasam” the story where ever
    appears (for example in Short stories collection of Renu) is always entitled “Teesri kasam urf maare gaye gulfaam”. I have not seen any discussion on the role of Renu in the making of the film. This august audience must be knowing more than I know about Renu’s role but still I overcome my sense of trepidation at stating something out of my vague memory.

    Renu spent more than a couple of months during his two visits to
    Mumbai on this film project. Shailendra being a very capable artist himself gave him a lot of respect and involvement in the making of the film. The original story is much shorter and the involvement of cruel zamindar has been added later and deviates from the original story. Renu was particularly happy at the association, not a simple feat to satisfy the original author and make the whole project so that the artistic sensibilities of everyone is respected. (I guess he mentions this in his autobiography (actually, there is no autobiography of Renu
    as such but there is one book written by him which comes closest to the autobiography; regretfully, I do not recall the title of the
    book).

    There is a short anecdote about the ending there too. Basu Da, Renu and Shailendra were discussing if the ending should be altered to suit the happy ending formula and in particular should they let “Hirabai and Hiraman end up together?” I guess it was Renu who said, no and it was agreed! (It is possible that one of Shailendra or Renu said no; I do not recall exactly.).

    About the songs too, there are one or two beginning lines “Sajan re jhooth mat bolo” or “Lali lali doliya mein lali le dulhaniya ” are
    given by Renu himself. It was then left to the genius of Shailendra to make a complete song out of this. My own guess is that the rustic charm of the folk song “chalat musafir” should have been penned by both Renu and Shailendra if not by Renu himself completely.

    Renu has to me personally always remained the most underrated author of Hindi literature. The soft feelings evoked in his writings remain unparalleled and can compare to any one on the literary firmament, past or present. Truly, the legend of Hindi literature who was such a natural story-teller, with the stories being a smooth sailing and even containing some message in it. I have not found one single piece being written by him which was less than any other! I am sorry that I sound so biased, but
    he does remain a personal favourite of all time!

    • Thank you so much for that very detailed comment! It made for extremely interesting reading, especially since I hadn’t known about Renu’s involvement with the film itself. I had read some of his work back in school, but don’t remember very much of it. I’ve found an online version of Maare gaye gulfaam, so will read it soon.

      Thanks again!

    • “I guess it was Renu who said, no and it was agreed! (It is possible that one of Shailendra or Renu said no; I do not recall exactly.).”

      You are correct, it was Renu indeed who had put his foot down and was firm the ending would not change. Remember reading some old edition of Hindi monthly magazine Kadambini, which carried this anecdote.

      Hindi Professor and Renu aficionado Ian Woolford tweets about Renju ji now and then, he had recently tweeted about Teesri Kasam as well. Can see his tweets https://twitter.com/iawoolford/with_replies

  24. Your review has made me want to revisit this film – ha, but my to-see list is already so long that if I start getting inspired by your posts to re-watch films then I’m gonna spend the rest of my life getting through the pile (sounds like a good way to go through life eh?)

    Anyways, loved this film, the performances and of course the music.

    After reading your review I looked up the director and started watching Griha Pravesh, starring Sharmila Tagore and Sanjeev kumar. Its about a bored husband who has an affair – I was entirely impressed, by the final half hour was pretty fascinating (so no curse of the second half, ha).

    • I’ve never even come across Grihapravesh, let alone watched it – but both Sanjeev Kumar and Sharmila Tagore are favourites of mine, so I should look out for it. If only I can find the time to watch more films! I need at least another couple of lifetimes. ;-)

  25. i want to mention a special thing about its writer Renu ji. i have read hi stories in school times. he knew dholak ki thaap he has written the rhythm in two writings one fiction and one real which mentions flood situation in bihar. dhaa gidh dha gidh chat dha gidh dha.. also he mentioning what it means. bihar has produced few great hindi writers renu ji who was appreciated as aanchalik upyanaskaar , Ram dhari singh dinkar ji raasth kavi. i am reading his shringar rass work urvashi. it is master piece. ram vriksh benipuri widely appreciated as essayist and famous drama is amipurey which is based on aamrpali and nagaarjun who embraced budhism and was known as jan kavi.

  26. Teesri Kasam is indeed a beautiful film. Well ahead of its time. I had heard about that piece of trivia you mentioned on a TV show episode, dedicated to Shailendra. His contribution to Hindi cinema didn’t get the recognition it deserved. He gave us some of the most beautiful songs. Been following your blog for a long time. Read this review only now :)

    – Mansi

  27. Hi Madhulika,
    I just went through this old post of yours and almost all the comments to see if anyone has made the connection that I made.
    I saw this movie as a kid, as my mom used to take me with her (my dad not being fond of movies at all) for company.
    Years later I saw the Hollywood movie Moulin Rouge featuring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor and at the end of the movie, it suddenly dawned on me that this was the same story as Teesri Kasam, albeit in a totally different setup, of course.
    THink about it, absolutely similar plot. Danseuse befriended by an innocent man wanting to “rescue” her…she torn between the heart and the head…I think even the ending is similar in both the movies.
    I’m sorry if someone has already mentioned this and I’ve missed it in the numerous (all very interesting) comments. But I thought this was important and till date hadn’t found a suitable place to air this idea of mine.
    Thanks for giving me this platform!!
    Love your blog!!

    • Wow. That is really interesting! It’s been a long time since I watched Moulin Rouge, but I do remember the basics of it – and the similarity never struck me. Makes me want to watch the film again. :-)

      Thank you for pointing that out. and for your appreciation!

  28. I have specially log in from Laptop to share Trivia for this movie. i had typed a long post but it was lost due to log in error. i will make 2-3 comments as its a long post. 1) How the Idea of Teesri kasam came out ?? Basu da got Mare gaye gulfaam to translate in Bengali ( Renu knew Bengali and most of the Hindi writers knew ). he liked the story so much that he started writing the scenes also. he told shailender ji that jab bhi voh director bane gey voh esi film sey banegey. Shailender ko bhi kahaani itni psand aayi ki unhoney khud hi film produce karney k sochi. they decided that they will make a small budget movie. budget will be of more than 2.5 lakh. shailender had 1.5 Lakh and rest of the money had to come from financers and distributors ( Normal way in those days ). they decided to took mehmood saheb and Meena ji. meena ji agreed to the movie but her husband kamaal saab did not agree for long outdoor shootings. then they thought of Nutan ji. Nutan ji was newly married than she will agree for long outdoor they doubt. so finally waheeda ji was finalized. she first refused saying she is busy with guru dutt film. shailender aksed kaun si nayi film and asked guru dutt ji. guru dutt said shailender is nice person. why refusing him ?? and waheeda ji maan guyi.

  29. shailnder ko kahaani itni psand thi ki voh teesri kasam ki kahaani ko har samay jeib mai liye ghumtey thay. one day he visited Raj kapoor and he asked him what excites him so much ,shailender ney kahaani ek hi saans mai sunaa di. then Raj sab said ” heeraman toh main hi hu , heeraman koi aur nahi ho sakta” and also assured about helping in releasing the film. first R.D. Burman was chosen to do the film. i have listened to his version of Paan khaiye saiya humaro from Aasha ji. aasha ji said ek mahiney baad shankar jaikishan music director ho guye. the tune of pancham da was not that much catchy. whenever S-J wished to do some experiment they were stopped by shailnder that they are making a film on rural back ground so what is the subject stick to it. Raj ji took one rupee only it is true. shailnder ney industry k taur tarikey k mutaabik apni attachi sey noto ki gddiya nikaal k badey saleekey sey table par rakhi. Raj saab yeh dekhtey rahey, aur khaa ek rupiya layo. shailnder ko yeh samajh nahi aaya ki ek rupiya kyu. then he took the ek rupiya and said yehi hai meri fees. director basu da was not happy with choice of Raj saab and he told shailnder clearly.

  30. but raj saab did not show his mannerism as expected by all. the movie premier at New Delhi was to be attended by then vice president of India but shailnder was unable to attend because one distributor had filed FIR on him. if he landed in delhi he would have been arrested. Raj kumar keserwani a senior film writer who always seems to be haapy and also writes in friendly manner. when he was asked about death of shailnder ji. he said in extreme angry tone ” jo unko tazurba hua apno sey es film ki making k dauraan voh un par bahut bhaari pada. it is said Paan khaye saiya humaro was written by shailnder ji when he saw stain of paan on burman dada kurta.

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