Taqdeer (1967)

Taqdeer—a remake of the Konkani film Nirmonn (1966, directed by A Salaam, who also directed Taqdeer)—wouldn’t have been a film I’d have watched had it not been for one particular song that I like a lot: Jab-jab bahaar aayi aur phool muskuraaye. I noticed the film was up on Youtube (incidentally, this is a surprisingly good print, and with seemingly no arbitrary snipping off of sections). So I settled down one night to watch. For the song. And discovered that the film wasn’t bad—and was somewhat different from the usual.

Bharat Bhushan and Shalini Madolkar in TaqdeerThis story is set in Goa (and, interestingly—possibly because it was a remake of a Konkani film?—a Goa that has very few of the tropes most Hindi films associate with that state). We are introduced to Gopal (Bharat Bhushan), who teaches music to local children and makes very little money out of it. Gopal is painfully aware of just how hand-to-mouth existence is for him, his wife Sharda (Shalini Mardolkar, reprising her role from Nirmonn) and their three children, Mala, Sushil, and Geeta. He is in debt, for instance, to a local seth, and has had to mortgage his ramshackle home in order to pay off the seth.

Gopal goes to meet the seth to whom he is in debt
Also part of the story is Vijay (Kamal Kapoor), a very wealthy man who has been childhood friends with Gopal. Gopal trusts and likes Vijay—is even open to, when Vijay insists, borrowing a small sum of money from the man—but Sharda hates him. This, it emerges, is because Vijay had once wanted to marry her; when she turned him down in preference for Gopal, he was so bitter and resentful that he started telling nasty tales about Sharda’s morals—or lack of them. Even now, though he’s friendly with Gopal and asks after Sharda and the children, Vijay has far from forgiven Sharda for having spurned him.

Gopal and Vijay
Things have been so bad for Gopal and family that Gopal has been searching for a job more lucrative than simply teaching music. He finally gets employment aboard a ship. He will be gone for perhaps a year, he tells Sharda; but at least he’ll earn well, and once he’s back, they will all be together again. Now, as a sort of send-off for him, the little family gets together and Gopal sings their favourite song: Jab-jab bahaar aayi aur phool muskuraaye. The children join in too, Gopal helping their little fingers find the correct keys on the piano.

The family that sings together...
Then Gopal leaves, and the family is heartbroken—but hopeful, too, because Papa will eventually be back.

Things are difficult, too, for Sharda as she tries to keep her home afloat, but she persists. Until one night, when—in a terrible storm—a gust of wind shakes Gopal’s photo (hanging in its frame on the wall) and sends it crashing to the floor, shattering the glass. [Yes, we all know what that means].

...ends up being struck by tragedy
And, sure enough, somewhere at sea, there’s another horrible storm and the ship Gopal is on sinks.

When a worried Sharda hurries to the shipping company’s office to ask if her husband is safe, a grim-faced employee gives her the list of survivors, with the sad news that Gopal’s name is not on that list. He has drowned in the shipwreck.

Sharda is shattered, of course, but she barely has time to grieve, because there are her children to be looked after. The little money that she had is soon gone, and a desperate Sharda is reduced to looking for any work she can find. A labourer digging a hole scoffs at her when she asks for work: she should look for women’s work, he says. And when Sharda asks a man for work—she will cook, clean, wash, anything—he asks suggestively if she really means anything.

Sharda becomes increasingly desperate
Vijay comes by, and seeing Sharda’s plight, suggests she marry him. After all, he has wanted her all these years. And now, without Gopal there, and with the children to be brought up, how will she manage? He is very wealthy; if she marries him, she and her children will never want for anything. Sharda refuses outright. She will not marry Vijay, no matter what.

Vijay makes a proposition
To her surprise, the only other true friend the family has—Uncle Lobo, a poor and derelict drunk—also advises Sharda that she might be better off getting married. It’s the only way out of this disaster. Sharda insists that she will manage, somehow. She has begun doing odd jobs—laundry for one woman, for example—and surely it is just a matter of time before money starts coming in.

But payments are slow to come, and there’s not a grain left in the house. The children are so weak and desperate with hunger that little Sushil, while his mother is away trying to get payment due for the laundry, steals a pao from a vendor. He doesn’t get caught, but when Sharda comes home and finds her three children sharing that one piece of bread –and looking guilty, trying to hide it away when they see her—she realizes that this has gone far enough.

Sharda finds her children eating stolen pao
So she goes to Vijay and tells him that yes, she will marry him.

With a few frames of the children dressed up and looking glum, and an equally somber Sharda getting married to Vijay, we skip forward a few years…

…to East Africa. Here, we see a bunch of children throwing stones at a bedraggled, bearded man (whom, if you look beyond the shrubbery, you can recognize as Gopal). The man is quickly rescued by someone from the local Indian community. It turns out that Gopal—not that anyone knows what his name is, since he’s lost his memory—was found washed up on the shore years ago, and nobody knows who he is, though the man who’s now rescued him from the belligerent children was the one who’d taken him in years ago and has sort-of-sheltered him ever since.

A bedraggled Gopal in East Africa
There is, sometime after this episode, a party of the local Indian community, at the nearby club. Gopal isn’t invited, but happens to be in the vicinity, and therefore overhears a song that’s being sung by a visiting Indian girl. It is Jab-jab bahaar aayi aur phool muskuraaye, and—as you’d have guessed, if you’ve seen a sufficient number of Hindi films—it jogs Gopal’s memory. Especially when he bursts into the room and questions the surprised singer and her father. They tell him where she learnt the song (she was one of Gopal’s young students years earlier in Goa).

Gopal's memory returns thanks to a song
Gopal’s memories come rushing back, and all he can think of is how he must go back to Sharda and the children as soon as he possibly can. The singer’s father is magnanimous enough to offer to pay for Gopal’s fare back to Goa, so Gopal is soon on the ship…

…little aware that life has changed a lot for Sharda, Mala, Sushil and Geeta. They’re all now, thanks to Sharda’s having married Vijay, very well off. Geeta (a very pretty Farida Jalal, in what seems to have been her first role as an adult) is still, however, the same generous and kind-hearted person she had been as a little girl; Mala (Kajal) and Sushil (Sushil Kumar, of Dosti and Dhool ka Phool fame) still remember—as does Geeta—with fondness the song their father had taught them.

Gopal's three grown-up children sing his song
And Sharda, even though she wears a mask of wealthy gentility, has still not forgotten Gopal. And, as Geeta says in a moment of sorrow, has never smiled since the day they heard of Gopal’s death.

... while an unsmiling Sharda looks on
But Gopal, even when he realizes how much his family still loves him, finds it hard to reveal himself to them. He knows how torn Sharda will be—and what of these bright young people, these near-strangers whom he loves so much? Will they be able to accept this poverty-stricken old man?

Taqdeer came as a pleasant surprise to me. This is an unusual film, unusual in that it steers clear of the typical romantic-youthful-love trope. There is love here, and lots of it, but it’s the mature love, the understanding and mutual respect and trust between Gopal and Sharda; and it’s the love of a father for his children, and vice-versa. The only hint of romantic love between young people is a very brief scene—a couple of short dialogues each—between Geeta and her boyfriend Suresh (Jalal Agha). That’s it. No wooing, no courtship, no will-she-won’t-she.

Jalal Agha and Farida Jalal in Taqdeer
Also, Taqdeer is unusual in that while it’s set in Goa, everybody speaks perfectly normal Hindi, and there are only two Christian characters who play brief roles in the film: Uncle Lobo, and a comic named Johnny Fernandes. That’s it (and, by the way, both Uncle Lobo and Johnny also speak correct Hindi). This could, actually, have been a story set anywhere—and the universality of it is what speaks loud and clear.

What I liked about this film:

The simplicity of it, the somewhat unusual plot (as I’ve mentioned in the two paragraphs just preceding this), and the fairly good script. This is a touching little story, fairly well-told, with not many complications. It’s more a story of emotion than of action, so if you’re looking for a gripping plot, this isn’t for you. It is also less melodramatic than most other ‘family dramas’ I’ve seen (I’m thinking AVM Productions, here).

Two songs. Laxmikant-Pyarelal composed the music for Taqdeer, and though none of the songs are outright bad, the one which really stands out is the beautiful Jab-jab bahaar aayi. It’s lovely in all its three renditions: the one by Mohammad Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar’s version, and the one by Usha Mangeshkar and Mahendra Kapoor. Another relatively little-known song, but a sweet one nevertheless, is Aaiye bahaar ko hum baant lein.

And, Farida Jalal. She is very pretty and I found her chemistry with Bharat Bhushan endearing.

A very pretty Farida Jalal in Taqdeer
The cinematography, too, is good—and there are some interesting little symbols here and there (not just that rather obvious one of Gopal’s shattered photo). For instance, there’s the broken cart, one wheel askew, which appears in the frame when a bereft Sharda—who thinks she’s widowed—goes off to try and get some money to keep body and soul together.

A frame from Taqdeer - a broken Sharda sets out
What I didn’t like:

The brief comic side plot about Johnny, a useless good for nothing whose only connection to the main characters is that he’s constantly conning Suresh and Kishore (Mala’s fiancé) of small amounts. This is a pretty pointless addition to the story and could easily have been done away with.

Also, after Sharda marries Vijay, we get to see close to nothing of what sort of relationship these two have. It’s obvious, from later scenes, that Vijay has been a good father to her children—they even call him Papa—but how do the two of them get on?

This isn’t one of those earth-shatteringly poignant films. It’s not, by any means, a typical masala entertainer. But it’s a fairly decent little film about family ties.

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46 thoughts on “Taqdeer (1967)

  1. Now, that sounds good. No clichéd characters. Okay, well only a few.
    Will try to look this up!
    Jalal Agha and Farida Jalal look so pretty. A pity, that both of them didn’t get lead roles in HIndi films.
    As usual well-written review! You seem to be really inspired by the movie!

    • I found this movie fairly surprising, Harvey. I hadn’t been expecting much – Bharat Bhushan’s not a favourite of mine, and I had never even heard of Shalini Mardolkar before, but I watched it for the song. And was pleasantly surprised, because it was such an unusual film. The end does become a little predictable, but still.

  2. Nice review, as always, Madhu. Heard about this movie for the first time when you made your ‘spring songs’ post (though had heard the songs). Sounds like an interesting movie. Shall catch it sometime – more for a pretty Farida Jalal.

    • Yes, Harini – Farida Jalal is certainly a good reason to watch Taqdeer! She doesn’t make an appearance until about halfway through the film, but after that, she’s pretty much the focus of the film. And is very pretty, in that wholesome sort of way. Not a glamourpuss, just lovely.

    • Glad you liked the review, Anu! Taqdeer isn’t one of those films I’d say you must watch (especially knowing our usual state of affairs – WDIGTT?!), but it’s certainly far better – and different – than a lot of others.

  3. This was one of the first Indian movies I remember seeing, so this has HUGE nostalgic factor for me! I can remember all the songs and find myself singing them to myself every now and then: Jab Jab Bahar Aayee, Papa Jaldi Aaja Na, O Dilwalo Matwalo, etc. I literally can get teary-eyed just because of how much nostalgia I have for this movie.

    And it is a good movie too.

    • Wow! That is – well, cool, I guess. :-) I hadn’t even heard of Taqdeer till a couple of months back, and then when I found it and watched it, I wished it was better-known. It’s certainly a good movie.

      The first Hindi film I remember watching was CID. Very little of it made sense to me back then (I was about 9, I think, or possibly younger), but one scene – where Waheeda Rehman lies wounded in a hospital bed and Shakila sits in a chair while the criminal comes up behind her – made an indelible impression on me).

  4. When this film released I remember the song jab jab bahar was always airing on the radio and also the song papa jaldi aa jaana was a super hit. I was small so I obviously did not have much of a choice but to depend on my parents to take me. They did not see it neither did I but I remember whenever any of the filmwallahs came to our home, they praised Farida Jalal and Jalal Agha. He had just passed out of FTII and done this film and everyone in the industry was all praise for Agha Saab’s son, truly he was a natural, unfortunately he did not live long.
    As for the scene where Bharat Bhushan’s photograph breaks, well how often have we laughed at such scenes that portend a disaster, well in my life just before my father passed away we saw such signs for real, one of them being a diya lit during Diwali slightly burned a piece of furniture, that was the last Diwali we celebr

    • Uh oh! What happened how did that incomplete comment get published? Any way as I was saying that was the last Diwali we celebrated with dad. I will not bore you with stories of the other signs. Sorry the entire comment above has appeared in italics, this is what happens when you are rushing.

      • Not a problem, Shilpi. I corrected the italics in your original comment; I hope you don’t mind.

        That’s a sad little story about the diya burning a piece of furniture at Diwali before your father passed away. What other signs, by the way, if you don’t mind sharing?

        Actually, I suppose truth is stranger than fiction. I have an aunt – my father’s sister – who occasionally dreams that she is being followed through her house by a snake that crawls on the ceiling. Every time she’s had that dream, someone known to her has died. Very creepy. It is also very disturbing for her, as you can imagine.

        • Oh my goodness, that is really creepy and scary. .As for my father, what I can share is that during the one year before he passed away, in almost all his films he seemed to have a death scene. I remember my brother had taken some of our relatives – who were eager to see a film shoot- to a location shoot of Hum Tum Aur Woh the scene that was being enacted by my father and Vinod Khanna was my father’s death scene. My father was then a hale and hearty man, in fact till his death he showed no sign of any ailment, but still while watching that scene my brother later told me that he had a sense of foreboding. Then there was this incident that happened during the making of Ankhon Ankhhon Mein, I mentioned it in my blog. We came to know about it from reports of it appearing in the press after my father passed away. My father had shot his death scene but it appears he was not fully satisfied, he called up J.Om Prakash the film’s producer asking him whether he needed to re-shoot the scene, the producer said no it was fine, there was no need for him and a few days later my father re-enacted the scene for real. Obviously J.Om Prakash was affected by it and therefore mentioned it to the journalists.

          • Just reading that made my hair stand on end. What a sad set of coincidences.

            You know, it’s also another coincidence: just the other day I was thinking how it must be for elderly actors and actresses who end up playing dying characters in one production after the other (this actually resulted from my having watched a lot of Korean TV series and films, in most of which the same actors and actresses keep appearing – especially in the older roles). It made me think: Doesn’t it get them depressed? Doesn’t it keep reminding them of their mortaility?

            • I do not think so, I used to see my father doing these scenes in a rather routine manner, he appeared to be more concerned about his performance than about his mortality. I guess when you are young you do not think about death, but what did affect him was music director Jaikishan’s death because Jaikishan was very young and coincidentally my father passed away 6 months later.

              • Yes, I’d heard too that Jaikishan had passed away at an early age. Hadn’t known it was just 6 months before your father. That must have come as quite a blow. There is something particularly sad about someone dying before their time… you always wonder what all they could have achieved, how much more joy they could have brought the rest of us (and not merely their family and friends, but in cases like this, people whom they didn’t even know) had they lived on.

  5. Thanks for the review.It may be interesting to know that this film was dubbed in malayalam as “Vidhi” and in a small descripit village in Kerala ran for over 3 years! Its songs were very popular, the malayalam version sung by Yesudas.

  6. I have seen a very pretty and chubby Farida Jalal in ‘Aaradhna’ and like dher a lot .Thanks for the links , I loved her here.. she is slimmer and pristine in the lesser known song about bahaar ….
    A very nice review.. I agree with you on all points and appreciate the cart symbol you have pointed out . I might have missed it otherwise :)

    • Yes, Farida Jalal is really cute in Aradhana! And I liked her in Mahal and Majboor too. And Kaala Sona. The role in Taqdeer is probably the most significant of hers from all her early films that I’ve seen, and she’s really lovely.

    • Spoiler ahead:

      No, no. How can that happen in Hindi cinema? ;-) This one is different, but not that different. Towards the end it actually does veer off somewhat predictably – Gopal’s children, having been children when he left, aren’t able to recognise him, but both Sharda and Vijay come across him separately, and recognise him. So Vijay decides it’s best to kill Gopal, and arranges for an ‘accident’ in a mine. But thanks to Gopal’s son and future son-in-law, who suddenly discover who he is, he is saved. So the family is happily reunited in the end.

      Spoiler ends.

  7. “Now, as a sort of send-off for him, the little family gets together and Gopal sings their favourite song: Jab-jab bahaar aayi aur phool muskuraaye. ”

    I have had the exact same interest in this movie (the song Jab-Jab Bahar aayi is such a serene song!) However, the only deterrant for me was Bharatbhushan and the inherent sadness he brings with his presence (sorry, didn’t mean to bash Bharatbhushan)

    I always wondered about this beautiful and romantic song as to why Bharatbhushan looks so sad and why the tone is so poignant even when he is with his family. So, after reading your review now it makes sense why the mood of the song is depressing. However, to me the lyrics still don’t fully make align with the mood. Is he talking about the future when he will miss her and the family? Why does he then say that I miss you when I see spring/flowers etc. (Jab-Jab bahar aayi, aur phool muksuraye, mujhe tum yaad aaye).

    Is it just my quirky way of looking at things?

    • Heh. You will find no objections from me if you choose to bash Bharat Bhushan! ;-) There’s something pretty mounrful about him at the best of times – he’s one of those actors who can’t seem to summon up a truly light-hearted smile no matter how cheery the situation. I do remember him being not too bad in a comedy opposite Anita Guha (I’ve forgotten which one, now), but that was about it.

      I don’t think the lyrics have much to do with the situation of the song, actually – just there for the sake of it, the sort of lyrics that should be taken in isolation from the situation.

      • HaI I wonder if the lyricist wrote the song for the situation where Gopal is all by himself and missing his wife and family but then the director chose to do it well before the intended situation. Anyway, who cares?

        Rafi really put his heart and soul in the song!

        It does sound like a decent movie though. . Might actually watch it.

        • That sounds like a plausible explanation! Actually, the song is so nice, I wouldn’t be surprised if the director decided it was worthy of being repeated all through the film, even if it had been meant only for one occasion (of the three times it appears, only the third – the duet, when Gopal’s now-adult children sing it – is appropriate to the lyrics).

          • Bharat Bhushan is in the league of predictable artists of bollywood:

            Nirupa “Roye” -> Careless Mother
            Nasir Hussain -> Born with a Weak Heart
            Bharat Bhushan -> Prone to Injuries/Accidents (always seen with Band-aids mostly on forehead)

            :)

              • :)

                The list is getting longer..

                I also agree with the Laxmi Pyare discussion started by Chris and your comment about not having an all-melodious movie album. Dosti was perhaps one exception where I liked all the songs from the movie. Still at times like you said I get surprised by some of the compositions they made. Beautiful songs like “Yeh Dil Tum Bin Kahin Lagta nahi” from Izzat but the rest of the songs from this movie are passe..

                • Yes, Dosti was one film which had one superb song after the other – excellent music, and complemented by great lyrics too. Parasmani too, while otherwise a totally whacky film, had an excellent score – in fact, I would say the only reason (unless you are keen on really tacky Hindi fantasy films!) to watch it is the music.

  8. A nice film and good review. Bharat Bhushan was 47 when this film released. He did look old when he is supposed to be a young man. I probably won’t have liked this film if that had continued for the whole film.

    Was the music of ‘Jab Jab bahaar aayi’ inspired from its equivalent in Nirmonn “Claudia’ (https://youtu.be/4uvbIB8WpA0) ?
    I like a lot of their music but Laxmikant Pyarelal have been rather lucky in surviving scrutiny for their copied tunes (the famous music of Rishi Kapoor’s Karz for instance) , their bad music post the 70s – they were very busy till the early 90s – but somehow went under the radar and above all , their insistence in using the aging voice of Lataji ( with due respect , I can’t handle her duets of a certain era , no matter how great the music was!).

    • I had listened to Claudia when I was writing this review, because I wanted to see if there was any similarity. While there is a marked similarity in the picturisation – down to camera angles, etc, both in the male version of the song and the later duet (picturised, in Taqdeer, on Farida Jalal, Sushil Kumar and Kajal), I didn’t think the music was at all similar.

      I have to admit Laxmikant-Pyarelal aren’t among my favourite music directors of the 60s. True, they did have some very good scores, but they are the sort of composers for whom I end up liking maybe one or two songs from a film, not like SD Burman, OP Nayyar, Salil Chaudhary, Madan Mohan or Ravi, who could give you a film full of one fabulous song after another…. and I completely agree with you re: Lata’s later songs. Really, the mere thought of some of those horrible late 80s and 90s songs gives me the shivers.

  9. Interestingly enough, I watched the movie too because of jab jab bahar aayi. I have it in one of those old song collection videos and was always curious about the movie. I really liked your review. Yes, I wondered too about the relationship between Vijay and Sharda. She always seems cold towards him, yet he has never hated her children. They seemed be well taken care of.

    I had also always liked the papa kadi aa Jana song, just did not know it was from this movie. The line ” guidiya chahe na laana, papa jaldi aa jana” says volumes about the love the kids had for their father. That is what I liked about the film. The strong bond between the family members.

    • Thank you for commenting, Neeru! Frankly, at first glance, the only thing that seemed attractive to me about Taqdeer was Jab-jab bahaar aayi: I don’t like Bharat Bhushan, I had never heard of Shalini Mardolkar, and I missed seeing Farida Jalal’s name in the cast on the Youtube page. So I basically began watching this film just for the song – and what a pleasant surprise it turned out to be. As you point out, such a good example of the strong bond between family members.

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