Despite its having a cast of several people whom I like a lot (Waheeda Rehman, Dilip Kumar, Pran, Rehman, Shyama), a music director whom I like a lot (Naushad) and being by no means an unknown film, Dil Diya Dard Liya is one I’d never got around to watching. Perhaps it is because I had been told by knowledgeable readers that it was based on Wuthering Heights—and I could imagine what a confluence of Wuthering Heights (dark, grim, with two thoroughly selfish and unlikeable leads) and typical Bollywood (melodramatic, with no lead capable of being anything but noble, even if it’s only in the final analysis)—would be like. Mishmash, hard to bear?
But when I posted a Naushad song list in tribute on Naushad’s birth centenary last year, several people mentioned the songs of Dil Diya Dard Liya, and I decided it was time to take the plunge. If for nothing else than Naushad’s music.
The film begins with a disaster: a boat, with seemingly only three people on board—a man, his wife and their baby—capsizes. The baby is the only one who survives, and he is rescued by the servant of a Thakur (DK Sapru).
Far away, in the princely state of Belapur, the ruling Maharaja (Murad) is breathing his last. He has been waiting anxiously for the return of his son, but the Grim Reaper has outstripped the heir to the throne. Even as the Maharaja dies (having first, conveniently, handed over to a faithful servitor a distinctive locket that is the emblem of royal power in Belapur), news arrives that the expected prince has perished in a boat accident along with his wife, though their baby has survived. Where the baby is, however, nobody knows. [This sounds very suspect to me: how come somebody knows the baby survived, but doesn’t know where the baby is?]
Flash forward a few years. The Thakur has adopted the abandoned baby and named him Shankar. Shankar (?) has been brought up along with the Thakur’s children, Roopa (Baby Farida) and her step-brother Ramesh (?). For some unexplained reason, Ramesh harbours a deep dislike for Shankar, and spares no opportunity to lay into him. The Thakur scolds him and manages to keep him in check somewhat, but Roopa—who is very fond of Shankar—cannot do anything, despite all her pleading and threats. Ramesh refuses to listen to her. Naturally, he doesn’t even listen to their maid (Dulari) or the servant (the man who’d rescued Shankar as a baby).
Also good friends of these children are the offspring of a neighbouring family. Satish (?) and Mala (?) also try to reason with Ramesh to spare Shankar, but to no avail.
Basically, nobody sides with Ramesh over his ill-treatment of Shankar, but nobody except his father actually manages to keep Ramesh from harming Shankar.
So, when the Thakur dies one day of a heart attack, it’s curtains for Shankar.
The next time we see Shankar (now Dilip Kumar), he’s sweaty and scruffy, chopping wood while Ramesh (now Pran) glowers at him from horseback, snarls some nasty comments about Shankar, and generally appears to have amped up the ill-treatment.
Roopa (now Waheeda Rehman) is distressed by all of this. She and Shankar are deeply in love with each other, but—thanks to Ramesh’s hideous behaviour—she is too scared to let her stepbrother know. And she’s too cowed down to stop Ramesh from treating Shankar badly. So when Ramesh one night orders Shankar to run to Satish’s home to fetch a gun he’s left there accidentally (it’s three kos each way, and Ramesh is going to leave for shikaar in an hour’s time), Roopa can only wince.
The worst thing is that when Shankar turns up, panting and puffing, at the home of Satish (now Rehman) and Mala (now Shyama), it’s to discover that Ramesh has made him do this marathon for no reason at all: Satish says he distinctly saw Ramesh take the gun with him. Why does Ramesh treat him so badly, Mala and Satish wonder as Shankar runs off again…
Shankar, however, has something helping him bear all this. Roopa’s love, of course, but also the thought that someday he will break out of all of this. He will become a wealthy, powerful man and then he will come back to face all these people who taunt him and abuse him—and he will forgive them, won’t he, says a hopeful [and hopelessly naïve] Roopa. No, says Shankar. No, never. He will never forgive them. He will treat them the way they treated him.
For the present, though, Shankar is getting the short end of the stick. In his love life too. Shortly after he’s gifted Roopa a set of glass bangles—he apologizes because they’re such a sorry, cheap gift (but Roopa pays no mind; she says their mutual love makes the bangles priceless), he is witness to another confession of love, another gift of jewellery to Roopa. Roopa and Shankar are in her room when Satish and Mala arrive unexpectedly, and Shankar is obliged to hide behind a curtain.
Satish sends Mala away, and then sets about confessing his feelings to Roopa. He even puts a heavy gold necklace around her neck—this is the last straw for poor jealous Shankar, who inadvertently lets fall a vase from behind the curtain. Satish realizes he has a rival but (surprisingly for a character in Hindi cinema) is too much of a gentleman to fling back the curtain and see who it is). He tells Roopa he understands, and that he will wait. Meanwhile, he hopes to see her at Mala’s birthday party, which was what they had come to invite her for.
With Satish gone, an embittered Shankar emerges and spews angst and self-pity, which Roopa manages to quell somewhat by snatching off Satish’s gift from round her neck and flinging it away. She has to go to the party, however; she can’t wriggle out of it—so she asks Shankar to get her a bouquet of flowers which she can take along to gift to Mala.
As it happens, Shankar gets delayed. Roopa waits and waits, and finally is forced to leave for Mala’s home without the bouquet. Shankar, therefore, in what I can only call a display of extreme naivety and/or stupidity, decides it would be best if he were to go personally to Mala’s home and hand over the bouquet. He does this, gate-crashing the party and earning a sound thrashing from Ramesh, who is incensed at Shankar’s effrontery in thinking he can barge into a gathering like this, filthy and low-down as he is.
Events occur in swift succession now. Shankar decides to leave the house and run away; Roopa tries to stop him, but he—meeting her one last time at the old ruins where they always meet—says no. This time he must go. But Ramesh won’t even let Shankar go easily; his goons hunt down Shankar here too. They surround Roopa and Ramesh, beat Shankar, and then fling him into the river while a screaming Roopa looks on.
Ramesh, who has long been deep in debt to Mansaram (Sajjan) and is a confirmed baddie—he drinks like a fish and is infatuated by a tawaif named Tarabai (Rani)—now dives even deeper into sin. He’s so lost in wine, woman and song that Satish and Mala, looking on, fear for Roopa. It’s not safe for her to live on in that house with her debauched stepbrother any more. If she comes to stay with them, it’ll be better for her. Satish, who is now even more obsessed with getting married to Roopa, goes to Ramesh and suggests that he allow Roopa to move to their home. Mala’s company will be good for Roopa, and it will give Satish a chance to woo Roopa.
… which happens, and which Roopa protests. All to no effect, because Satish won’t take no for an answer. He insists that he loves Roopa, no matter if she is still in love with Shankar (who, of course, everybody—including Roopa—imagines dead).
But Shankar isn’t dead. Because Shankar, for the second time in his life, washes up alive on a shore and is rescued. And, rescued, he ends up working in a faraway factory, where one day he escorts a fainting visitor to a grand palace—and sees that the coat of arms embossed all over, on the doors, the furniture, etc—is the same one on the locket that Shankar has been wearing around his neck ever since he was found as a baby.
So Shankar finds himself the Maharaja of Belapur, and he sets out to have his revenge on Ramesh. To prove to his old enemy and all those who looked down on Shankar, that he is not a no-account, after all.
The sad bit, though, is that when he turns up at Satish’s home, it’s to see Roopa sporting a massive engagement ring on her finger, and making no attempt (or so Shankar perceives it) to ward off Satish’s attentions.
I began watching this film wondering how the script writer (Kaushal Bharti) and director (AR Kardar) could have adapted Wuthering Heights for an India audience. There is something so completely un-Bollywood film-like about Emily Brontë’s dark classic that I was both curious and a little sceptical. The fact, however, is that Dil Diya Dard Liya is only based on part of Wuthering Heights; it stops about midway through, and takes an (expectedly) ‘happy’ turn which makes it into something that would have been acceptable to a Hindi film audience.
What I liked about this film:
Naushad’s music. It is really—bar nothing, not even the excellent cast—the best thing about Dil Diya Dard Liya. My favourite songs here are Koi saagar dil ko behlaata nahin, Phir teri kahaani yaad aayi, and Kya rang-e-mehfil hai dildaaram o jaan-e-aalam, but even other than these, there are good songs: at any rate, not one song that jars.
The setting, which includes a good bit of filming done at Mandu: beautiful.
What I didn’t like:
Sadly, so much.
To start with, the cast. As someone who is a fan of all the main actors and actresses in this film, I must admit that Dilip Kumar, Pran and Rehman were just too old to be cast in those roles. Shankar, Ramesh and Satish are pretty much of a similar age as the girls when they’re young—there seems to be no more than a couple of years’ difference between them. Then why is it that as adults, the women are so obviously much younger than the men? Rehman and Dilip Kumar, especially, show their age—Pran not so much, particularly since Ramesh’s debauchery would be expected to have an effect on his looks anyway.
But, that’s a minor issue, especially given that the acting is good. What bothers me are the characterizations here, in particular the characterization of Roopa. Nobody’s holding a gun to this female’s head, forcing her to marry Satish; she is not even in any way obliged to marry him—but she will. Why? Satish is irritating too, in that he’s insisting on marrying a woman who is obviously in love with someone else, and who makes it clear that she doesn’t want Satish: but this is a type I’ve come across often enough in cinema, so it didn’t jar that much.
The very brief quasi-comic scenes featuring Murlidhar (Johnny Walker) and his wife (Tuntun) plus their brood of nine children are almost painful, given that they contrast so completely with the rest of this film. These scenes are so short and so unconnected to the rest of the plot, that they do nothing to ease the overall pathos and grimness, if that was the intent.
You shouldn’t really consider this much of an adaptation of Wuthering Heights. For me, what makes Wuthering Heights what it is are the characterizations of Catherine and Heathcliff, and the dark, wild atmosphere of the entire book. The plot is fine, but to me, it’s secondary: the wilful, self-centred, self-destructive passion of Catherine and Heathcliff is Wuthering Heights—and those are missing in Dil Diya Dard Liya.
There is nothing of Catherine in Roopa: Catherine is untamed, untamable, while Roopa is a milquetoast who pretty much embodies every outdated patriarchal stereotype of the ‘perfect woman’: submissive, putting family honour before her own happiness (and before the happiness of other people as well), and generally a wet blanket. Shankar is slightly closer to Heathcliff in his character, especially when he goes on a rampage after finding that Roopa has been faithless, but even then: that rampage is short-lived, he repents, and all ends happily ever after.
Verdict: watch only for the songs. Or watch the songs for themselves, skip the film.