Incidentally, the first weekend of March falls close to International Women’s Day (8th March). My mind traveled from one woman oriented film to another, and picking up a recommendation was a hard deal. After much thought I zeroed on Mahesh Bhatt’s classic film Arth (1982).
There are very few films that depict a woman’s journey so skillfully. Shabana Azmi who plays the orphaned-at-a-young-age Pooja, has a stable and happy married life with Inder (Kulbhushan Kharbanda). Settling down into her new house, Pooja is completely oblivious to the misdeeds of her picture perfect husband. In between hiring a new maid and getting her new house fixed, Pooja discovers about Inder’s extra marital affair with Kavita, played perfectly by Smita Patil.
Pooja, after being deserted by the man she so deeply loved, is devastated. She begs and pleads with Inder to work out their long standing marriage. With a bruised self respect, she tries to pick back life from where she left it before her marriage. Aided by Raj, a singer, she befriends at a party, Pooja tries to weave back the loose ends of her haywire life. Raj and her friends amply nurse her shattered self confidence and help her rebuild her life.
Meanwhile, Inder who so brutally left Pooja, bravely bears through Kavita’s mood swings, tantrums and mostly obsessive insecurity about Inder. Given Smita’s flawless acting, it takes a while to realize the psychological disorder of Kavita’s character.
Divorced Pooja innocently charms Raj, who is absolutely smitten by her warm and caring nature. The film builds up into a spell binding climax and wraps up most brilliantly (which I wouldn’t spoil for you).
Conceived by Mahesh Bhatt, the story is semi-autobiographical, which is almost evident from the perfect characterization of the film. A brutally ambitious man, his overtly dependent wife and a steamy extra marital affair provided by a successful other woman. The film is almost a slice of real life served out to you.
Mahesh Bhatt proves himself to be a master of character description. Inder, with a male chauvinistic pig of an ego, is bluntly heartless. It is most evident from the scene where he hands out divorce papers to his wife of so many years on her birthday, which he doesn’t even remember.
No one could have played Kavita better than Smita Patil. The woman exhibits shades of a cornered and battered person, and being the other woman goes on a step further to punch down her low self morale. Her character incurs sympathy more than hatred, all of which shifts towards Inder whose self centered attitude will increase your wrath scene by scene.
Shabana’s role as Pooja evolves through the film. Layered and wrapped, it is essentially the journey of every woman to mould herself with situations. When her husband leaves her, her instant reaction is to beg and plead him back to their marriage. Often, like most women around us forget, begging and pleading can simply erode self respect to the point of self disgust. A relationship that needs pleading instead of self realization is already doomed enough! Her personality gradually grows, from not knowing a life without Inder to ….. Well, you need to find out!
Enwrapped with Kaifi Azmi’s poignant lyrics, the hit Ghazal duo of Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh, add a greater depth to the film with their songs!
The film not only sings praise of the director and actors but was a new terrain of thought in society, not to mention Bollywood. An unusual climax where a woman who has been dependent all her life, dominated by people at various levels finally recognizes and values her self identity is a celebration of womanhood.
So all you beautiful women out there, we owe our first recommendation to each gorgeous one of you. Charming, strong and bold – you are the Princesses of your world.
And for all the rest, Arth will convey the simple essence of life – you don’t need anyone to validate you. Strive hard and realize your dreams and goals, which indeed is the real goal of life!