I am also fond of Erich Segal's "Man, Woman and Child" which 'inspired' Shekhar Kapur's first directorial venture, the 1983 hindi movie "Masoom" starring: Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Supriya Pathak and Saeed Jaffrey, as well as child actors Jugal Hansraj and Urmila Matondkar. Tanuja too appears in a small role, kind of a cameo... in the movie. It is a bittersweet yet captivating story of how a happy family goes through turbulent times because of a 'mistake' commited by one of the family members, and the repercussions of bad decisions made by people who are in a sense, essentially good. "Masoom" is a wonderful, touching film loved by many... it has achieved the status of an evergreen hit film in India.
"Man, Woman and Child": Every book of Erich Segal is a delightful read and this one is no different. This book explores the relationship between as the title says, "man and woman", "woman and child" and "child and man". The only thing is that the child is not 'theirs', but is the result of 'his' affair with 'another' woman on a business tour. The novel details the lives of Robert and Sheila Beckwith and their daughters Jessica and Paula.
In the shape of this novel, from Erich Segal comes yet another unforgettable story of love. The drama of a father and the son he never knew... and a marriage that must stand the greatest test of all. Robert (Bob) and Sheila Beckwith had everything, rewarding careers, two wonderful daughters (though Robert sometimes wishes for a son), and a perfect marriage... well, almost perfect. For what Sheila didn't know was that Robert had once been unfaithful - only once, ten years ago during a business trip to France... he had an accident and then had an affair with the doctor (Nicole Guerin) who treated him. What Robert didn't know was that his brief affair had produced a son. Now a tragic accident - and one fateful phone call - will change Robert and Sheila's life forever...
This is the story of a man in a dilemma... of keeping his family intact and happy and on the other hand, his love for his son who was born out of an affair a long time ago. The story is very simple... it is about how a family accepts a child as 'their' own....more importantly how Sheila, the 'heroine' accepts the child. Perhaps this novel is supposed to draw sympathy and understanding for human weakness(es)... in a way to suggest: a man has to take responsibility for a child he has out of wedlock, involving his family, friends, as well as the little boy himself.
Plot synopsis: Robert is contacted one day by a friend in France, who tells him that Nicole, a woman with whom Robert had had an affair years ago, has died - and Jean-Claude, the son Robert never knew he had... is now an orphan. That evening, Robert explains the situation to Sheila, and they agree to take in Jean-Claude for the summer holidays; however, they also agree to keep Jean-Claude's true identity a secret. Once Jean-Claude arrives at their home, their daughters Jessica and Paula take to the little boy in a big way. However, the boy - Jean-Claude - keeps his distance while trying to cope with his situation and the loss of his mother.
Later that summer, Sheila (a journalist) is tempted by the possibility of an affair with an author she has been interviewing. At the same time, Jessica and Paula discover Jean-Claude's true identity, through Davey Ackerman, Robert's friend Bernie Ackerman's son. They are extremely shocked and hurt, and refuse to speak to their parents.
As the Beckwiths are bringing Jean-Claude to the airport to return to France, he suddenly falls ill and is hospitalized. After the surgery, during which the Beckwiths become closer again, he makes a full recovery. He agrees to return to France, but will return to visit them at each holiday.
The protagonist, Robert, seems very real... and imparts the feelings of a man torn between his family and his son quite admirably. Every emotion is depicted very nicely and the ending is as true as it can be. What is more important about this book is the way it shows the relationships developing and breaking between people because of one 'incident'... or rather a single 'indiscretion'. For example, we have the protagonist, Robert... who cannot let go of his son, and then there is Sheila... who just doesn't seem to forgive her husband for his 'mistake'. The story unfolds beautifully and ends with Sheila eventually coming to terms with the child, and the child finally winning her love and approval.
"Masoom": A masterpiece by ace film-maker Shekhar Kapur. On paper the storyline doesn't sound incredibly exciting or original, but watching it on screen... is simply amazing. The actors portray their characters with such knowledge and ability that you feel as if you are watching the real day-to-day lives and incidents of a family. The basic theme of this film to me seems to be, "the power of love". DK's love for Rahul battles against his love for the rest of his family. And it is Indu's love for D.K., and her eventual love and respect for Rahul, that keeps the family from being torn apart. It is a film about strength, about having the strength to love someone no matter what they have done. Shabana Azmi's "Indu" is both fragile but incredibly strong and dignified. Naseerudin Shah plays "D.K." with such courage, but also shows his weak side... convincingly.
Storyline of "Masoom": D.K. Malhotra (Naseeruddin Shah) - an architect - lives a comfortable life with his wife, Indu (Shabana Azmi), and two school-going daughters, Pinky (Urmila Matondkar) and Minni (Aradhana). Here too, D.K. expresses his desire for a son... on a few occasions. One day, his world turns upside down when he learns he has a son, Rahul (Jugal Hansraj), the result of a brief affair years earlier - early in his marriage to Indu, he had a brief affair with another woman, who had his child and never told him: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94xVWDYCj9E&feature=related). Now the woman is dead, and the boy, Rahul (Jugal Hansraj), is in need of a father and a home. The old schoolmaster who was Rahul's guardian (and maternal grandfather) until then is very ill... and eventually passes away after a few days. D.K. takes the young boy in - which creates a huge rift in the Malhotra household (watch it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=db_jZVb9Nhs&feature=related). Indu is shocked to learn that Rahul is DK's son from another woman, Bhavana (Supriya Pathak), who is no more (watch this scene here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CX7ugnrePQ&feature=related). Over the objections of Indu, who is heartbroken and devastated to learn of her husband's unfaithfulness, the boy comes to stay with them for a while. Rahul bonds with Indu and DK's daughters - and with D.K. (watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_WV6HRq3SM) but Indu cannot bear to look at the boy, who is a physical and tangible reminder of DK's breach of her trust.
D.K. does his best to make Rahul comfortable, but fails. Rahul also feels that Indu does not really like him, though Pinky and Minni have taken to him in a big way. Finally, D.K. decides to admit Rahul in a boarding school in far off Nainital. Rahul reluctantly goes along with this new-found uncle/friend: (watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKIVx68NJss&feature=related). It is when Rahul is asked to put his papers together for school that he finds out that D.K. is his biological father: (watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6m5EnW2Hi-s&feature=related and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQM8DISEx20&feature=related). What happens when Rahul disappears from DK's house, and the impact this has on D.K., Indu, and their two daughters... forms the crux of this heart-touching story (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQM8DISEx20&feature=related).
The film's title, "Masoom", means "innocent," and there are a number of innocent victims of DK's transgression, not least the boy Rahul himself, who only wants to be loved, to be part of the family, and to find his father (watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94xVWDYCj9E&feature=related). In one particularly heartbreaking sequence, Rahul, puzzled by Indu's coldness towards him, makes her a birthday gift (a jewellery box); she struggles palpably with tenderness toward him on one hand, and horror and anger at what he represents on the other (watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJ--7pTVq7M&feature=related). Indu herself is innocent as well, and the film puts her in a terrible position (watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMbx8TRXTsk&feature=related). It is heartbreaking to watch her take out her pain and anger on the boy and simultaneously grapple to come to terms with what she knows she has to do for him (watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fWhuXU0BSM&feature=related)
Shabana's performance in "Masoom" is no exception; she makes Indu's struggle palpable and real, as she alternates between tenderness and coldness towards the boy, or towards her husband (watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=db_jZVb9Nhs&feature=related). One of the most poignant (such) scenes occurs when D.K. and Rahul return after a few days spent away from the family. Their daughters leap with excitement at their father's return, and for a moment Indu is joyful as well - a broad smile crosses Indu's face, and she rises and begins to comb her hair before the mirror. Then she stops, suddenly, and her face changes, becoming cold and sad, her pain overtakes her momentary joy at DK's return (watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6m5EnW2Hi-s&feature=related). The film is loaded with small, aching moments like this, and Shabana makes each one real and heartrending.
Naseeruddin, too, provides a nice, evocative performance as D.K. Naseer has always been good at portraying various roles including deeply sad characters; here, he wears his pain in his droopy face and frail, weary body to perfection. He is one of the most versatile and finest actors in India. Even the child actors in the film performed admirably. They were real as children; neither too angelic, nor professing or trying too hard to be miniature adults. All the three child actors performed well, especially young Jugal Hansraj as Rahul (he was very cute in the movie... very angelic). The elder daughter (Pinky) was played by Urmila Matondkar, who grew up to be an acclaimed actress... in Bollywood. The younger daughter's (Minni) role was essayed by the actress Aradhana... not much is known of her though. No matter where she is or what she does, we all have her face etched in our memories as the cute little girl from "Masoom".
The best thing about "Masoom" is that the emotions are so real, and have been so beautifully portrayed. Nothing in the film comes across as put on. Some of the scenes look so spontaneous, e.g., when D.K. (Nasser) is driving Rahul (Jugal) home from the railway station, he points at the "Purana Qila" and says, "Yeh Purana Qila hai.. (then laughs)... bahut purana Qila hai." (watch this scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=db_jZVb9Nhs&feature=related) and the cricket match (here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xXvgFt1nEg&feature=related). "Masoom" is genuinely one of the best movies ever made in Indian cinema and I've watched it quite a few times. One thing that strikes you right away is how genuine the emotions are, and the love with which it has been made. Some scenes that have been etched in my memory are: Rahul (Jugal Hansraj) showing the crayon pictures he has made to Shabana in the car and her reactions, DK (Naseer) breaking down in front of his friend (Saeed) after the cricket match cum picnic (watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94xVWDYCj9E&feature=related). Rahul (Jugal) asking for his father from the 'tootta tara' (here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMbx8TRXTsk&feature=related), Rahul (Jugal) accidentaly hurting his hand while making a wooden house and then running to Indu (whimpering) for a bandage... calling Indu (Shabana) "Mummy" (this scene can be watched here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJ--7pTVq7M&feature=related)..... simply fabulous. "Masoom" is about beauty in simplicity. The raw emotions and the innocent charm has a rare quality of freshness which is seldom seen now-a-days. Every lyric had been well thought out, well-placed and of course melodious. No wonder, the magic of the movie still works... with such a good script and such impeccable performances from the very versatile and brilliant Naseeruddin Shah and the legendary Shabana Azmi. In this film, both vied for equal honors. What a masterpiece it is!
The beauty of the movie is that it is like an onion... it has layers and layers of meaning. Each time you watch the movie, yet another layer opens. For me, the most touching moment in the entire movie is the last scene (watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVBiDBPJQBw&feature=related). Simple, yet so deep... so moving.
"Masoom" also features a handful of nice and hummable songs by the late music maestro, Rahul Dev Burman (including this lullaby picturized on Shabana). The song, "Lakdi ki kathi" from this film was very popular too. My particular favourite is the one sung by Dr. Anup Ghoshal, "Tujhse Naraaz Nahin Zindagi, Heiraan Hoon Mein". A classic song with touching lyrics. Every song defines the situation that the characters are going through very aptly. To sum up, "Masoom" is a delicate, sensitive film, thoughtfully crafted and movingly executed. The emotional turmoil that Naseer, Jugal and Shabana's characters go through is so eloquently brought out by Shekhar Kapur... in a very subtle yet effective manner.
Links: Here are the links which contain the videos of the songs from the movie, "Masoom":
1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDvEAqynDVQ - "Lakdi ki kathi". Singers: Gauri Bapat, Gurpreet Kaur and Vanita Mishra.
2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_WV6HRq3SM&feature=related - "Tujhse Naraaz Nahin Zindagi, Heiraan Hoon Mein... ". Sung by Dr. Anup Ghoshal (more info on him: http://www.anupghosal.com/biography.htm).
3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fWhuXU0BSM&feature=related - "Tujhse Naraz nahi zindagi... ". Sung by the peerless Lata Mangeshkar.
4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlVbZy-mS5g&feature=related - "Huzoor is kadar bhi na itraake chaliye... ". Singers: Suresh Wadkar and Bhupinder Singh.
5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZL_dpb_6Lo&feature=related - "Do Naina Aur Ek Kahani... ". Sung by Aarti Mukherji.
.... Jeene ke liye socha hi na tha, dard sambhalne honge
Muskuraoon to, muskurane ke karz utaarne honge
Muskuraoon kabhi to lagata hai
Jaise honthon pe karz rakhaa hai.
Tujhse naraaz nahin zindagi, heiraan hoon mein...
Ohhh heiraan hoon mein.....
Tere masoom sawalon se pareshan hoon mein,
Ohhh pareshan hoon mein.....
Aaj agar bhar ayi hai, boondein baras jaayengi
Kal kya pata inke liye aakhen taras jayengi
Jaane kahan gum kahan khoya
Ek aansu chhupake rakha tha.......
A great song with superb lyrics. Sheer magic! Hats off to the poet, lyricist and film-maker par excellence, Gulzar Saab.
P.S. 1983 film adaptation of "Man, Woman and Child": Erich Segal adapted his novel into a screenplay and the film was released into theaters in 1983. The movie starred Martin Sheen as Professor Robert Beckwith, Blythe Danner as Sheila Beckwith, Sebastian Dungan as the young Jean-Claude Guerin, Nathalie Nell as Nicole Guerin, Arlene McIntyre and Missy Francis as Jessica and Paula, Craig T. Nelson as Bernie Ackerman, young Billy Jacoby as Davey Ackerman, Ruth Silveira as Nancy Ackerman, David Hemmings as Gavin Wilson, and Maureen Anderman as Margo. A beautiful film of love, compassion and forgiveness with exceptional performances.
Note: Some information gathered and photographs, courtesy Wikipedia. Links, courtesy YouTube.
Shekhar Kapur - Official website: http://www.shekharkapur.com/blog/welcome.htm
1. A poster of the film "Masoom"... courtesy, http://www.chakpak.com
2. A scene from the movie, "Man, Woman and Child". Courtesy: http://www.cvmc.net/movie.jsp?movie_id=6471
3. The cover page of the Erich Segal novel, "Man, Woman and Child".