[Directed: Yash Chopra/ Produced: BR Chopra/ Story: Akhtar Mirza/ Dialogue: Akhtar-ul-Aman/ Cinematography: Dharam Chopra/ Editing: Pran Mehra/ Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi/ Music: Ravi/ Playback: Asha Bhosle, Manna Dey and Mahendra Kapoor/ Art Direction:Sant Singh/ Costumes: Bhanu Athaiya/ Starring: Balraj Sahni, Raaj Kumar, Sunil Dutt, Shashi Kapoor, Sadhana, Sharmila Tagore, Rehman, Shashikala, Surendra, Leela Chitnis, Achala Sachdev, Manmohan Krishna, Madan Puri, Motilal and Mubarak]
The biggest hit of 1965 and the sixth biggest film of the 60s was Waqt, it was released in 1965 immediately after the India-Pakistan war and the movie ran to packed houses. A mega-starrer it was the first colour film from the B R Chopra’s stable and the first film about lost-and-reunited siblings. Its ensemble cast had three top of the line heroes and two of the most glamorous heroines- Sunil Dutt, Raaj Kumar, Sadhana, Sharmila Tagore, Balraj Sahni and for once the cast also included the story writer Akhtar Mirza, dialogues writer Akhtar-Ul-Iman and the editor of the film Pran Mehra!
The film set the trend for display of opulence and glitz –ornate mansions with fountains, motor boats, American cars, circular beds, lavish parties and grand pianos! The shenanigans and drama of feudal was replaced in one swipe to antics and romance of the newly upwardly mobile cavorting around outdoor locations in Kashmir, Shimla, Nainital, Bombay and Delhi. The glamorous women wowed you with stylish cuts, diamond jewellery and elegant grooming. The men looked dapper in tight suits and T-shirts.
This was the film that established the quintessential Yash Chopra style and established him as a majordomo amidst all dream sellers in Bollywood, a position he held for nearly five decades, directing 22 films and producing another 52 films till his last assignment, Jab tak hai jaan (2012). The film also displayed the other side of Yash Chopra, the oft discounted side, Yash Chopra never shied away from showing abject poverty and social disparities as he did in Deewar a decade later, or as he did in this film in the form of romantic liaison between a graduate driver and the owner’s daughter.
The story, written by Akhtar Mirza, was about three brothers the only casting that came to mind of B R Chopra was the Kapoor family: Shashi, Shammi and Raj Kapoor B R Chopra thought it was a dream cast. One day, he was traveling with Bimal Roy when he narrated the script and also discussed the casting. Bimal Roy immediately dismissed the cast as misfit and pointed out the major lacuna,the movie was about separation and casting three real brothers in the film who anyone could recognize were being cast by a director of Chopra’s calibre. Ultimately the film was made with Shashi Kapoor, Sunil Dutt and Raj Kumar.
The film also reconfirmed Ravi’s reputation as a melody master. The film’s most enduring song has been Aye meri zohra jabeen, which Yash Chopra’s son Aditya included in his debut film, Dilwale dulhaniya le jayenge (1995) three decades later as a love anthem for the older generation. Achala Sachdev riveting performance in the song what with her blushing ever so coyly is now part of Bollywood lore! Nainital was among the favourite destinations for picturisation of songs in films released in 1965, and Waqt had three songs filmed in Nainital as backdrop.
Interestingly neither the song Aye meri zohra jabeen nor and Aage bhi jaane na tu, were chartbusters on the Binaca Geetmala! The sad solo by Mohd. Rafi, Waqt se din aur raat and Maine ek khwab sa dekha went up to twenty seventh and thirty first spots on the 1965 annual Binaca Geetmala list! As a rare case, Asha Bhosle sang for both Sadhana and Sharmila Tagore in the film while Mahendra Kapoor gave playback for Sunil Dutt and Shashi Kapoor
The film won seven Filmfare nominations awards too. Yash Chopra (Best Director), Raaj Kumar (Best Supporting Actor), F.A. Mirza (Best Story), Akhtar-Ul-Iman ( Best Dialogue) and Dharam Chopra (Best Cinematographer). Filmfare Nomination for Best Film and Filmfare Nomination for Best Actress-Sadhana were the only nominations it could not convert into awards. The surprise winner for Best film that pipped Waqt and Haqeeqat was Himalaya Ki God Mein (1965)!
Though salwar kameez was the rage those days, Sadhana popularized the fashion of churidar kurtas with Waqt. To win Yash Chopra’s approval, she dressed in a churidar kurta when he. In a 1990 interview to Movie magazine, Sadhna revealed her idea of a modernizing the Muslim salwar-kurta in 60s. It led to a fashion revolution surviving till this day! Instead of the salwar Sadhna wore a churidar and a tight, sleeveless kurta with embroidery on the neck and below the bust line. Yash Chopra didn’t like the sound of it and rejected it, saying that she should stick to salwars for Waqt. Sadhna spoke to designer Bhanu Athaiya who stitched a churidar-kurta based on Sadhna’s specifications. When Yash Chopra came to narrate the story to her, he wanted her to wear the same thing for his film!
The two most unforgettable dialogues in the pantheon of most quoted Bollywood quoted quips belong to Raaj Kumar in Waqt. His gravelly voice and theatrical dialogue delivery is on full display when he snatches a stiletto from Madan Puri and warns him- “Yeh bachchon ke khelne ke cheez nahin, haath kat jaye to khoon nikal aata hai” (This is not a thing for kids to play with, if it cuts the hand then blood comes out) but the dialogue high on octane is saved for Rehman “Chinnoy Seth, Jinke apne ghar sheeshe ke hon woh doosron par pathar nahi phenka karte.” (Chinoy Seth, those who live in houses made of glass do not throw stones on others).
In an article in Cine Blitzmagazine (1996), upon Raaj Kumar’s demise due to throat cancer BR Chopra had paid tributes “As an actor he was totally a director’s actor. He needed exactly 48 hours to discuss the script with the writers. If he was satisfied with the role, he would sign on immediately. He always arrived well prepared and was most punctual. When I heard about his problems with other directors, I used to chuckle to myself. They must have allowed themselves to be taken for granted.”
Waqt was a landmark in many ways: if it set a trend for showing the lifestyles of the uber rich it was also a ‘lost and found’ film, a storyline that was a staple in nearly all the films of 1970s and in fact threatened us by assuming the life sized role of becoming an independent genre altogether! The family is separated by an earthquake, historically being the Quetta earthquake of 1935, but as a metaphor it signifies the human upheaval during the partition. And as a partition story the saga of migration from Pakistan to India has remained a recurrent theme in the Hindi film industry. The film’s strongest point was the sense of bonding and the support it provided to the disintegrating institution of joint-family.