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Dinesh Raheja

Films with two heroes and one heroine (Raj Kapoor's Sangam, starring Raj Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Vyjayanthimala), or one hero and two heroines (Amarjeet's Hum Dono, starring Dev Anand, Sadhana, Nanda) were not uncommon in the 60s. But B R Chopra was always a trendsetter (he dared to make two songless films Kanoon and Ittefaq in the 60s) and he decided to embellish his Waqt with as many as five top stars: Sunil Dutt, Raaj Kumar, Sadhana, Sharmila Tagore, Balraj Sahni.

A huge blockbuster in its day, Waqt had an abundance of all the Chopra staples --- a unique theme, dulcet Ravi-composed numbers, top level performances, a courtroom climax --- but this time there was more!

Producer Director Music Director Stars
 BR Chopra  Yash Chopra  Ravi Sunil Dutt, Raaj Kumar, Sadhana, Sharmila Tagore, Balraj Sahni

Yash Chopra, who directed the film for his elder brother B R Chopra, limned each frame with the colour of money. He dazzled the viewers by presenting a lifestyle that most of them had either read or dreamt about --- wall-to-wall carpeted bungalows overlooking lakes and dales, dashingly-attired heroes racing red and yellow sports cars, pastels-clad, sartorially-splendid heroines listening to long playing records, swimming in 5-star hotels, or enjoying a game of badminton on their neatly manicured lawns.

This was the film that established the quintessential Yash Chopra style.

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Yet the story never lost its bearings. F A Mirza's story spanned a wide canvas and was peopled with an interesting array of characters. The frame opened with a prosperous dry fruit seller, Lala Kedarnath (Balraj Sahni), celebrating the opening of his new shop. The gritty Kedarnath is convinced that a man can make his own destiny, a sentiment not shared by the film's writer whose credo is 'waqt hi banata hai, waqt hi bigadta hai.'

After presenting a rare paean to middle-age love (refreshing because love in this emotionally-fertile age is so neglected in our films) in 'O meri zohra zabeen' where Kedarnath praises the blushing mother of his three sons (Achala Sachdev), the film shows an earthquake striking. The self-assured Kedarnath's happy family is suddenly scattered.

Kedarnath's youngest son Vijay remains with his penniless mother who has to do odd jobs to make him an educated youth (Shashi Kapoor). Middle son Kuku is adopted by a benovelent rich couple and is rechristened Ravi (Sunil Dutt). The eldest, Raja, unable to bear the beatings of a malicious orphanage manager (Jeevan) flees to become a thief (Raaj Kumar). Kedarnath too goes to prison for murdering the orphanage manager.

Yash Chopra stylishly pushes the time frame to several years ahead by focussing on Raja's metamorphosis from petty pickpocket to a suave thief. Raja steals Meena's (Sadhana's) necklace. However, when he sees her, he is smitten and returns the precious piece of jewellery to her. Meena is charmed by the smooth-talking Raja but her heart is committed to the boisterous, fun-loving lawyer, Ravi.

A song-studded love triangle involving Raja, Ravi and Meena ensues. Interestingly, Raja and Ravi are unaware that they are brothers. Meena loves Ravi but there is a distinct suggestion that she enjoys Raja's attention too.

Meanwhile, Ravi's sister Renu (Sharmila) is ardently interested in Vijay. At this junction, Yash Chopra realises that he has been a shade too indulgent with the footage dedicated to the languid love affairs and decides to get ahead with his story.

The script's neatly worked out domino effect is well worth examining. Renu is convinced that her broad-minded brother Ravi will accept her boyfriend, Vijay, even if he is Chenoy Seth's (Rehman's) driver. But to her dismay, Ravi humiliates Vijay. Enraged, Renu retaliates by reminding Ravi that he is only an adopted son whose background is unknown. Hurt, Ravi leaves their home.

Meena's snooty mother calls off her engagement to Ravi. Meanwhile, an emotional Raja, who has learnt that Ravi is his brother, decides to announce Ravi's family background to Meena's parents to bring the lovers together again. But Raja's boss Chenoy Seth agrees to conceal the fact that Raja himself is a dishonourable thief, only if he pull off a heist for him --- one last time.

Famous songs from Waqt
  Song  Singers
  Ae meri zohra jabeen  Manna Dey
  Waqt se din aur raat  Mohammed Rafi
  Chehre pe khushi  Asha Bhosle
  Din hai bahar ke  Asha Bhosle, Mahendra Kapoor
  Maine ek khwab  Asha Bhosle, Mahendra Kapoor
  Hum jab simat ke  Asha Bhosle, Mahendra Kapoor
  Aage bhi jaane na tu  Asha Bhosle
  Kaun aaya  Asha Bhosle

A grand pre-climax party scene follows. However, before Raja can steal a princess' diamond necklace, Chenoy Seth's hireling, Balbir (Madan Puri) gets embroiled in a brawl with Raja. Hours later, Balbir is murdered.

The suspect: eldest brother, Raja. The witness: youngest brother, Vijay. The defending lawyer: middle brother, Ravi.

The film culminates with an absorbing courtroom drama (enlivened by Motilal's presence as the prosecution lawyer) and a grand reunion of Lala Kedarnath with his wife and three sons --- an emotional high point.

Waqt tantalises the audience by showing the brothers repeatedly criss-crossing each other or their parent's paths, and thrives on the 'there's many a slip between the cup and the lip' feel, reel after reel.

The screenplay credited to BR Films story department marvelously integrates strands of the individual stories of three brothers into a cohesive unit.

Sadhana, dressed in gorgeous chiffons and embroidered churidar kurtas, justifies her fashion icon reputation and embellishes the film's lush look. A young Sharmila draws notice in her confrontation scene with Sunil Dutt. Sunil Dutt gives a relaxed performance while Shashi Kapoor is earnest.

In this battle of acting honours, the choice narrows down to Balraj Sahni and Raaj Kumar. But aided by some clap-evoking lines, the theatrical Raaj steals the show.

The raspy-voiced Raaj's unique rendition of Akhtar-ul Iman's lines: 'Yeh bacchhon ke khelne ki cheez nahi, haath kat jaaye toh khoon nikal aata hai' ('This knife is not for children. If you cut your finger, you will bleed') is repeated with great enthusiasm by dialogue buffs even today.


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* B R Chopra had originally planned the film with Prithviraj Kapoor and his three sons, Raj, Shammi and Shashi. Eventually, only Shashi Kapoor was cast in the film.

* Though salwar kameez was the rage those days, Sadhana popularised the fashion of churidar kurtas with Waqt. To win Yash Chopra's approval, she dressed in a churidar kurta when he came to narrate the story to her.


* Chopra regular Asha Bhosle sang for both Sadhana and Sharmila in the film while Mahendra Kapoor gave playback for Sunil and Shashi.

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