Sangam was Raj Kapoor's first colour film. Its bright colours, European locales and glamour dazzled the eye and senses, and went a long way into turning the film into a blockbuster.
Besides the visual brio, Sangam is also memorable because the untidy human relationships it portrays throb with intensity. The husband-wife relationship between Raj Kapoor and Vyjayanthimala with its messily intermingled strands of love and hurt, for example, is moving, multi-layered and complex.
Sangam pleads for understanding the very human chinks in its characters' armour, encapsulated in lyricist Shailendra's immortal line, Yeh dharti hai insaanon ki; kuch aur nahin insaan hai hum.
| Raj Kapoor
|| Raj Kapoor
|| Raj Kapoor, Vyjayanthimala, Rajendra Kumar
Sangam begins with a brief prologue which offers a psychological underpinning in the childhood of the three main characters --- Sundar, Radha and Gopal. Rich Gopal is protective of his friend Sundar; Sundar is obsessed with Radha.
The film first shows them as adults in a North By North West-like sequence where Sundar (Raj Kapoor), a pilot, is in a plane and chases Radha (Vyjayanthimala), running petrified on the ground. He steals her clothes while she is swimming and pertinently asks Bol Radha bol sangam hoga ke nahin?
But Radha's heart flutters for Gopal (Rajendra Kumar), who has just returned to India. Before she can express her feelings to Gopal, Sundar has already told his beloved friend about his love for Radha. Gopal decides to sacrifice his passion for Radha. Dard paraya jisko paya woh kya apni baat kahein, he sings eloquently during Har dil jo pyar karega.
Radha bemoans in the film that her wishes don't seem to have been taken into consideration.
Having put his friend and his love on a pedestal, Sundar indulges himself with nary a thought to what they want. He is innocent, but his innocence is perhaps just another face of acute selfishness which refuses to register what it doesn't want to see.
When Radha's family rejects Sundar's proposal, he is determined to prove his worth and joins the air force. He volunteers to go on a suicidal mission and is believed dead, becoming a posthumous hero.
The Gopal-Radha romance finally blossoms. Two years later, when news filters in that Sundar is alive after all, Gopal experiences a crisis of conscience.
A heartbroken Radha follows her parents' wishes and marries Sundar when Gopal refuses to marry her. Once married, Radha gives her heart to Sundar. An extended honeymoon in Europe follows. When Gopal comes visiting on Sundar's insistence, Radha bluntly asks him to cease being a part of their lives.
Sundar accidentally discovers a love letter in Radha's jewellery box. The drama escalates as Radha tears up the letter. Raj Kapoor visually captures the extent of debasement that jealousy can cause by showing Sundar on all fours furtively picking up the pieces of the letter.
An agonised Sundar threatens to shoot the man who has written the letter but Radha refuses to divulge his name. Their home life suffers a vertiginous spiral as Sundar is consumed by his inability to accept the situation.
The drama about a suspicion-ridden husband is not uncommon. But Sangam scores in the fact that, through all this, the characters are believably shaded. It is also deeply affecting because through the climax, the love between the mentally estranged couple is still palpable.
Sundar heartlessly tortures Radha even as he himself hurts. But when she asks him to look in her eyes, he can still see "pyar aur sachhai [love and truth]." When Radha wants to walk out, he pleads, "Mat jao Radha, apna ghar chhodke mat jao [Don't go, Radha, don't leave your home]."
Yet, perversely, he can't help himself fight his own demons, as is evident in his anguished plea: "Bolo, mein kya karoon [Tell me, what should I do?]?"
Radha's reaction is not the stereotyped wailing about her broken heart. The reason she proffers is, "Mujhse tumhara dukh bardaasht nahin hota [I cannot bear your sorrow]."
Kapoor juggles these emotions expertly, tantalisingly leaving just enough unsaid for the viewer to interpret it. I see it as Kapoor having to finally come to terms with seeing the people he loves as they really are; not seeing them in the light that suits him.
If God is in the detail, here the details are certainly well-etched. Just before leaving her marital house, Radha stops to straighten a vase. When Sundar speaks of Radha, Gopal, in the midst of offering him a cigarette, momentarily withdraws the box.
Rajendra Kumar looks dashing in overcoats and is kept in rein. He corners a major share of sympathy by dying in the end.
Vyjayanthimala is, to put it simply, radiant. And the maturity with which she tackles her character, the insouciance as well as the agony, makes it one of commercial cinema's most unforgettable performances.
It is fun to see Raj Kapoor as the lighthearted human whirlwind who even dances a bit during O mehbooba; but he's more watchable as the broken, suspicious husband with the brittle smile and jagged mouth.
Gopal's last line: "Ganga aur Jamuna ka milan hone ke liye Saraswati ko lupt hona hi padta hai [Saraswati needs to disappear if Ganga and Jamuna are to meet]."
*Sangam was the granddaddy of films shot abroad. After its thumping success in '64, it started a vogue for foreign shoots with Love In Tokyo ('66), Evening In Paris ('67), Around The World ('67).
*Dilip Kumar was offered Rajendra Kumar's role first but it was not to be.
*While doing the film, Raj Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar became friends. Years later, they even got their son and daughter engaged but they are happily married to other people now. After Sangam, Raj and Vyjayanthimala fell out as she got involved with Raj's physician, Dr Bali.
*The jubilee star had a hat-trick when his two other films that year --- Zindagi and Ayee Milan Ki Bela -- also proved successful.
|Famous songs from Sangam |
| Bol Radha bol sangam
hoga ke nahin
| Mukesh, Vyjayanthimala
| Har dil jo pyar karega
|| Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh,
| O mehbooba
| Yeh mera prem patra padhkar
|| Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi
| Buddha mil gaya
|| Lata Mangeshkar
| Dost dost na raha
| O mere sanam
|| Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh
| I love you
|| Vivian Lobo
*The Shanker-Jaikishan-Hasrat-Shailendra-Raj Kapoor combo ensured that each number was a superhit.
*Dharmesh Darshan points out that Lata's last line addition to Yeh mera prem patra adds so much to the song. But Lata is said to have been miffed at being asked to sing the salty Buddha mil gaya.
She didn't sing a note for Kapoor's next Mera Naam Joker. They made up again for Bobby.
*Shailendra captured Rajendra Kumar's character succinctly in Apna ke har kissiko, begaana jayega.
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Design: Uday Kuckian