The mid-1960s saw actress Asha Parekh court success in a big way. Having started out as a child actor, Parekh had to suffer the ignominy of being replaced by Ameeta in Vijay Bhatt’s Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959) before filmmaker Nasir Husain gave Parekh her first leading lady role in the musical hit Dil Deke Dekho (1959). Parekh subsequently became a regular in Husain’s films, starring alongside Dev Anand, Joy Mukerji and Shammi Kapoor in the musical extravaganzas that were Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai (1961), Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963) and Teesri Manzil (1966). The period between 1964 to 1967 saw Parekh work with almost every top-notch filmmaker in the industry as she starred in a spate of hits such as Ziddi (1964), Mere Sanam (1965), Love In Tokyo (1966), Aaye Din Bahaar Ke (1966) and Upkar (1967).
One such film that Parekh starred in alongside Manoj Kumar, Pran and Simi Garewal in this golden phase of her career was the Raj Khosla-directed Do Badan (1966). The film was a moderate hit of its time. It doesn’t get anywhere near as much attention as some of the bigger films from that year, such as Teesri Manzil or Phool Aur Patthar, but deserves a relook nonetheless for its fine performances in what was essentially a doomed romantic drama.
Do Badan had all the classic staples of Hindi cinema from that time. Vikas (Kumar) and Asha (Parekh) fall in love with each other, following very much in the tradition of romantic liaisons between poor boy and rich girl. The villain in the puzzle, Ashwini (Pran), gets in the way of their relationship and engineers a chain of events that leads to Vikas meeting with an accident and losing his eyesight. Ashwini first tells Asha that Vikas is dead, but then persuades Vikas to convince Asha that his love for her was a sham in the first place. Ashwini gets married to Asha. But Vikas’s exit from her life is too much for Asha. When she realises Ashwini’s devious ways, she turns into a recluse and withers away.
The film played out predominantly in the picturesque Kashmiri countryside. It had all the familiar themes of Hindi cinema’s encounter with modernity, class conflict amid a feudalistic backdrop and almost all the lead characters (except Ashwini) willing to sacrifice their own love interest for someone else’s sake. The comic pairing of Dhumal and Mohan Choti gave a few laughs, but were all too episodic in their appearance.
Do Badan’s appeal, nonetheless, lay in its sensitive storytelling within the melodramatic genre. Instead of resorting to the usual routine of the villain receiving his comeuppance at the hands of the hero, Do Badan made a rare departure by highlighting a change of heart in Pran’s character. Parekh, Kumar and Garewal came up with nuanced performances, with each of them ably demonstrating the pain and anguish each that their characters experience through the vagaries of life and love. Garewal took home a Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.
The film’s dialogue gives a maudlin and emotional tinge to the film without allowing it to degenerate into a hackneyed, over-the-top weepy affair. Lines such as “Hum ko toh gardish-e-haalaat pe rona aaya, roney waaley tujhey kiss baat pe rona aaya” borrowed suitably from the world of high Urdu poetry to bring out each character’s pathos.
Complementing the emotive storyline was a strong musical score by Ravi. The lyrics were penned by Shakeel Badayuni. Why didn’t the film’s producer, Huda Bihari, get his brother, the lyricist Shamsul Huda Bihari (of Kashmir Ki Kali fame), to write the songs? Nonetheless, with numbers such as “Jab chali thandi hawa” and “Lo aa gayee unki yaad,” Badayuni was able to do full justice to what was expected of him.
The pièce de résistance of the film was the Mohammed Rafi sung, “Raaha gardishon mein har dum.” In Rafi’s voice, the song evocatively captured the tragic essence of the film.
Ultimately, Do Badan was yet another triumph for ace filmmaker Raj Khosla. Although known most for his noir films and crime dramas such as C.I.D. (1956) and Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971), Khosla seemed to be at ease working across genres. That he made an intense, melancholic film like Do Badan right in the midst of his three suspense films, Woh Kaun Thi (1964), Mera Saaya (1966) and Anita (1967) showed his remarkable dexterity. Do Badan makes a great case for revisiting Khosla’s work and putting it through a more detailed examination.
Akshay Manwani is the author of Sahir Ludhianvi: The People’s Poet (HarperCollins India 2013). He is currently working on a book on the cinema of writer-director-producer, Nasir Husain. He tweets at @AkshayManwani.