Ijaazat – cinema for the soul!

Three characters, all of them inherently flawed in more ways than one, but all of them incredibly human in their everyday actions, came together to tell the beautifully poignant tale of Ijaazat 30 years ago! So much so, that even after so many years, I have still not come out of the trance that I got into from when I first watched this masterpiece, have discovered a little new nuance with every single repeat watch that I have stopped counting, and even today would keep this one right at the top if anyone asks about my all-time favorite movie! Hence it just seemed like an opportune moment to pen down the tremendous impact and influence that Ijaazat had on me as it completes 30 years of coming to life!

The magic of Ijaazat lies in the fact that a complex web of relationships is unraveled to the viewer in a very practical, matter of fact approach, without taking any sides of right or wrong, without being judgmental of any of the protagonists and the decisions they take! Rather each one of them continue to remain worried and responsible even for things they cannot control, even while they suffer in their own melancholic ‘not haves’ of life! The beauty of this masterfully executed piece of cinema also lies in the fact that it’s a tale full of emotions but devoid of melodrama, a tale that is all about missed opportunities and broken relationships, is heart breaking and yet is a positive tale in its own way!

And then there are the three eclectic characters that hold the story together, each completely different from the other, and each made extremely identifiable through the terrific performances of all the three leads. At the heart of the story lies the extremely lovable, full of life, delicate, eccentric and elusive Maya (true to her name); who represents the ultimate free spirit that life can be! She is all about heart, her exuberance is infectious, and one can’t help but fall in love with her! And Anuradha Patel gives her Maya all her heart and soul to become one and the same – her shining but moistly sad eyes, her invigorating tonal pitch, and her buoyant body language gets her into complete sync with what Gulzar’s vision of Maya perhaps was, a character that has stayed the most with me in more haunting ways than one!

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Matching her up is the terrific Rekha in a role pitched perfectly for her! Her Sudha is all about what truth and right should be, and yet she is endearingly human and poignantly graceful even as she struggles to make peace with a spouse who is struggling with himself! And Rekha does everything with the right finesse to ground Sudha as the most level headed character of the film. The conformist in Sudha, the decision maker in Sudha is so complementary of everything that Mahendar is not, that it is not hard to relate to why Mahendar would find himself devastated when she leaves him even when he would never have been hers completely otherwise! In fact, the genuine moments of affection and camaraderie between Sudha and Mahendar are some of the best scenes of the film, and their momentary marital bliss does not appear fake for a moment even when Maya continues to exist in spirit and form between them at all times!

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And then there is Naseeruddin Shah playing Mahendar, the most difficult to convince character of the film, who is as spineless as he is accountable, who tries to be fully faithful in his marriage by opening up everything he needs to in front of Sudha but can’t shrug off Maya and her pain because he feels equally responsible for her! He is equally brilliant in some of the passing shots of that waiting room, as he is while reading out Maya’s letters to Sudha, and in spite of everything, its Mahendar for whom one’s heart goes out to in the end! Any other actor other than Shah would not have been able to lend this credibility to an extremely complicated character like Mahendar, and that is where his brilliance lies!

To put it in perspective though, Ijaazat is eventually a master class in film making by the master craftsman Gulzar! It is his brilliant story telling, terrific script, and out of the world dialogs that makes Ijaazat the masterpiece it is! This tale of man-woman relationship is oft told, but its Gulzar’s charisma that he brings in so many layers in the simple story and adds perspectives staying away from prejudices! Yes, Subodh Ghosh‘s Jatugriha finds a new interpretation of Gulzar, but that’s fine since he only makes it better! Add to it the brilliance of Pancham-Gulzar-Asha who weave magic through every single song of the film to create the best common album of their lifetime, each song of which plays its part to take the story forward! And it is not every day in Hindi cinema that one gets to hear dialogs like the following all in one movie, each one adding to a goose-bump moment

– Sab kuchh wahi to nahi hai… par hain waheen.. usi jagah….

– Itne saal guzar gaye, lekin aadat nahin jaati… Aadat bhi chali jaati hai, adhikaar nahin jaate…

– Main Maya se pyar karta tha – ye sach hain. Aur use bhoolne ki koshish kar raha hoon – ye sahi hain…

– Maya bahut zyaada basi huyi thi is ghar me… Sab jagah se to nikaal diya hain, ab kisi koney khudre me padu reh gayi hain hain wahaan se bhi hat jaayegi…. 

– Maazi ko maazi nahin banaya toh…

– Sabhi kuchh bata huya sa lagta hain… Poora poora apna kuch bhi nahin lagta…

– Yunhi toh din raat Maya hamare saath rah rahi hain. Saamaan bhi rah jaata toh kya ho jaata?

– Isme to tumhare zevar rehte the? Haan maine apne nikaal ke aapke rakh diye..

– And so many more, including the outstanding ‘Mera kuchh samaan’…

No wonder Ijaazat remains truly lyrical in spirit and extremely real in character! It is easily the best work of Gulzar ever, surpassing the brilliant Namkeen by the sheer strength of its story and terrific performances! Yes, many years of repeat watching has brought out some incoherence in the script, there are questions that remain unanswered, there is still that elevated pitch of a background score or a certain prop used more dramatically than what was needed for the overall tone of the film, but at the end of the day Ijaazat is no art-house cinema and certain liberties of commercial cinema will always come in!

But irrespective of its flaws, or of its characters, it’s the most human story that could be told most poignantly, which is as imperfect as life is, and hence which appears so incredibly real and moving!

To every aspect of cinematic brilliance that the film embodies… 
To three decades of tremendous emotional attachment…
To Gulzar’s masterpiece – IJAAZAT!

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