Namkeen – is delicacy for a lifetime

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An unsecured and senile old ‘Amma‘ living in an obscure village, who has been ‘bittered’ down by sorrow and deceit, but stands like a rock protecting her daughters…

The eldest rightfully named ‘Nimki‘ is seeing life pass through, as she continues playing the anchor matriarch of the broken home, with all the maturity and poise that life demands, and is not willing to take the offer to ‘live’, pushing her loved ones to die behind…

The lovely and sweet ‘Mitthu‘, who may have lost her voice to the atrocities of life, but has found her expressions through her poetry and her dreams, mistakes compassion for a deeper emotion, hence breaking away with the eventual departure…

The youngest and spunky ‘Chinki‘, who is the tangy flavor of the household is desperately looking to life, for herself, for her sisters, and is not willing to perish decaying, thus taking a plunge into the darker lime lit trenches pretending newly found joys of life…

They are all cornered and beaten down by staunch patriarchy of the society, all desperately trying to hold on to a stranger, a wanderer, and yet the only man in their life in ‘Gerulal‘, who thrives on the right emotions of compassion and responsibility towards these women, but is still not courageous enough to challenge life and make the real difference…

The portrait of life was never painted on such a real and yet melancholy canvas even by Gulzar Saab in any of his other films, the end of which leaves the viewer with a huge lump in the throat, with Nimki’s painful solitude leaving everyone numb traversing through this journey…

Masterfully directed by Gulzar Saab, the casting of the film could not have been more perfect! Waheeda Rehman and Sharmila Tagore are absolutely stupendous living those author backed characters, and are wonderfully supported by the under exploited Shabana Azmi and the brilliantly natural Kiran Vairale… The women naturally steal the show in this tremendously restrained human drama, and yet they would all pale had Sanjeev Kumar not challenged them to outperform him in more ways than one…

And then there is the brilliant soundtrack by Pancham with three outstanding numbers rendered from Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar, that added some lovely subtext to the script… Raah pe rehte hain encapsulates a philosophy of life that Gerulal lived with, and is an amazing collaboration between Gulzar-Pancham-Kishore-Sanjeev. Asha Bhosle literally creates magic with Phir se aiyyo, transporting you to another world. And the brilliant folksy number Aanki chali is the anthem of the siblings so authentically capturing their chemistry.

If deep sensitivity and understated brilliance could have a name, it would have been probably called Namkeen… And yet, somewhere along the last thirty five years, this underrated gem from Gulzar, so full of life’s flavors, got neglected and forgotten unfortunately!

A masterpiece like Namkeen needs to be relished for a lifetime!

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