As a tribute to Dilip Kumar, revisiting one of his ‘Tragedy King’ hits, Jogan (1950), in which, like in many other films, he fell in love with an unattainable woman.
This must be the only film ever, in which under the credit for writer is a ?
Apparently, producer Chandulal Shah, head honcho of Ranjit Movietone, who produced the film came up with the idea, inspired by of a man falling in love with a nun, but no director wanted to take it up, because it was a risky subject.
Then Kidar Sharma accepted the challenge and made the musical hit Jogan (1950). The production company was going through a rough time and Shah was in financial dire straits, Sharma made the film in less than a month with top stars, and at least temporarily pulled Shah out of the crisis. The other noteworthy thing about Jogan was the use of Meera’s bhajans sung in Geeta Roy’s (later Dutt) haunting voice, which are perennial.
A very dreamy looking Dilip Kumar plays Vijay who visits his aunt (Anwari) in his native village. He hears a voice singing Meerabai’s– Ghungat ke pat khol tohe piya milenge. Vijay is not at the temple with other villagers because he is an atheist, however, the voice and the beautiful face of the singer (Nargis) bewitch him.
Called Deviji by all, she is a sadhvi (female ascetic), who lives in a small room in the temple. Her austerity and air of melancholy are no barriers for Vijay, who tries to talk to her and understand what drove her to renounce the world. What he doesn’t comprehend at first is that he disturbs her equilibrium and the inner tranquility that she strove so hard to attain.
The intensity of their attraction and the force of the emotions she endures are tragic. He leaves a flower outside her door every day; she desperately chants Om Prabhu Shanti to drive thoughts of him out her head. She finally tells him her story, how she, Surabhi, a carefree young poetess was conned into marriage to an old man, by her wastrel brother and bankrupt father. Horrified at the sight of the man, she runs away, but also knows that society has no place for her. She finds shelter and peace at an ashram run by an older woman (Pratima Devi). From there she travels from village to village as an itinerant bhajan singer. In this village she is looked after by a chatty child Mangu (Baby Tabassum).
She believes that she has conquered all desires, but Vijay sees the pain and disappointment in her eyes. He wants to reach out to her and alleviate her suffering. In an earlier scene, at a kotha, where he is accompanied by his friend –Rajendra Kumar in his second film, playing a small part— to listen to a courtesan (Purnima) sing, Vijay says, “Aurat aur mard ke talukat hamesha wohi nahi hote jo tum log sochte ho. Kuch aur baatein bhi aisi hoti hain jinmein kashish hoti hai.” (The relationship between a man and woman are not always what you think. There can be other kinds of allure.) So his fascination with the serene ascetic is spiritual, even though he is not a religious man.
Eventually, Surabhi leaves the village and goes back to the ashram to atone, making Vijay promise not to follow her beyond the tree that marks the border of the village. Nevertheless, he waits there for her every day, but when news of her comes, it is of her death.
There are 15 songs in the film, all beautifully integrated into the narrative. The Meera bhajans like Main toh girdhar ke ghar jaon, Mat ja mat ja jogi, Main toh prem deewani are sprinkled over Bulo C. Rani’s compositions of other songs like Dagmag dagmag dole naiya, Kahe nainon mein naina daale re, Sundarta ke sabhi shikari written by Pandit Indra, C R Sharma and Himmat Rai, are timeless. Bulo C. Rani was once a singer and composer of popular numbers, but faded away after the 1960s. He reportedly committed suicide in 1993, forgotten and unsung.
Kidar Sharma treated the film with simplicity, delicacy and a marked lack of melodrama. He takes no sides, but observes the frailty of love and borne by two strong-willed people.
Painter, writer, lyricist, producer and director, Sharma was introduced to K. L. Saigal by New Theatres’actor Prithviraj Kapoor. Through Saigal he met his idol, filmmaker Debaki Bose. After doing odd jobs and bit parts with Bose, he got his big break—writing the dialogue and lyrics for Devdas (1936), starring Saigal. Bimal Roy, the cameraman of this film, went on to make his own version of Devdas in 1955 with Dilip Kumar in a career-defining role.
(This is an edited version of a chapter from my book Take 2: 50 Films That Deserve A New Audience, published in 2015 by Hay House.)