Year – 1953
Language – Hindi
Country – India
Producer – Ranjit Film Company
Director – Zia Sarhady
Music Director – Khaiyyaam
Box-Office Status –
Cast – Dilip Kumar, Meena Kumari, Anwar Hussein, Ramesh Thapar, Achla Sachdev, Ramesh Thakur, Kuldip Kaur, Akhtar Farooqui, P. Kailash, Jankidas, Maruti, Sumati Lajmi, Master Romi
Miscellaneous Information –
WRITTEN and directed by Zia Sarhady, the Shree Ranjit production “Footpath” had its Bombay premiere at the Liberty on Friday, October 9th, 1953. Heralded with much puffing as a social document of gripping interest for every class of filmgoer and a model of film-craft, “Footpath” turned out to be a disappointing picture.
The story is about black-marketeering in grains and medicines, a subject of perennial interest to everybody and of poignant importance to the poor and needy. The characters and drama are laid among the very poor, the homeless ones, the pavement dwellers, whence the picture derives its title. One of them, the central character, is a poorly-paid hack journalist named Noshu who lives, for lack of means, with his kindly elder brother Bani and Bani’s nasty wife, Minna. Powerfully attracted to a pretty young girl of the neighborhood and wanting desperately to woo and win her, he decides to become a black-marketeer.
The path of the transgressor is laid with roses. He mints money, becomes a wealthy and a respected citizen, and has everything he hankered for in his new world of luxurious ease. It all turns to ashes in his mouth. His brother, who brought him up and who has lost his teacher’s job because he used the school’s money to finance Noshu’s first flutter, turns him out when he discovers what the money was for. So do his poor but honest friends.
With a hardened heart, Noshu goes his own way, becoming more wealthy at each step. Awakening comes with the outbreak of an epidemic among the starving poor. With his racket in medicines, Noshu’s conscience stirs in him as he sees the people he loved agonize and die for lack of the drugs he is hoarding for peak prices. The climax comes in his soul when he rushes to his stricken brother’s side too late and arrives just as Bani breathes his last. Shocked into realization, Noshu repents, gives himself up to the police, denounces his companions in crime and goes to prison.
There is enough there to make a powerful picture filled with human appeal. Properly treated, it could be a very entertaining picture too, with a social application of mordant character. “Footpath” is none of those. All that arty-crafty business of footsteps in the gloom, of dim-lit vistas of lanes, of men glancing in alarm at one another, of mysterious exits and appearances, of sinister silences and hollow laughs, however cleverly done, is no substitute either for the nefarious deeds and persons they suggest. The one impression they do create is one of phoney unrealism which completely destroys the impact of the story and kills the dramatic power of the picture.
Aggravating that impression in the most unfortunate manner and degree is the portrayal of the central character by Dilip Kumar. It is a singularly poor performance lacking force, character and expression, amounting to what is known as walking through the part. In the lighter passages Dilip is his cool and debonair self, keeping the audience tittering and roaring alternately with his sallies and mannerisms and his easily delivered lines. In the drama he fails deplorably, being able neither to express nor to evoke the requisite emotion.
Meena Kumari, who looks ravishingly attractive as Mala, acts with a charming restraint and puts over a thoroughly convincing as well as pleasing portrayal. That song-in-her-bath sequence with those tantalising glimpses of her fascinating shoulders is a highlight filmgoers will long remember.
Ramesh Thapar as Bani makes a brilliant screen debut, revealing himself as an actor of versatility and histrionic power in a role which called for some consummate acting. He should make an excellent leading man and probably will, if he takes the avoirdupois right earnestly in hand and trims the ham in his technique.
Achla Sachdev is a lovely termagant and an entirely convincing shrew and that is enough to show she has acted better than well.
All the others are equally good: Anwar Hussain as Ram Babu, S. K. Prem as the syce, little Romi as Monu and all the racketeers.
The one dance in the picture is prettily designed and executed, but the music score by Khaiyyam is very poor and the songs, though well sung, are nothing to write home about.
In the matter of other production values, “Footpath” is first-rate. The photography is excellent and the camera work imaginative and artistic. The costumes, decor and settings are very well designed and they are realistic.