An off-beat, purposeful theme, mounted with the skill and precision of a surgeon, and treated with the warmth and imagination of a poet, Ghoonghat is another addition to classic Pakistani films. Ghoonghat is not only a source of inspiration for the imaginative technicians but a slap on the face for the plagiarists and the box-office pundits.
Opinions have always differed as to who and what makes a good and successful film: is it the Producer, the Director, the Writer, the Music Director, the Star or the Technician? The few big names in modern cinema the world over tend to agree that, it is the team that matters. It no doubt does, but there is one person in the team who has to use the team in transforming the film on paper to the film on celluloid: the Director. If the story, photography, performances, music, decor, sound, editing, processing all matter, it is the putting of all these together, the blending of all into a compact absorbing narrative, that matters most. This is most creditably affected in Ghoonghat and is Khurshid Anwars major achievement, major because he is not only the Director, but the Producer, Script writer and Music Director too. While he has excelled in all the three latter departments, he has done much more in the former, the most challenging job. It was easy for Khurshid Anwar the Music Director to have dominated the film. What has actually happened is that Khurshid Anwar the Director is on top while at the same time Khurshid Anwar the Music Director is as appealing and refreshing and as hauntingly melodious as ever. There could be no more convincing proof of this man’s versatility.
For his subject, Khurshid Anwar once again goes off the beaten track. Discerning film-goers will not forget his Zehr-e-Ishq. No one can honestly say that he slipped in that earlier experiment but for a slight misjudgment of his audience – Zehr-e-Ishq went across to the intelligentsia, but not to the masses. Khurshid Anwar realized his misjudgment and that realization have aided him in infusing into Ghoonghat an appeal that is almost universal:
A newly-wed, educated and sensitive Young girl is on her way with her husband to her new and real home. She is clad in the traditional bridal attire and jewelry of her faith and culture. The traditional veil Ghoonghat is still hiding her face. She is sitting huddled up in the corner of her seat in a 1st Class railway coupe in the traditional posture of a newly-wed maiden. Outwardly she is calm, silent and motionless almost lifeless, a true picture of the fabled Eastern bride, but within her an unfamiliar and strangely pleasant mixture of joy, excitement, misgiving and apprehension is wildly surging.
The bridegroom a wealthy young man with a fertile imagination that has won him recognition as short-story writer approaches and addresses her with gentleness and love. The storm stirs in his heart. . . “This is the biggest day of my life and you my biggest possession”, he says… “I often asked my mother how my bride would look like and she told me: Your bride will be a Purban ki Rani. . . Have you ever heard of Purban ki Rani?” he asks. “Her name was Usha Rani and she lived in Purban. . . everyone in that land of beauty calls her Purban ki haw. When I was a little boy, I visited Purban with my parents. There, I heard her story and then I saw her in my dreams. She is dead long ago, but her spirit, they say still returns to Purban when the moon is full … ah ever since my childhood she has lived in my thoughts and I have cherished her…” He breaks off and moves towards her with a longing in his eyes, ” Lift your veil now, my bride, and let me see your face… let me see her… let me see Purban ki Rani …”. He approaches the bride but she huddles up in traditional modesty and resistance. “Please!” he pleads. The strange storm raging within appears to take hold of her, she lifts her head slightly and shakes it in alarmed pleading. The bridegroom gives in, smiles understandingly and moves towards his own berth. Alright, he says, “I give in… don’t lift your veil here. You must be tired. I will let you rest… but at home, you will have to lift, it. . I make sure that the face I see is the one that I long to see. . . . the face of Purban ki Rani”. The bridegroom stretches on his berth, turns on his side and eventually goes to sleep. The train rattles on. The storm within the bride bursts to the surface and grips her; but now it is something familiar, it is no longer strange. Her bowed head lifts and her motionless body stirs in nervous movements.
The train rattles on… a lifted shutter crashes shut. The bridegroom wakes up with a startle… he notices the lavatory door bang loudly shut, then slowly open, and bang shut again with the motion of the train. He looks at the other berth and finds it empty. Rising, he moves to the lavatory and hesitatingly looks in. Suddenly, he stiffens and turns round to look at the empty berth, the bridal garlands scattered on it, the brides shoes on the floor board, the broken water pitcher near the door, and his jaw sags in shock, he springs towards the emergency chain and pulls it… the train squeals to a halt, the Guard arrives, and on his heels, the bridegrooms father from the adjoining compartment. . . .Father, stammers the bridegroom, “Naheed my bride she! she has disappeared”.
This is the base from which Khurshid Anwar proceeds to unravel a strange story with such warmth understanding and skill that the audience remains spellbound to the final fade out.
There is not much of a story in the general sense, but the idea that has inspired this versatile writer, music director, producer, director has received such masterly treatment at his hands that one remains absorbed to the end.
The substantial part of the picture, however, is the world of spirits, which appears to be more realistic than the matter-of-fact scenes of every day life, which only serve as a backdrop, against which the main emotional experience is projected. This world of spirits is a dream world conjured up by the artistic genius of Khurshid Anwar by an exquisitely sensitive blending of ethereal patterns of melody with suggestive pictorial imagery. The result cannot be analyzed in terms of independent elements of experience. It is a totality of experience, which is the hallmark of all that is really good in art.
The biggest technical achievement of the director in collaboration with the cameraman is the atmosphere of mystery that has been captured in the outdoor location sequences of the picture. It is comparatively much easier to create such an effect on the artificial sets, where the studio lights are under the control of the cameraman and a limited space facilitates the manipulation of artificial mist. But to successfully launch such a venture in the wide expanses of a mountain is an achievement of which our film industry, can well be proud.
One of the major highlights of the picture is Nabi Ahmads photography, a highlight, one may say but it has all the delicate shades of mood, that, the director appears to convey. It was no mere accident that white mist was used in all scenes suggestive of the purity of Ushas spirit and dark foreboding mist when the hero brings his wife to the forest lake with the intention of murdering her.
Performances unmistakably bear the impress of directorial suggestions, particularly in the delicate, nuances of gestures, except in the case of the versatile Talish who gives a spontaneous portrayal of a comic character. But credit goes to Nayyar Sultana for having integrated the suggested gestures with feeling and giving the most convincing performance of her stereotyped actions. Santosh could not have done better in the role of an escapist dreamer.
The audiography of the picture is of a surprisingly high standard, particularly in the recording of songs. There are a few lapses in the mixing at some places but, keeping in mind this sadly mishandled technical aspect of Pakistani pictures in general, recordist Afzal Hussain deserves the gratitude of the industry.
Khurshid Anwar’s music is as original and appealing as it has always been. But this time his imagination gives shape to a weird experience and his keen and deft sense of orchestration blooms forth into such strange flowers as can grow only in a fairyland. The eerie yet sublime and soothing sound patterns, in which bass flute plays an important part are Khurshid Anwar’s latest contributions to the repertoire of Oriental music – Q.Z. Malik
Cast and Production Credits
Year – 1962, Genre – Thriller/Suspense/Mystery, Country – Pakistan, Language – Urdu, Producer(s) -Kh. Khurshid Anwar & Sultan Jilani, Director – Khurshid Anwar, Music Director – Khurshid Anwar, Cast -Nayyar Sultana, Santosh Kumar, Neelo, Laila, Bibbo, A. Shah and Talish