Photo Caption – Shola in Masoom (1957).
Year – 1957
Language – Urdu
Country – Pakistan
Producer – Mian Rafiq
Director – Sharif Nayyar
Music Director – Inayat Hussain
Box-Office Status – Flop
Cast – Yasmeen, Habib, Rattan Kumar, M.Ismail, Shola
Miscellaneous Information –
Paramount Pictures’ new film Masoom, now running at Rattan, has failed to fulfill even a fraction of expectations from the distinguished team brought together for its making. First of all there is the question of borrowing the theme from the Indian film Toofan Aur Diya. One would not perhaps call Masoom an exact copy of the Indian film, but nevertheless, it is a crude attempt at imitation. The changes in the plot made by Masoom’s writers appear to have been for the worse.
The story of Masoom is about what some people would call the ideal child, the superman, who is not yet a man. He is named Shaheen and there are suggestions that he embodies Allama Iqbal’s conception of the model youth. By any standard he is an exceptional boy, his feats bordering on incredible. On the death of his father, a playwright who died in penury, he runs the house, protects his elder sister, knocks down crooks, labors incessantly, reforms drunkards and weaklings, challenges death and God, and brings the film to a happy end.
For all its faults, the central idea in the story is inspiring and unusual for our films. It has the germs of a first-rate drama, poignant and moving. The film is nothing like that. The basic mistake made by the writer is that he has confused determination with success, and what must have been pathetic has been spoiled by an air of false bravado.
That Masoom has been directed from a weak script is evident in almost every sequence. Several vital links are missing and the audience is left to conjure more than normally allowed to do in a film. Then the development is not always logical or even plausible. For instance, nobody knows how Shaheen knew of Amjad’s presence in Lahore, how he reached the place of his confinement, how he, a mere boy of 13 or 14, managed to lift up and out of the den an invalid as heavy as Habib.
To increase the confusion, the writer has made no attempt to make this characters look like genuine beings. This has affected the standard of acting also. Not many artistes can earn credit in ill-conceived, incomplete roles. But it goes to the credit of Masoom’s players that they have made honest and sincere efforts to portray people whom they cannot possibly understand. For their faults they can be blamed only partly. However, there are some flashes of real acting. Rattan Kumar does not make a very successful Shaheen but he is as versatile as ever. Habib’s young man, who is educated but ignorant, chivalrous but cowardly, kind as well as callous, may not be convincing but there is everything in his manner and speech that, under competent direction, makes an artiste great. Yasmin’s elder sister has no personality of her own but the star manages to put on a few well-acted scenes. Shola, as the stage-dancer, is perhaps the most enigmatic of the film’s characters, but she serves the purposes of glamor and dance fairly well. In the role of the buffoon and the wicked uncle Daljeet Mirza has been grossly mishandled. Even that most dependable of actors, M. Ismail fails to infuse the spirit of evil that the character demands.
Long and Tedious Speeches
The dialogues in this film have been given undue importance. They are too many and too long to permit a satisfactory development of action. The language is difficult and theatrical. Mostly the writer uses his words for melodramatic effects. Sometimes they just do not make sense. For example there is the opening sequence. On a night of storm Yasmin catches a glimpse of a hideous face at the window. Young Rattan Kumar declares it must be a thief and despite the entreaties of his father and sister goes out, far from the house, to catch a person he cannot see. He is soon joined in the absurd chase by his father. A flower pot falls down near Rattan. The scene suggests he is saved by his father. This small incident is used to bring about a complete transformation of the latter. The frustrated dramatist becomes a man of resolve. The long piece of rhetoric is interesting. He says: “Then my effort (to catch up with the son) was successful. This means destiny does not form of itself but is made. Up to this day I never tried to carve out my destiny. My efforts cannot fail. If the will is strong success is possible. He who loses heart cannot utilize time. Now I will live and keep life alive. If the goal be far off one should, instead of sitting down disheartened, quicken the pace.” Such emotional outbursts hardly suit the occasion. The words may be grandiose but they sound hollow. The piece from the theme song following this incident is equally meaningless. It is almost impossible to convey the sense in translation and, therefore, the Urdu lines may be quoted:
Rahi na manjhi main jab himmat aye nayyia josh main.
Lehraya ummeed ka parcham lehron ki aaghosh main,
Manjhi ka ban gayee sahara yeh mazboot chatan,
Qismat ka munh zor bhanwar hai aur majboor insaan.
Urdu has suffered long at the hands of film lyricists but, still, one does not expect phrases like toofan khud choor choor milega from a poet of Qateel Shifai’s caliber.
The musical score is of varying quality. A couple of songs have the lilt that makes a piece popular. But the tunes appear familiar, reminding one of recent Indian hit compositions. Camera work is on the whole fair. Some scenes are remarkable for their clarity and sharpness of detail. The lighting, however, has some grave flaws. Sound and processing, with minor lapses here and there, are largely satisfactory.
Masoom should make an excellent study both for the so called box-office expert and the student of film craft. Here is a lavishly produced film containing almost everything that a prosperous producer could buy or lift from across the border, and yet it is a failure. An original story, a well-knit script, and fewer but original songs could not have cost more. Will our producers now listen to the voice of reason?