The two most remarkable characteristics of Zia Sarhady’s technique are realistic treatment of everyday life of common people and bold characterization. His first experiment, “Humlog” was an essay in this style. His new film, and his first in Pakistan, shows him working on the same lines. The subject, as in “Humlog”, is the story of social conflicts and the various forces which one way or the other influence the lives of a community. The writer is still concerned with his characters’ unhappy experiences and his mission remains projection of struggle for contentment.
That Rahguzar is a great improvement on Humlog becomes evident at the very start of the film but the most notable feature of improvement lies in the progress of characters. The outlook in Humlog was largely negative. The writer told a tale of suffering and struggle but neither sorrow nor joy showed normal human effort at work in detail. In Rahguzar the characters become more active. The mad man has an obsession but at the same time the good man has become conscious of the demand of time; he has a pretty good idea of what he wants and how to get it.
The writer has divided the people in his story into two groups – one driven by forces of money and the other guided by human considerations. The former group is led by Ehsan (Allauddin), a rich man who prizes wealth far more than it is worth, who considers acquisition of money the only goal in life, and whose greed destroys everything that makes a man good or useful either as a husband, father or citizen. He is cruel to his wife because she came from a poor family. He ignores his only son because the boy loves his mother. His search for money leads him to the house of another businessman whose only daughter he marries. Like a beast he goes on securing means of his happiness without ever caring for friend or foe.
This monster of a man does not work alone. He has his accomplices whom he buys or bribes for various jobs. A detail of his scheme throws light on numerous other evil forces in the society. Business is unfair and even political forces are perverted to serve his purpose. The writer is careful to show that while destroying others Ehsan sows the seeds of his own destruction also. His henchmen become his competitors and life in turn inflicts a terrible penalty.
The other group is led by Ehsan’s son, Hero (Aslam). Driven out by his father the boy grows up in slums. He has picked up his philosophy in the streets. He hates what his father does and having seen only one use of money he comes to the conclusion that money in any case destroys human qualities. This is the only negative element in his attitude towards life. One the positive side he is honest and simple. He has a respect and love for working people and he is devoted to simple, honest people like him. But the most valuable trait of his character is a will to fight an order which he hates. He considers it his duty to fight, both directly and indirectly, the bully, the dishonest trader, and the politician who exploits the public.
To support Hero, the writer introduces the charming character of Najoomi Baba (Talish). He combines the qualities of guide, friend and philosopher. He is more sensitive to the inequities of life and more eager to set things right than Hero but he lacks the dash of a leader.
These are the main characters of Rahzugar. The remaining characters are secondary to the dominant type in either group. Ultimately, it is the downtrodden that emerges successful from the conflict. In Humlog, the idealists were separate, they suffered and died. In Rahguzar the young rebels act and act together. They win and it is the old and rotten that disappears.
Obviously stress in Rahguzar is not on incidents but on characters. The way of presentation naturally becomes more important than the story. Fortunately, Zia Sarhady had made no compromises in treatment.
One can argue about the story but the way the director has treated it, is undoubtedly superb. There is no confusion about the identity of characters. No time is lost in introducing them. They are real people drawn from a living society. The approach is unconventional throughout and its value lies in the fact that it remains natural.
From the very outset Zia Sarhady makes it clear that he is not telling a love story. The love affair has its proper place in the overall design. It has been treated with restraint and understanding and the director shows what two particular young persons would do in a particular set-up and not what people used to seeing conventional romantic affairs would like to see. Except for a song which begins and ends somewhat abruptly the whole plot follows a logical sequence. The film does not drag, and interest is maintained throughout. There is nothing that the audience can anticipate.
In the handling of players also Zia Sarhady remains the individualist that he is. Each member of the cast fills his or her part suitably. For every player it is a different role. Sometimes the adjustment is not perfect and at places the audience finds its favorite stars speaking an unfamiliar language in an unfamiliar tone. At moments delivery seems even unnatural.
The film’s weak point is music in the sense it does not belong to the class of popular music. The score, however, is not without appeal. At least two songs are very good. Sound recording on the whole is good.
The film has some obvious flaws. The realist will accuse Zia Sarhady of making the mistake of being unconventional within a conventional form. And for the masses he is much too unconventional. The films demands concentration and to many brevity is synonymous with confusion or “jump”. There is no emphasis on glamor. But here the audience will itself be divided. What one group considers to be the film’s weak points may well be its qualities in others’ view. It does not matter which group is in majority but where film-craft means more than box-office formula the verdict will be very much in favor of Zia Sarhady.
As for performances, Rahzugar presents a new Talish, an actor who hitherto has been wasted in all sorts of roles. With this role he has finally made his mark. His talents is no more a matter of supposition. Allauddin has a more difficult role. Further, the director insists on his periodical changes of mood being perfect. But he carries the burden commendably well. Sabiha is at ease in a typical role and Aslam too rises up to the exacting character. Daljeet also has a different role and the way he conducts himself should enhance his claim in the dramatic field.
Special mention must be made of the film’s brilliant dialogues. Words have been selected carefully. The characters speak their own language and their observations reveal the writer’s insight and understanding of men and matters.
Talish, besides forming an important link in the story, also provides necessary relief. The character will long be remembered for his pungent observations. Just as in the case of other elements this relief is neither forced nor of the routine nature.
In strictly technical terms, precision and timing of scenes are the highlights of presentation. Shots are brief, but they do create the desired effect. The movement is exceptionally smooth. The camera moves from scene with an effortlessness which is rare in Pakistani films. This was all the more difficult because the director has treated the whole film in the close-up technique.
In this regard the director has been admirably supported by his cameramen. The photography is just magnificent. It is remarkable in every way – composition, lighting, and movement. The image fully corresponds with the mood of the scene. Both Raza Mir, in indoor and Sohail Hashmi, in out-door, have given the Pakistani films a new standard in photography.
To sum up Rahguzar is an extremely bold film from an uncompromising artist. It is a valuable piece of filmc-raft. Its merits are above question and its flaws controversial points.
Year – 1960
Language – Urdu
Country – Pakistan
Producer – Eid Mohd
Director – Zia Sarhadi
Music Director – Muslehuddin
Box-Office Status – Flop
Cast – Sabiha Khanum, Aslam Pervaiz, Talish, Nayyar Sultana, Rakshi
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