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Sangam (1964)

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Raj Kapoor and Vyjayanthimala in Sangam (1964)
Raj Kapoor and Vyjayanthimala in Sangam (1964)

Sangam is Raj Kapoor’s first colour film and the first one that he shot abroad. Although other film-makers had gone abroad before, this movie created a trend that grew when colour cinema added to the spectacle, until by the 1990s it became almost mandatory to have scenes shot in Switzerland, however irrelevant to the story.

Sangam’s story is a love triangle, in which two friends, Gopal (Rajendra Kumar) and Sunder (Raj Kapoor), are both in love with the same woman, Radha (Vyjayanthimala). She is really in love with Gopal and finds Sunder’s desire for her unappealing but, when the latter returns as a war hero and declares that he only survived because of his love for her, she feels duty-bound to marry him. He is sure that she and Gopal are having an affair, despite Gopal’s attempts to reassure him otherwise. Finally, Gopal commits suicide as the only way of convincing him of Radha’s innocence.

This is one of many films where the primary relationship is between men rather than between men and women, where friendship (dosti) may be viewed as homosociality (male-bonding) or as homoeroticism. The distinction between the two is always blurred and this ambiguity may be one of the attractions of the theme to certain viewers and audiences.

Raj Kapoor once again plays an irritating, unattractive, immature type of man, as in he did in Andaz. It is unclear if this is to justify Radha’s distaste for him here or whether this is considered to be an acceptable form of masculinity. Looking at some of the roles Shah Rukh Khan has taken in recent films, even though he wins over the audience with his charisma, the latter may be the case. However, here Sunder is ultimately shown to be sensitive, largely revealing this other side of himself through music. The film is also about how women can come to accept and even love their husbands, even if initially they think this is going to be difficult.

The film’s songs have become classics of Hindi cinema. While they are good even outside their filmic context, it is their placement in the film that makes them great. The popular ‘Bol Radha bol’ is enjoyed no doubt for Vyjayanthimala’s appearance in a swimsuit, although Raj Kapoor seems somewhat sleazy. Rajendra Kumar, the woman’s choice, once again plays the sensitive man who has to suffer and die. This aspect of his character is expressed in his songs, such as the evergreen ‘Prempatra’, which is gentle and romantic. The song in which Radha teases Sunder for not giving her any fun (whatever that may imply) on their honeymoon, ‘Budha mil gaya’, is quite shocking, while ‘Dost dost na raha’ remains the song to quoted by Hindi-speaking Indians wishing to complain about the behaviour of friends. The way it is shot in the film, bringing out the characters’ inner feelings, illustrates Raj Kapoor’s total mastery of the medium of the Hindi film – Rachel Dwyer

Cast and Production Credits

Year – 1964, Genre – Drama, Country – India, Language – Hindi, Producer – R.K. Films, Director – Raj Kapoor, Music Director – Shankar Jaikishan, Cast – Raj Kapoor, Vyjayanthimala, Rajendra Kumar, Raj Mehra, Nana Palsikar, Iftekhar, Lalita Pawar, Achla Sachdev

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