Year – 1981
Language – Hindi
Country – India
Producer – Yash Chopra
Director – Yash Chopra
Music Director – Shiv Hari
Box-Office Status –
Cast – Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Rekha, Deven Verma, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Sudha Chopra, Sushma Sheth, Ravi Dubey, Sharmila Roy Chowdhary, Jagdish Raaj, Vikas Anand, Ranbir Raj, Shyam Arora, Raj Bharti, Sanjeev Kumar, Shashi Kapoor
Miscellaneous Information – Not Available.
Silsila was controversial from the start. Even before it was released there was gossip about the casting, due to persistent rumours that it depicted a real-life love triangle between Amitabh, his wife, Jaya, and his supposed mistress, Rekha.
Shekhar (Shashi Kapoor), an airforce pilot, and Shobha (Jaya Bachchan) are about to be married. He invites his younger brother Amit (Amitabh Bachchan) to meet her and they discuss the marriage with her mother. Amit falls in love with Chandni (Rekha) at a wedding. An aspiring playwright, he tells his brother that he intends to marry her but, when Shekhar is killed in the (1971?) war, leaving Shobha pregnant, Amit agrees to marry her to save everyone’s honour. Amit is involved in a car accident in which Shobha loses the baby. Her physician, Dr Anand (Sanjeev Kumar), turns out to be Chandni’s husband. Chandni visits Amit and, during a subsequent meeting, he explains why he had to leave her and their affair recommences. Meanwhile Shobha begins to fall in love with Amit. His friend, Vidyarthi, and Shobha become suspicious of his relationship with Chandni but nothing is said. Chandni knocks a boy down when she is out with Amit at night. They go to the police station and narrowly avoid meeting Dr Anand. However, the policeman turns out to be Shobha’s cousin, and, recognizing Amit, reproaches him. At Dr Anand’s Holi party, Amit consumes too much bhaang (marijuana paste), and sings a traditional song about a cuckold. As he sings, his relationship with Chandni becomes clear to the other spouses, who later discuss this in parables.
In a subsequent scene (dream sequence?), Shobha and Jaya agree to fight for Amit. Meanwhile, Amit and Chandni decide to set up a new life together. Chandni leaves while her husband is out of town, and Amit tells Shobha he is leaving her. Shobha declares her resolve to win him back. Amit and Chandni meet Amit’s friend and go to his parents’ golden wedding. The ceremony reminds them of the sanctity of marriage. Suddenly the phone rings: Shobha tells Amit that Dr Anand has been in a plane crash. Amit and Chandni return and, as Amit rushes to help Dr Anand, Shobha reveals that she is pregnant. Amit promises to come back to her. He saves Dr Anand, who leaves on a stretcher, accompanied by Chandni. Shobha and Amit are reunited.
Many Indian movies have dealt with extra-marital love, but this was the first one to show the consummation of adultery. While there is some justification for it, as the couple were lovers before Amit sacrificed their love, Silsila raises the question: can adultery be romantic? The film portrays the rapid decline of the relationship, which collapses when they realize that their loyalties lie with the partners they have hurt, and the innocent lovers become a sleazy couple.
In Silsila, Yash Chopra introduced the classical musicians Shiv (Shiv Kumar Sharma) and Hari (Hariprasad Chaurasia) as music directors. This was the first film he had made after the death of his friend, the poet and lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi, so he employed a team of lyricists, including Harivanshrai Bachchan, Amitabh’s father, who wrote ‘Rang barse’. The film contains the first lyrics written by Javed Akhtar, ‘Dekha ek khwab to’, ‘Yeh kahaan aa gaye hum?’ and ‘Neela asmaan’. ‘Dekha’ and ‘Yeh kahaan’ were filmed partly in the Netherlands, the first of Yash Chopra’s overseas shoots, which were to become his hallmark.
Despite widespread praise, the film did badly at the box office, partly because it went too far for many people but then drew back from taking a real risk. Karan Johar is now making a film, Kabhi alvida na kehna (2005), ‘inspired’ by Silsila, which is rumoured to be much bolder. Nevertheless, Silsila has now become something of a film classic, and is much loved for its music and performances, and, of course, because the so-called real-life triangle is still discussed more than twenty years later.