Mujhe Jeene Do for me is a landmark film in the history of Hindi cinema, why do I think so? Well there were two films on dacoits that were made earlier, 'Ganga Jamuna' and 'Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai'. While the former had cruel circumstances driving the hero to become a dacoit, the latter did not have the hero in a dacoit’s role, besides Jis Desh ….. could by no stretch of imagination be called a realistic portrayal of dacoits, but MJD is such a film.
What sets this film apart is that the hero (Sunil Dutt) is shown to be a ruthless dacoit, there is no justification for it. Thakur Jarnail Singh’s (Sunil Dutt) cruelty begins right from the beginning. The police force led by the SP (my father) is on his trail. Along the way he meets the dancer Chameli Bai (Waheeda Rehman) and loses his heart to her. She slowly brings about a change in this ruthless man.
The way the film was made and the manner in which each scene has been conceived and shot, I find it difficult to believe that this film is directed by the same director (Moni Bhattacharjee) who directed 'Usne Kaha Tha'. The film tends to drag a bit towards the end, particularly the song tere bachpan ko jawani ki dua, I feel, slows the film down, but then that is a minor problem. The film grips your attention right from the beginning and what I liked best was the way the director has captured the ravines of the Chambal valley, some of the scenes even remind me of the western films, or cowboy films as we used to call them in our childhood.
Those of you who have been following this blog may have noticed that besides talking about my father, I have also been indulging in a bit of film appreciation and MJD is a film where I can go scene by scene and shot by shot.
The film opens with a a song celebrating the country’s independence. The song’s (ab koi gulshan na ujade ab watan azaad hai) lyrics and visuals highlight the peace and contentment of people living in an independent country. The song primarily focuses on a village with the visuals showing the villagers going about their normal life.
The first sign of impending disaster is indicated by a closeup of a dacoit astride a horse ruthlessly trampling over some pottery, I quite liked this touch for it is a clear indication of the misery to follow.
Then Jarnail’s Singh’s cruel character is established. He walks into the home of villager – almost as if he owns it- demanding bullets.
When the villager refuses he ruthlessly shoots him down (above) and mercilessly drags the dying man some distance (below).
Although I was quite small when this film was released, there wasone scene that made a major impact on my mind. When I grew up and saw the film again I really loved the dramatic impact of the scene. It is a confrontation scene between my father and Sunil Dutt. I quite like the way my father delivers his dialogue with gritted teeth telling Jarnail Singh how he wants to see him hang to death and suffer while he dies. The scene begins with both Jarnail Singh and the SP approaching each other. The camera angles, the background music, in fact the way the scene has been picturized, it creates a wonderful impact particularly on the big screen.
The SP realizing that innocent villagers can get caught in the crossfire, decides to back down but insists that Jarnail Singh meet him before leaving the place. I have some screen caps here of the scene.
Singh (left) making his move. At this stage you begin hearing the dramatic background music. Then there are the subsequent shots of both of them striding towards each other, the angles add to the overall impact (see below)
And then the final confrontation between the two (above)
When a film is shot on a location which is unusual and the director is able to exploit the location then it only enhances the cinematic appeal. MJD has several such scenes, one more scene which I would like to point out is the chase sequence between the villain Kripal Singh (Siddhu) and Chameli Bai (Waheeda Rehman) shot in the ravines. In the screen shot below you can see Chameli Bai running in the ravines desperately trying to escape from the clutches of her tormentor.
Real Life Inspiration
At the time the film was shot in the Chambal valley the place was teeming with dacoits, they had to shoot with the help of police protection. One of the members of the police team accompanying the unit was a former dacoit. I do not remember in what capacity he was working with the police but what I do remember was my father telling us about the stories this former dacoit used to narrate. Some of these stories had been incorporated in the film, for instance there is a scene (see below) where Rajindranath escapes from the clutches of Jarnail Singh’s rival Kripal Singh by asking him for a beedi, this is what this former dacoit had experienced.
There is a temple which features in the film (below), Jarnail Singh is shown to be visiting this temple, the story
Using A Real Machine Gun
An Emotional Moment
Those of you who have read the guest posts that I did on my father will remember that I had mentioned how fond he was of little kids (Tarun Bose - The Soft-Hearted Villain). Obviously therefore he couldn't bear to hurt any children. Now it so happened in MJD there was a scene where little Shahid playing Jarnail Singh's son rushes to the SP crying and begging him to spare his father's life (see below).
According to what I had heard from my mother was that my father used to say that little Shahid was quite adept at doing the crying scenes. The director just had to ask him to cry and he would perform like a true actor sobbing bitterly so much so that my father used to say, "I feel bad when he starts crying like that". Note my father's expression below as he holds Shahid, it was definitely not difficult for him to give that expression of concern and sympathy.
Living in Tents
The unit particularly the male members had to rough it out on location. There were no fancy hotels here, however Swiss tents with all the facilities were arranged which proved to be a boon particularly for the ladies.
While watching the film again I noticed something interesting, I found Yash Johar's (Karan Johar's father) name in flm's credits. He was the film's production controller.
Dacoits had once come and silently seen the film's shooting. The villagers who used to hang around to watch the shooting informed the film’s unit about the dacoits' visit only after the dacoits left. Given the proximity to the dacoits my mum obviously was spending sleepless nights. Unlike today, everybody did not have a phone then, you had to apply for a telephone and patiently wait for years till you got a connection, we were among the many who did not have a telephone. Since they were shooting deep in the valley, writing a letter was out of the question which meant my mother received no news, I was a kid so was oblivious to my mum’s worries She even shared her worry with one of her close friends Mrs Talat Mehmood , incidentally they (Talat Mehmood lived in the neighbouring building). After spending days worrying, when my father finally came home, my mother broke down, my father was confused, he had sent a message through Mrs Nargis Dutt. It so happened that Nargis had gone to the location, my father knowing that mum would be worrying requested her to pass on the message to my mother that he was fine. My mother had received no such message. Later that evening Mrs Talat Mahemood came over and my mother expressed her disappointment at Mrs Dutt’s ‘irresponsible' behaviour. Mrs Mehmood agreed with my mother and went back home. Later that night we were surprised to find Mrs Mehmood once again at our doorstep, but this time she was accompanied by her husband. I was small but I still remember that night I was surprised to see them visiting us at that late hour. They were actually going to a party, but before going to the party Mrs Mehmood insisted that Talat Uncle apologise to my parents. What happened was that Nargis was aware of the fact that Talat Mehmood was our neighbour, so she called up Talat Uncle requested him to pass on dad's message to mum. Talat Uncle agreed to do so but later forgot about it, when his wife told him about how Nargis had not bothered to pass on dad’s message, his memory was jolted and his reaction was,”No! No! she did tell me I completely forgot about it”. I still remember Talat Uncle’s- (the perfect gentleman)- embarrassed look, he was blushing, of course after all the misunderstandings were cleared up everybody had a good laugh, poor Mrs Dutt got the blame for no reason. This is one incident I will always remember.
You can see the film on You Tube, You will find the scenes that I have discussed above in the links below.
Clip 1 (Opening scene and shooting the villager)
Clip 2 (Dacoits moving stealthily and disguising as villagers at about 08.51)
Clip3 (Confrontation scene and chase sequence)
Clip4 ( Little Shahid crying at about 4.05)
Finally you see below the silver jubilee trophy of MJD. Silver Jubilee trophies usually were quite over the top, I like this trophy the most, it has an aesthetic appeal. I wish there was some kind of film musuem, I would have donated this trophy to the musuem considering that a film's silver jubilee is a thing of the past.