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SADHNA (1958)



Sadhna - 1958

Though Madhumati was a bigger hit of the year 1958 than this movie, we preferred to review this movie – Sadhna which had a controversial topic at the time. It also had a social message and was very well received by the audience and was also declared a hit as it made twice the money. Though there were no takers for the story because of its content, B.R. Chopra took it upon himself to make it as like most of his movies this also had a message and posed a question for the society to answer .

Sadhna took up the cause of rehabilitation of prostitutes and though Vyjanthimala was nominated for the Filmfare best actress award for both Madhumati and Sadhna she ultimately received the award for this movie and not Madhumita thus confirming critical acclaim of the movie and the depth of the social message which reached the masses.

Vyjantimala was a comparative new comer to Bollywood and only 22 years old when she heard the script she was completely taken by it and offered B.R. a tray full of coins in appreciation. Though she had only a few movies under her belt then but the maturity that she showed while playing this role of the tawaif (a prostitute) and the homely Rajani with absolute ease was eye opening and very well received to make her a star at the time.

This role was first offered to Nimmi the reigning queen of box office then, who refused it as she didn’t want to play a prostitute against her image and this was also her downfall as by early sixties she was a has been. B.R. Chopra known for portrayal of bold themes questioned the society’s perspective about prostitutes thus Sadhna was well ahead of its times there have been many such movies since then, thus it can be called a trendsetter.

Sadhna was released in Black and white but later Ravi Chopra wanted to convert this and Naya Daur in colour but it did not work out. It got a rating of 7.3/10 on IMDB and 82% people liked the movie (that says a lot for a movie made more than 60 years ago).

Professor Mohan (Sunil Dutt) is an upright person teaching in college and while a debate raged about prostitutes he made his thoughts very clear about the issue that he considered them as black spots of the society with no chance for rehabilitation. He stays with his old mother (Leela Chitnis) who just has a single point agenda that she wants Mohan to marry and get a bride home before she kicks the bucket but Mohan is not yet ready to take the plunge. She has a fall in the house and is unconscious when she comes to she only mutters about his marriage.

A wise guy neighbour Jeevan (Radhakrishna) suggests Mohan to get a bride on hire for now so that his mother recovers, he says he knows a girl a distant relative who would do the role but her father was greedy and would take money for the act. Unknown to Mohan this guy himself is in debts and arranges the bait so that he can make some money off him and goes straight to Champabai (Vyjayanthimala) a local prostitute and convinces her to play the role of Mohan’s fiancee for a day as Rajani.

All is good but things start going out of hand when the mother taking a liking for Rajani and asks for her again and in one of the meeting shows her the expensive jewelry, this Champabai wants to steal at first opportunity and thus foregoes her remuneration a few hundreds are no match to the jewelry worth thousands. She need not do it as the mother herself gives the bridal sari and the jewelry to her so that she can come wearing the same the next day.

Things take turn from here due to some incidents. Rajani has a change of heart, realises her folly and there Mohan also expresses his feelings for her. She returns the things and refuses Mohan’s advances claiming herself unworthy for him. Mohan comes to know about her reality and is very angry. What will he do next? Will his mother’s faith lead to a change in his heart?These answers are best left for you to see this social drama, though slow but engrossing in parts.

Sunil Dutt (nee Balraj Dutt started his film journey in 1955 in the movie Railway Platform) looks dashing and sauve this being one of his early movies. He has done his part well but the movie belongs to Vyjayanthimala who is in terrific form and goes into the depth of the role. Leela Chitnis plays the quintessential mother.

The surprise package of the movie Sadhna is Radhakrishn who has played the villain and the matchmaker with aplomb. Music by Dutta Naik is passable but the song ‘Aurat ne janam diya mardon ko’ stands out. It also got Mukhram Sharma the Filmfare award for best story. Though controversial, the movies was well received by the critics and public alike.

The thing about Sadhna was it’s tryst with reality as the prostitute character shown here is not the usual holier than thou as shown in Hindi movies, but is an opportunistic woman with intentions of taking advantage of the do-gooders. With this movie B.R. Chopra established himself as the most bankable producer / director as this was the third hit in succession from his stables after ‘Ek Hi Raasta’ and ‘Naya Daur’ in the previous two years, thus the top actors of the time were willing to work for him at half their remuneration.

– Revisited by PAWAN GUPTA

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