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About Love and the Spiritual Awakening


Satyam Shivam Sundaram - 1978


Based on the Hindu spiritual philosophy of Satyam Shivam Sundaram which means Satya or truth itself is the absolute divine Shiv which is the most beautiful in itself. This film is a story of rediscovering of truth, love and passion and difference between physical and spiritual love. It was Raj Kapoor’s opus which is remembered not so much for its content and message but more for Zeenat Aman’s sensuous portrayal in a blouse-less wet sari and under the waterfall.

This movie did make a furor, even housewives discussing Zeenat’s bold look. This social themed film was released on 24th March 1978. What is hard to believe is that this role was developed keeping Lata Mangeshkar in mind. A heavenly voice which does not match with physical beauty, as written in the book ‘Raj Kapoor Speaks’ by Ritu Nanda. It is also believed that Rajesh Khanna and Dimple were approached for the lead in this movie. Many other heroines were also approached but they backed out due to the scanty clothing designated for the character.

Roopa (Zeenat) a village belle grows up with the stigma of being considered a jinx, as her mother died during her birth on Janamashtmi day. Though she is gifted with a beautiful voice and sings like a cuckoo and is good looking too but no one in the village would want to marry her as apart from being jinxed she is also burnt in the face on her right cheek during an accident occured during frying (cooking) in childhood while preparing for celebrations for her own birthday, despair…

Enter the savior… Rajeev (Shashi Kapoor) an engineer by profession but dreamer by nature. He is a lover of things beautiful but cannot bear ugliness, he has come to oversee the Dam work going on near the village, the first morning itself he is woken up by Roopa’s melodious temple song, which he is told is the wake-up call for all villagers. He is excited to see the person with such a beautiful voice. He does meet Roopa and follows her morning routine and is enamored by her beauty as he has only seen the good side of her profile and not the charred one. He fantasizes about her. He proposes marriage and though overjoyed she is cautious and refuses the proposal as she understands her shortcomings which he has not seen, the father and villagers coax her to agree but what she feared happens on the wedding night.

Rajeev cannot believe she is the same Roopa and runs off in search of his own. Roopa meets him again as her own alter ego and pacifies Rajeev in the nights keeping the charred side under a veil. Rajeev waits for the nights to meet his paramour but pays no heed to his wife during the day, on one such night he makes love to her and Roopa becomes pregnant. Rajeev refuses to believe that she was his own Roopa who meets him in the nights and throws her out of his house after alleging infidelity. A rain storm engulfs the village and the dam gates are opened as water level rises in the dam flooding the village. Realizing his folly that love is not skin deep – Satyam Shivam Sundaram, it comes from within the soul he rescues a drowning Roopa. As the flood water recedes they find themselves on top of the same temple where they first met.

Satyam Shivam Sundaram is probably one of the earlier movies to show on screen kissing. Though Zeenat was known for boldness but the sensuousness shown in the movie was even beyond her image. Though Raj Kapoor tried to portray classiness and ornateness it felt a bit exaggerated and corny at times. Nonetheless the tale was told from the heart. Due to the nature of the subject and the treatment, the controversies were bound to happen and there were many cases filed in the courts for obscenity which were all quashed by the Supreme Court once an ‘A’ certificate was given by the Censor Board. Raj Kapoor used to call his brother ‘Taxi’ as it was difficult getting his dates and he used to be off to another shoot in a blink.

– Revisited by PAWAN GUPTA 

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