From the luminous beauty of Waheeda Rehman and the movie that changed the fortune of Guru Dutt: Revisiting Chaudhvin Ka Chand
In this weekly column, we revisit the nuggets of the golden years of Hindi cinema. This week, we’re revisiting the 1960 Chaudhvin Ka Chand release.
Chaudhvin ka chand ho, ya aftaab ho … these words conjure up images of a hauntingly beautiful love song that is still considered one of the most melodious romantic ballads in Hindi cinema history. The song and title of the film Chaudhvin Ka Chand is an ode to the pristine beauty of Jameela de Waheeda Rehman whose husband Aslam (Guru Dutt) has been mesmerized, since he first saw her shortly after their wedding. Unbeknownst to her, her husband’s best friend Nawab, played by Rehman, also fell in love with her when he accidentally caught a glimpse of her face at a carnival. This so-called love triangle forms the crux of the film, which begins as a comedy of errors but turns into tragedy.
Starring Guru Dutt, Rehman, Johnny Walker and Waheeda Rehman, Chaudhvin Ka Chand was produced by Guru Dutt and directed by M Sadiq. It turned out to be one of the biggest hits of 1960 and brought back Guru Dutt Films to life after the colossal box office failure of his previous production Kaagaz Ke Phool.
Located in the town of Lucknow, Chaudhvin Ka Chand revel in the nawabi heritage of the city. the tehzeeb, the setting, the dialogues, everything in Chaudhvin Ka Chand is a constant reminder that this film belongs to a bygone era, just like its treatment of women. In this world, women are constantly veiled. Men knock before entering the zanana, and women do not walk the streets with their faces naked. Even at home, women are not satisfied with purdah and it is the presence of this veil that moves the story forward in this film.
When Nawab is asked to marry a maulvi’s daughter, he asks his best friend Aslam to bite the bullet for him because he is in love with a woman he saw at a carnival. Aslam, who has lived in debt to the Nawab all his life agrees. But now, it’s the same woman. When Aslam realizes that his best friend is looking for the woman who happens to be his wife, he feels guilty and begins to sabotage his marriage, to no avail.
In one meaningful scene, he asks Jameela about his dilemma but uses the analogy of a precious diamond. He said, “Should the friend return the diamond to whoever really gave it to him?” implying “should I leave you because my friend arranged our marriage and is in love with you?” Jameela, who is completely oblivious to the truth, says friendship requires sacrifice and he must return the diamond. To an audience member watching this scene in 2021, it seems archaic. To object directly to a woman as if she were a toy that can be passed off as if she had no will of her own seems absurd.
For most Chaudhvin Ka Chand, Jameela’s only goal is to be beautiful. The only time we see her standing up for herself is when she courageously stands up for her husband, who is doing his best to ruin her marriage. Guru Dutt’s Aslam begins to visit courtesans, drinks a lot in the hope that Jameela will leave him and Nawab will become his savior. When Jameela’s family come to their door and question Aslam, he is ready to divorce if Nawab marries him. When Jameela’s brothers start threatening Aslam, she steps in and declares herself as his “kaneez” who will stay with him no matter what. Looking at this today, it sounds extremely regressive but it says a lot about the conditioning of women in this society who are learning to live only for their husbands.
Like other Guru Dutt movies, Johnny Walker is also an important part of it and here his role is a lot meatier than his other comedic outings, but he doesn’t really contribute to the main storytelling. The part where her character is about to find out the truth seems a bit redundant as she doesn’t really land anywhere.
The story of Saghir Usmani’s film essentially tells the story of three men who share a close friendship, but it is the women in their lives who constantly have the ends of the stick because of their “bromance”.
Unlike many other Guru Dutt productions, Chaudhvin Ka Chand has not aged well, but what has stood the test of time is his evergreen music. Ravi’s music and Shakeel Badayuni’s lyrics for the title track, “Mili khaak mein mohabbat”, “Badle badle mere sarkar” always evoke the same feelings in the listener, as they were intended to.
Chaudhvin Ka Chand looks dated 61 years later but what this film presented to Hindi cinema with its music can still be cherished.
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Chaudhvin Ka Chand is broadcast on Prime Video and YouTube.
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