Chaudhvin Ka Chand

“Chaudhvin ka chand (1960)” is that one classic Guru Dutt film that has set a benchmark in the history of Indian cinemas. Directed by Mohammad Sadiq and produced by Guru Dutt, this movie has been a blockbuster hit of its time.

This romantic story stars Waheeda Rehman (Jameela), Rehman (Nawab Pyare Miyaan) and Guru Dutt (Aslam) who play the roles of the central characters in it.

This masterpiece of Indian cinema harks back to the Nawabi culture of Lucknow as it was in the aristocratic Muslim society of the then India. Lucknow- the capital of Islamic art, architecture, poetry, Nawabs and Muslim culture, has been beautifully depicted in this movie. It is a period film set in the pre-partition era of India but has been made in the post-partition period.

It’s about three best friends, two of which fall in love with the same girl named Jameela. The story gains its momentum when Nawab Pyare Miyaan sees a beautiful girl in a busy market place when she unintentionally and accidentally lifts up her veil. As we get to see in the majority of the romantic tales, this incident also results in a “love at first sight” kind of situation for the enchanted Nawab. The beauty of Jameela is so truly dazzling that she has been metaphorically denoted as “Chaudhvin ka chand” (the moon before the full moon night) throughout the film.

Later, Nawab again gets to see the same girl at the birthday celebration of his sister where he gets to know her name. But as it was destined to be a love triangle, he realizes that one of his closest bosom friends also has fallen in love with the same girl. Now, both of them were expected to make sacrifices and come up with a definite decision. The final decision to choose any one of the two friends as her life partner is left to Jameela.

Jameela is an educated girl and is fully aware of her rights as well as her limits. Her acts of unveiling herself, in the later parts of the movie, not only show the unveiling of a woman but also of her friendship.

The setting of the movie is really very classy as it picturesquely portrays delightful royal gardens, exotic marble structures with artistic carvings on them and magnificent palace-like houses. The sophistication of the then aristocratic Muslim society has been clearly demarcated in the film through the use of pricey chandeliers, costly vases, luxurious waterpipes or hookahs, mehfils (social gatherings of gentry), kothas (dwellings of courtesans), tehzeeb (courtesy and mannerisms of elites), sharafat (high standard of etiquettes), mushairas (poetry readings) and the usage of Urdu as the language of the people.

The usage of curtains or pardas in the movie is extremely significant. All the houses or bungalows shown in the movie have been partitioned by numerous pardas, curtains, blinds or screens. The main hall of the house or the living room is shown as a single roof which has a number of pillars with strategically placed pardas in it to separate the space of women (zenana) from the space of men (mardana). Burkha or veil used by the women in the movie is also used as the symbol of a space of inclusion and exclusion. Parda or Burkha, as used in the film, has not much to do with any particular religion or faith but rather with the familiarity of interaction between the people of opposite sexes. It does the work of segregation and exclusion in the movie. In the movie, parda also intervenes in the relationships which can or cannot end up in marriage. It is the thickness of the parda, which decides the level of interaction between men and women.

In the movie, the setup of the society of men has been puzzlingly different from the society of women. On one hand a man can be categorized on the basis of being a nawab, a British or a colonial man and thrifty spender whereas on the other hand, a woman can only be categorized on the basis of a homely begum (devout housewife), tawaif (prostitute) or a lonely menial worker.

In the movie, the role of contention does not have much to do with the education of a person but with the ethics and morale of a human.

The touch of humor in the film has been given by casting Johnny Walker (Badruddin Jamaluddin Kazi) as Mirza Masaraddik Shaiza.

This movie is also remembered for its title song and a few other songs which are still remembered for their lyrics and music. The touch of Dadra and Thumri to every musical composition of the movie has given its music a semi-classical touch. The slow rhythm and romantic notes of the songs give a trance experience to the audiences.

It is a must-watch for those “generation X” people who, wrongly but habitually, associate old Indian cinema with boredom and also for those who would want to rekindle the magic of their sweet old Bollywood.

Aditi Swami