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HomeViduraSixty years of Sangam – a film for fans of different eras

Sixty years of Sangam – a film for fans of different eras

It has been 60 years since Sangam was first released in June 1964 and through the years it has hardly dated. Its technical credits considered unparalleled at the time still hold together admirably, says Partab Ramchand. Despite being arguably the most expensive Hindi film ever, it was a runaway hit and the most talked about film for years, Hindi cinema’s greatest love triangle, he points out

It was the most eagerly awaited Hindi film in eons and there were several reasons for this. First it was a movie made under the RK banner. Raj Kapoor, the greatest showman in Bollywood history, was not only starring in it and producing and directing it, he also took up the editing chores. The heroine was the very popular Vyjantimala, and sharing equal space with the leading duo, was Rajendra Kumar who had acquired the label of Jubilee Star. The music by Shankar Jaikishen, who had wielded the baton for virtually every RK film since Barsaat in 1949, was already popular. Moreover, it was the first colour film made under the RK banner and, most important, the first Hindi film to be shot extensively overseas, in several countries across Europe. Before its release it was already acclaimed as Raj Kapoor’s magnum opus, being his most expensive film. And the master showman, never one to miss a trick, announced that because of the length of the film – at almost four hours, the longest Hindi film up to that time – it would have two intervals instead of the usual one.       

It has been 60 years since Sangam was first released in June 1964, and through the years it has hardly dated. Its technical credits considered unparalleled at the time still hold together admirably. The photography (Radhu Karnakar) and the editing (Raj himself) along with the art direction and sound effects continue to be of a very high order. As only to be expected, the performances are superb and culminated in Vyjantimala getting the Best Actress Filmfare Award, and Raj and Rajendra being nominated in their respective categories. Raj also won the Best Director Award and for editing, but the two big ones eluded him much to his disappointment. Sangam lost out on Best Picture to Dosti, which also bagged the award for Best Music.

There were so many things going for Sangam that the public overlooked the plot which involved a love triangle pretty commonplace at the time. However, it must be said that the handling was so professional that some critics felt that Sangam was bold and well ahead of its time thanks to strong characterisations. The film explored the themes of love, loyalty, sacrifice and the consequences of choices made in relationships. It portrayed the conflicts and emotional turmoil faced by the characters as they navigated their complicated circumstances.   

Various factors then contributed to the commercial success of the film, so much so that despite being arguably the most expensive Hindi film ever, it was a runaway hit and the most talked about film for years. Sangam was a mega hit with the critics too, who showered praise on the concept, direction, screenplay, dialogue, soundtrack, costumes, cinematography, the performances and the music.  It was hailed as Hindi cinema’s greatest love triangle and the names of Sundar, Radha and Gopal were synonymously etched thereafter in the minds of film goers. Sangam emerged as a major blockbuster at the box office and was the highest grossing Hindi film of the year and the second highest grossing film of the decade behind Mughal e Azam (1960). The music, so very important for any RK film, has stood the test of time. The songs are played and hummed even today and the standout tunes are Har dil jo pyar karega, Dost dost na raha, Yeh mera prem patra, O mehbooba and O mere sanam.  

Sangam actually had its genesis in the late 1940s when Raj Kapoor planned to launch a film with the title, Gharonda, with Dilip Kumar, Nargis and himself in the lead, portraying the central characters. The story was penned by Inder Raj Anand during the making of Raj Kapoor’s first directorial venture, Aag (1948). However, the film was postponed for several reasons and remained in limbo till 1962 when it was titled as Sangam with a new cast and crew.  Initially, Raj approached Dilip Kumar to play the role of Gopal Verma.  Dilip agreed to play either one of the two male roles on the condition that he be given the right to edit the final copy of the film. Raj could not accept this condition, so he then approached Dev Anand and offered him the choice of either one of the male leads. Dev declined the offer, citing call sheet problems as the reason. Raj then offered the role to Uttam Kumar, but he too declined the offer. The role finally went to Rajendra Kumar who, in the meantime, had become a highly popular star. He rose to the occasion by giving arguably the best performance of his long career. 

Seen today, Sangam can still be enjoyed even by the GenNext of movie goers brought up on the Khans. For the older generation, it marks a pleasant trip down memory lane. And for film fans of different eras, there are always the songs that have become immortal.

(The writer is a veteran sports writer who spent his career working for The Indian Express and The Telegraph and Sportsworld. He has more than a passing interest in films and music.)

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