Raj Kapoor and his new film presented to the press in 1982: "We Indians are hypocrites. On one side we praise of Women, its nobility, its size, the embodiment of motherhood. When we want to show the utmost respect to our nation, we call Bharat Mata (Mother India). But in real life, we always inflict the worst treatment to our wives. They are burned alive. They are treated like slaves.
Even pets receive better treatment in many homes. In no other country, we hear about all the rapes and burned wives. The birth of a girl is considered a curse in our families. Why is this so? For me, femininity symbolizes love, affection and warmth. Women deserve respect and to be put on a pedestal. They have as much right to happiness than any man. My film is a fight for their right to happiness.
Prem Rog therefore is an openly militant work. But it's also a great fresco and a melodrama able to draw tears in stones. Only, because of its unusual narrative progression, describing the series of events that overwhelm the main characters could spoil much of the charm of the discovery of this film as endearing as his characters. If you have not seen and you want to keep the pleasure of surprise, I would strongly advise you to rush to your DVD seller (it seems that there is "more or less official" edition with subtitles in French) and then back to the text.
Manorama (Padmini Kolhapure) is 16, 17 years maybe. This beautiful young woman is as bubbly qu'innocente and immature. It's a flamboyant butterfly, delightfully whimsical and totally carefree. She is the daughter of wealthy thakur (noble) and lives with his family and countless servants, the palace where reigns the sweet Baden Raja ( Shammi Kapoor ).
Deodhar ( Rishi Kapoor ) is the son of humble priest of the village. Baden Raja had paid his studies in the city and the young man returns after 8 years, hosted by Manorama. She imagines love. She teases him. It melts. But Baden Raja had other plans for her who is almost his granddaughter. He found her a husband seductive, delicate, noble and rich; short a real prince charming. The unspoken dream Deodhar collapses and he goes to town with a broken heart.
Four days after the marriage, the husband is killed in a car accident and ends up Manorama widow. The atrocious practice is imposed on it and his descent into hell begins. She is relegated within his own family in his own home. She can not eat only once a day and only a meal it has prepared itself. Shoes are forbidden him. Ornament is prohibited. The women gathered in a conclave so make the barber come to mow. Raja Bade tries to intervene to prevent his granddaughter this supreme humiliation. He must give up not being strong enough to fight against tradition, lord of the places it is.
Prem Rog is produced in two separate yet interrelated parts. It starts as a pleasant romantic comedy where the two young people chasing and then switches to the drama at intermission when the husband loses control of his jeep. From the start, Raj Kapoor plunges us into the nobility, its splendor, its traditions, and a subtle social somewhat difficult to grasp for a Western viewer. It takes some time to realize that Chhoti Thakurain (Nanda) is the mother of Manorama and the wife of the ignoble Chhote Thakur Virendra Singh (Kulbhushan Kharbanda). They live under the roof of Baden and his wife Raja Badi Maa (Sushma Seth) more as vassals to the court of a king than as members of one family. In the days good days, Manorama did not hesitate to gently shake Baden Baden Raja Babu calling (Mr. Baden). Later, the women of the house will hide behind a curtain to talk to him.
Baden Raja is a prince who appreciates youth and prides modernity. Thus he knows opposing traditions in saving a young widow village from the clutches of his father early in the film. Show great and magnanimous is easier when it comes to his humble subjects, but it will be otherwise when the widow will be that he considers his own granddaughter. In a patriarchal society where it is the absolute master is to him that should return all the decisions. It is not so because it must comply with customs or he himself would be rejected by his peers. There is only one to stand up, protest and fight in this world mired in tradition Deodhar, a free man who returns to the city. It is a way for authors to tell us that the enlightened modernity offers an honorable way out of these arrears behavior.
Manorama widowed is not simply discarded. It is not treated as an object. Its existence is not denied and nobody wants his death. It is "just" a disgrace to his family, to the point that the idea of remarriage has become almost unthinkable. She is guilty, so that the most basic comfort is denied. It is punished without being hunted. This is a leper we keep close as to protect from the evil eye. The Western viewer will be astonished surprised unanimously in the injustice done to him. Both men and women despise. His own mother accepts the fate of his daughter. Resigns itself to perpetual banishment.
Some scholarly essays argue that the attitude of society is a punishment for those who failed to retain the soul of her late husband, likened to a god in the Hindu tradition. Others think that the widow becomes almost untouchable for causing the death of her husband in failing to direct the destiny for the good of his family. He also mentioned an analogy with accusations of witchcraft where the widow is treated as a kind of witch who brings misfortune.
None of this would completely consistent with the description given by Raj Kapoor. On the contrary, when invoking the reason or religion to show the ignominy of the treatment suffered by Manorama, all agree that it is unfair and is nothing to do with the misfortune that strikes. There is no justification, but that does not change because it is the way that widows have always been treated. Prem Rog then strikes a very strong message showing that only an archaic tradition may explain such behavior.
If Raj Kapoor overturned conventions and he also knows not to go too far. Religious considerations that could upset are thus carefully avoided and feudalism, however shocking, is not openly denounced. Regarding women, the only possible solution for the widow is to be "given in marriage", which would not fail to pounce in our region. On another note, if the punishment for rape is death, one can not help but note that it is applied to wash the shame brought great credit to the family and not to avenge the victim. Finally, when the bullets burst forth, it is difficult not to notice that sacrifices; as if there were sins absolved by a heroic death ...
Make no mistake, we are Bollywood and Raj Kapoor did not forget to tell us first of all a story. So the film has its share of twists and turns, its sinister villains, his intrepid heroes and even his prostitute with a heart. And then the action is not lacking in this film that looks like a masala which mixes romance, great feelings and Dante fights, all on a very serious background. On the same theme, Baabul is ended by a moralizing speech in rivers of tears. Prem Rog largely avoids this pitfall remaining entertaining to the end. Sure, it relies on springs sometimes easy, but it takes us as a particular care was given to all the characters, even the most insignificant. Raj Kapoor loves his actors, and it shows.
Padmini Kolhapure which was the young Roopa in Satyam Shivam Sundaram door literally Prem Rog on the shoulders being almost all plans. His misfortunes affect us especially since we attaches quickly to its freshness and playfulness. His performance earned him his second Filmfare Award in only 17 years. Rishi Kapoor knows fortunately to step back to allow light to his partner. Despite his age and ordinary physical, it is a compelling hero as much as a bashful lover moving. Shammi Kapoor is itself very surprising. He looks just like his father Prithviraj thirty years earlier, camping with aplomb a patriarch both fragile and very imposing. Women played by Nanda, Tanuja and Bindu are great. This is also the case in the opposite gender for both awful interpreted by Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Raza Murad.
The realization is removed with sufficient external to let us breathe. Manorama takes us by the hand and we enter his world without even realizing it. Six great songs that punctuate the film we note the stunning Yeh Yeh Galiyan Chaubara that listening loop or the astonishing Bhanware Khilaya Do Phool Rishi where imitates a bumblebee in the chorus. However, the ridiculous special effects and very dated staging Mohabbat Hai Kya Cheez spoil a little the pleasure of hearing the intoxicating voice of Lata Mangeshkar.
Prem Rog is the penultimate film by Raj Kapoor. Here again, 34 years after its debut, it highlights the women he loves to forcefully denounce the insults which they are subject. The main character is magnificently embodied by the young Padmini Kolhapure he had led while still a child. It needed a hero, it will be his son Rishi. The authority that fails an instant interpreted by his brother Shammi who looks remarkably like his father Prithviraj. It is a very personal film that invites us Raj.
But he does not forget to have fun, make us tremble and cry in what is much more than a very addictive entertainment. A real success!
Previously, widows immolated on the pyre of their husbands in the ritual of sati. This barbaric practice motivated primarily by religious reasons, was banned by the British in 1829. It has however always there in India today, occasionally, resurgences of sati that are the object of protests growing virulent. Prem Rog does not mention this.