Released in 1999, Sooryavansham gained fame post its repeated telecast on a TV channel in the last decade, and since then, it has been the prime target of jokes and funny memes posted on various social networking sites. The film became a cult for various reasons (other than the box office), also receiving critical acclaim for Amitabh Bachchan’s effective portrayal of a double role, excelling as the father.
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An official remake of the Tamil film Suryavamsam (1997), the Hindi version was directed by E. V. V. Satyanarayana (his solo venture in Hindi cinema) with music by Anu Malik and lyrics by Sameer, also featuring Soundarya, Jayasudha, Anupam Kher, and Kader Khan. It was the only Hindi film of late Soundarya and also the rare film in which Rekha dubbed for two characters on screen (both being Amitabh’s wife) played by Soundarya and Jayasudha.
A quick search online reveals that quite a few of its sequences are often discussed in a lighter, fun-filled tone. The poisonous kheer sequence is the most famous among them all, besides the scenes featuring Bachchan, Kader Khan, and Anupam Kher.However, this write-up is about an important sequence of the film in which Radha (Soundarya) has become the new District Collector, and Thakur Bhanu Pratap Singh (Bachchan) comes to meet her regarding his area’s water issues. Seeing Radha (his daughter-in-law) as the collector, Thakur has to deal with the situation, keeping the ego aside, as he had expelled his son and his wife out of the house in the past because they had married against everyone’s wishes.
Noticing her father-in-law coming into the office, Radha wishes to get up from her seat but controls herself and then quietly touches his feet by deliberately dropping a paper-weight from the table. The scene beautifully re-establishes Indian family values, making an instant emotional connection with the viewers and therefore received a wide appreciation post the film’s repeated airings on the channel. The clip also became viral as a representation of Indian traditional values at various social networks and online groups.
As an amazing coincidence, there is an almost similar situation and sequence in S. S. Balan directed Sanjog (1972) too, which had music by R. D. Burman, lyrics by Anand Bakshi, and featured Bachchan and Mala Sinha together (as a rare casting). A remake of K. Balachander’s Tamil film Iru Kodugal (1969), Sanjog’s story was about a separated couple, who later meet after years when Bachchan has remarried and working as a clerk in a government office. Mala gets posted in the same office as the District Collector and gets shocked meeting Bachchan as a clerk, living with his wife (Aruna Irani) and a kid.
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Interestingly, here too, as soon as Bachchan enters the office of the newly-appointed collector Mala, she suddenly rises from her seat but then controls herself in front of another colleague, Jagdish Raj, present in the room. The moment the other person leaves, Sinha comes forward and touches Amitabh’s feet, being his first lawful wife and still in love with him. The scene is quite close to the one seen in Sooryavansham both in terms of situation and characterisation.
As a viewer, it’s fascinating to see such coincidental similarities between the sequences of two completely unrelated and distinctive films made at a gap of almost three decades. But it will be even more interesting to know that whether Bachchan recalled the sequence of Sanjog while shooting an almost similar scene in Sooryavansham after so many years or not?
Another rare feature associated with Sanjog is related to the famous comic actor Johnny Walker. The film has two songs picturised on Johnny and both sung by two legendary singers of Hindi cinema in their impeccable style for the comedian. In the first hour, we have a qawwali ‘Ek se phool gulistan mein’ sung by Mohammed Rafi, and then a playful fun song ‘Ek do teen chaar’, crooned by Kishore Kumar, coming later. No doubt, it remains an unconventional and rare instance of two great voices chosen for the same comic character on the screen in a Hindi film.
(The writer is a critic-columnist, an explorer of cinema and author of ‘Did You Know’ series on Hindi films also active at bobbytalkscinema.com)
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