Restored on DVD: Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda

Rating: ★★★★
Verdict: Story mein hero ho ya na ho, story hero honi chahiye. For the lack of a better verdict… Care for more?

Before we shift gears to praise and go gaga over the title by NFDC, a moment to hold back and mention the author whose brain child got picked by India’s finest filmmaker for a screen adaptation. Dharamvir Bharati’s story about love afflicted by socio-economic framework can be well called an experiment not only initiated and progressed but also the results of which were scrutinized under the eagle’s eye.

To benefit the verdict, Shyam Benegal has a protagonist too, Manek Mulla (Rajit Kapur). His heroism isn’t one backed by VFX but the suaveness in his narration of love snippets is heroic. Manek on a lazy afternoon surrounded by friends begins narrating stories with him as the eligible bachelor in each of them. The stories he says come from his own experiences of colliding paths with Jamuna, Lily and Satti. Economic backdrops and societal intolerance are omnipresent and change profiles with every story.

Director’s job is one that demands intellect clubbed with vision and potential to engage the audience per se. Speak of Shyam Benegal and the probability of choosing a name from his filmography not having all of the above is rare. The filmmaker’s work boasts of techniques which can be best described as ‘art and craft through the back door’. Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda is a film mounting on prodigious editing, multi angle shots and a layered change of perspectives in narrating a story so interestingly complex at face value.

Jamuna (Rajeshwari Sachdev) brings along the strings attached with the middle class tier. Lily (Pallavi Joshi) infuses a sense of proud intellectuals and Satti (Neena Gupta) reacts to irresistible impulses of the naïve working class. Manek Mulla comes close and yet holds back his affection for each of the female leads. Supporting this terrific film is Amrish Puri as the womanizer, Illa Arun, K.K. Raina and a host of other talented actors.

As the frame-count adds up what comes to the fore is actually a single story with three distinct voices. The film often shows the same scenes from different stances and thus multi cam shots. The sincerity at the edit desk comes through and Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda never abandons the viewer midway.

The screenplay however has some poorly filmed sequences which are more ridiculous than believable. A scene where Tanna (Jamuna’s love interest) is shown dying at the hospital is a black spot hard to ignore. 

A raconteur sells dreams and invests in imaginations. Rajit Kapur’s mannerisms are so convincing that for a moment the viewer doubts if Manek is recalling episodes from his life or is it all a work of fiction. The query however is unanswered.

The film is named after a Hindu myth about the Seventh horse of the sun. It is cleverly used as a metaphor. After he is done narrating all the stories, Manek poignantly points at an explanation for this otherwise ambiguous title. It is best that the viewer explore the beauty in Manek’s poeticisms than read about it in a film review.

Shyam Benegal is one of the few filmmakers who at one go cheered the elite art circles and had an ear for the calling of the masses. Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda unanimously is his most loved work by audiences and critics alike. Watch it before the title fades away from your mind.

Why should you watch this film?
Kahaani. Story. Katha.
Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda is a title under the NFDC label ‘Cinemas of India’. The film is out on home video by NFDC.

By Soham Bhattacharyya

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