Story of an old widow (Kumari) who becomes a silent witness to two violent eras in India’s history: the Partition riots and the criminal politics amid gang warfare in the 60s. Persuaded by an acquaintance to move from her tranquil village home to the city to look after their child, the old woman finds herself lost on the streets until she is offered shelter by Shyam (Khanna), a notorious gangster fighting with the leader of a rival gang (Sinha). The widow’s tales, and her maternal concern for Shyam’s criminal friends, make her an oasis of peace amid the prevailing violence. In the end she becomes the unintended victim of their violence, restoring peace in her death. The story is intercut with flashbacks of the widow’s oppressive marriage to a Nautanki performer (Verma) during the Partition riots which led to the death of her husband. Gulzar’s directorial debut adapted Sinha’s controversial Apanjan (1968), relocating the plot from its original Naxalite Bengal into a North Indian milieu. The film is held together mainly by Meena Kumari in what was, together with Pakeezah (1971), one of her last major screen performances.
Did you know?
Meena Kumari was ailing at the time, and worked through her bad health in the film. She died within a few months of the film's release. Read More