TAMAS’ it’s a Hindi film, first shown on India’s national television broadcaster Doordarshan as a mini-series and later as one-off 4-hour-long feature film. It was also shown on History TV18 as a series in the month of August 2013.
This is Bhisham Sahni’s story, who’s been one of the most prolific writers of Hindi literature. His command over local dialects and to the common languages such as Urdu and Punjabi has enabled him to attach his writing to the hearts and minds of common people. Tamas was one such idea, translated as darkness. This is the story during partition of India from the perspective of a common man.
This is a period television film directed by Govind Nihalani. Tamas has more relevance today than when it was written., and Govind Nihalani was at his directorial best, as this movie renders the dark images of the divided nation and one of the darkest phases in Indian history, depicted from so many vantage points, many of which are not obvious and don’t seem relevant at first. The narrative is largely unbiased, and brings out the human imperfections which surface out during these times to change the course of lives.
The film has Om Puri as a main protagonist, who kills a pig on orders from Pankaj kapur, in the character Murad Ali, who in turn puts it on the steps of the mosque in Muslim sensitive area. The scene of killing pig intensely captures the poverty driven vulnerable and the generic passivity of a common man in Om Puri. He unquestionably deserves huge accolades for his astounding performances in each and every scene – the haplessly loud scream in refusal and stammering out of fear, when he encounters a refugee Sikh man, who points a gun at him by wrongly acknowledging Om Puri as a Muslim fundamentalist, while Nathu searching help for his pregnant wife, is terrific. Pankaj kapoor, as a shrewd subhedar Murad Ali, though in very short role, is too good. A.k. Hangal, as Congress Leader Baksheeji, plays a moralist patriotic Indian politician and because of the liberal attitude and loyalty to Gandhi, succumbs to the demands of adamant Muslim fundamentalist leaders. His dialogue ” Lagta hai shahar pe cheele udengi”, when a Muslim guy runs after a cow with a Laathi to kill her in avenge of the coward pig act, rightly touches the gravity of the fearsome situation. Deepa Sahi, as brave pregnant wife of Om Puri, portrays the unfortunate condition of the wives from poorer families at that time – suffering under the huge burden of poverty and risking their lives in such hostile conditions. Deepa Sahi has time and again proved the versatility in her acting.
All the characters, irrespective of the length of their roles, have done accurate justice for their characters. The Brave old Sikh couple Harnaam Singh and Banto kaur, portrayed by Bhisham Sahni and Deena Pathak, who leave their village due to communal riots and helplessly watch their home burnt by fundamentalists, take refuge in a Muslim’s house unknowingly. The verbose but sensible Muslim woman, played by Surekha Sikri, allows them to stay despite being aware of the ire of her son who is one of the fundamentalist. At night when she sees them off, she honestly returns the jewelry which has been seized by her daughter in law from Harnaam Singh’s bag. The husky concern in her voice when she utters “Khuda jaane ki tumhari jaan bacha rahi hu ya maut ke muh me dhakel rahi hu” compliments her win of the national award for that year. Her Husband, played by veteran actor Iftekaar, also recognizes the old friend Harnaam Singh but politely tells them to leave as early as possible. Uttara Baokar has played the role of the Strong and Devotional Sardarni and the daughter of Harnaam and Banto, who along with hundreds of others, after understanding that their men won’t come back alive from the clashes with other group, jump into the well to protect their sanctity. Harnaam singh doesn’t even mourn over the suicidal death of his daughter and just let everything off with “Jaisi rab di Marzi”. Amrish Puri also appears as a stronghold Sikh leader who motivates and gathers Sikhs into Gurudwara to fight against the fundamental forces. Manohar singh plays a remarkable role of the adamant Muslim League president who dictates the terms for creation of Pakistan.
Many other actors have given small but remarkable performances in the pivotal roles – Congress Leaders Anjaan Shrivastava as castist and Veerendra Saxena as the retired Azad Hind Personnel, Saeed Jaffery as a Firm believer in Allah, KK Raina as a Muslim Maverick who appeals his people to keep calm, Pinchoo Kapur as his Uncle who is Religious Loyalist, Harish Patel as High Class Hindu Businessman, Ila Arun as his wife, Riju Bajaj as his son who is involved with Hindu Fundamentalist Organization, Veteran Mahmohan Krishna as Fakir Baba, Pankaj Berry as an frantic son of Iftekar and Surekha Sikri, Sudha Shivpuri as a Courageous brave Muslim woman who escorts her Hindu neighbor from the agitated Muslim fundamentalist mob and shows him a way towards the safe havens and Rajendra Gupta as a ladies tailor.
This is a very well crafted & technically superior movie in all the aspects. Outstanding direction, classic performances and remarkable music score by Vanraj Bhatia raises tempo of the raw human emotions that are depicted during situations of poverty, desperateness, riots, religious sensitiveness, anger, nationalism and above all times of nation divide is a serious shudder of people living in those times and the tales of hardship who lost everything in the holocaust of partition.
A phenomena and a must watch movie in our lifetime…..
- Producer & Direction: Govind Nihalani
- Story & Screenplay: Bhisham Sahni (Based on his own novel of the same tittle)
- Starring: Om Puri, Bhisham Sahni, Deepa Sahi, Pankaj Kapur, Ifthekar, KK Raina, Saed Jaffery, AK Hangal, Pankaj berry & Amrish Puri
- Music: Vanraj Bhatia
- Cinematography: Govind Nihalani & V. K. Murthy
- Releases: 1987 & Run time: 274 minutes
- Country: India
- Language: Hindi