"Take movies, music, poetry out of life & its gone!"
 
In Custody / Muhafiz (1993) - A not to be missed gem of Shashi Kapoor (Review by Bobby Sing) Movies To See Before You Die - Drama)
14 Jan, 2014 | Movies To See Before You Die / Drama

Shashi Kapoor as the youngest son of Prithiviraj Kapoor not only inherited the striking looks of his father but also shared similar ideology related with Cinema and Theater, wherein Theater remained their first love fovever. In fact Kapoor admitted it in an interview that he actually wasn’t interested in movies at that particular point of time. But its only when the Prithvi was closing down that he came into movies establishing himself as a successful leading hero as his brothers. A few years later, he only resurrected Prithvi Theaters in the late 70s along with his wife Jennifer, and the organization is still keeping the legacy alive even today, well managed by his talented kids.

So this is one of those rare icons of Hindi film industry who successfully ventured into the mainstream Hindi Cinema, actively participated in the theater movement and also became one of the first internationally known and appreciated Indian stars playing the lead in a number of western projects. Forming a friendly relationship with Merchant Ivory Productions, Kapoor fetatured in many of their projects including THE HOUSEHOLDER (1963), SHAKESHPEARE-WALLAH (1965), BOMBAY TALKIE (1970), HEAT AND DUST (1983), THE DECEIVERS (1988) and more along with a reputed yet controversial, international film titled SIDDHARTHA (1972).

However, here I wish to write about IN CUSTODY/ MUHAFIZ (Urdu/Hindi/1993) in particular. As this is the one film that can easily be rated as something entirely different and far ahead than any of the international projects mentioned above, being more Indian and real in terms of presentation, characterization, language, music and trauma felt by the legendary Urdu poet struggling in their final years.

To be honest, Merchant Ivory Productions was always known for a specific kind of cinema, especially when it portrayed India, its people and the famous cultural heritage. But MUHAFIZ (IN CUSTODY) is a film which clearly stands out from its notable repertoire and is probably the most real, harsh and purposeful film made by the renowned production house on an Indian theme. Directed by Ismail Merchant (his debut venture), it’s an adaptation of Anita Desai’s novel with the same title and revolves around the fictional account of a few weeks relationship between a reputed poet and his sincere learned fan, who wishes to record his live interview for a magazine.

MUHAFIZ is also a significant film deserving much more appreciation from the people in particular, as it is one of those rare projects focusing on Urdu poetry, its eminent poets, India’s adorable Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb and the dying state of the language in the present scenario receiving a visibly biased step-treatment. The narration becomes comical as well as satirical at times subtly giving the important message of how we treat our stalwarts in their final years. At the same time many entertaining twists keep you thoroughly engaged with an excellent use of melodious music, ghazals, couplets and the local lingo. The cinematography and art-direction give an immensely likable, poetic feel to the film choosing the perfect locations, frames and colours creating the right mood that eventually contributes a lot in an effective, emotional tragedy.

Featuring an extraordinary cast ensemble, MUHAFIZ has Shashi Kapoor effortlessly enacting the dying poet fighting hard with his obese ailing body and two nagging wives in their old house in Bhopal. Om Puri - as a fan professor trying to record his interview, Shabana Azmi - as the poet’s second wife who herself wishes to be a poet and an exceptional supporting cast including Sushma Seth, Neena Gupta, Tinnu Anand, Parikshit Sahni, Virender Saxena, Prayag Raj and more. The poetry used in the film is of the well-known Urdu poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and the rich soundtrack is composed by Ustad Zakir Hussain and Ustad Sultan Khan.
 
The script has many interesting as well as entertaining sequences to keep you hooked, wherein the poet has his daily sessions of poetry, food and rum with his opportunist, mean followers. The excited professor tries his best to record the interview, bribing the poet’s elder wife, without getting any concrete results in hand. His assistant fails to run the old tape recorder properly, missing many important moments with the poet. And then the known personality eventually dies without giving any detailed interview but leaves his all unpublished work for the professor as his farewell gift.
 
Ismail gives a poetic feel to the movie with an excellent use of well composed music, ghazals, meaningful couplets and realistic tone throughout. He takes good care of its authentic frames and skillfully captures the theme in a pensive mood. Basically pointing towards the dying art of Urdu poetry and its proper understanding, the film uses many symbolic insertions in its presentation. For instance the decaying house represents the poet’s deteriorating health, his two wives and the old lady speaks for the feminine angle in the story, his opportunist friends represent the unemployed youth taking advantage of the poet’s hunger of recognition, the college staff denotes the way Urdu language is looked upon in the changing times. And then in its final scene, the demolition of a building in the backdrop of professor holding the unpublished works of the dead poet, indicates towards the unfortunate end of an era, which will soon be left in only books to be later studied by the coming generations.

Also, the film comes up with another thoughtful representation of the hard truth that often great artists die with a similar hidden frustration and lack of love or warmth in their final days.
 
To sum up in a few words, if you haven’t seen IN CUSTODY/MUHAFIZ yet, then do watch it at the earliest as this is one of those precious films reminding you of the value of our traditional languages and the culture of a multi-lingual India. Moreover the film can also be referred as the most befitting tribute to the legendary artist, Shashi Kapoor - who successfully ventured into mainstream movies, meaningful cinema and the theater altogether like a true visionary.
 
Directed By Ismail Merchant
Written by Anita Desai (novel)& Shahrukh Husain (script)
Starring : Shashi Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Om Puri and more.

(Note: The article in edited form was also published on UC-News Mobile App in December 2017)

Tags : In Custody / Muhafiz (1994) Review by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, Movies To See Before You Die List by Bobby Sing, Must See Films on Urdu Language Poetry, Must Watch Films List by Bobby Sing, Not To Be Missed Movies List by Bobby Sing, Worth Watching Classics List by Bobby Sing
14 Jan 2014 / Comments ( 7 )
UNKNOWN

In Custody / Muhafiz (1994), IS INDEED A RARE MOVIE. FOR PRESENT DAY YOUTH TO UNDERSTAND THIS MOVIE, THEY SHOULD WATCH IT AFTER THEY CROSS THE AGE OF 50.

PEOPLE YEARNING FOR WARMTH & A PERSON WHO CAN LEND HIS EARS FOR A FEW MOMENTS; a FEELING OF A TALENTED PERSON WHOSE TALENT HAS BEEN FORGOTTEN OR NOT RECOGNIZED IS PORTRAYED IN THE BEST POSSIBLE MANNER.

FINALLY, THE LAST SCENE WHEN THE POETS COMPILATION ARE LAID TO REST ALONG WITH HIM IS ALSO A VERY TELLING SCENE WHICH VERY FEW CAN UNDERTAND.

Bobby Sing

Thanks a lot friend for your visit and insightful comment.

Keep Visiting and Writing in.
HIS BLESSINGS

Arun Kumar
I had seen this twice but long back. Still remember in bits and pieces. It was probably last film of Shashi Kapoor. Thanks for remembering it to me. I shall try to catch it again on DVD, if available.
Bobby Sing

Thanks for writing in Arun Kumar and do try to watch it again as its indeed a film to be cherishes by all.
Please do check as I think it should be available at Youtube too.

Keep Visiting and Writing in.
Cheers!

anonymous

In Custody (Muhafiz) 1993
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdwTLXflIOQ

If you wanna watch the best poetic movie of bollywood, watch this.

1993 - In custody hindi movie - Om puri and Shashi Kapoor - Shashi Kapoor as an aging poet of a dying Language. Its a gem of a movie - soothing poetic journey into the life of a poet. Great performances by shashi kapoor and om puri and the rest of the cast.

Aaj ik harf ko phir dhoondta phirta hai khayal (My mind is groping for a word today,)
Madh bhara harf koi, zeher bhara harf koi (A word as sweet as wine, as bitter as poison)
Dil-nashin harf koi, qeher bhara harf koi (A word that bewitches but is full of rage)
Aaj ik harf ko phir dhoondta phirta hai khayal.. (My mind is groping for a word today)

Harf-e-ulfat koi dildar-e-nazar ho jaise (A word as desirable as the lover herself)
Jis-se milti hai nazar bosa-e-lab ki surat (Whose glance is like a kiss on the lips)
Itna roshan ke sare-mauja-e-zar ho jaise (As radiant as a sea of gold)
Sohbat-e-yaar main aghaaz-e-tarab ki surat (In the company of a lover, where love is blossoming)
Harf-e-nafrat koi shamsheer-e-ghazab ho jaise (A hateful word cuts like a terrible sword)
Aaj ik harf ko phir dhoondta phirta hai khayal..(My mind is groping for a word today)

Ta abad shahre-sitam jis-se tabah ho jayein (A word that could destroy this city of sorrow forever)
Itna tariq ke shamshan ki shab ho jaise (As dark as the grave)
Lab pe laoon to mere honth siyah ho jayein (So dark that my lips turn black)
Aaj ik harf ko phir dhoondta phirta hai khayal…(My mind is groping for a word today)

aaj baazaar meN paa-bajaulaaN chalo;
chashm-e-nam, jaan-e-shoriidaa kaafii nahiiN;
tohmat-e-ishq-poshiidaa kaafii nahiiN;
aaj baazaar meN paa-bajaulaaN chalo

(paa-bajaulaa -  shackles on feet like a prisoner, chashm-e-nam : teary eyes; jaan-e-shoriidaa : distressed soul; poshiidaa : hidden)

dast-afshaaN chalo, mast-o-raqsaaN chalo;
Khaak-bar-sar chalo, Khuun-baa-damaaN chalo;
raah taktaa hai sab shahar-e-janaan chalo;
aaj baazaar meN paa-bajaulaaN chalo

(dast-e-afshaaN : swinging hands; mast-o-raqsaaN : dancing in trance; Khaak-bar-sar : kicking the dust; khuun-baa-damaaN : blood on sleeves; shahar-e-janaaN : city of the beloved)

haakim-e-shahar bhii, majmaa-e-aam bhii;
tiir-e-ilzaam bhii, sang-e-dushnaam bhii;
subh-e-nashaad bhii, roz-e-nakaam bhii;
aaj baazaar meN paa-bajaulaaN chalo

(haakim-e-shahar : ruler of the city; majmaa-e-aam : the crowd of common people; tiir-e-ilzaam : arrow of accusation; sang-e-dushnam : the stones of accusation; subh-e-nashaad : morning of sorrow; roz-e-nakaam : a day of failure)

in kaa damsaaz apne sivaa kaun hai;
shahar-e-jaanaN meN ab baa-safaa kaun hai;
dast-e-qaatil ke shaayaaN rahaa kaun hai

(damsaaz : friend; baa-safaa : sincere; dast-e-qaatil : hands of the murderer; shaayaaN : worthy)

rakht-e-dil baandh lo, dil figaaro chalo
phir hamiiN qatl ho aayeN yaaro chalo
aaj baazaar meN paa-bajaulaaN chalo

Bobby Sing

Thanks Anonymous for your detailed comment.
However I will really appreciate if comments are posted with a valid name and email to respond.

Cheers!

aamir

thanks a lot for recognising this gem of a movie and including it in your list. its one of the most beautiful films i have ever seen ain any language. oscar worthy stuff.every one especially shashi kapoor has given a de niroesque performance. last janaza scene.wow. speechless.

Bobby Sing

The pleasure is all mine Aamir.
Thanks for appreciating and supporting meaningful cinema.
Keep Visiting and Writing in.
Cheers!

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