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Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda (1992-93) - (Movies To See Before You Die - Drama)

02 Jun, 2008 | Movies To See Before You Die / Drama

Avid readers are not easily convinced by any adaptation of the famous classic novels and there are rare instances when a film adaptation is considered even equivalent to the thoughtful detailing, progression and emotional expressions of the original novel, successfully generating a similar or close to similar impact.
One of such rare, valuable and truly admirable screen adaptations is SURAJ KA SATVAN GHODA (meaning The Sun’s Seventh Horse) directed by Shyam Benegal, based on the widely acclaimed novel of Hindi writer and playwright Dharamvir Bharati with the same title.
Giving you some amazing insights about the novel first, it is actually a novella (a short novel) of less than 70 pages, written as narrated by a character of the story itself. And just in these few pages the writer creates an extremely complex and multi-layered world of several love stories woven together that remain related to the one key character of the storyline following an unusual narrative. Revealing some eye-opener truths of our society it surprises you with the unreliable, changing morality in humans displayed by its lead and other characters but still never loses hope and presents everything with a bright, positive attitude representing the seventh horse of the Sun (explained in the later part of the write-up). 
This was the second novel by Dharamvir Bharati after his most famous GUNAHON KA DEVTA written in 1949. He wrote SURAJ KA SAATWAN GHODA in 1952 and its foreword (Bhumika) was also written by another legend of Hindi literature, Sh. Agyeye. In his words, the language and the flow of the novel can easily be stated as the most important part of its creation which seems to be from the times of Alif Laila or Panchtantra in a highly intriguing form of KISSAGOI (traditional storytelling)
Thankfully the same structure or style get to witness in the screen adaptation of the novel too in the form of an equally appreciable, complex and multi-layered film that released in 1992 and then deservingly won the National Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi.  
As reported, Benegal got the permission to adapt the novel from the author and then kept asking him to go through the screenplay once, written by Shama Zaidi. But displaying an amazing confidence in Benegal’s known vision and craft, Bharati never read it and also didn’t offer any suggestions from his side as an insightful gesture. Later after watching the film, he wholeheartedly approved it and proved that his unshaken confidence in Shyam Benegal was perfectly right. 
Supporting the author’s firm belief, the truth also remains that such an intricate concept/storyline as a film, could have never been visualized and adapted in any better form by a director other than Shyam Benegal.
Jointly presented by National Film Development Corporation of India and Doordarshan, sadly the film didn’t get any decent release all over the country (as it used to be in those years) and could only grab some attention when it later got premiered on Doordarshan. Many were disappointed by such indifference shown towards the film as expressed by Amrish Puri in his autobiography.
SURAJ KA SATVAN GHODA commences with the narration in the voice of Raghuvir Yadav, who remembers his friend, guide and philosopher-story teller Manek Mulla (Rajit Kapur) with whom they used to have continuous discussions above various elements of life in their young years. The story moves into flashback where Manek Babu is telling them the stories of his interactions or relations with three women at three different time periods of his past life and then several other stories get revealed within the three forming an enlightening maze kind of structure.
Manek Babu begins with his criticism of DEVDAS – the novel being read by one of the friends and then introduces them to Jamuna (Rajeshwari Sachdev), Lily (Pallavi Joshi) and Satti (Neena Gupta) as the three women in his life, representing three different classes or sections of the society. Jamuna is young romantic girl from the lower-middle class facing a forced marriage, Lily is an educated, intellectual from an affluent family and Satti is from the extreme lower, poor section of the society exploited by the people around. The story begins with Jamuna (as a flashback in a flashback) and then moves further with the entry of Lily and Satti showcasing various human emotions, shocking shifts in personalities and worth contemplating change in thinking patterns of its characters going through some extreme situations in life.
Following a brilliant style of narration, it’s really amazing to see how the scenes merge into each other shot from different angles and perspectives revealing new unexpected turns in the storyline. The unpredictable script progression keeps on throwing a new twist at intervals introducing a fresh dimension, giving you a lot to think upon, remembering the exactly same sequence seen a few minutes before in the film itself. (You will get to understand this better after watching the film)
Sharing my personal experience of watching it on Doordarshan in the early 90s, I was simply spellbound witnessing the excellence (at the age of 20) and the film caused a complete change in my thinking process and thought patterns about how films can be made and stories can be shot beautifully interlinked with each other using exceptional metaphors giving some clear hints to the viewers.
Certainly the first of its kind of Hindi film with such complex yet entertaining non-linear format made in 1992, we later got to witness similar formation of sequences in World Cinema, in films made by renowned directors like Alejandro G. Inarritu, Quentin Tarantino and more. 
Experiencing something unique as never before in the years when Cable TV had just entered in our lives (in its years of infancy), SURAJ KA SATVAN GHODA had a shattering influence on my existence and I learned a lot from the film’s repeated viewing buying its VHS tape, even when we didn’t own a VCR and had to go to our relatives to watch a film in weekends.
In short, apart from the literature I have been reading at that particular point of time, as a film this became my first journey into the Indian psyche behind infatuation, love, class-struggle, poverty, the burning desire to have a son, the urgency to get the daughter married with just anybody before it gets too late, the power of money, how money even transforms a daughter after marriage, dominance of males in Indian society, the man never losing his lust even at an old age, the suffocating relationships within families and the sacrifices one has to bear in life to save his or her dignity.
Ironically the book got published in early 50s and the film got made four decades later in early 90s, but the novel and its onscreen execution still remains relevant in the present times even after almost seven decades of its conception proving its worth and tall stature in our Hindi literature.
No doubt, a big credit also needs to be given to Shama Zaidi for her adaptation as a powerful and potent screenplay with dialogues, Piyush Shah for his cinematography (making it look all real), Bhanudas Divkar for his exemplary editing (forming an amazing maze), Nitish Roy & Pia Benegal for art direction and costumes (re-creating the time period), composer Vanraj Bhatia for his haunting melodies as songs and background music and lyricist Vasant Dev (for the meaningful lyrics) along with the cast which superbly takes the film to another level altogether under the expert guidance of maestro Shyam Benegal.
Though it entirely revolves around Rajit Kapur and Rajeshwari Sachdev giving their career best performances as Manek Mulla and Jamuna (with it unbelievably being the debut film of Rajit Kapur), it has a stellar ensemble of renowned actors as Amrish Puri, Neena Gupta, Raghuvir Yadav, Pallavi Joshi, KK Raina, Anang Desai, Himani Shivpuri, Verendra Saxena and more making their own major contribution in the film’s solid impact. Particularly here we have a performance that should ideally be included in the Top 5 performances of veteran Amrish Puri, who is otherwise widely known for his Mogambo and other typical villainous acts.
Coming to the title of the film, in Hindu mythology, there are seven horses in the chariot of Lord Surya denoting power, arrogance and speed. The seven horses also represent the seven sins and the Sun’s control over them as the deity, indicating how we need to control our basic emotions to rise further in life maintaining a balance between its materialistic and spiritual aspects. As per another interpretation the seven horses also represent the seven chakras, the seven spiritual centers in the subtle body/soul, awakening of which leads to the rise in energy within us (also called as serpentine energy).
In the climax of the film, Manek Babu explains that the life actually gets run by the seventh horse (representing our future, dreams and aspirations) since the other six horses are severely injured and tired unable to carry on further. So a scene shows a young, white horses running around as the sixth one taking us into the future.
Hence SURAJ KA SATVAN GHODA has its central idea based on positive belief, faith and hope, which is eternal and relevant forever. However, as a film it might turn out to be different experience for different viewers as per their own learning and beliefs, particularly for the young friends. 
Honestly, for me it is one of my early influential films and guiding teachers of life I learned a lot from, along with being the most impressive film from the maestro Shyam Benegal without any slightest of doubt.
So if you haven’t experienced it yet, then do that at the earliest, since you need to know and nurture your seventh horse as a must, i.e. the horse of dreams and hope, assuring a satisfying future. 
Directed By Shyam Benegal 
Screenplay and Dialogues by Shama Zaidi
Music By Vanraj Bhatia / Lyrics By Vasant Dev

(Re-written in September 2018)

Tags : Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda Review by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, Shyam Benegal Most precious film, Based on novel by Dharamvir Bharati, Rajit Kapur, Movies To See Before You Die, Must See Movie List By Bobby Sing
02 Jun 2008 / Comment ( 0 )
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