Bazar, directed by K Amarnath, has a lot in common with another film released the same year in 1949, HS Rawail’s Patanga. Both films star Nigar Sultana, Shyam, Yakub, Gope and Cuckoo and both are set against the world of the stage or the theatre. And both, by and large, are generally lightweight films requiring undemanding viewing with some pretty decent music.
Bazar remains just about so-so viewing due to its none-too-innovative story and script. The film looks at the travails of a struggling poet, Prem whose stage name is Parwana (Shyam), wanting to make it big in the world of the stage. This, to the chagrin of his father, who also believes in the power of the pen, but insists it be used to write poems on relevant social issues. Prem leaves home with musician friend, Jaggu (Gope), to fulfil his dreams. On the way, they pick up another performer, a gypsy, Koel (Mangala), and the trio come to Bombay to find their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There, they manage to get work with the Khanna Theatre company run by Khanna (Yakub) and whose mainstay is dancing star Bijli (Nigar Sultana). Bijli, who has been brought out of an orphanage and who has been groomed into a star of the stage by Khanna, falls for Prem and he for her. This leads to a showdown with Khanna, who also loves Bijli. He warns her that he will never let her and Prem succeed if she goes off with the latter. True to his word and using his wealth and contacts, Khanna destroys every attempt by Prem and Bijli to stage their plays. He also emotionally blackmails Biji that he will support the struggling Prem’s rise on the stage and make him a star if she were to come to him. For Prem’s sake, Bijli agrees to Khanna’s condition and leaves Prem, leaving him shattered…
The narrative flow of Bazar is far too simple, has its share of clichés and is a mite too convenient. The screenplay is mostly functional and the film only kicks into a higher gear around the halfway mark once the conflict is set up between Khanna and Prem over Bijli. Much of the first half to set up this main conflict of the film is weakly developed, particularly the love story between Bijli and Prem. It happens far too instantly and is bereft of any memorable romantic moments between the two. Hence, when the break up happens, the intensity of the heart-break of the two is not entirely convincing. Yes, their songs are melodious, romantic and suitably pathos ridden but lack the required build up. Just about the only nice touch in their love story is when after they stage Prithviraj-Sanjukta, Prem, on a horse, rides away with Bijli directly from the stage to an isolated, romantic spot for the two of them to be alone. It’s also pretty interesting that once Bijli walks out on Khanna, she lives in with Prem, though they sleep in separate rooms (of course)!
Bazar, though released in 1949, seems to have been in the making for some time, in fact, from pre-Independence times. Or it is set in a period before Independence. However, the film doesn’t make that quite clear. In a a song, Zara Sun Ho Hum Apna Pyar Ka Afsana Kehte Hain, combined with traveling train shots supered with city names representing the all-India tour of the theatre troupe, one of the cities mentioned is Lahore. And at the end of the film, Prem sings a song, Shahidon Tumko Mera Salam, as a tribute to the martyrs who gave up their lives in India’s freedom struggle. That said, the Indian Independence movement is not featured anywhere in the film, which concentrates more on the dramatic story at hand but Bazar does end on an seemingly idealistic note wherein Prem, Bijli and Khanna swear to make their plays more issue based for the people and growth of the country.
Looking at this so called idealistic end, I would say the film fails to convincingly address the other major conflict present in its story. That of commerce and money power versus true art. With the end of the film seeing a brokenhearted Prem coming to the stage only to address social issues facing the country, it sidelines the thought that true art needn’t always depend on social issues to make for high quality entertainment. In that sense, it is Prem’s defeat as an artist, one who wanted his writing to entertain the masses. Symbolically here, the old pen that his father gave Prem and which he used in the world of entertainment, gets broken and lost. And ultimately, Prem will now write what his father wants him to with the new pen that he is given, thereby destroying his individuality as an artist.
In terms of performances , Yakub dominates the film as the villain, who destroys Shyam in trying to make Nigar his but finds that even his wealth is of no match against true love as he cannot make her love him. His is the only performance that holds up well even today. Shyam and Nigar are adequate but inconsistent, faring much better in the dramatic sequences rather than in the lighter ones. Shyam, in particular, is good in the more tragic portions of the film when he has his heart broken. It is odd though that in spite of his tall, rugged, macho good looks, Shyam was cast, many a time, as a sensitive, soft hero, who wallows in self-pity and self-destruction when faced with life’s obstacles rather than overcoming them himself. We see this here in Bazar and even in films like Dillagi (1949) and Patanga. It is usually the proactiveness of other characters who give Shyam his happy ending or as we see in Dillagi, not.
Of the supporting cast, Gope is his usual reliably efficient self and his angle with Mangala wherein her gypsy tribe reverses the grammar of the genders is silly but works well enough and is consistent through the film.
Technically, the film is very average. Camera set ups are minimal in every scene and often the feel of the film is one of too much staticity and staginess that the story is unable to overcome. Also, Nigar is photographed rather inconsistently throughout the film thereby hampering her performance. The musical score is shared well between Shyam Sunder and the duo Husnlal-Bhagatram. Overall, the songs are melodious with some fine early work by both, Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi. The stand out composition of the film is undoubtedly Mangeshkar’s sad solo, Sajan Ki Galiyan Chhod Chale, a song regarded by the nightingale as one of her best ever. Rafi, too, is in fine form in Ae Mohabbat Unse Milne Ka Bahana Ban Gaya (with Mangeshkar) and the solos Mere Bhagwan Tu Mujhko Yunhi Barbad Rehne De and Shahidon Tumko Mera Salam. His voice, it has to be said, suits Shyam perfectly. Sadly, none of the song picturizations rise to any great heights.
All in all, Bazar is an okayish film with so-so performances but embellished, undoubtedly, by some fine songs. In short, it is a film typical of the time it came in and little else.
Hindi, Drama, Black & White