Piya Aiso Jiya Mein – Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam – Relinquished to Love
The camera focuses gradually on her delicate alta-adorned feet, her beautiful, glittering saree (designed by Bhanu Atthaiya), her petite figure, her succulent lips, her vivid eyes and her signature big bindi on the forehead. That’s how the audience are introduced to Chhoti Bahu (Meena Kumari), through the eyes of Bhootnath (Guru Dutt) who sees her for the first time and an enigma begins to unfold on screen.
Based on Bimal Mitra’s Bengali novel, Shaheb Bibi Gholam, the film depicts the bygone era of the zamindars, their havelis and their hedonistic lifestyle. Meena Kumari in the role of life-time as Chhoti Bahu is the heart and soul of the film. There’s an uncanny resemblance between her reel life as the Chhoti bahu and her real life. Consumption of alcohol, estranged marital relationship, craving to be loved, inclined towards younger men and the tragedies of loneliness around.
In the pen portrait of Meena Kumari by Nargis (in the book Yeh Un Dinon ki Baat Hai by Yasir Abbasi), Nargis narrates – The dubbing for Dushman was happening at the mini-theatre located in our house. She called for me and once I was there, she sent everyone else away. Then, she put her head on my shoulders and cried, and cried, and cried. Between her sobs she said to me, “Baaji, I am such an unfortunate soul that no one loves me. Not even you, because you don’t meet me for months on end.” In another such incident Nargis asked her – “Manju (Meena Kumari’s nickname), you are free, but of what use is such freedom when you are bent upon killing yourself?”(referring to her alcohol consumption).
She replied, “Baaji, my patience has a limit. How dare Kamal saheb’s secretary raise his hand on me? When I got the incident communicated to Kamal saheb, I thought he’d come running and immediately fire Baqar, but he said, ‘Come home and I will decide things here.’ What was there for him to decide? Now it’s me who has decided to not go back to him.”
In the film too, where she dresses up for her husband in the song, shows how lonely she must have been so as to display the woman’s expectations of sexual desires. Desperately wanting her husband’s attention and love. How deftly Shakeel Badayuni has handled the delicate situation in lyrics –
मोरे अंगना में जब पुरवैया चली
मोरे द्वारे की खुल गई किवड़िया
मैंने जाना के आ गये सावारियाँ मोरे
झट फूलन की सजिया पे जा बैठी….
Though the film is directed by Abrar Alvi, one can see traces of Guru Dutt’s direction especially in the songs. The focus on faces, the subtle expressions captured and the shadows.
पिया ऐसो जिया में समाय गयो रे
के मैं तन मन की सुध-बुध गवाँ बैठी
हर आहट पे समझी वो आय गयो रे
झट घूँघट में मुखड़ा छुपा बैठी…..
With the anticipation of their conjugal relationship, she’s brimming with love and desire for her husband so much that she’s relinquished to it already – तन मन की सुध-बुध गवाँ बैठी….not in her senses anymore. Subsumed in the idea and consumed by it.
Though the song is about Chhoti Bahu’s desire for her husband, Hemant Kumar has intricately sewn it around Bengali kirtan genre with khol, flute and the cymbals justifying the purity of those thoughts by their presence. While it is the mesmerising Sitar by Jairam Acharya which hints the audience towards her unruly thoughts.
मैंने सिंदूर से माँग अपनी भरी
रूप सैयाँ के कारण सजाया
इस डर से के पी की नजर ना लगे
झट नैनन में कजरा लगा बैठी
पिया ऐसो जिया में…..
Geeta Dutt sounds as sensual as Meena Kumari looks on screen. A tragedy that both these wonderful artists died in the same year and due to same illness. The slight husky voice of Geeta Dutt suits Meena Kumari perfectly. Geeta Dutt has rendered some of the most beautiful songs under Hemant Kumar’s music direction, songs of Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam included. The role of Chhoti Bahu was tailor-made for Meena Kumari. She oozes sensuality with her eyes and smile. Her writhing and recoiling with agony gives us a peek into what her real life was like.
Her death in the end (reel and real), was inevitable but it is tragic that she died a lonely death. Just as Nargis has summed up, Meena Kumari longed for love, so did Chhoti Bahu!!
Woh mohabbat ki talaash mein ek pyaase ki tarah maari maari phirti thi – kahin se ek boond pyaar mil jaaye, magar pyaar ki yeh boond usay na mili. Woh tadapti hi rahi, tarasti hi rahi – tanha rahi, akeli rahi aur akeli hi gayi. Uske iss akelepan se, uske is dukh se khuda bhi tadap gaya hoga. Magar zaalim insaan, be-his insaan achchhe logon ke saath aisa hi karte aaye hain, aisa hi karte rahenge….