Life is A Sweet, Sad Song!!!

Sleep swaddles eyes and everything else. It’s 1.30 pm but feels like the night still hangs heavy. Till the wee hours, I was watching a Govind Nihalani — Aghaat —feauturing Om Puri, Deepa Sahi, Amrish Puri, Sadashiv Amrapurkar and Naseeruddin Shah. Like his two other films that I’ve seen, Ardh Satya and Vijeta, this too is a powerful statement on celluloid. A tale of a trade union leader, Madhav Varma, essayed with élan by Om Puri, it portrays how in the wake of rapid industrialization trade unions proliferate and muscle power rules the roost. It is no longer a war fought on ideological lines, but one in which the dictum that reigns unabashedly is: Might is right. Madhav, a former lecturer in English, heads the union at Shivalik Engineering Industries, which is facing onslaught by the rival union led by Rustam Patel (Naseer).
The aghaat ( anguish) is evoked not just through Om Puri’s inner conflicts which lie at the root of self-doubts about his ideology and commitment, but also a labourer Chote Lal’s (Pankaj Kapur) tragedy, and the grief and trauma that his stoic wife (Deepa) undergoes. Hers is one of the most striking characters; throughout the movie, she barely opens her mouth, portraying her plight through her facial expressions. I fell in love with her character, the way many of us did with Jaya Bhaduri in the inimitable classic, Sholay.
For Madhav, it’s a question of the lot of the laboureres. But for the top leaders, who hamstring Madhav’s every move, the battle, in trying times, is all about “victory”. They coax him to resort to violence and disrupt Rustam Patel’s first public meeting. While they eventually succeed in doing so, innocent laboureres are maimed and murdered in the clash that follows. In the midst of madness which has no method, the leaders themselves are safe in a van, watching it all from the sidelines. The choices left with Madhav are to look for answers to his questions in the “dark dungeons of history” or find the light in “sangahrsh or struggle”. Madhav has to decide which course he should follow. He, ultimately, realizes that the best course could be to just keep on moving, despite all the odds that are stacked against him. That’s a line that he would like his union members and all the comrades to follow: Badhe chalo. “Kyunki ham sab me sooraj ki jyoti hai (there is a fraction of sun’s light in all of us),” he says.
Even as I traverse on a journey to “complete” myself, far away in a lost land, a lot goes on, everyday. I was supposed to be there. I should have been there. But I am not, dealing with my own set of dilemmas, daily tragedies and triumphs, which, of course, are no one’s concern. Out of the conversations and chats that I have with many, I am drawn to make a conclusion that you have, ultimately, yourself to hold responsible of what you make of your life. And you yourself are the sole solicitor of all your joys and pains. If you succeed in what you chose, there will be praises and accolades lavished, if you don’t you will languish in self-pity and the raucous din of reproach and reproof. If you are a loser, everything is lost on you: life’s simple joys, warmth of relationships and an unflinching faith in yourself and the worlds it could open up for you. If you win, you still lose on a lot. The question that keeps ringing in my mind is: Whose victory is the victory and whose loss is the loss?
We can never have the best of all of our worlds. We win some. We lose some. I can go on ruminating on a countless sublime and mundane things, but time…….
Life seems to be an unfinished symphony, an incomplete opera…. the ceaseless breathing strings several Schuberts and Sibeliuses, a billion Beethovens, a million Mozarts. Even as the last line springs from my fingers, a melody plays in the mindscape: Life is a sweet, sad song!!!


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