Cast: Sunil Dutt, Mala Sinha, Ashok Kumar, Shashikala
To openly discuss the issue of extramarital affair way back in 1963 was indeed courageous and definitely B.R. Chopra’s Gumrah must have been perceived then as a bold and forward film of the times. But seeing it almost fifty years later makes it look too superficial, too preachy and too outdated!
The story starts off with a young couple in love (Sunil Dutt and Mala Sinha), waiting to announce their marriage plans to their parents. The guy is a budding artiste (a painter and a singer) and the girl is the apple of the eye of her rich widower father (Nana Palshikar). The couple even gets the go-ahead blessings from the girl’s elder sister (Nirupa Roy), who has come to her father’s place for a holiday. But then the fate strikes a cruel blow. The elder sister dies in an accident leaving behind two kids who are very much attached to their aunt and the downcast father persuades his younger daughter to marry his widowed son-in-law (Ashok Kumar) for their sake!
Marriage practically destroys all the romantic aspirations from the young girl’s heart. For her it is just a compromise. On one hand she is still lamenting the loss of her first love and on the other hand, she feels neglected by her older lawyer husband’s workaholic nature. So when she re-encounters her first lover while on a holiday visit to her home- town, the romance rekindles despite her futile attempts to thwart it. She desperately tries to keep the clandestine love-meetings under the wraps from the watchful eyes of her husband but then, a mysterious lady (Shashikala) claiming to be her lover’s wife starts stalking and blackmailing her. The unfaithful wife now finds herself at a difficult crossroad of life where every road leads to ruin and despair!
The lead actors Mala Sinha and Sunil Dutt earnestly portray their roles but after all these years their portrayals look a tad too artificial. Ashok Kumar’s superbly natural role as the calm and collected husband, who is secretly aware of his wife’s affair and Shashikala’s menacing portrayal as the blackmailing vamp are the roles to watch.
Ravi’s music set to Sahir’s lyrics plays a vital role in adding another emotional layer. Mahendra Kapoor’s songs- Chalo Ik Baar Phir Se and Aap Aaye To Khayale Dile Nashaad Aaya are the best examples of that. Sahir’s immortal lines: “Woh Afsana Jise Anjaam Tak Lana Na Ho Mumkin, Use Ik Khoobsurat Moad Dekar Chhodna Acahha” (If the affair cannot come to fruition/ It is better to leave it gracefully as a beautiful memory!) can be said to be the theme of this film.
Director B.R.Chopra deftly tells this emotional story using suspense to great effect but he also tries to make it a ‘Message Film’ by sending out a message that the a married woman should not cross her social limits (Laxman Rekha!) by giving in to her emotional longings since she has to put domestic duty before dreamy desires! Now that’s male chauvinism at its worst! Indian urban mentality has come a long way from these arcane views and that is why Gumrah doesn’t manage to carry the same emotional appeal it did when it was released back in the 60s. Still that did not prevent a film-maker like Boney Kapoor to make a modern makeover called Bewafa as late as in 2005!