Jawab – 1942
If beauty is a necessary requisite of a work of art, then one can without hesitation choose ‘Jawab’ (1942) as the most beautiful film made by P. C. Barua. Nowhere in the entire body of Barua’s work can you find a film of a more exquisite quality. Instead of wearing away with age, Barua’s artistic personality showed signs of maturing with time and experience. Isn’t it strange that a film so aglow with the message of life and laughter was made by Barua in almost the last phase of his career? Even more, Barua not only wrote, directed and acted but also managed the photography.
Compared to his earlier films which now appear dated in style and content, ‘Jawab’ would be able to sustain successfully its appeal for audiences of the future. The story was an adaptation from Sasadhar Dutta’s Bengali novel ‘Sesh Uttar’, but on celluloid Barua was able to give it an entirely new tone and texture. In a very simple love triangle, Barua was able to infuse an unusual spirit of romantic fantasy.
Barua, playing the son of a rich zamindar, suffers amnesia and in this state steps down from a train at a small way- side railway station to fall in love straightaway with the station master’s daughter (played by Kanan Devi). They part and we fear all will be lost in his memory again. Far from it, he forgets the name of the station but she remains right there in his mind.
He is actually betrothed to a rich, sophisticated girl played by Jamuna. Now, in comparison with Kanan’s rural simplicity, he hates Jamuna’s society manners all the more. The two women meet. There are jealous and heated exchanges. Barua gets a severe relapse in which he is likely to forget everything, but he emerges from the ordeal well and intact. Jamuna steps down from her position in a gesture of sacrifice to unite the lovers in wedlock.
Keeping the film free from the common run of narratives, Barua weaves into it the mood of dreams and the longing of wishes unfulfilled to release a wonderful spirit of fantasy. The songs become the prime carriers of this feeling. The first sung by Kanan sets the tone, “Yeh duniya toofan mail”. The world of longing and yearning in the love story is shaped by the train. It brings you friends and lovers from afar, but also takes them away. Things are gained, but lost forever too. Kanan sits by the side of the tracks and dreams of her love. With a drunkard porter, who is her confidant, she shares the secret longings of her heart in the song “Rona hai bekar pagli, rona hai bekar”.
And then, when her love is by her side, she sings “Ai chand chup na jana”, pleading with the moon not to hide behind the clouds and break this wonderful illusion of happiness so long as she is singing. It is difficult to recapitulate in words the beauty of this song in its entirety. “Yeh mujhe kaha dilne chupke se bar bar”, “Door desh ka rehna wala aya desh paraye”, and that most haunting of songs on the uncertainty of love, “Tu haan kar jaa, ya na kar jaa”, all attempt to evoke the inner speech of a woman’s heart that is given to longing and dreaming. Tuned by Kamal Das Gupta and sung in the rich voice of Kanan, these songs have taken their eternal place in the world of film music.
‘Jawab’ was not made under the New Theaters banner, but the style of the film bore the unmistakable stamp of the parent institution. The popular K. C. Dey’s character of the blind singing minstrel of the past was brought back in the role of the drunkard porter who has a soft corner for Kanan. Furthermore, in the conflict between the good, traditional girl versus the spoilt modern one, Barua was able to continue his pet pre-occupation with the search for ‘the ideal Indian woman’, started by by him way back in ‘Mukti’ (1937) .
‘Jawab’ once more proves the fact that a film of any time can be a document of much social significance. For the selection of the theme of amnesia and the milieu of the railway cannot be attributed to mere whim or chance. Through them, Barua as an artist was perhaps consciously or unconsciously able to predict that means of communication like the train would break the barriers between people, make the world smaller, displace older values and create new ones and that the bane of impersonal relationships that results in loneliness and loss of identity would be the common sickness inherited by most.