Monday, July 28, 2008

Satyam Shivam Sundaram

In Satyam Shivam Sundaram, director Raj Kapoor sets out to teach us it is not what is outside, but what is inside that counts (Really, Raj? And you chose a scantily-clad Zeenat Aman to illustrate that point?).

Sarcasm aside, once I got past the irony of it all, I found SSS to be a fairly enjoyable film. There was lots of pretty things to look at. The story was interesting. I added Zeenat Aman and Shashi Kapoor to my list of actors I want to see more of. And I had my first taste of 70s Bollywood--which, by the way, is just as groovy as everyone says it is!

And, you know what? After watching the film, I think Raj Kapoor made the right choice for his heroine. Zeenat gave the role a mysterious, mesmerizing tone that perhaps only she could pull off. Yes, she was barely dressed and every movement she made was super-suggestive...But it kept you watching...and created a believeable backdrop for an otherwise unlikely tale. I mean, let's face it...only Zeenat's bronze curves prancing through the forest could make a man fall in love without even seeing her face (And by that I should clarify a man like Shashi Kapoor's Rangeev, who was self-admittedly hung up on physical appearances).

Now, I usually steer clear of plot summaries in my posts for two reasons: 1) I'm extremely bad at pulling out main ideas and 2)I'm afraid of going on a tangent and telling too much. But I'm beginning to think they might be helpful to those who have not seen the film and want to decide whether or not it is something they would like. So, I've decided to include a little plot synopsis in all of my posts from here on out. And I promise, I'll try to keep them as simple and brief as possible.

So, here goes: Rupa (Zeenat Aman) has been considered unlucky since the day she was born. She is an outcast, a lonely young girl with few friends and a father who considers her misfortune a curse. As a young girl, Rupa is burned in a cooking accident, which leaves one side of her face scarred. Villagers whisper that Rupa will never get married, and her father fears the same.

Enter Shashi Kapoor (Ranjeev), an engineer transported to Rupa's village to oversee construction of a dam. One morning, Ranjeev is lulled out of his quarters and into the forest by Rupa's enchanting voice, where he spies her volumptous image from afar. He pursues her relentlessly, never once seeing her scars (If the thought of Ranjeev meeting Rupa several times without noticing the side of her face seems impossible to you, just watch the movie. You'd never believe this would work, but it does. Way to go, Raj Kapoor). Ranjeev is head over heels for Rupa, and asks her father for her hand in marriage.

We start to hold out hope for Ranjeev and Rupa until we discover Ranjeev has a phobia for anything less than beautiful. In his own words, he "cannot tolerate any form of ugliness". Uh-oh. What happens when Ranjeev unveils his new bride? I won't reveal anything else, but the rest of the movie takes you down this path.

One nagging flaw in all of this: As the viewer, you seem to be the only one other than Ranjeev who notices how hot Rupa is. The rest of the town appears oblivious to this fact, which seems kind of ridiculous. Scar or no scar, Zeenat Aman is one sultry babe. It's like watching Marilyn Monroe walk through an army of soldiers without turning any heads.

Make no mistake, though--Zeenat Aman gave us more than sex appeal in her performance. I hadn't really seen her in anything, except for Laawaris, which I really didn't remember much about. I thought she was awesome here--the role gave her an opprotunity to take on many different shades to Rupa's personality, and she delivered every time. Her dancing was cool, too-- very snake-like and alluring. Check out this video of "Bhor Bhaye Panghat Pe" and you'll see what I mean (also be sure to notice Shashi's adorable face at 4:22).

In the 70s, men in the U.S. were drooling over Farrah Fawcett. I'll bet men everywhere else were fantasizing about Zeenat Aman in the waterfall.

I've heard that Satyam Shivam Sundaram did not sit well with some because Raj Kapoor flaunted Zeenat Aman's sex appeal to no end. This definitely spiced things up a bit, but I can see why some might be disturbed given the treatment of the main character. Personally, I chose not to overanalyze it, and I'm glad I didn't. It was worth my while to just sit back and enjoy the eye candy, because there was lots of it. As a matter of fact, the entire movie was colored with beauty, from Rupa to Ranjeev to the trippy "Chanchal Sheetal Nirmal Komal"(more on that later).

Ahh, but the real reason I bought Satyam Shivam Sundaram was because it starred Shashi Kapoor.

He's such a fan favorite, especially with my fellow bloggers (check out Sanket's awesome tribute), that I couldn't wait to get my hands on some of his films. In hindsight, this probably wasn't the best place to start, as Ranjeev wasn't the most likable character in the world, but...It just means I'll have to watch more of his films, right? Not that he didn't do a great job--I'm convinced that I would have hated Ranjeev if anyone else had played him. But Shashi had a sort of softness in his voice and smile (I loved the little nervous chuckle he did under his breath!), a boyish quality that caused me to blame his actions on immaturity rather than character. Like Rupa, I kept wanting to forgive him, kept trying to give him ways to redeem himself (***SPOILER***And he does redeem himself in the end--once he and Rupa end up together, I wiped his slate clean of all his past sins. I couldn't help it, because I honestly trusted that he would shape up and treat Rupa right from there on out***SPOILER END***).

Which brings me to the creme filling in Satyam Shivam Sundaram--the song that looks like it was inspired by a 70s acid trip, "Chanchal Sheetal Nirmal Komal". Seriously, I kept expecting little munchkins to pop out and join in on the song. Well, whatever RK was smoking, it did the trick, because this song is jam packed with visual goodies. And, as I've done with my other Raj Kapoor posts, I've included some pics for you...

As you can see, Satyam Shivam Sundaram made more of a visual impact on me than anything else. But it was still a decent film--and totally worth my time. Watch it for Zeenat, for Shashi, and for eye candy galore.

Text © 2008 Nida Nazir Bitten By Bollywood


Sanket Vyas July 29, 2008 at 10:34 PM  

Hi Nida! Lovely review as usual, breezy and interesting without getting too bogged down in the 'deep meaning of it all' :) And welcome to the lovely world of 70's Bollyweed (the director must have been smoking something when making these movies as you suggested or you have to be while watching.

Yes, Raj Kapoor did get criticism for exploiting Zeenat's sex appeal but I can't really blame him. It's like having putting Amitabh in a silent movie - you could of course, but why? Shashi's character is bit shallow in this movie but like you said, he has enough charm to make him likable and any other actor would have made us hate the character.

'Chanchal' is a trippy song indeed and the sets remind me of another Raj Kapoor classic song from Awaara - Ghar Aaja Mera Pardesi (
But then again all the songs are amazing from this movie and like many Hindi films are the best part of SSS. I actually have the original LP to this and am having it framed as we speak - looking forward as to what the final result will look like because the album was quite intricate.

Cheers and keep up the great work...

Zehra,  July 30, 2008 at 2:24 AM  

Hey Nida,

Dude I'm gonna make it a point visiting your blog every week from now on. You do write once a week or more frequently?

Back to SSS, I remember watching it long time back on tv. I vaguely remember something like a special run the channel was having. They showed back to back movies of Shashi Kapoor during the weekends; and this was the first one of Shashi's movie that I saw.

You are so right about Zeenat. The self proclaimed "sexy babes" of today should learn a thing or two from her. For she carried her sultriness with such grace and self effacing attitude that for sure Zeenat could only have pulled.

Your depiction of Shashi's character was amazingly right too. Yeah were it for any other actor than him he would have been the most hated actor/charcter in the history of Bollywood. But it was if I was making up excuses for his behavior, trying to justify it when most obviously it couldn't be justified on rightful/moral grounds.

You do seem to be a big Raj Kapoor :)

Anyway I think you should watch some movies of Late Smita Pathak. Among her most poular works is 'Namak Halal' with Amitabh Bachchan. She died 20 years ago while giving birth to her son.

Sorry I don't remember his name right now. But if you seen 'Jaane Tu Ya Jaana Na...' so he debuted in that film in a small but cute role of Aditi's brother Amit.

For me he was the best think in the movie after obviously Naseeruddin Shah's hillarious performance. Though all my friends are drooling on Imran Khan, I on the other hand am harboring feelings for Amit :$

Do watch her movies if you get the time to do so and blog about them. I would surely love to hear your day on them and introduce to you an actress who was sheer talent but was taken away from us very soon.

Thanks alot for taking out time and writing for us. Really appreciated! And I hope that you continue to do so.

Love to your daughter! Regards to your family.


ajnabi July 30, 2008 at 8:25 AM  

Hi Nida! I really enjoyed your review and the great screencaps. I've seen the songs from the movie but never watched the actual film. This makes the second blog post touching on SSS I've read this week (Sanket-ji's being the other!). I'm going to have to look it up after I get back from vacation. Thanks for the fun write-up.

Nida July 30, 2008 at 10:49 AM  

Sanket- Thank you very much! I've revised the post and added a much deserved link to your Shashi tribute!
"Bollyweed"--gotta love that term! Yes, you're right, "Chanchal" does remind me of the song from Awara. Very far out but very cool as well. When I saw both of those songs I had a moment where I was like "is this actually happening? Am I actually seeing this?" but I loved every second!
Nope, you're right, one can't blame Raj for flaunting Zeenat--and like I said in the post, she did a great job of making this situation believable, and the irony of it all added to the appeal of the film. Great comparison of Amitabh in a silent film, LOL!
I also enjoyed the soundtrack to this movie very much. Very cool that you own the original!


Well I try to write every week, sometimes more often, sometimes less often. It can be sporadic sometime because of my little girl--she's 2 and a half, quite the handful. Recently she's taken to watching the songs from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai--even though she doesn't understand a lick of Hindi, just likes the songs and dancing!
I agree about the "babes" of today compared to Zeenat in this film, at least(I have yet to see more of her work). A shining example would be Priyanka Chopra, an extremely beautiful and intriguing individual who lacks the ability to grab me onscreen, in my opinion. Too bad because I think if she had the charm they had she would be like another Zeenat or Rekha...
I will put Smita Pathak on my list! Thank you for the recommendation!

Ajnabi--Thank you, glad you liked the post! Definitely watch this one and please do post--can't wait to hear your thoughts!

Sanket Vyas July 30, 2008 at 9:36 PM  

Thanks for the link, much appreciated & dhanyavad ;)

p.s. The actress that Zehra is referring to is actually named Smita Patil. She passed away at a much too young age of 31. Smita acted in both art cinema as well as Bollywood roles with equal ease. Not 'classically' beautiful but stunning in her own way - all her movies are gems even now. The only actresses I can compare her to are Shabana Azmi and these days, Nandita Das.

Smita also became a big woman's rights advocate in her later years and her only son (with Raj Babbar) has a role in Aamir Khan's next production. Didn't mean to go on like that but I encourage you to seek out her movies - she is just amazing to watch.

bollyviewer July 30, 2008 at 10:30 PM  

Did you know Raj Kapoor wanted to cast Rajesh Khanna and Dimple in the lead initially? Also, this was a story idea Lata Mangeshkar and RK had developed several years before and was supposed to involve young Lata as heroine! By the time the movie was made Lata couldnt play the heroine but was aghast at the "body beautiful" theme he had introduced by casting Zeenat in skimpy clothing. She made tons of difficulties over recording the songs!

I found this one a very difficult movie to watch not just because of its "soft porny" aspects (detailed in Post Punk Cinema Club's review of SSS) but also because there seemed to be no light moments and fun aspects either - it seemed all doom and gloom till the sudden sunny end.

PS: The actress Zehra is referring to is Smita Patil and not Smita Pathak.

Nicki July 31, 2008 at 9:27 AM  

Oh my freaking Goodness Nida, I have to see this movie!! I've seen pics of the songs, especially the one you capture. I like Zeenie a lot too. It's ashame I haven't been that exposed to her films.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat July 31, 2008 at 1:00 PM  

lol- I really must see this one of these days. I am a bit turned off by Raj's voyeuristic attitude, so its been hard steeling myself to watch the movies he made in the 70s and 80s (the ones before werent quite so bad at all).

Nida July 31, 2008 at 1:24 PM  

Sanket and Bollyviewer--Thank you for the correction, I was now able to find Smita Patil online and will try to get ahold of some of her films (can you believe I still have yet to see a Shabana Azmi film?)

Bollyviewer--Thank you for the trivia! Very interesting...I have only seen Rajesh Khanna in photos but I am familiar with Dimple--wonder how the movie would have been different had they taken the leads? Do you know why that didn't pan out?

As for Lata, wow, things would have been quite different. I can only imagine her reaction when she saw "Bhor Bhaye"...!

For me, the movie was definitely as you say mostly gloom because of the way the heroine was treated from beginning to end. But "Chanchal" was a break from all of that. I still enjoyed the film as a whole, but can understand why some things about it would be disturbing.

Yes, you need to see this film! I would say the visuals alone make it a staple for any Hindi cinema lover--or blogger, for that matter. Love it or hate it, its certainly something to talk about!

I would love to hear your opinion on this film once you see it, knowing how you feel about Raj Kapoor and his later films!

Magpie Ima July 31, 2008 at 2:28 PM  

I am so going to search this movie out. Those screen shots are fabulous and I have to see the whole thing. Thanks for the review.

Nida July 31, 2008 at 2:56 PM  

Magpie Ima-
Anytime--let me know what you think of the film! That song is truly more amazing onscreen than even the photos could capture!

Anonymous,  August 1, 2008 at 12:00 PM  

hey! i'm so glad you are enjoying your dip into bollywood. if you get the chance do check out:

Hum Dil de Chuke Sanam

Kaho na Pyaar Hain

utterly beautiful films. :)

Nida August 1, 2008 at 12:27 PM  


Thank you! Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam is sitting in my pile to watch, and I'm actually really excited about it!

I've not yet seen Kaho Naa Pyaar Hain, but will put on my list thanks to your recommendation! :)

dubbagol August 4, 2008 at 11:03 AM  


Great review...the best review for this movie that I have read in the sarcasm, its well placed...keep review and carry on dubbagoling is all we can say !!

The Dubbagol Team

Nida August 4, 2008 at 12:07 PM  

Dubbagol Team,

Thank you! I'm excited to try Dubbagoling and will recommend it to my blogging buddies if all goes well :) I'm sure I'll love it, though!

the post-punk cinema club August 7, 2008 at 11:45 PM  

Ahh, welcome to the world of demented Shashi.

I really enjoyed this film, though, in retrospect, it's a bit of a mess of contradictions and ideas. It's still very enjoyable - at least, I always enjoy stylized fable-esque films with ultra-blunt symbolism. And I'll watch anything - ANYTHING - with Shashi.

Apropos of that, it sounds like you're just getting started on the road to Shashism. May I point you in the right direction?

As I said on Sanket's post, the Mystery of Shashi Kapoor's Appeal is truly... well, mysterious. He made so many bad films (SO. MANY.) and many mediocre films, coupled with some really brilliant films... where he was either second banana or an unlikable character (e.g. Deewaar). Yet he remains my end-all, be-all filmi hiro. A mystery!

Looking forward to your next masala review!

Nida August 12, 2008 at 12:44 PM  

Post-punk Cinema Club,

Thank you for stopping by!:) I just read your handy little guide to Shashi-love and will make sure to include at least 3 of his films on my next Bolly-shopping spree!

As far as this film is concerned, I agree it is somewhat like eating empty calories...shallow yet strangely enjoyable. Heck, that even sounds like a contradiction!

yves September 7, 2008 at 2:14 PM  

Hi Nida,
Yes, that Zeenat, what a bomb! She defintanely would've kept me watching... That first picture, with her very low dress, and luscious midriff, phew! Bronze curves, you're right!
Does the film really contain more than its two main protagonists' charms though?

Nida December 4, 2008 at 12:13 PM  


Sorry this took so long to respond to!

Lol, see that's the reaction I'm sure men everywhere had when watching Zeenie-Baby on film!

Nope, don't think the film would have been much without her charm and Shashi's Shashiness.:)

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