A narrative of infidelity and a climax that requires feminine liberation

Koimoi recommends Arth A Semi Autobiographical Drama directed by Mahesh Bhatt (Photo credit: Youtube / Eagle Home Entertainments)

Koimoi recommends Arth: I was 17 and that one day I would write about movies wasn’t even a thought back then. While surfing TV channels, a local cable channel had a young Shabana Azmi. She turned the man down with a million dollar question and walked away. I had never seen a woman who had this agency in the films of the past. I was curious to know which movie that was? It was Mahesh Bhatt’s semi-autobiographical drama Arth.

It was the climax that captivated me, it was the look, it was a woman who found a voice, and a man who watched his privilege collapse lured me into it. Today, if I am repeating this gem of a movie where infidelity has been viewed in a way that Bollywood has never done before, I recommend you watch this Shabana Azmi, Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Smita Patil star on Koimoi Recommends.

Director: Mahesh Bhatt

Language: Hindi

Available on: Youtube

Mahder Bhatt was inspired by his own life and added fiction. In 1982 he wrote and directed Arth. Indian (Kulbhushan Kharbanda), an adventurous and selfish filmmaker, is married to Pooja (Shabana Azmi), an orphan who finds her home Indian love. But soon we find out that Indian love has protected someone else too. Enter’s Kavita (Smita Patil) who loves Indians and he leaves Pooja just so he can spend the rest of his life with Kavita. Pooja takes the time to deal with the turbulence and begins to find ‘arth’ (meaning) for her life and it becomes a classic.

(Photo credit: Youtube / Eagle Home Entertainments

Infidelity in Hindi cinema has always been either a comical act or the glorification of one of the two at the expense of declaring the other a monster. But there is a third reason to put yourself in the shoes of both sides and point out the real evil. Mahesh Bhatts Arth is there. One would expect such a trajectory to turn out to be a catfight, and it does at some point, but knows its limits.

Why am i saying this? Mahesh Bhatt, how the writer lived this story. He has the courage to look at his privilege, his ego and his power to be a man. The women in this universe, both Pooja and Kavita, are simply looking for their respective homes. One practical and the other emotional. These are not women who have no life beyond the man they are in love with, nor are they voiceless. It’s just love that makes them do things.

And just like Pooja and Kavita, Bhatt tells stories of several other women from different walks of life in his story, but never makes them too difficult. A maid with an abusive husband but wants to raise her daughter (my favorite parallel and Rohini Hattangadi has my heart). A girl in the hostel finds happiness in quick earnings and materialistic achievements, for which she exchanges her morals.

(Photo credit: Youtube / Eagle Home Entertainments

All of this and Arth will never preach for a moment. It gives each of its characters the respect they deserve. Shabana Azmi’s character, for example, is the most realistic transformation. When Indian talks about the extramarital affair, she doesn’t wake up the next morning realizing it’s worth it. She begs him to come back, tells Kavita to leave, tries to abuse her publicly (a scene you must watch and be amazed at Azmi’s performance).

At a nice point in the film, Indian comes up and asks Pooja to sign the divorce papers. She lets him say the date louder and that doesn’t ring a bell in him. It’s her birthday. And the same man comes back to her in the end and expects her to take him back. She beautifully asks him if she returned to him after doing everything he did? And a nice climax is made. One of the most powerful and impactful Hindi cinemas ever.

(Photo credit: Youtube / Eagle Home Entertainments

Smita Patils Kavita gets the same respect. She may have wronged Pooja, but she is fighting the spirit of her wrongdoing. Your sanity is debated when it wasn’t even something for half of our population. The final scene in which Pooja and Kavita meet has gone down in history and rightly deserves it.

Arth is about the meaning of love. Self-love prominent. It’s about finding the true meaning of your life. Add to this the powerhouse Shabana Azmi, a breathtakingly beautiful performance by Smita Patil, an honest character of Kulbhushan Kharbanda and the cutest Raj Kiran, a doomed but ambitious Rohini Hattangadi, and a heartbreaking story of self-actualization.

Throughout all of that, I can’t finish this piece without mentioning how much Jagjit Singh’s iconic music was in the film as a character and a punching aspect. Some articles say he was called for “contamination” of the gazals, and if that is contamination, I am all for it. Only three songs, all of which are depicted on one man (Raj Kiran), but the effect they create is eternal.

You have to pay attention to Arth for everything it stands for. Empowering women at the top and, yes, for being a woken up and confident story about where it is based and where it comes from.

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