‘Man Jaiye’ is a classic example of a man’s confusion about women’s rights. I’m never quite sure what B R Ishara really thinks of women. He gives them great freedom in his films, his female characters are usually strong and unapologetic about their decisions in life, and yet, they do often come to a bad end (Chetna), or at least somehow take cover in a man’s patronage (Dil Ki Raahen).
But somehow, B R Ishara’s confusion does not rile me up. Because at the end of them, I find his films refreshing, eager, over-eager to communicate all his thoughts, and vigorously making the best of abysmal budgets.
In ‘Man Jaiye’ too, I’m entranced by his unapologetic use of the same locations and props, here notably bright cotton curtains, to depict different spaces. A corner, a wall, curtains and lo-behold, we have another space.
Curtains are shared in Suman’s (Rehana Sultan) house and Ajay’s (Rakesh Pandey) office, or Suman’s uncle’s (Asit Sen) house and Ajay’s friend Mr. Robert’s house.
Most of the film takes place in the Baneshwar reserve, close to Pune, with characters taking walks there regularly, and then bumping into each other.
Why exactly they are there is not clear, since Suman, Ajay and Ashok (Jalal Agha) have all come from some other town, and are living in a hotel. Ashok is a curious character, an engineer in the railways, has provoked Suman at an earlier date, that modern women can never be good wives, and she is hell-bent on proving to him he is wrong, despite the fact that Ajay and she have already applied for divorce and she is here to see her uncle (Asit Sen) who is waiting for her at the station with an interesting array of women with velis in their hair, and a brass band to welcome her divorced state, as he is the leader of the Naari Jagran Samiti. This comic use of the Naari Jagran Samiti makes Ishara’s view on feminist organizations clear.
Ishara is also able to complete scenes very economically. For instance, a scene of Suman’s brother’s marriage, is conveyed through 2-3 close up shots of shehnai and dholak players, and a staircase decorated with flowers, sound of shehnai playing, Ajay and Suman sitting on the steps, watching festivities off camera.
Another transition from Suman and Ajay’s first day of marriage takes place with some close up shots of a Taj Mahal miniature, 2 stuffed penguins and two flowers, some cracks of lightning, and some pink and purple flashes of light, to lead them straight into a stale marriage, full of fights and recriminations.
Suman also has a curious father who never looks at her while talking, and is always looking almost at camera. Ishara loves these quirky shots, which add a lot of interest to the film.
A shot of Ajay through Suman’s earrings in a song.
A frame where Ajay and Ashok are talking in the hotel room, and Suman is reflected in the mirror.
An almost mandatory shot of Suman’s bare leg raised in a V, as she lies down and a shot of Ajay through the V.
Extreme, extreme close-ups like one of Suman’s eye which keeps flashing as she blinks, disturbed by an amorous couple in the train, remembering her own romance with Ajay, as the now estranged Ajay remains untouched, sleeping.
Rakesh Pandey is sadly quite incapable of any finer emotions, swinging from loud comic acting to complete woodenness.
Jalal Agha does see-through muslin shirts way before SRK.
His Ashok also gets to dance in the Baneshwar garden with an imaginary sweetheart, an entire song as he mimes holding a partner, kissing her, etc. Then Ajay walks in on him and as usual, gives no reaction.
Of course, everything is forgiven as far as I am concerned with the pretty, pretty Suman always the centre of the film, and her pretty, pretty costumes (Mani Rabadi).
Her jewellery seems to be her own, and there is a ruby ring she wears that I have seen her wearing in other films, that explains to me the meaning of the word ‘covet’.
A flower bedecked woman also comes every day to the hotel to give Suman flowers. She seems very happy to be beaten up by her husband.
It’s a sign of love, she says. That seems to be a convincing argument for Suman. There are many couples strewn through the film. Robert and his wife who get married and divorced repeatedly. A woman Suman, Ajay and Ashok meet at a party, who is with her 4th husband. And Ashok’s own tragic love story which seems to give him licence to interfere in other people’s relationships.
‘Man Jaiye’ seems to be B.R.Ishara’s treatise on marriage. All his contradictions however, seem to conclude in the last dialogue of the film when Ajay says “Jo hum hain ussi ko soche, ussi ko samjhe. Waise ko cchod kar, aise par aa jaaye.” Translated within context, he says, “Let’s be happy with who we are, understand each other as we are. Forget what should be, or could be, but let’s come to terms with what is.”