Cast: Rani, Shahid, Sabiha, Aalia, Aslam Parvez, Lehri, Rangeela, Tamanna
Director: Hassan Tariq
Nutshell: Debauched immoral western values wreak havoc on traditional eastern ways
This social drama with a Stinger missile of a message became a runaway smash hit way back in 1971 establishing Rani as a major force on the Urdu scene – especially as it followed up on the stupendous success she had enjoyed the previous year with Anjuman. The team of director Hassan Tariq and wife Rani became a potent force with their heady brand of woman oriented social drama that usually ended in tragedy. Hassan clearly enjoyed casting his wife as the tragedy queen and it seemed so did the public because the dynamic duo husband wife team scored a sequence of barnstorming hits with Umrao Jaan Ada and Ek Gunah Aur Sahi which followed on from Tehzeeb and Anjuman.
Rani and Hassan Tariq were not the only common links of the three movies; Sabiha Khanum also came into her own as dominant character actress. She stamps her presence resoundingly on each of the smash successes. A fourth common ingredient is the fabulously sleazy and slimy Aslam Parvez. Tehzeeb begins with a distraught matriarch battle axe Sabiha explaining to the family doctor how her family has been destroyed by the winds of vice which have spread like a cancer …the winds that spread from the West which is the land of evil and debauchery. Sabiha rants and raves like a demented woman about the horrors of the modern ways and how humanity itself is at stake under threat from the evil of lust, debauchery and indecency that comes with everything associated with the West. Sabiha starts recalling the story of the downfall of her own family, swallowed up as it was by the evil lustful Western ways. With such a demented attitude to life it’s hardly surprising that Sabiha’s sons and daughters in law pray for the day that the old hag keels over liberating them from the Taliban like regime that she enforces on the household.
Sabiha feels she is about to kick the bucket and decides to marry simpleton Rani off to Javed, a nephew who is studying in the heathen lands. She forces Javed (Shahid in his debut role) to wed Rani over the phone (by proxy) but when he returns to the homeland he is horrified to discover that the woman who he thought would be a party going trendy English speaking socialite is in fact a doughty servant like bumpkin. He is disgusted that he was tricked by his family into the marriage and thus takes to dating the curvaceous Baby and frequenting the club with her on almost every night of the week. Unfortunately for Shahid, he has his fabulous Beatle look (hairstyle) ruined by kill joy Sabiha but he stands committed to club land.
The rustic Rani takes to trying to please her husband by following him to the club but she is like a fish out of water in that debauched westernized, modern environment where the likes of Aslam Parvez are on the prowl for fresh chicken meat. One night Shahid is stunned by a new ultra-modern, super fashionable blonde femme fatale who shows up at Club to sample the nightlife. She spins a web of mystery and has Shahid salivating at the very thought of her stunning beauty, but he is equally startled by the fact that she resembles his plain Jane wife Rani to the hilt. It is as though she is the alter ego of Rani – the modern, souped up ultra-mod girl as opposed to the moronic, dull as ditchwater, whining and moaning idiot he is stuck with for a wife.
After tailing the blonde on a few occasions he finds that his suspicions were well founded and that the mystery blonde was none other than his own wife who was being trained by interfering granny Sabiha to teach her errant husband a lesson or two. The plan works initially but then backfires in a huge way as Rani and Shahid fall madly in love with each other but then she decides to allow herself to be molded into the woman of her husband’s dreams. He trains her to be modern and westernized and in no time at all we have Rani becoming the “Lady of the Night”, indeed the Belle of the Ball at the fleapit club where she is granted instant membership once she has shown her prowess on the dance floor. Meanwhile having forced his wife to start drinking on a regular basis as well as going out clubbing on a nightly basis, Shahid leaves for a stint abroad leaving his delectable wife in the hands of trusted best mate Mohsin (Aslam Parvez).
In his absence Mohsin and Chandni (Rani) develop a very close relationship and become a steady item on the local club scene. When Shahid returns from his stint abroad he appears to have changed because having force his wife into the clubbing, debauched westernized life style he now appears to have turned a new leaf or become a born again as now he frowns on the club and his wife’s modern, western ways.
There is a moment of heavy symbolism when Shahid catches the sight of a Barbie doll on the mantel piece…dressed in a sleeveless seductive dress, then a moment later we are shown a Barbie that is properly dressed in accordance to eastern values, head dutifully covered under a black dupatta. At that very moment Shahid realizes the terrible error of his ways and how he has created a Frankenstein’s monster that just cannot be stopped, or perhaps it’s still not too late. Shahid belts out the show stopping hit number Laga Hai Misr Ka Bazaar in Mehdi Hassan’s voice (an earlier more popular version by Madame Noor Jehan having already featured earlier on in proceedings) but even his efforts prove fruitless and Rani spirals further and further into the debauched lifestyle of the hedonist west. When all appears lost and Shahid arrives at his Grandmother footsteps to beg forgiveness for his errors and to allow her the satisfaction of saying I told you so.
Meanwhile Rani is trapped by the reptilian Aslam Parvez who tells Rani chillingly that he will only let he go once she has become “the other woman”. Will Shahid be able to secure the blessings of Sabiha and rescue his bride from the clutches of the serial rapist Aslam Parvez, or will is it too late and the cancer of western debauchery spread too far into the system for any redemption at this stage.
The films strength is in the bombastic performances of Sabiha Khanum as the prophet of doom matriarch and also by Rani who is excellent as the sacrificed woman (her forte). Aalia is simply breathtaking in her dance numbers and proves that she had no equal in the club dancing stakes in the early 70’s, the pre Ishrat Chaudhary days. Shahid impresses in his debut role and the supporting cast does well with Lehri excelling.
A feature of the film’s success was the hit music composed by Nisar Bazmi (lyrics by Saifudin Saif) and especially the song Misr Ka Bazaar (which the censors had changed to Husn ka Bazaaras the government felt it would offend Egyptian sensibilities) which became anthem like in its popularity. The racy dances at the club were also no doubt a major attraction. Yet the potent and utterly blatant nationalistic message is what really carries the film. The anti-western vitriol spouted by Sabiha is really the stuff that the most hardened Taliban would approve of. It’s a typical sub-genre of film within the mainstream – bashing the West for its debauched evil ways.
There are commendable moments though, mainly that the women are depicted as being strong characters and also one scene in particular when Rani’s character has the guts to stand up to her fickle husband due to his pathetic double standards. In the best scene of the film Rani takes a stinging slap on her face from her husband Shahid but replies by delivering one of her own that is twice as hard! Rani looks at her best in this film with a rare waistline while Aalia’s hips are in danger of exploding. Aslam Parvez is sublime in his trademark as woman baiting predator of the club scene. Without doubt Tehzeeb endures as a classic of its kind.