Ek Gunah aur Sahi (1975)
Cast: Rani, Sabiha, Mohammad Ali, Shahid, Talish, Darpan, Nayyer Sultana
Director: Hasan Tariq
Nutshell: Superb melodrama with strong feminist tilt and brilliant performances!
This film was another storming success for the husband-wife team of Hasan Tariq and Rani barely missing out on a Golden jubilee at the Box Office following on from the massive success of Anjuman and Umrao Jan Ada.
This film was inspired by a short story by the name of “Mummy” which was then reworked by Tariq and his team and turned into Ek Gunah aur Sahi. The central role is played by Sabiha Khanum who turns in a simply bombastic performance as Mummy – a sort of modern day Mother Theresa cum Mafia Don – a most unlikely if deadly combination. The film begins with high class call girl Afshan (Rani) being hounded by a blackmailing creep (the uncle who sold her into the sordid flesh trade). She manages to fend him off momentarily but goes to the chain-smoking Mummy for advice on how to cope with the lowlife. Mummy who is a supplier of girls to the wealthy and powerful yet also provides her girls with food and shelter and love and tries her best to sort them out with marriage and get them off the racket. She is a Madame with a heart of gold and is constantly helping destitute women who are down on their luck. She adores Afshan as she would her own daughter but at the same time has no qualms about fixing her up with clients on a regular basis – all part of the trade.
Afshan has to live a life of constant abuse at the hands of her sleazy clients and the “respectable” elite who reek of the worst double standards. One night while fleeing a particularly sleazy gathering in a mad frenzy, she dashes across the street only to be mowed down by a startled Mohammad Ali. He takes her to the hospital and has her treated and is intrigued by her aura of mystery. When she recovers he approaches Mummy who reveals all about Afshan’s murky past and how she has had to sell herself to make ends meet having been jumped on by an evil uncle who then forced her into the trade. Mohammad Ali, decides to rescue Afshan from her life of constant humiliation by marrying her and changing her name to Masooma.
Though the newly weds are in bliss when they are together – cut off from the rest of the world, whenever they come into contact with the outside community problems arise because Masooma just cannot get rid of Afshan’s shadow that tails her wherever she goes. At every corner an old client of hers awaits and in fact her own father-in-law keels over in shock when he see’s that his son is about to wed a girl who he has used the services of. Then it transpires that her brother-in-law is also an old client and this beastly creep pounces on poor Masooma the moment Mohammad Ali leaves town on business for a few days. Her rape at the hands of the brother-in-law (Darpan) forces Masooma to return to Mummy and when Mohammad Ali returns he is fed a pack of lies and turns on his innocent wife for being the cause of all her own troubles. When Mummy goes to explain to Mohammad Ali that he is making a terrible mistake by casting Masooma aside he insults her and throws her out of the house.
Eventually Masooma gives birth to a young daughter but dies in the process and it is left to Mummy to provide for the baby and bring her up as best she can. Meanwhile Mohammad Ali crashes down the stairs due to stress and loses his eyesight – just as well because years and years later his nephew falls madly in love with Masooma (and his own) daughter who is the spitting image of her mother. But matters are set to come to a head when Mohammad Ali decides to get his eyes operated upon and he will then see for his own eyes that the daughter he threw out of his house as being the unclean spawn of a lowly prostitute is now set to return to his home as the bride of his nephew.
Such twists of fate and miracles, co incidents and near misses are endemic to Lollywood drama of which this is the very finest example. The film is dominated by Sabiha’s character Mummy who she plays with fabulous busy energy. Sabiha was to go on to be presented with a special Nigar Award for her stupendous performance and was even honoured in Tashkent at a film festival where Ek Gunah aur Sahi was accorded a fairly warm reception. Rani is her usual excellent self as Afshan/Masooma but when she resurfaces as the teenage daughter, she behaves in a demented manner and in now way can carry off playing the part of a college girl. Shahid doesn’t much to do and nor does Nayyer Sultana who plays Mohammad Ali’s sister. Ali himself does well even if for at least one third of the movie his voice appears to have been dubbed by his elder brother as he was out indisposed. Another unsung hero is the scriptwriter who has done a splendid job especially in writing Sabiha’s role.
The film is the best advertisement for Lollywood imaginable as it is a film that is alive to the very real issues that women are confronted with in society and goes a step further by presenting prostitutes as part of the labour force who partake in their profession not out of choice but out of necessity and hunger. There is a refreshing lack of moralising against prostitution and in fact their cause is presented in very human terms for a change and it is the predatory men who hide behind their veils of “decency” who are targeted by director Hasan Tariq as being the real villains, not the victimised women. This film, despite its occasional flabbiness is as good as Lollywood gets – a triumph.