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Flashback to 'Silsila': Yash Chopra's neglected masterpiece

Updated January 28, 2015


Jaya Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha come together on screen in Silsila. - Photo courtesy:
Jaya Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha come together on screen in Silsila. - Photo courtesy:

The late Yash Chopra is often unfairly referred to as the king of romance, given the fact that he made more than his fair share of films that centred on themes other than love – think Deewar and you will know what I mean.

However, the title, unfair or not, sits well when you think of Silsila – the 1981 classic featuring Amitabh Bachchan, Rekha and Jaya Bachchan.

Poster for Silsila. - Photo courtesy:
Poster for Silsila. - Photo courtesy:

Silsila was released at the time rumour mills were buzzing about the legendary, possibly mythical, romance between Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha, while Big B was married to Jaya Bachchan.

Of course, the likelihood of the affair seems questionable, given that Jaya was also part of the film but Bollywood legend dictates that Jaya agreed to the film, only on the contingency that the affair would end.

It is also believed that Yash ji had initially cast Padmini Kolaphure and Smita Patel for Jaya’s role and Parveen Babi for Rekha’s but had a change of heart at the last moment. Apparently, he then convinced Jaya to work in the film, while Amitabh did the same for Rekha.

Be that as it may, Silsila remains one of Bollywood’s most compelling commercial dramas that focuses on marital infidelity.

Yes, we also have movies like Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna but those times were different and the movie was light years ahead of the fraternity then.

Silsila begins with Shekhar (played by Shashi Kapoor) madly in love with Shobha (Jaya Bachchan), while his younger brother Amit (Amitabh Bachchan) is falling madly in love with Chandni (Rekha).

Yashji’s obsession with Chandni is yet another story – it was the name of his heroines in more films than ones, including Chandni, Faasle and Kabhi Kabhie.

Spoilers ahead

Both love affairs are going seemingly well, until Shekhar dies, leaving Shobha pregnant.

Playing the saviour, Amit marries Shobha, dumping poor Chandni through a letter (had this film taken place today, would he have tweeted her?)

It would seem that that is the end of the affair but of course it isn’t.

The love, romance and passion between Amit and Chandni is too strong, despite the fact that she is now married to Dr Anand (played by the incomparable Sanjeev Kumar) and thus begins an adulterous affair.

Showcasing a love triangle boldly, Silsila was a movie ahead of its time. - Photo courtesy:
Showcasing a love triangle boldly, Silsila was a movie ahead of its time. - Photo courtesy:

While Silsila boasts of top-notch performances by everyone, it is the chemistry between the lead pair that really brings the movie together.

In the book, 100 luminaries of Hindi Cinema, Dinnesh Rahjaja and Jitendar Kothari stated: “To paraphrase a famous saying about Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers: he gave her class and she gave him sex appeal."

Silsila is the living embodiment of that very thought. Never had Rekha looked more alluring and Amitabh at his most dapper.

Adding to the film is Sanjeev Kumar’s understated and brilliant performance, and Shashi Kapoor’s exuberance. Of course, Jaya Bachchan’s sulkiness can not be ignored either (pardon my personal bias, as I am still rooting for Big B and Rekha to get together in this lifetime.)

The dialogues are memorable, the direction breathtaking and the songs fit perfectly within the narrative, with soulful lyrics and mesmerising melody, courtesy of Javed Akhar and Shiv-Hari.

Whether it is the twin renditions of Neela Asman by Amitabh Bachan and Lata, Main Aur Meri Tanhain, the tulip frenzied Dekha Ek Khwab or the bawdy bordering on erotic Rang Barse, each one of Silsila’s songs remains remarkable to this day.

Unfortunately, Silsila was not a commercial success. Even so, Yash Chopra termed it as one of his favourite films and it's certainly one of mine.

Powerful dialogues/scenes

Tum mujhpe ilzam nahi laga saqte Amit...Ye tho nahi kahungi ke tumne mere saat bura kiya, magar Amit tumne acha nahi kiya.

Kiya chati hai aap? Aap apne vishwas ke saat rehiya, mujhe mere pyar ke sat rehne dijeye

Hawa ka geet madhyam hai, Samay ki chaal bhi kam hai, Neela aasmaan so gaya

Rajkumari ko bebass nahi hona chahiye...

Mamun Adil is a Bollywood junkie. He tweets @mamunadil and blogs here.