• Badnaam
  • Sharafat
  • Jano Kapatti

    Budnam (1966)

    A top class film from the 60s
    Allaudin, Nabeela, Neelo, Ejaz, Diljeet Mirza, Hamid Wain, Rangela, Zamurrad, Jaffery
    Iqbal Shezhad
    M. Sadiq
    Masroor Anwar
    Based on Saadat Hassan Munto's short story Jhumkae
    Riaz Shahid
      Reviewed by: Dr. Masood Haque, New York, USA

      ade in 1966, Budnam was based on Sadat Hassan Munto's short story Jhumkae (earrings). It was adapted for the screen by the legendary screenwriter Riaz Shahid (Neelo's husband, Shaan's father). Mr. Shahid's sense of moral outrage was well suited to Munto's impatience with societal sanctimony and its barbaric consequences. Under Iqbal Shezad's direction (his directorial debut), the moral claustrophobia of Munto's original story remains intact and combined with Mr. Shahid's fiery dialogue, results in a sharply observed melodrama about life at the bottom of the social and economic ladder.
      Saadat Hassan Munto's original story "Jhumkay" remains intact and combined with Riaz Shahid's fiery dialogue, results in a sharply observed melodrama about life at the bottom of the social and economic ladder.
      Allaudin's lowly tongawalla serves as the center of gravity for the film, which to this day packs a powerful emotional punch. In it, pair of earrings not only come to symbolize the tongawalla's "stained" honor, they also signify his powerlessness in the face of overwhelming social and economic oppression.

      he film shifts focus several times to create a layered reality. First, there are chilly scenes from a marriage. Hamida (Nabeela), a pouty beauty, develops a fetishist longing for a pair of earrings that her husband, Deeno, cannot afford. The mere imagining of the earrings hanging from her earlobes sets Hamida off into a state of convulsive ecstasy. She spars endlessly with her hardworking, honorable but poor husband, denying him not only marital but also conjugal bliss. Her good-natured husband, played with a humble sweetness by Allaudin, secretly saves money to buy his beloved just the earrings she is lusting after. The situation is cunningly exploited by their perfidious Landlord (Hamid Wain), he is also their next-door neighbor. An expert sexual predator, the landlord finds ways to tempt Hamida with the earrings. He sets a trap for her and in a moment of weakness she falls for it. He blackmails her with the threats of incarceration and humiliation, squashing her resistance as he rapes her. As a particularly sadistic act he lets her keep the earrings after the rape.

      n a state of post-traumatic catatonia Hamida comes home to find her husband eagerly waiting to present her with the same earrings. Deeno's spirits are punctured and honor deflated when he finds the exact pair already dangling from her ears. He immediately and wrongly assumes that she sold herself to get the earrings. For narrative convenience, her catatonia prevents her from correcting him although her motivation is explained later. His rhetorical refrain, "Kaha se aaye hai je Jhumkae?.." became part of the cultural lexicon. Allaudin delivered the lines both as an accusation and a lament. He proceeds to throw his wife out of the house and she ends up where most victims of sexual violence end up in Pakistani films, a Khota. Of course this is not true of the society at large where most rape victims struggle to resume their lives and do not survive by selling themselves. In presenting the Khota as the only option, these films merely reinforce a deeply held cultural ambivalence towards the victims of rape. Rape is often treated as forced sex (which explains the voyeuristic filming of rapes in Pakistani films) and not as an act of sexual violence. Even the euphemism for rape in these films ("Izzat lut gaye") implies a failure on the part of the victim. As if honor/Izzat was a nugget lodged deep into the female reproductive organs susceptible to loss from a violent sexual assault, and its loss implies that the victim simply could not hold onto it. Thus amazingly the victim is disgraced and not the perpetrator. The film does not dwell on the irony and moves on swiftly.

      fter disappearing into benign respectability Deeno works hard to raise his daughter, Saeeda (Neelo). He sends her to the local college where the romantic clichs begin in full force. Things turn interesting again when one day Saeeda comes home with a pair of earrings, quite similar to the ones, which caused her parents their marriage, given to her by her paramour (Ejaz). As if confronting a ghost, Deeno understandably freaks out. Although, his response to his daughter's transgression is muted compared with his meltdown to her mother's "transgression". He not only lets Saeeda keep the earrings but goes to meet the young man and arranges for the young man's marriage to his daughter. On the day of the wedding the identity of the bride's mother is revealed and the film hurtles towards its inevitable violent conclusion.

      he emotional thrust of the film filters through

      Allaudin's eloquent performance. As a man who accepts his place in the world, Allaudin is able to register an amazing range of emotions in a single moment. Humiliation, rage, anguish and powerlessness cross like shadows over his face each leaving its own residue. Even at its most melodramatic Allaudin's performance remains poignant and ultimately unforgettable.

      he casting of Hamida must have posed a challenge. A female character of this complexity is rare for Pakistani films. The character's trajectory from respectability to abject humiliation would appear beyond the reach of most Lollywood starlets. The fact that the character is raped limits it to non-heroines of a certain age (In Pakistani films, heroines never got raped, they were frequently attacked but never raped). The casting required a heavy weight, and in Nabeela they got one. On screen, she has a commanding physical presence and a labile, wounded emotional constitution, well suited to the character. Nabeela's success in the part is mostly due to her ability to evoke a tragic dimension to her character, even when peppered with copious hysteria.

      abeela went on to set the standards for a unique category for

      mature actresses in Lollywood films, the Queen of emotions (Malka-e-Jezbaat). Malka-e-Jezbaats exploited the deeply felt cultural reverence about mothers to a rather enlightened effect, by pitting themselves against the patriarchal tilt. These women became a force of nature and demanded justice for the powerless and acceptance for the rejected. Nabeela, along with Salma Mumtaz, was a pioneer in this category of female performers. Her performance in "Ziddi" as a gun totting mother, who takes on her own lawless son is a classic of its type, repeated to this day by Bahar and company.

      udnam achieves most of its highlights in the first act, the middle one third being too grounded in clichs. The film bogs down around Neelo and Ijaz's annoying screen presence. Neelo peddles her trademark mature girlishness while Ijaz tries to pass buffoonery as comedy, both getting in the way of a good story. It is a credit to Iqbal Shezad's fluid direction that the film withstands this pandering to "the masses".

      udnam boasts strong production values and a memorable musical score. Among the musical highlights is the classic, "Bade be murawat hai ye hususn wale" Filmed on Nabeela and Zamurd. Zamurd's professional coquetry makes a dramatic contrast to Nabeela's fallen woman, who sings heartache of a song as if sitting on a bed of nails.

      udnam is from an era when Pakistani cinema showed real promise. Through craftsmanship and effective storytelling, films of this era could take a subversive short story and turn it into an entertaining and thought provoking film, which could be a commercial success to boot.

      See also:
      » Pakistani films in 1966
      » Pakistan Film History