“Zindagi bhi to ek waiting room hai (Life is also a waiting room)”.
I sometimes want to believe in this line. Life is indeed a waiting room for all of us. We wait for someone or something to arrive. We wait for the healing of old wounds, to make up for our old mistakes, we wait for the reconciliation with someone we love and also, we wait for the things to go the right way.
The above line is actually a dialogue from the renowned poet, lyricist and filmmaker Gulzar’s unforgettable movie Ijaazat (1987). The movie is the story of an estranged couple who get stuck together in a waiting room of a railway station one stormy night and that’s when they revisit their past once shared together.
The story proceeds as Mahender (Naseeruddin Shah) arrives at the railway station on the stormy night and enters the waiting room. There he bumps into his ex-wife Sudha (Rekha) who had already noticed him. Gradually both get interested in knowing each other’s life since separation and that’s when the story moves into the flashback.
Mahender is in love with a progressive-minded girl Maya (Anuradha Patel) for two and a half years. Even though they share a passionate relationship, Maya doesn’t want to get married to Mahender because of her own parents’ relationship. Even after all the efforts, Mahender is unable to get Maya to commit to him.
Maya’s habit of going to unknown destinations without telling anyone shows her restlessness. She wants to be distant from Mahender, but also she cannot stay away from him.
Soon Mahender is pressurized for the marriage and later he gets married to Sudha, after waiting long enough for Maya’s return.
Initially, Mahender tries to forget Maya but is unable to do so. Sudha is understanding and matured, but as she confesses to Mahender, she is selfish and possessive when it comes to him. Maya’s belongings are kept in their home only. On Sudha’s insistence, Mahender returns all her belongings, only to get a letter back from her in which she asks to return all those memorable moments too which they had spent together (remember the song Mera Kuch Saaman Tumhare Paas Pada Hai?).
It is later revealed to Sudha that Mahender still meets Maya. It causes damage to Sudha’s insecurities and also their marriage. Eventually, it reaches a boiling point when Sudha leaves Mahender without seeking his Ijaazat (permission).
Naseer’s character as Mahender goes from being a passionate lover to a responsible husband to being a lonely person in the end. He is honest, but also weak. He doesn’t have the courage to tell his guardian (Shammi Kapoor in special appearance) about his relationship with Maya, but he is always honest with his wife Sudha, and actually tries to forget his past and move on. Naseeruddin Shah is brilliant in portraying his character like always and has undoubtedly given one of his best ‘commercial’ performances.
Rekha as Sudha is beautiful and adorable. She, as an understanding yet selfish woman tries to make peace with Mahender’s past, but loses all patience in the end and takes the decision of leaving him in the middle which results in a tragic aftermath of not one, but three lives.
What surprised me is the amazing performance of Anuradha Patel (grand daughter of Ashok Kumar) as Maya. Being a newcomer then and still giving such a stellar performance is highly appreciable. One notices that mixture of glamour and innocence in Maya. It is unfortunate how even such a rare combination and wonderful performance went unnoticed by the jury and Anuradha lost that year’s Best Supporting Actress’ award to Sonu Walia for Khoon Bhari Maang.
When it’s Gulzar’s movie, you can’t expect a dialogue with no poetic touch to it. Gulzar’s pen has written some memorable and thoughtful dialogues for Ijaazat and we often get mesmerised by the way he writes the simplest of things in a poetic manner. Sudha’s reaction to Mahender’s agitation when she hurts herself in the dark in the waiting room comes as a surprise to the latter. Mahender apologises and says, “Itne saal guzar gaye par aadat nahin gayi (So many years have passed, but my habits haven’t gone)”, to which Sudha replies, “Aadatein chali jaati hain par adhikaar nahin jaate (Habits go too, but rights don’t)“. Probably she is telling Mahender that he still has some right left over her even after their marriage had ended years ago.
Sudha’s insecurity and feeling of incompleteness is also shown in one of the scenes where she tells Mahender “Poora poora apna kuch bhi nahin lagta (Nothing is completely mine)” which is of course because of Mahender’s love for Maya.
In one scene at the waiting room, Mahender also replies on Sudha’s habit of never asking for anything and not saying anything to him. “Wahi to…kuch kaha hota (Yes that…if only you had said something)”. But that reply also comes involuntarily from him.
It should be noted that during the time of this movie, musician R.D. Burman was going through a bad phase as his songs weren’t doing well in the movies. It is then that Gulzar roped in R.D. Burman (they have worked together in Gulzar’s several other films too) to compose the music. It’s an interesting fact that when Gulzar wrote the lyrics of Mera Kuch Saaman and asked R.D. Burman to compose it, the latter sarcastically said that next time, Gulzar would bring him news headlines and ask him to compose it too. Deservingly, Ijaazat‘s songs garnered much appreciation and praise from everyone and R.D. Burman’s career went to a high once again. Another interesting fact is all the four memorable songs of this movie- Chhoti Si Kahaani Se, Katra Katra, Khaali Haath Shaam and Mera Kuch Saaman are sung by none other than Asha Bhonsle, who is also R.D. Burman’s wife. The legendary singer also won the National Award for the song Mera Kuch Saaman.
For me, Gulzar is not a person, he is an emotion which can walk and talk. The story is simple yet moving, and Gulzar’s direction also makes it poetic and it’s really worth watching. The story moves slowly but one is always glued to the seat till the very end. It oscillates from present to past and then to present again, which is Gulzar’s forte as he has done the same in other movies too such as Aandhi, Mausam and Achaanak. Gulzar bought the rights to Subodh Ghosh’s Bengali short story Jatugriha and the result is perfect- Ijaazat. He has made its characters do more talking through their expressions than their mouth which makes it more wonderful. Having not taken his permission earlier, Sudha, before leaving the railway station with her new husband (Shashi Kapoor in a guest appearance), touches Mahender’s feet, this time taking his Ijaazat. Through this scene, Gulzar has shown many emotions at one moment- guilt, satisfaction, regret and so on.
Ijaazat is a brilliant, realistic and matured take on human relationships and marital relationships. I don’t think any other movie can do justice to such sensitive topic the way Ijaazat has done. This movie came some thirty years ago, and since then many movies have tried to showcase the same issue in their own way (Example- Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006)) but none can ever match the class that Ijaazat posseses.
You can watch the movie here:
Thank me later!
Till then, Ijaazat chahunga!