Daag: A Poem of Love (1973)

This may be the most aptly named film in the history of cinema. It’s an all-out early Yash Chopra romance: boy and girl fall in love, marry despite opposition, are separated tragically, then reunited—but with big obstacles to their happiness. Particularly satisfying are Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore as said boy and girl. Their performances are enhanced by setting (snowy Himachal Pradesh) and beautiful songs courtesy of Laxmikant Pyarelal with stunning lyrics from the great Sahir Ludhianvi. I—shameless romantic that I am—loved every heartwrenchingly glorious minute of it.

The film begins with one of these songs (“Hum Aur Tum”) as we are introduced to Sunil (Rajesh Khanna) and Sonia (Sharmila Tagore), who are young and madly, passionately in love.

Sonia is an orphan living with her kindly uncle (Madan Puri) and his shrewish wife (Achala Sachdev). When Sunil lands a good job, he asks her uncle for permission to marry her. Her aunt objects strenuously as she’s found a rich (but seriously ugly) husband for Sonia. The lovers declare their defiance with another song and dance, “Ab Chahe Maa Roothe.”

They get married with just a priest as witness, although Sonia’s uncle arrives to bless them at the end, and leave immediately for Sunil’s new job at a Kapoor Industries’ plantation. They are greeted on arrival by Dheeraj Kapoor (Prem Chopra), the debauched son of the owner, who immediately has eyes for Sonia.

Oblivious to this (it’s Prem Chopra! certain trouble ahead!), the newlyweds spend a blissful night together. After Sunil leaves for work the next morning, it doesn’t take Dheeraj long to make his move. Sunil, returning home for his forgotten wallet, is in time to save Sonia’s honor but Dheeraj is accidentally killed during the ensuing fight. Sunil is arrested.

Even though he arrests an innocent man, seeing Iftekhar just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

During the trial that follows, Sunil and Sonia’s story is ignored as Dheeraj’s wealthy father uses all his connections to ensure a conviction. They say a tearful goodbye; and on the way to the prison, the police van overturns and burns. All the occupants are declared dead and Sonia is grief-stricken. The doctor discovers that she is also pregnant. Her aunt goes ballistic.

Not wanting to cause more trouble, Sonia sneaks out, leaving no word of where she is going. She gets on a train and eventually winds up at a clinic where she gives birth some months later to a baby boy.

I must say at this point that I’ve mentioned my dislike for Sharmila Tagore elsewhere in this blog. My sister with her usual unerring insight pointed out that Sharmila playing a young girl can be somewhat unbearably simpering and coy, but in portraying a more mature woman she really shines. She does a great job in this film showing the transition from carefree, somewhat self-centered girl to a sober woman weighted with grief for her lost husband, but full of love for their little son. I loved her in the second half of the film.

Anyway, she takes him far away to Himachal Pradesh where she finds a job teaching at an elementary school. Years pass, and I am thrilled when her little boy Rinku grows into a kid even I would want to mother: Master Raju Shrestha.

So cute, with his chubby cheeks and old man eyes!

Alas, even this peaceful existence is ruined when the school committee discovers Sonia’s connections to a convicted killer. The only person on the board to stand up for her is Chandni (Rakhee), the mother of one of Rinku’s friends, Pinky.

She is overruled with this kind of reasoning: use a previous poor decision to justify a new one!

Sonia is fired from her job. Chandni offers her a place in her home: her husband is rarely there, and she is lonely with just her father and Pinky. She needs a companion, and could use some help with her daughter Pinky. With no other options and Rinku to think of, Sonia accepts her offer gratefully.

They’ve been at Chandni’s for a few days when her husband Sudhir returns home.

He and Sonia are stunned at the sight of each other. Reunited doesn’t feel so good!

Sonia manages to say hello and flees to her room with Rinku. “Sudhir” asks Chandni about her new house guest. Chandni tells him Sonia’s sad tale and voices her admiration for Sonia’s unswerving loyalty and devotion to her dead husband.

I do love a good knife-twist!

Sonia sings a truly amazing song about betrayal: “Jab Bhi Ji Chahe.” It’s full of sadness, longing, bewilderment, anger, bitterness; and Sharmila’s face mirrors these emotions perfectly.

Sunil is sleepless too.

What has happened in these five years? How is it that Sunil is married to Chandni and father to Pinky? What will happen now? Will Chandni discover who her husband really is? Does he no longer love Sonia? (Remember: I love this film, and I hate sad endings.)

Sharmila’s performance is wonderful, as I already said, and it’s really her film. Rakhee plays her role perfectly as well. As for Rajesh, well, what stumps me is this: how is it that it’s taken me so long to find him? I’m seriously smitten.

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56 Comments to “Daag: A Poem of Love (1973)”

  1. “(Remember: I love this film, and I hate sad endings.)”

    umm.. did “Sunil” have a twin called “Sudhir”? For if Sunil is really Sudhir, and gets back with Sonia, then Chandni will have a “sad ending”! umm.. or Sunil=Sudhir alright, but is not really Chandni’s husband, and is just acting the part .. because .. umm.. Chandni’s real husband died when Pinky was a kid.. and for Pinky’s sake, Sunil/Sudhir has agreed to “act” as a father to her, and hence, as Chandni’s husband too..!!

    Oh, now my head hurts.

  2. No, Sunil does not have a twin who is Sudhir. It is Sunil with Chandni! Sorry, should have made that more clear.

  3. on a serious note though, your screencaps look wonderful.. and I’d like to see the movie someday. A curious question: what’s the book Sharmila’s reading in the 1st screencap? That picture came out so wonderfully! Ah.. I’d love to sit under a tree just like this, reading a book, with the love of my life listening intently.. *sigh*


  4. Oh I know it’s Sunil with Chandni.. but since you said you loved this film, and thus implied it does NOT have a sad ending.. I was trying to figure out a way that would keep both the women happy! A twin Rajesh Khanna seemed the right prescription for it ;-)

  5. You should see it, it’s seriously romantic and wonderful. I won’t ruin the ending for you!!!!

    I couldn’t make out the name of the book, it was too far away (or I’m too blind, or something)…

  6. Its a wonderful movie made under the banner of “Yash Raj”films. Yash Chopra made this movie after comimg out of the shadow of his brother BR Chopra who also made wonderful movies over the years.Rk supported Yash Chopra at that time.
    It is said that name was coined due to combination of Yash Chopra and Rajesh Khanna i.e taking Yash from yash chopra and Raj from Rajesh Khanna.
    However due some differences, they parted ways and did not work together again.

    This was the movie made during the last part of RK’s peak period so in many scenes he looked slightly older than the script demands as he did not look me the student at all during college scenes.
    But overall everyone performed brilliantly and RK was great in it.

  7. How interesting…I have always wondered where the Raj in Yash Raj came from. Although it sounds like this is just one rumor or bit of speculation.

    He looked about the same age throughout to me, i.e. never the right age for a college student! but that’s not uncommon in the filmi world.

  8. You know I love to rag on Rajesh Khanna but that’s really based on his later period. Stinkers like Souten (although a bunch of people really like it) and Swarg and stuff like that. If you’ve ever seen Aa Ab Laut Chalen then you know it’s only gotten worse since then. However, the early to peak Rajesh Khanna is a rather different story. I always tend to forget that until I sit down to watch one of those movies because the trauma of those later performances is burned on my retina.

    You should see him in b&w in movies like Khamoshi – very young and heroic. :)

    AFAIK by the way, the “Raj” in Yash Raj is Yash Chopra’s middle name. The BR in BR Chopra similarly stands for Baldev Raj. Too bad. the whole yash-Rajesh Khanna theory would have been a lot more imaginative. :D

  9. Well just to clear up one point—B.R. Chopra is Balbir Raj Chopra and Yash’s full name is Yash Raj Chopra. But everything else about the nature and extent of Rajesh’s involvement in Daag is supposedly confirmed by Yash (the RK forum has lots of details!). Yash had directed him earlier in the unconventional Ittefaq (just before his Aradhana days) which had done very well.

    Isn’t he just dreamy here! And the chemistry with Sharmila absolutely sizzles. Self fanning self madly in the scenes in the nefarious Prem’s room with the rains drumming down—notice the high-minded critique! Another Gulshan Nanda by the way.

  10. Sorry, as Amrita says it’s Baldev not Balbir.

  11. Interesting….can’t wait 2 see it.i want 2 see the end of this movie.

  12. This one was showing on TV a couple of months back, and the newspaper listings said this was the Dilip Kumar-Nalini Jaywant Daag. I’m a Nalini Jaywant fan, so that’s why I sat down to watch. As soon as it started, of course, I knew this wasn’t the one – but watched nevertheless, and enjoyed it a lot. And really, I think Rajesh Khanna in the late 60’s-very early 70’s could be very alluring if he put his mind to it!

  13. Amrita, I’m looking for Khamoshi! I have seen Ittefaq and loved it, and loved him in it actually. I’m so enjoying this rediscovery!

    Suhan, he is so dreamy. Dreamy dreamy dreamy. Especially in the rain. And—yay, Gulshan Nanda! Should have known!

    Sanket, let me know what you think of it!

    Madhu, I love Nalini Jaywant too. But I love Rajesh more now :-)

  14. This looks very good. I have no idea how that could work out with a good ending but I will take your word for it.

    By the way, while I am not a Rajesh Khanna fan (I have seen a sum total of two movies with him) I do like him and I am open to seeing more.

  15. this must be the only film where all the filmi conventions make sense and don’t make me feel like throwing a pie at the screen! Rajesh was nice and restrained in the movie and not froggy like always, I never thought Achala Sachdev could play a bad maa. and my fave police inspector Iftikar was there! yaaay

  16. Gebruss, give him a try! I’ve just ordered several more of his earlier films so stay tuned…

    Rum you do love to waste pie, don’t you :-D Achala Sachdev was horrid. I’m always glad to see Iftekhar too!

  17. Hmmm…I guess one of the women has to die protecting someone else, or something along those lines. I don’t foresee all three of them living happily in a poly/open relationship. ;)

  18. nobody dies…THAT would be sad…


  19. Is this based on a Gulzarilal Nanda novel? I think a good number of 70s movies were inspired by his novels.

  20. Hmmm….so do all three live happily together? That would be daring and unconventional. (you can email me or put a spoiler alert..) :)

  21. Actually feeling curious 2 know abt the ending.I mean 2 say wat happened 2 Sonia,Chandi and Sudhir?R sunil and sudhir same or wat?if same then who will grab him?etc etc.

  22. Amit—yes Gulshan Nanda story. Should have known when it reminded me of a Harlequin/Mills & Boon novel.

    Sanket, you should watch it! Then you’ll find out :-)

  23. Ah, Gulshan, not Gulzarilal. I’m confusing the interim Prime Minister of India with the novelist. Gah.

  24. Lovely blog you have here! If you like Master Raju, you must watch Kitaab http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0215907/

  25. Thanks Veena :-) I have Kitaab, so need to watch it soon I guess! Up tonight is Amar Prem, and he’s in it too I see!

  26. i really like this film. sharmila shines in it & it reminded me of her roles in amar prem, a film i could watch 1000 times, & aradhana, also a huge favorite. its good that you didnt give away another twist at the end of the film when its revealed who pinkys father is.
    ps is iftekhar still alive?

  27. Will someone please provide me info on where I can watch this movie online ?? I would also like to watch mere jeevan sathi (1972) online starring rajesh khanna and tanuja…..it would be greatly appreciated if someone could provide info regarding the same

  28. Yash Chopra, younger brother of B R Chopra had worked under B R Chopra banner for many years and given some good films. At last he decided to do on his own. He came of the B R Banner and set his own – Yash Raj Films. Thus Daag is the first film of Yash Raj banner. We don’t know the truth but it is said that when Yash Chopra had no money and he went to Rajesh Khanna with the script and proposal. Super Star Rajesh Khanna was on the Top of the world that time. He liked the idea very very much. He agreed with the project and this is how it came about. So Daag was financed by Rajesh Khanna. Daag has become super hit movie during 1973 and it was golden jublilee in most of the theatres throughout india and it has created history.

  29. Well Sony showed Daag last night here in India, Rajesh Khanna – very handsome in this movie, beleive me…. He was always a good actor. His mannerisms spoiled things – but not in this movie. He was good.

    Sharmila sizzling, Rakhi beautiful.

    Was well worth the watch…..

  30. Memsaab, most of the hindi movies based on Gulshan Nanda novels, the ending was changed. I think it was the same for Daag. The ending of Khilona, Ajnabee (book had a very realistic ending – RK kills his own wife unknowingly as he thinks it is Sonia in his house who takes shelter that night) and a few other older movies was also changed.

  31. If they change it for a happier ending, I’m all for it!!! :D

  32. In the movie Jeetendra has a small role as Sanjeev’s brother. In the book he has got a good role as the guy with whom Mumtaaz falls in love (quite natural given the circumstances she comes into the family ie to help a guy get well who has sort of lost his mind after losing the girl he loves). Iti s quite natural for a healthy adult to be happy in the company of another adult with whom one can share their thoughts etc esp when u r taking care of some one like Sanjeev. If i recollect right, Sanjeev (who is still not fully well and still in his mad avatar) rapes or forces himself on her – this is when she is alone with him and after she thinks she is making some progress with his health. She falls pregnant and a huge scandal erupts in the householf coz nobody believes her (given her background as a tawaif). Only Jeetendra knows the truth and is in love with her. So in the climax he defends her and goes against his family and marries her in the end. I think Sanjeev recovers in the book too but can’t remember that particular behaviour of his (not amenisia or anything like that but the human mind does tend to blot unpleasant things out) but to him Mumtaz is a person who has helped him recover.

    While I enjoyed the movie and can see why they focused on Sanjeev’s role and made him better in the end and also ensured that Mumtaz and he have a life together, I think the book was more realistic that she falls in love with Jeetendra and the way their relationship is developed in the book is also natural and convincing. On her part she has only come to help a person in need but finds love in the process with a member of the household.

    Having said all that, i can guess Memsaab’s reaction – Oh no I much prefer the film and its end!

    • No, actually that sounds like a great ending! Still happy AND more realistic! I would only not like it if it ended in tragedy. I am interested in one thing: I understand that Nanda’s books were hugely popular, so do you think film audiences wouldn’t accept Mumtaz marrying someone other than the father of her child? I’ve noticed that in Hindi cinema the idea of two people with a child NOT being together in the end seems to be anathema.

  33. will respond to this before going home today – a busy day at work here!

  34. Memsaab, I found this in a link article on GN on Bollyviewer’s blog ” KHilona “- in the novel the lunatic hero dies towards the end falling from the roof while chasing the villain.

    I couldn’t remember the ending earlier.

  35. Yash Chopra just cannot think of story beyond three lovers. All his
    films have three lovers. Right from Dhool ka Phool, to Silsila.

  36. Daag is also my fav Rajesh kahanna movie.. I just loved the songs in them..especially Mere dil mein aaj kya hai rendered soul stirringly by Kishore Kumar..May wife’s fav too!

  37. I just saw this review, and thought I would tell you that in my school days, I devoured every Gulshan Nanda book that I could lay my hands on, and was delighted later to find them all being made into movies. I remember reading “kati patang” and “khilona” among others, but just don’t ask me now how the novels ended – I am glad to even remember the names! And yes, Rajesh Khanna was the stuff my dreams were made of, in those days, pre-marriage, Rajesh khanna with the tilted head and the little smile, RK with the crinkled eyes, RK with the shirt unbuttoned at the top, with curly dark hair showing, RK with the sad story but the cheerful exterior, it was Rajesh Khanna everything! And then he was replaced by AB! And then they were both pushed aside, replaced by another! And there it all ended.
    In any case, now that you have discovered RK in this post, I have to go through all your posts to see how dreamy you got over him!

    • Were they displaced by a real person in your life? :) If I’d known about him, I am sure I would have devoured Gulshan Nanda’s books too!

      • Yes, to your question above, – and he did look like AB in one of his pics that he sent me, to the extent that one of my uncles still refers to him as the AB lookalike, and I have to remind my uncle that this is an original, with some of AB’s looks, none of his money or fame, but a wonderful person to bug for the rest of my life!

  38. I don’t know why but in my mind I always pit Sharmila against Rakhee (maybe because both are Bengalie and so succesful in hindi movies) and in my mind, Rakhee always comes on top as far as sexiness and beauty is concerned. I like Sharmila when she’s playing regular, subdued characters like in ANupama. But in movies like Daag, when she tries to be sexy and sultry, she always comes across as vulgar and desperate to me…and I do dislike her dialogue delivery. I know I’m in the minority here but still. Just as an aside, how many people (happily married people) would receive a guest in tiny towel like SHarmila receives Prem (my fav. CHopra)? I thought that was a very odd and very filmy touch..no?
    Thanks! Love the posts..

  39. All this talk on Daag and not a word on Rajesh’s chest hair????????????? :=)

  40. Sorry for being daft but did Raj and Sharmila decide to marry Rakhee too (If that’s even possible) or did they just decide to live with her as extended family? I’m confused…:-(

  41. I did…but am still confused…:-(

  42. RIP Yash chopra ji..Memsaab, please write a tribute post on him, the way only you can…

  43. The truth is that Daag was financed by kaka but yash chopra after many yeras started giving interviews that he gave a second life to kaka since he had as many as 5 flops before daag. Kaka, till the end never refuted this lie of Yahs & even magnanimously did a film – Vijay with yash in the 80s.

    Here again, there were press reports that kaka openly favoured sharmila during his tiff with raakhee. That, it is a lie can be gauged by the fact that raakhee has spoken so warmly of kaka & hoiw he gave good films & amit gave bad films.

    One other delightful film they did together was aanchal.

  44. I saw this movie as a kid and didn’t like it that much since it is all about romance and tragedy. But after living in the states and a divorce I have rediscovered Daag. Oh, that song jab be jee cha ahe nae dunya banaate hee yeh loog makes me weep like Rajender Kumar. To discover this movie is to discover the magic that was Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila! An all time favorite. I also recently watched Kabhi Kabhi and couldn’t help but think how much better it would hav been with Rajesh inthe role of either Amitabha or Shashi!

    • Agent 606, I too have wondered what it might have been like to have had RK in Kabhi Kabhi. When I first watched Daag (which was very recent) I couldn’t help but think of Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh -the montage at the beginning has many visuals that are repeated in Kabhi Kabhi. Even the songs and the sentiments expressed /song situations (Ab Chaahe Maa Roothe ya Baba/ Pyar Kar Liya to Kya, Tere Chehre Se/Hum aur Tum, Hawa Chali/Mere Ghar Aayee). Kabhi Kabhi is all about sacrificing one’s love for the happiness of one’s parents but I don’t even know if we ever really see who Amitabh or Raakhee’s parents are.

      The second half of Daag has a slightly older looking RK who looks weary through most of it – I’m guessing he’s burdened by his past and his loss. Amitabh appears self-absorbed and broods throughout KK. In fact, Daag allows RK quite a remarkable character arc and I think when directors split stories and themes across multiple actors in multi-starrers the individual character arcs get less interesting and instead represent character types. I suspect something similar happens in Roti and Amar Akbar Anthony but I haven’t honestly thought that comparison through the songs but some of the situations in that film also get modified and rehashed in AAA.

      Would RK have been wonderful in Kabhi Kabhi? I think Amitabh’s serious and self-absorbed poet acts as a foil to the softer romance of Shashi K and Rishi K, but RK is just so good with romantic films that I think he would’ve brought a great deal of anguish to the role. For whatever reason, top directors stopped working with him and honestly his performance in Daag is wonderfully nuanced. And this is the most action I’ve ever seen in an Rk film – he kills Prem Chopra, beats up Manmohan in the police vehicle and then fights off the mean-looking blacksmith.

  45. can anyone clarify?. Such superb and hit music by Laxmi Pyare for Daag but Yash Chopra never ever repeats them and the movie is also a hit in which case there is a tendency to repeat the technicians. Same story gets repeated for Deewaar. The film is a super duper hit and songs were good but R.D. Burman was never repeated by Yash Chopra. Could never fathom the reason. even when journalists interview directors/producers somehow they ask the same questions but never ask these kind of questions. Kalyanji Anandji gave such great music for Manoj Kumar for Upkaar and Purab Aur Paschim but they dropped in favour of LP by Manoj Kumar for Shor. These inside stories could be very interesting to hear. Can anyone give reasons. Very curious to hear.

    • FilmyFan, great questions – did you ever come across any answers? I’m curious as to why to none of the major stars ever really make a reference to Daag. Sharmila Tagore hardly refers to it, I haven’t come across any significant allusion to it in any Rajesh Khanna interview, and Yash Chopra in an interview with Karan Johar talks about everything under the sun except Rajesh Khanna. He does say Rajesh Khanna had had a string of flops, but that’s it. All very mystifying. Yash Chopra never worked with Sharmila again either.

      I also find the whole Gulshan Nanda link fascinating given that he is said to have reworked the second half of Aradhana and suggested to Shakti Samant that he retain RK for the role of the son. And then, of course, there’s the Kati Patang connection. Daag has many of the tropes that propelled RK to stardom (young man impregnates lovers and is either dead or assumed dead), and in that sense Yash Chopra banks heavily on those tropes and the RK-Sharmila jodi. It has a darker undertones but overall, to me it does seem as though Yash Chopra reworks a hit formula but never repeated the stars (or music director) associated with it – except Rakhee.

      Does anybody know more about what possibly went wrong with this film? I’m absolutely fascinated and could write so much more. Suhan?

  46. It’s so beautiful movie.. Today i am watching Daag movie.. Rajesh Khann looking so good & Music composed by Laxmi kant Payre laal

  47. mere dil me aaj kya hai – one of the greatest love songs – lyrics, singing, music, visualisation and the eternal chemistry of rajesh khanna and la tagore at the heights of their careers. the one negative aspect of this most haunting love song is the bizarre moustache that rajesh sports!

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