Childhood Lessons from Masoom: A movie that grows with me

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Masoom (Translated: Innocent) is a Hindi movie which released in 1983. Starring legendary actors Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi, this movie also featured future Bollywood actors Urmila Matondkar and Jugal Hansraj.

Inspired by the famous novel Man, woman and child by Erich Segal, this movie revolves around the illegitimate son of Nasseruddin Shah from his previous lover. Till then they all are blissfully unaware about his existence. Nasseruddin Shah is happily married to Shabana Azmi with two daughters. The arrival of this son creates havoc in their lives and the rest of the story is based on their reactions to this new truth of their life.

I watched this movie first as a kid. Funnily, this movie is a year older than me technically and hence the caption- A movie that grows with me. This movie has one of the most popular children's song in India - Lakdi ki Kaathi,  the only reason I was allowed to watch this movie. Though I was not able to understand much about the theme, I remember crying for that child at that time. Till date, Lakdi ki Kaathi continues to be the most preferred song, sung to children across Indian households.

Years later, in a therapy I discovered that I connected with that child at a deeper level. No, I am not illegitimate. It is the feeling of being unwanted, uncared and unloved for, that was deeply rooted in me as a child. And that is where this movie struck a raw nerve. I cried a lot for him, his loneliness and his pain. I questioned as to what was his fault for being treated the way he was being treated. Somewhere in my psyche, I was comparing his biological father and step mom, with mine. It has taken me years to understand that as children, many a times we do have to pay the price of our parents folly. Coming from a dysfunctional family, that is one complaint I have always had with this world. 
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Last week I was watching a short film where everything was going well, till the female protagonist is rejected by the male protagonist's mother only because her father had deserted her mother when the girl was barely six years old. The fact that it was a love marriage playing a heavy role in this rejection. The boy's mother felt that girls from broken homes can never make happy families. That triggered me badly. I wanted to scream my lungs out and ask, 'Do children from unhappy homes and broken families not deserve a happy life?'

I have faced this rejection and I have witnessed many around me facing the same on these very grounds. The parents might not have deserted but are more or less absent from life. They have no active role to play in their children's lives because they are busy attending to their own. Now, is that a child's fault?

Years later, I watched that movie again, this time as an adult. The reality and harshness of an affair outside your marriage, the pain of being an illegitimate child and the hurt it brings to a partner hit me hard as I understood the core theme of the story. Unfortunately I have experienced adultery very closely - from a mere spectator to someone who was caught in between the storm this was traumatic to witness. It is painful. The constant battle between heart and the mind, the right and the wrong... it is not easy to go through this.

I think the beauty of this movie also lies in the fact that it was made on a shoe string budget but a completely novice director who narrated this story on a whim to the producer, as he was desperate to make a movie and needed funds for it. A failed actor himself, Shekhar Kapur, the director ended up creating what is considered a masterpiece in Hindi film industry till date. This movie has barely got two songs, a rarity for a Hindi movie but both are stellar in their own respective genres. While the first one (I have shared above) is a children's song the second one can be easily called the anthem of life for every grown up, irrespective of the phase they are in today.

The screenplay, dialogues and lyrics were written by another maestro Gulzar which makes this movie an amalgamation of some of the best talents Bollywood ever had. With lyrics akin to poetry, the songs are breath-taking and soul-stirring even today.

Tujhse Naaraaz Nahiin Zindagi 
Hairaan Hoon Main O Hairaan Huun Main 
Tere Masum Sawaalon Se 
Pareshaan Hoon Main O Pareshaan Hoon Main

(Loosely Translated: Oh dear life,  I am not angry at you, am just surprised. I am irritated with your innocent questions.)

It was no wonder this movie went onto win so many accolades and nominations in the first year of its release itself. The director till date, feels that the humane nature of the character is what ensures every viewer is able to connect with the story and accept it with warmth and love, despite it being more than three and a half decades old. 

For me, this movie will always be a coming of age movie where the characters grew up in the story and I grew up in real life - the meaning of the movie though constantly changing for me with its every changing message, the fact that it is a poignant depiction of the vulnerability of human nature and the fragile nature of relationships remains constant.

Through this I learnt the following lessons:

1) It's okay to not be able to figure out a lot of things because in the battle between heart and mind, it is we who end up losing things.

2) Many a decisions should be taken after listening to the heart rather than logic because that ensures you sleep peacefully at night.

3) Always trust your instinct.

4)No child is cruel. We are a result of all that we see, understand, process and accept.

5) Life is not fair, but then so is everybody else. Just learn how to deal with it rather than crying foul at the drop of a hat!

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