Utsav (Festival), directed by well-decorated writer-actor-director Girish Karnad, is based on Mricchakatik (A Little Clay Cart), a Sanskrit play written by Shudraka dated between 3-5 BC. The story is set in ancient city of Ujjaini towards the end of 5 BC. Although the actual ten-act text is rife with dramatic twists and turns, Utsav sticks to the basic story line featuring the love affair of an exceedingly rich, yet generous courtesan (or a Nagarvadhu*) Vasantsena and a poor musician, Charudutt who is married with a son. His son Rohit, who plays with a clay cart, longs for one made of gold like one of his friends. Later, Vasantsena fills his clay cart with her gold ornaments to fulfill his wish, hence the name of the play.

The scope of the play is quite vast, but in the film one also gets to see how this complicated love story is  threatened by an evil courtier Samasthanak who, enamored by Vasantsena, is highly jealous of Charudutt. Samasthanak even manages to nearly kill her in a fit of rage and put the blame of Charudutt, which leads him to the death row. However, Vasantsena is still alive and manages to return just in time to save her lover and his wife from a sure death.

The film was beautifully shot by ace cinematographer Ashok Mehta. Art direction by Nachiket and Jayoo Patwardhan recreates the ancient Indian city in all its glory and resplendence. Actor Rekha looked perfect in her role as the elegant and affluent Vasantsena, who is madly in love with a married man, but does not lose sense of her own reality as a courtesan. The film featured elaborate love-making scenes and quite a lot of dialogue focused on art of seduction and erotica, something that was quite rare in mainstream Indian films at that time. Though film did not get any commercial success, it came to be well known for its aesthetic value and beautiful songs.

This song appears at an interesting moment when Vasantsena happens to meet Charudutt’s wife Aditi in his home, while trying to sneak in for a romantic tryst with her lover. Instead of being rebuked by Aditi, she is welcomed by her as her presence in Charudutt’s life had revived the sex life of the married couple. The two women bond over this song, which is really a metaphoric question-answer based conversation about amorous desires, rendered exquisitely by the singer- sister duo of Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle.

In the course of the song, Vasantsena meets little Rohit (sequence is cut off in the attached clip but can be seen here) who is shocked on seeing a woman so bejeweled in his modest home. Aditi tells him that she is also his mother, but he is unconvinced as she has too much gold on her body, something his mother never does. On hearing this, Vasantsena gives all her jewelry and clothes to Aditi and adorns plain clothes herself. Through the song, both women effectively embrace the roles opposite to their real life, but the ones they truly desire; Vasantsena as the simple wife and Aditi as the ornately decorated seductress. Only one stanza appears in the film in this instance, but I am also putting up a video that has patched up the remaining song with other scenes of the film to give a sense of the decor of the film. Let me know what you think about this work in the comments here, or my Twitter and Facebook pages. The links are also right at the bottom of the page. I would love to hear from you!

Song Credits
Lyrics: Vasant Dev
Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle
Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal

Movie Credits
Directed by: Girish Raghunath Karnad
Starring: Rekha, Shekhar Suman,  Amjad Khan, Shashi Kapoor, Anuradha Patel,
Produced by: Shashi Kapoor
Release: 23 August 1984

Original Lyrics- Mann Kyun Behka

Man kyon behka re behka
Man kyon behka re behka aadhi raat ko
Bela mehka ho
Bela mehka re mehka aadhi raat ko
Kisne bansi bajaayi aadhi raat ko
Ho kisne bansi bajaayi aadhi raat ko
Jisne palkein ho
Jisne palkein churaayi aadhi raat ko

Jhanjhar jhamke sun jhamke
Ho jhanjhar jhamke sun jhamke
Jhanjhar jhamke sun jhamke aadhi raat ko
Usko toko na roko, roko na toko
Toko na roko aadhi raat ko
Ho laaj lage re laage aadhi raat ko
Laaj lage re laage aadhi raat ko
Dena sindoor ke soun aadhi raat ko
Bela mehka re mehka aadhi raat ko

Baat kehte bane kya aadhi raat ko
Aankh kholegi baat aadhi raat ko
Humne pee chandni aadhi raat ko ho ho
Humne pee chandni aadhi raat ko
Chaand aankhon mein aaya aadhi raat ko
Bela mehka re mehka aadhi raat ko

Raat gunte rahegi aadhi baat ko
Aadhi baaton ki peer aadhi raat ko
Baat poori ho kaisi aadhi raat ko
Raat hoti ho, raat hoti shuru hai aadhi raat ko
Man kyon behka re behka aadhi raat ko
Bela mehka re mehka aadhi raat ko

 Translation of Mann Kyun Behka by bollywoodtarjuma

Why is my mind is so uneasy at midnight?
Because the jasmine gets muskier at midnight.
Who breathed music into flute at midnight?
The one who robbed sleep off the eyelids at midnight.

Anklets dance and tinkle,
yes, they jingle and twinkle
at midnight
Don’t stop them, please,
don’t even interrupt them,
at midnight.
Oh, shyness tiptoes over me,
at midnight.
Just make it swear by the vermilion**,
at midnight.

Words just lie on my lips,
at midnight.
Wait a bit, they will awake,
at midnight.
We sipped on moon-gleam,
at midnight.
And the moon rose in our eyes,
at midnight.

Midnight evokes half-spoken words,
the agony of those unseen worlds.
How to fulfill a talk at midnight?
My dear, real conversations dawn,
only at midnight.

Why is my mind is so uneasy at midnight?
Because the jasmine gets muskier at midnight.
Who breathed music into flute at midnight?
The one who robbed sleep off the eyelids at midnight.

* A nagarvadhu, or literally ‘the bride of the city’ was a top courtesan, often selected through a fierce competition between many desirable women. She was usually proficient in many performing arts and was often revered almost as a queen. People would gather from far off places to see her perform, but she would be available for an intimate encounter for a very high price. Hence, she would be patronized only by nobility or very wealthy men. Being seen around a nagarvadhu was a matter of great prestige for any man in the city.

** Vermilion powder or sindoor worn on the hair parting is a symbol of matrimony among most Hindus in India (although lot of women don’t wear it anymore). In the song, Vasantsena seems to be urging Aditi to shed her inhibitions and ask for her husband love by reminding him of his marriage vows and duty towards his wife’s sexual fulfillment.

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