Satyam Shivam Sundaram  
Producer: Raj Kapoor
Director: Raj Kapoor
Starring: Zeenat Aman, Shashi Kapoor
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Pandit Narendra Sharma, & Vithalbhai Patel

Released in: 1978
Approximate Running Time: Approximately Three Hours
Reviewed by: Rakesh Budhu
Reviewer's Rating: 9 out of 10


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Genre: Emotional, Family, Social, Drama Recommended Audience: Parental Guidance

If there is anyone here who wants to see a true film about a human being´s most devious enemies depicted through natural folk tale style, then Raj Kapoor’s Satyam Shivam Sundaram is a must see. The Raj Kapoor banner is accredited with a number of wonderful films and this one is no different. An all time classic, this is.

Many films followed suite, but Raj Kapoor deserved all the acclaim for this film which depicts the harsh realities of a human’s modh, maya, illusion and lust. This tale written by Jainendra Jain parallels the cause and result of a man’s ignorance and in essence tells the tale of three things, Satyam (Truth), Shivam (Destruction) and Sundaram (Beauty).

The film opens amongst large celebration for Krishna Janamasthmi (The birth of Lord Krishna) and with Roopa (a young Zeenat Aman)’s birth. Unfortunately, Roopa’s mother dies after giving birth to her and leaves her father, a Pandit, depressed. It wasn’t until after her mother’s death that Roopa was given her name – and the town echoed it signifying its negative connotation. Roopa continues to wonder why she has become a symbol of bad luck when one day her name and fate proves true. Roopa is burned by a frying pan and remains scarred for life.

The film then transports us to her new life, dedicated predominantly to God and helping others. Roopa would clean mandirs and fetch water, but while doing so she’d sing thinking that she has nothing else but a beautiful voice.

Sooner than later she encounters an admirer (played by Shashi Kapoor) intrigued by her voice. Her journey to acquire this admirer’s heart without revealing her face forms the second half of the film. Indeed, she does attract him after several encounters, but when her true face is revealed on her marriage bed her admirer no longer admires. Roopa’s continuing tribulations seem endless but her faith prevails in the end. After the truth is revealed about her beauty, only destruction followed.

This is a film which ends up basing a majority of its plot on faith, but in a much more realistic manner. The average woman could undoubtedly feel Roopa’s pain, and Zeenat Aman’s innocent portrayal is one of the attributing factors to that. Shashi Kapoor didn’t do wonders for his time and portrayed his “average man” character normally.

The R.K. Banner was known for a number of family films, this one would fall into that category but carried with itself a lot of controversy. The most controversial thing about this film was the sex scene between Zeenat Aman and Shashi Kapoor. For a film that released in 1978 the provocative scene was highlighted and stood out, so much so that you can compare it to the many that are in films today. Aside from that, Zeenat Aman was clearly an object of sex appeal through out the film.

But alas, controversies aside, that was the maya depicted in the film. Jain sincerely dug deep into a man’s emotions, “with a body like that, could the face be any bad?” That was Shashi’s surprise and Roopa’s turmoil. The censors obviously passed the film and allowed Raj Kapoor to add that extra punch to his film.

Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s music remains a classic to this year, especially for the two bhajans, the title track and Yashomatie Maiya Se. This was the soundtrack that introduced Nitin Mukesh to the playback-singing world.

Technically the film wasn’t spectacular simply because there was more focus on contents rather than form. There was a dream sequence (famous for Old Bollywood) with stars, moons and of course, Zeenat Aman in a fairy styled character, but other than that the technical aspect of the film was normal.

Satyam Shivam Sundaram is one of Bollywood’s greatest products. You have probably seen similar films in the past ten years or so but none of them have been as honest and complete as this one. Combined with its melody, this tale of beauty, truth and destruction is Indian folklore at its very best.