Yash Copra’s romantic drama Silsila was a controversial movie of its time simply because it portrayed an extra-marital affair and also because Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha were rumored to have a "real" affair at the time. However, after one watch of the film one can easily see that Silsila is far more than a controversy! It is a classic romance film made with Yash Copra’s magical style and despite its unfair Box Office status the movie remains a must see to this day!
The movie revolves around Shekhar (Shashi Kapoor) an army officer who is madly in love with his sweetheart Priya (Jaya Bachchan). The couple is about to get married when Shekhar is killed in war. Priya is distressed and distraught as she is carrying Shekhar’s baby. Shekhar’s brother Amit (Amitabh Bachchan) is a poet and a die-hard romantic. He is madly in love with Chandni (Rekha). Upon hearing of his brother’s death and Priya’s situation he decides to marry Priya as his "kartavya". He tells Chandni to forget him and get on with her life. Priya loses her baby in an accident and Amit is there for her throughout the incident.
Years pass and Amit is still married to Priya, but his heart still yearns for Chandni. Despite being married their relationship is based on respect and "ehsaan" and not love. Chandni also gets married to a very loving and friendly doctor (Sanjeev Kumar) who loves her very much yet Chandni’s heart also wants Amit! Amit and Chandni meet by chance again and their love blossoms again. What starts out as a few discreet meeting turns into a full-fledged affair in which Chandni and Amit eventually sleep with each other. The drama of emotions enfolds thereafter.
Performances and characterizations are undoubtedly the biggest assets to Silsila. Each and every character is so well defined and the actors fit their characters like a glove. One forgets they are watching stars such as Amitabh and Sanjeev on screen and are completely warped by their characters and how they are enacted.
Amitabh Bachchan as Amit delivers an astounding performance and one that left me in awe of him once again. He plays his character to a T and despite having grayish shades the audience feels for him throughout the movie. His scenes in the initial portions of the film also establish the fact that Bachchan-Saab was a dead set romantic just as much as he was a fire branded action hero. His presence in the movie is electric and he portrays many emotions in the movie to utmost perfection.
Jaya Bachchan also delivers a performance, which if defined in one word would be "sensitive". She touches the audience with the simplest things like a smile or a look of the eye and that is the beauty in her performance. Acting is not always about speaking, but about expressing and conveying emotions and feelings, and Jayaji does this very well even when she is not mouthing dialogues. She shares superb chemistry with the entire cast and many of the notable scenes in the movie couldn´t have been notable without her. She also looks very simple and beautiful throughout the entire movie, which suits her character very well. For once she doesn´t overshadow her hubby, which is surprising taking a look at films like Abhimaan and even Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham where Jayaji stole the show. Here both are step-to-step in term of acting and credit must go to Yash Chopra.
Rekha as Chandni also gives a mature performance. She looks absolutely gorgeous and even that is an understatement. Although she has a few scenes to actually perform, she makes her presence felt with her breathtaking beauty. Though it is safe to say that in terms of acting Jaya Bachchan easily overshadows her. On the other hand, the chemistry that Rekha shares with Amitabh is arguably very strong and some of their romance scenes seemed very much like "real" life.
Sanjeev Kumar delivers a flawless account of himself as a good-hearted doctor. He plays a very down-to-earth and simple character and one that will be instantly loved by the audiences. His impeccable and subtle sense of humour is perfect and intact with the situations. Shashi Kapoor in a brief role at the start leaves a mark. He looks dashing in his role, and his character and his demise prove to be the most important point in the movie. Kulbhushan Kharbanda leaves a mark in his short role as Jaya’s brother.
The story by Mrs. Preeti Bedi is beautifully written. A story like this could have been mistreated badly and turned into shambles, but that is avoided. The screenplay of the movie is almost flawless with dialogues that are superbly written. Amitabh Bachchan´s poetry in the movie defines the word romantic.
Technically the movie is good for its time. The department that stands out most is the cinematography, which is spellbinding and mostly effective in songs.
Music of the movie is spectacular putting it lightly. This was clearly a brilliant composition by Shiv-Hari and undoubtedly ranks amongst their bests. Each and every song is a classic to this day. The music plays like an extra character to the movie and a very important one at that. To add to that effect they all have startling picturizations especially Rang Barse, which has Amitabh Bachchan in full "zor". Amitabh Bachchan proves his multi-talent capabilities with his distinguishing vocals.
Yash Chopra has proved he is one of Bollywood’s finest directors and in the romance genre he is unbeatable. After watching Silsila you can see why he has been given this credit. This film rates amongst his top five films and is a near flawless piece of cinema. The movie was a risky project for its time due to its touchy subject and the audiences weren’t ready to digest such a topic hence the movie failed at the box office. The same also happened to Chopra with Lamhe.
The scenes that display Chopra’s reliable talent range from Amitabh and Shashi Kapoor’s initial scenes, Amitabh and Rekha’s meeting after their marriages, and especially the scene shared between Jaya and Rekha where they talk about love versus faith.
Silsila is easily a classic in Bollywood history and one to cherish for many years to come.