Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978)

April 16, 2009 at 2:22 am 1 comment

Directed by: Raj Kapoor


Staring: Zeenat Aman, Shashi Kapoor





SSS won 2 awards, while it was nominated for others at the Filmfare awards. At the time it came out, it was considered both controversial and risqué. Zeenat Aman was practically nude at one point, after all. The general message in SSS is that beauty is on the inside.

The music is beautiful, and no wonder the music director (Laxmikant-Pyarelal) won an award for his work. There is not one scene lacking in aesthetic beauty in this film.

It begins with a monologue about beauty and grace, godliness and holiness, all in the eyes of the beholder. A rock becomes a god when worshipped, etc. etc. And then a song of worship begins, at a temple where two men discuss a girl in front of them. Her name is Rupa (Zeenat Aman) and she is regarded by the villagers as unlucky. We are taken into the past where you find that her father is a priest, and her mother died giving birth to her on the very day and the very hour that Rama himself was born. Rupa grows up being taunted and ridiculed by the other children in the village. When she is a child, she asks her father why he never celebrates her birthday, after they both attended the birthday celebration and singing for the village chief’s son. He gets angry and tells her that he can’t enjoy the very day that his wife died. Rupa’s neighbor and ‘uncle’ scolds her father and decides to give Rupa a small birthday celebration, because she deserves it like any other child.


Inside her ‘uncle’s’ house, Rupa and her uncle pack cakes together for sweets and then place them in a pan to fry. When Rupa’s uncle leaves the house to speak with her father, Rupa accidentally steps on a stick in the fire and knocks the pan full of boiling oil all over half of her face. From then, she is horribly disfigured…and grows up.

Every day she goes to the temple to pray that some day she should find a husband. In the process she sings heart-breaking and beautiful songs. Early in the morning, Rupa departs from home before anyone arrives at the temple…amid gorgeous mists and forest. There is a green and orange haze over the camera that illustrates the feeling of sunrise convincingly.

Rupa’s father begs men to marry her, but they all refuse because not only is she ugly (burn scar on half of her face) but they have not a pesa to their names. Now, I won’t be one to criticize this classic film…but Zeenat Aman isn’t ugly no matter how much make-up you put on her face. You’d think some man would overlook the scar and at least notice her beautiful figure. But I digress…

In the fashion of any classic romance, Ranjeev (Shashi Kapoor) arrives in the village station on a train. It is the middle of the evening, and steam rises off of the locomotive with illogical speed. Rupa catches sight of Ranjeev, and Ranjeev walks by her without notice.

We find out that Ranjeev is a young engineer commissioned to come there and help work on the new dam. His mother passed away when he was young, and now he has no family. When he sleeps, he is awoken in the morning by Rupa’s daily singing…and is immediately smitten by her voice. He thinks that his life has truly begun, and any girl with a voice like that must be stunning.

The next day he goes to a festival as a guest of honor, and hears the village girls sing in a chorus. Among them is Rupa. Afterwards he goes to a fair and has the girls following him. Apparently they all want to marry Ranjeev. When he finds out that Rupa is not among them, he ignores the girls…and goes to a house of mirrors where he sees a distorted reflection of himself. This terrifies Ranjeev, and we learn of his fear and hatred for any form of physical deformity (oh boy…)

The next morning Ranjeev hears Rupa singing once more, so he gets dressed and rushes to the temple to find her. It’s at this point that we get to hear my favorite song in the movie, ‘Bhore Bhaye Panghat Pe’. Rupa is in a playful mood at this point walking through the woods, and Ranjeev spots her from afar. One wouldn’t think when they saw this girl from far off dancing about in her child-sized clothing with her golden jar that she’s got a horrible scar on half of her face. Not to mention when she bathes under the waterfall. Jeeze, you’d think Ranjeev would have the decency not to watch her nearly in her skivvies…but he’s a man, so he watches anyway. And if it’s true love, doesn’t a guy watch a girl he’s never met bathe whenever he gets the chance?

Caught in her song, Rupa realizes she’s late to get to the temple…and that’s when Ranjeev jumps out from behind a tree (he isn’t in front of her, so he doesn’t see her face.) Rupa covers her scar with her scarf (heh) and Ranjeev tries to talk to her. He obviously doesn’t talk to many girls, because it isn’t easy for him to get any responses from Rupa. Ranjeev asks for her name, and she gives it before running off. He follows her to the temple, and describes her beauty (mind you…still hasn’t seen the face entirely). She sings a prayer, and whilst Ranjeev’s eyes are closed…she leaves.


Returning home, Rupa encounters her uncle and jibbers about finding a donkey’s washerman, getting her words mixed up in the way many love-sick young people do. Ah, youth…l’amour…etc.

Meanwhile, Ranjeev tells the man he’s living with about falling in love, and the man says cries and wishes he knew what it felt like…apparently he only likes his wife. Then Ranjeev is off to work making measurements for the dam…while looking through a telescope, he spots Rupa…and ends up describing her measurements instead…

He runs off to find her, and the man taking notes looks through the telescope too…but instead of seeing Rupa, he sings a very cheerful fat woman walking by (played by the magnificently hilarious and charming Tun Tun. Even with such a small cameo, he walk and personality stand out.)

Ranjeev catches up to Rupa and they exchange sweet words. He gives her a love poem, and then departs. At home, Rupa opens the letter…and reads it with a smile, switching over to a great song sequence fantasy (Chanchal Sheetal Nirmal Komal) with trippy flowers and deity water fountains. She wears several lovely outfits in this fantasy too, and imagines Ranjeev searching for her endlessly. When he finally gets hold of Rupa, however…the scar on her face appears and he is disgusted. It’s not a very happy fantasy. This is when Rupa realizes that their romance can only be a fantasy in itself, because if he were to see her scar…he wouldn’t love her any more.


Later, Ranjeev sees Rupa walking through a field with a bowl on her head…he gives chase…but doesn’t realize that when she got to the temple, she traded her bowl with another girl who wore the same clothes…so when he catches the girl in question and asks if she liked his poem, she turns about and asks what good a poem is, when he could do so much more with her.

Embarrassed, he flees. He then falls into a large mud puddle and Rupa laughs at him. He closes his eyes and she leads him to a waterfall to get cleaned up. He takes off his shirt (Shashi was quite a looker when he was young, might I add) and she can’t help but watch him bathe.

She sings of Rama’s dark skin, and Ranjeev kisses her while the water has plastered her veil over her scar so he can not see it. She flees to the temple and asks why the flame of love is being lit in her heart when she can never truly be wed or have someone love her, not when he sees her face. Ranjeev enters and wonders why she is crying. Rupa tells him she is not worthy of his love, and Ranjeev comforts her, telling her that she is indeed.

Later Rupa challenges Ranjeev and asks if he would love her, were she not beautiful. He doesn’t answer, only saying that such an idea is impossible. He asks her why she always wears a veil, and she tells him that only her husband will be able to lift her veil from her face. That’s when Ranjeev gets the bright idea to ask her father for her hand in marriage without telling Rupa first.

When Rupa finds out that he did this, it is too late…and her father will not cancel the marriage. The village elders tell her that surely she deserves love, with her beautiful heart and soul. Rupa accepts this grudgingly, and the wedding happens. But when Ranjeev sees her face, he is shocked. He refuses to believe she is the Rupa that he loves, and must be some other woman in her place by a horrible mistake. Angered, he flees into the forest and madly calls out for Rupa.

He is carried home later, exhausted…and Rupa sings to him, hoping that he will recognize her. Awakened by her voice, he sees Rupa’s face and is angered that she would be in his bedroom. He may let her live with him, but he could never love such a woman who is not his true Rupa. So he…flees once more, and Rupa decides to kill herself. What happens next? Find out for yourself.

8/10 Bindis. Great music. Great acting. Great story.


Entry filed under: 5 and more Bindis, Exceptionally good (8-10), Film Reviews, Hindi, Languages. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. amit thaker  |  June 17, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    mere father aapke judva bhai lagte the .log pitaji ko shashi kahke bulate the .


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