In 2013, when Bollywood marked its century, CNN released a list of 50 of the most iconic scenes from Bollywood history. And one of the moments that it included was the climax from Balu Mahendra’s 1983 romantic drama, Sadma, starring Kamal Haasan and Sridevi in lead roles.
It’s been over 100 years of Bollywood now, but Sadma’s climax still remains one of the most heartbreaking cinematic moments ever filmed.
The complete film is a classic that every cinephile, hopeless romantic, drama lover, or simply put, every person must watch at least once. If for no other reason, then simply to see Kamal Haasan and Sridevi’s flawless performances as Somu and Nehalata/Reshmi respectively.
But fair warning, the ending will leave you shedding a bucketload of tears. Even today, when I think of the scene, I get a lump in my throat. And it’s been over a decade since I first saw the film.
So, in case you haven’t seen the movie, stop right here and watch the film first. But, if you have watched this classic, then you’re aware of Somu and Reshami’s unusual, chaste but delightful love story.
This also means you’re aware of how it ends – in an unexpected, heartwrenching, painful moment where you feel your heart breaking for Somu.
When Reshami is cured of amnesia, she forgets everything that transpired between her accident and her treatment, including the way Somu cared for her and how they felt about each other. And as she makes her way to her old life, as Nehalata, Somu makes an earnest, heartfelt appeal to remind her of the past – only to watch a blank look appear on her face.
It’s at that moment that Kamal Haasan’s superlative performance leaves you shaken to the core. As Somu, he recreates the monkey impressions that Reshami was fond of, he continues to call out the name he gave her, and he limps behind a running train until he falls down – utterly hopeless and dejected.
It’s a testament to Kamal Haasan’s acting prowess that at that moment, he manages to hook your complete attention to his emotional despair, even when focusing on his physical ailments would be the easier thing to do.
The scene is so powerful and well crafted, that for a moment the thought that Reshami should never have been cured enters your head. Because that’s how strongly you associate with the pain that Somu is feeling. That’s how intense his feelings are. And that’s how disconnected Nehalata is – because she literally has no memory of her life as Reshami.
It’s a hauntingly beautiful exploration of grief which brings to stark clarity the fact that certain circumstances are just beyond human control. It’s one of those ‘injustices’ that make you think of alternative endings – because somehow, a fictional story about characters who are far removed from your life, leaves you with emotions that feel extremely personal.
Of course, it’s a beautifully shot scene as well. For starters, Somu’s despair reduces him to a state where he finds it difficult to string more than two words together. And Nehalata/Reshami is the utmost picture of grace and poise.
Simply put, the scene shows a complete reversal of the roles the characters played throughout the film. And this is brought to stark focus when Reshami off-handedly comments about Somu, ‘koi paagal hai shayad’.
Additionally, in the end, even when an innocent bystander asks Somu what the issue is, he finds it difficult to translate his emotions into coherent sentences. He takes a minute, barely composes himself, before he dejectedly walks towards a bench – even as the very song he sang for Reshami plays in the background, Surmayee Ankhiyon Mein.
Here, the song serves a dual purpose – it’s a memory of the moments Reshami and Somu shared. But, it’s also a plea, one that Somu is already aware of failing.
Mera koi apna hotaAnjaana sa, magar kuch pehchaana saHalka phulka shabnamiResham se bhi reshamiSurmayee akhiyon meinnanha munna ek sapna de ja reNindiya ke udte paakhi reakhiyon mein aaja saathi re
Even though the film was released in 1983, it touched on topics like loneliness, mental health, etc. that have just now become a part of mainstream cinema. Additionally, Sridevi’s portrayal of an amnesiac woman with childish mannerisms struck the perfect balance of sensitivity and realism.
But it’s the climax that renders you speechless – because it’s not only the sorrowful culmination of a beautiful love story but also an honest exploration of grief. And that is why it will forever remain a powerful, memorable scene.