Dir. Raj Kapoor
Of all the dreary and pretentious Raj Kapoor movies I've watched, Barsaat has to be the worst – at least it's a solid tie with the unbearable Aag. It's hard to believe that this is the same filmmaker who made the buoyant, kinetic Shree 420, which I adore. Barsaat has none of the elements that make Shree 420 such a delight – a charming hero who undergoes real character growth, a heroine with some will and personality, an uplifting message about something larger than the scope of the auteur's own navel. Barsaat, put simply, is a drag.
Raj Kapoor's character Pran is a self-absorbed, self-important young man. He speaks in what must to him seem poetic proclamations; but they resound as smugly-delivered adolescent expressions of the Byronic ideal. This would be fine if the audience were meant to reject them as such, but these ideas of Pran's are apparently offered in earnest: that love is measured in longing and pain, that love without tears isn't love, that love reaches purity only when it is utterly joyless. Feh.
Barsaat fails because Pran's foil, Gopal (Premnath) is a more richly-drawn and interesting person than Pran. Sure, Gopal is a cad; he plays fast and loose with the love of a country girl (Nimmi), with tragic (if thoroughly predictable) results. But he also banters with Pran and is the only person who seems to see Pran's pompous hot air for what it is, at least until the end, by which time he has adopted Pran's tiresome philosophy. Gopal makes some mistakes in this movie (something Pran never does, of course), but given the choice I'd much rather have a drink with him than with Pran, so insufferably far up his own ass.
Barsaat fails too because Nargis's character, who loves Pran, is almost as vapid and agencyless as her character in Aag. (At least here, she gets her own name, and doesn't have an entire persona assigned to her by Raj Kapoor's character.) It's bad enough that she falls for Pran's overblown intensity and his grandiose philosophy, but the giggling ingenue is a waste of Nargis's gravity and presence. For the man who discovered her and made a star of her, it seems to have taken Raj Kapoor not a few years to figure out what to do with all Nargis had to offer on screen. Watching Barsaat and Aag, one has the feeling that young Raj Kapoor had never met or talked to an actual woman.
The only highlights of Barsaat come in a few songs, especially those in the first half hour of the film, like the superb title song in which Cuckoo fronts a troupe of musicians and dancers dressed as Kashmiri villagers.