Sagar Sarhadi’s Bazaar (1982) is a hard-hitting portrait of the tradition of bride buying that afflicted poor women in Hyderabad in the 1980s. Under the guise of marriage, poor families married off their young daughters to wealthy old men for money.
Bazaar’s stellar cast of Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah, Farooque Shaikh, Supriya Pathak and Nisha Singh, is supported by a magnificent soundtrack by Khayyam. The tracks include Bhupinder Singh’s unforgettable Karoge Yaad Toh, Jagjit Kaur’s haunting Dekh Lo Aaj Humko, and the beautiful Phir Chhidi Raat, sung by Talat Aziz and Lata Mangeshkar. But Dikhai Diye Yun is a remarkable feat – both in terms of composition and direction. Written by eighteenth-century Mir Taqi Mir, the ghazal was recreated to perfection by Khayyam and Mangeshkar.
Surrounded by friends and family, Shabnam (Pathak) is singing at a party hosted by Najma (Patil). Najma has returned to Hyderabad years after she ran away from home with Akhtar (Bharat Kapoor) in an attempt to escape the marketplace where she was intended to become a commodity. She is accompanied by Salim (Shah), a poet who loves her, and who like an all-observing audience watches the heinous act unfold around him. Also invited are Shabnam’s boyfriend Sarju (Shaikh) and Akhtar’s lecherous employer Shakir (BL Chopra), who is looking for a young bride to satisfy his sexual urges.
The song is about love. And every person on the screen is experiencing a form of intense devotion or blinding desire. The song takes on a different meaning for whoever who is listening and watching.
Shabnam is singing to Sarju, as he looks at her smitten. The song resonates with Salim and Najma as they think about lost love, while Akhtar looks on, aware but unruffled by their history. Nasreen (Nisha Singh), Shabnam’s sister, cannot take her eyes off Sarju, and as he smiles back at her, Najma assumes that this is the woman he wants to marry. Lost in their personal love stories, nobody but Salim notices as Shakir lasciviously eyes Shabnam. Salim watches, troubled, as a wordless deal is struck with Akhtar for the hand and virginity of the clueless woman.
The whole cast is present in the song, and imminent disaster is conveyed through silent gazes and impeccable acting. In a matter of four minutes, the love ballad becomes a heartbreaking elegy.