Cinema and Labour

Namak haram in 1973 is considered as one of the top films of the era to have explored the theme of labour relations and trade union

Directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee the film stars Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha.The plot of Namak Haraam has Somu (Khanna) taking up a job as a worker in the factory run by his rich friend Vicky (Bachchan) so he can help Vicky get his revenge on a union leader who had slighted him. But Somu’s experiences living with the workers and their families has a transforming effect on him and changes the equations between the friends.

It’s a comment on the employer-worker relationship, the class divide and the nature of soft socialism in a country where the gap between the poor and the privileged is huge – and of course, all this is done not shrilly or didactically, but in the characteristic gentle Mukherjee style. In a couple of scenes, the line between reality and play-acting is intriguingly blurred: when Somu first confronts Vicky about workers’ rights in front of a large crowd, there’s a tiny moment where you’re not quite sure if this is part of the plot or whether their ideologies have really begun to clash. Somu and Vicky don’t seem to be acting – they appear to be taking their private little game very seriously.

This story concentrates on the rise of unions with the backdrop of Mumbai’s textile mills and inflation in the early ’70s.

 [Text for this entry also draws from Wikipedia and IMDB]

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