Naya Daur ( English: New Era) is a 1957 Indian drama film starring Dilip Kumar, Vyjayanthimala, Ajit and Jeevan. The film is set in post-independence India, where industrialization is slowly creeping in. ‘Naya Daur’ literally meaning a New Road – is a fine story of a young village man Shankar (Dilip Kumar) who wants to challenge onslaught of machines in his daily life by building a new road in his village. Shankar (Dilip Kumar) and Kisna (Ajit) are the best of friends, village boys who grew up together. Shankar makes his living as a tonga driver. Kisna chops lumber for the local mill owner (Nazir Hussain), who treats his workers with tremendous compassion. The owner leaves for a pilgrimage, and his son Kundan (Jeevan), who takes over operations, doesn’t see things the same way – he brings in machines and fires all the woodworkers. Meanwhile, the bond of friendship between Shankar and Kisna is threatened when both fall in love with Rajni (Vijayantimala). The workers start to move to the cities leaving their homes behind. Frustrated with the dramatic change Shankar challenges the owner’s son & accepts Bus Vs. Tanga race. Thankfully, director B R Chopra takes pains to point out in his film that his characters are not anti progress. This was one of Dilip Kumar’s finest roles, and the irony lies in that he may never have done the film at all. When BR Chopra first came to him, Dilip Kumar refused because of date issues. It was then offered to Ashok Kumar, who felt he was too urban to fit into a rural character.
He liked the story, though, and convinced Dilip Kumar to at least hear it. Dilip slipped into the character of Shankar very believably. He was the sociable, cheeky taangewala to life, without falling into the trap of being annoyingly cheerful. Similarly, in his dramatic scenes with Ajit, or even the scene where he breaks off his sister’s engagement, you see a principled man, and a honest one. As the parallel lead, Ajit not only had almost-equal screen time as the ‘hero’, but he also had a very nuanced character arc – from the faithful friend to the man who seeks vengeance because he has been betrayed, or so he thinks, by his dearest friend. Vyjayanthimala’s Rajni is strong, self-respecting, and knows her own mind. She has no qualms in admitting to Shankar that she loves him. This was OP Nayyar’s year – both Tumsa Nahin Dekha and Naya Daur released in 1957, cementing his place in the ranks of successful music directors. Naya Daur’s message is neither a derogation of modernity, nor a plea for consensus. I think what BR Chopra (and Akhtar Mirza his screenplay writer) was conscious of the particular reality of India in the 1950s: a country where Independence under Nehru meant development, power and influence, but at the same time where the human and rural dimension was still very much a key factor.