If you have ever been...the word I want to use is "victim," but maybe that's unfair. If you have ever been the object of cowardice, the one most immediately left standing all alone by it, watching this film may feel like having your heart ripped out and thrown on the floor all over again.
But that sense of loss is not at all the only emotion at play in, or inspired by watching, Kapurush, which is one of the reasons it's so good. The meet-cute and early phase of Amitabh (Soumitra Chatterjee) and Karuna (Madhabi Mukherjee)'s romance are so cute, even as the issue of cowardice appears almost from the beginning. SO CUTE.
I wouldn't put money on it, but as far as I remember all the scenes of them touching or holding hands have his hand on the bottom, meaning he offered his first—hardly the mark of a coward, especially as he talks about how Indian society doesn't really let unmarried couples be brave or bold or outward in their declarations and explorations of love.
Then again, the coward is also wise: it seems to me that Ami really was at least as much not ready to take a leap with Karuna all those years ago as he was afraid to do it, and leaping into a marriage when the social and economic cards are stacked against you is a huge risk, so I cannot really fault him for not being willing to take it. There is a literal shadow of a doubt between them.
But look at him now. He's so brave—foolish? solipsistic? unseeing?—that he delves back into that relationship and its unfinished end while he is completely dependent on her husband. I love the contrast of his insistence now with his uncertainty in the past. When Karuna desperately needed an answer from him, he couldn't give her one; now, when he demands to know something about her life that feels critical to him, she won't tell him, probably because it's none of his business.
Their last exchange is over her sleeping pills that he inadvertently packed in his bags. This is, of course, miles from what he hopes has brought her to the train station. The fact that it's sleeping pills has to be significant: it's not aspirin she wants, but something that knocks her out, dulls her, lets her find some hours of peace. When I think that the ending of Kapurush is sad because Karuna and Ami are clearly never going to reunite, I keep coming back to these pills. She needs her peace back from him—and you don't need sleeping pills if you can rest, if you are well. She is still agitated by him. Whether in a good way, a loving way, a parted but still romantic way, we do not know. What we do know is that what seems like resolution to Ami (her running away with him) seems like an intolerable disruption to Karuna, and therefore it does not happen. Yet she calls him "dear one" again (at least in the subtitles), their hands touch again, giving me the sense that there is still a connection between them, even if nothing further is ever built on it.
...Which almost makes me sad all over again. That's the worst part about dealing with a coward: they tend to leave things unfinished.