Mr and Mrs 55 (1955)

Pyaasa, Kaagaz ke Phool and Sahib, Biwi aur Ghulam may be Guru Dutt’s classics—but this gem of a movie, in a much lighter vein and starring the inimitable Madhubala, is one of my favourites ever.

Anita Verma (Madhubala) is a somewhat silly, frothy orphan who lives with her militantly feminist aunt, Sita Devi (Lalita Pawar). Sita Devi has been lobbying to get the controversial Divorce Bill passed and is anti all men. Her attempts to mould Anita in her own likeness don’t work, however; Anita is infatuated with a tennis player, Ramesh (Al Nasir), who unfortunately for Anita, is more keen on Wimbledon than her.

Anita and Ramesh

At a tennis match, Anita runs into Pritam Kumar (Guru Dutt), an unemployed, down-at-heel cartoonist who survives by borrowing from his best pal, a photographer called Johnny (Johnny Walker). Pritam’s bedazzled by Anita, and tells Johnny all about it in a delightful song, Dil par hua aisa jaadu.

Dil par hua aisa jaadu...

Anita’s 20th birthday comes up, and her long dead father’s will is read. As expected, he’s left a fortune for Anita—but on the condition that she gets married within a month of her birthday. If she doesn’t, all the money goes to charity. Anita is ecstatic at the thought of getting married, but Aunty isn’t so happy.

Reactions to the will

Determined to keep the money in the family and not let Anita squander herself on some worthless man, Sita Devi comes up with a plan: she’ll hire a husband. The wedding will be only in name, and as soon as the money’s handed over by the trustees, Anita will get a divorce.
Pritam, who’s gone to a newspaper editor for a job, is referred by the editor to Sita Devi. When he discovers what she wants, he refuses—until he sees a photograph of his prospective bride.

Pritam sees whom he's supposed to marry

Pritam’s so in love with Anita, he agrees. Sita Devi says she’ll pay him Rs 250 a month. She also stipulates that he stay away from Anita after the wedding, and that he divorce her when asked to.
Meanwhile, Ramesh goes off to England, leaving a note for Anita—which reaches her through a convoluted route: Ramesh gives it to Johnny (who photographed him), who gives it to Pritam, who meets Anita at a cinema and hands it over. Much weeping and gnashing of teeth, but Pritam is tongue-tied (who wouldn’t be?! Madhubala’s gorgeous even when she’s crying).

Anita discovers Ramesh has gone off

Anita meets Pritam at the registrar (by now they’re quite chummy, and she tells him she’ll be right back after getting married!). When she discovers he’s her bridegroom, she’s very hurt because she thinks he’s married her for her money.

Pritam and Anita at the registrar's

Along with Johnny and Johnny’s girlfriend Julie (Yasmin), Pritam meets Anita at a club. He tells her he loves her, but she doesn’t believe him. Finally, egged on (and aided) by Johnny, Pritam kidnaps Anita and drives off with her to his brother’s home. The brother isn’t there, but his wife (Kumkum) and her three toddlers are. The bhabhi unloads platitudes by the dozen on how fulfilling it is to look after home and hearth.

pic712

The kids (whom Pritam has convinced Anita is a fairy) are awestruck:

goggle-eyed!

All of this softens Anita considerably, and by the time Pritam puts in another appearance, she’s feeling very kindly disposed. What follows is one of my favourite romantic songs: Udhar tum haseen ho, idhar dil jawaan hai.

Udhar tum haseen ho idhar dil jawan hai

Alas, the joy doesn’t last. The song’s barely finished when Sita Devi turns up with a telegram Anita sent her, saying that Pritam’s abducted her. [Aside: Plot hole here? It’s not very clear where or when Anita got the opportunity to send a cable]. Pritam’s understandably mad at Anita. He’s convinced she’s just a spoilt rich girl. There’s a tiff, and Anita goes off with Sita Devi, who begins divorce proceedings.

Pritam and Sita Devi at loggerheads

Even though he’s angry with her, Pritam still loves Anita. And, as far as he’s concerned, she wants a divorce. So, with Johnny’s help, he sets about manufacturing evidence against himself. It’ll almost certainly get Anita a divorce…

The end’s predictable, but the film itself is so satisfying, one doesn’t really mind!

What I liked about this film:
The chemistry between Guru Dutt and Madhubala. It sizzles in Udhar tum haseen ho, but even elsewhere in the film, there’s a sweetness and (on his part, at least) a wide-eyed wonder that’s very endearing. And yes, Guru Dutt makes a very good romantic hero: intense, but with a sense of humour.

Guru Dutt and Madhubala in Mr and Mrs 55
The music, by O P Nayyar. It’s fabulous—all the way from the delightful Jaane kahaan mera jigar gaya ji to the beautifully lyrical qawwali Meri duniya lut rahi thhi aur main khamosh thha, to the soulful Geeta Dutt in Pritam aan milo. Exquisite!
The supporting cast. There’s much comedy here—Tuntun excels as Lily D’Silva, Pritam’s landlady; and the Johnny Walker-Yasmin scenes are delightful—but it doesn’t detract from the main story.

Jaane kahan mera jigar gaya ji

What I didn’t like:
Pritam’s bhabhi was painful. Yes, Kumkum did an okay job as a home-loving village woman, but her admonitions that a woman’s place is in her home etc were a trifle irritating. But then, this film is over fifty years old, so I can forgive an opinion which is now definitely outdated.

Little bit of trivia:
Pritam’s cartoons in Mr and Mrs 55 were drawn by the famous R K Laxman.

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20 thoughts on “Mr and Mrs 55 (1955)

  1. I love this film too, and Guru Dutt is to die for handsome. I love him in romantic hero mode, much nicer than self-pitying miserable hero mode :-) And Madhubala is so sublime.

  2. Udhar tum haseen ho, idhar dil jawaan hai is one of my favorite songs as well as picturization. Did you know the secret behind seemingly dreamy eyes of Guru Dutt? He was myopic. When he used to shoot, he would take his glasses off and would hardly be able to see beyond a few feet. Take a look at his movies and you will see what I mean.

    Madhubala is beautiful as usual.

  3. Oh, I didn’t know that about Guru Dutt! Very interesting.

    And it is a coincidence that you added that link to the postage stamp – the Indian Postal Service has just commissioned a series of 25 stamps, recreated in the form of silver `stamps’ (the same size as the original stamp), and then gold plated. I don’t think the gold-plated version of Madhubala looks as gorgeous as the stamp, but have a look anyway: http://www.prideofindiacollection.com/feature6.html

  4. Like this film very much, except for the home & hearth sermon at the end! Seems that pritam & anita seem to be having a good time and enjoying life without all that urrrrgghh stuff.

    Guru Dutt and Madhubala make such a realistic romantic pair..sigh!

  5. Yes, that home and hearth stuff is pretty sickening – I think Anita’s deciding to stick with Pritam anyway could have been convincing enough without all that lecturing: they’re so in love with each other in any case!

    I do wish Guru Dutt and Madhubala had done some more films together, especially of this light-hearted types: there chemistry is really something special.

  6. well, Guru Dutt a good film director he was, at the same time he was a mcp.
    I still cringe at Kumkum’s dialogue: What if he (her husband) hits me, he loves me too.
    OUCH
    But the film is still so nice!
    *sigh*
    But somehow it leaves me with a feeling that this marriage won’t work.

    An extension of this movie would be kora kaagaz

  7. sorry for coming in a little late to this post…just recently became interested in GD’s films after the Bollywood series on BBC in October.

    Yes I agree totally that GD should have made more films in this genre…..he really suited playing the romantic, light hearted hero…and still managed to get a social message across ! He is even more handsome as a prince in Baaz ( 1953 )…especially in the deliciously romantic song sequences..!

  8. I saw Baaz very long ago, so don’t remember it much… but Guru Dutt was a pleasure to watch in Mr and Mrs 55. Aar Paar and 12 O’Clock are also good, light-hearted films minus the angst of works like Kaagaz ke Phool and Pyaasa, though neither is as romantic as this one, in my opinion.

  9. Pingback: Mr. & Mrs. 55 (1955) « Harveypam's Blog

  10. yes, Kumkum’s role was somewhat irritating. I have no problem with the depiction of a traditional village woman who finds all her happiness towards her family, this is quite nice, but it becomes too much irritating when she has no problem in being beaten by her husband, so ridiculous. I think this type of mentality has been considered outdated even in the 50s, but since the movie is a comedy one, one can forgive Kumkum’s role

  11. PYAASA and KAAGAZ KE PHOOL might not have seen the ‘Darkness of
    Cinema Halls’ if film film and AAR PAAR and C.I.D. were not such a big
    hits (BAAZ was a flop). O.P. Nayyar contrubuted a lot to these succeess
    stories.

    Incidetally, does anyone know the identity of the on-screen artist who
    lip-synched: ?

    Meri Duniya Lut Rahi Thi Aur Main Khamosh Tha

    It looks like, that he also part-performed the BARSAAT KI RAAT
    qawwali:
    Nighahen Naaz Ke Maaon Ka Haal Kya Hogs

    around 7:00 minutes elapsed time, lip-synching the lyrics

    Mar Jaaye To Marta Hai Koyi Teri Bala Se

    Thanks in anticipation,

    Sudhir

    • I’m on a low speed connection for the next few days, so can’t check the song right now. From what I remember, Rashid Khan lip-synced to Meri duniya lut rahi thi… Will check later and let you know if I can tell.

  12. yeah i think have heard Rashid khan from javed akhtar . he was leading stars of 40s . so much that his autograph was sold in thousands for a charity purpose. a man bought it in thousands. but later on he was reduced to singer in qawaalis.

  13. my first introduction to genius of guru dutt was janey voh kaisey log thay jinkey cause on doordarshan it was showed like this only. dekhiye guru dutt filmostav mai guru dutt ki filmey then this song jaaney voh kaisey log thay jinkey. i watched kagaz k phool, chaudvi ka chand , sahib biwi aur gulaam at the age of 12. and dialogue i remember of kagaz k phool was inkey ghar k toh naukar bhi shaayar hai and reaction of rehman saab. so whenever i saw guru dutt smiling dancing. like shikaayat kar lo ji bhi lo , kabhi aar kabhi paar or jaa jaa bewfaa. its a strange thing for me and i feel after seeing his smile. yeh duniya mil bhi jaye toh kya hai. kind of smiling even if he knows the shallowness of people.

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