Mehboob Khan, who directed Aan, Andaz and Mother India, also made this unusual film. It explores themes that were avant garde for the 50’s: a man’s sudden succumbing to sheer lust, while being in love with another woman; a woman’s sympathy for `the other woman’; a villain who’s shades of grey rather than totally black-hearted. Not exactly standard Bollywood fare. There are clichés of course, but on the whole, this is worth a watch.
Sonia (Nimmi) is a poor village milkmaid who lives with her father and nasty stepmother. She strikes me as a bit of a halfwit (her most involved conversations seem to be with cattle and birds; and she’s gaping, wide-eyed, in most scenes), but maybe that was just supposed to be naiveté.
Sonia’s being pursued by Sankat (Jayant). She spurns him—with reason, too: he’s lecherous, and a crook. In fact, these days, he’s been helping brew trouble by thrashing some villagers who want to hold the annual village fair on land Sankat claims is his.
Sonia, fed up with Sankat, flees from him, and bumps into a newcomer. He’s an urbane young lawyer named Amarnath (Dilip Kumar, looking very handsome), and when he scratches himself on some cactus, Sonia binds him up. She’s obviously shy but fascinated; he seems intrigued, but no more.
Amar’s munshi has been after him to get married. He gives Amar a photograph of a girl, Anju (Madhubala), suggesting her as a bride. Amar, even without meeting her, is smitten. A while later, he gets an opportunity to meet the lady herself: a sophisticated and educated woman who barges into his home asking him why he’s planning to defend Sankat in his quarrel with the villagers.
Though Amar’s been representing Sankat, he’s also been telling him to reform. Now, besotted with Anju, he does a volte face and ends up proving Sankat’s got no real right to the land. The villagers are jubilant, Sankat’s philosophical, and Anju is fast falling for Amar.
The fair’s held; Amar and Anju are well on the way to being engaged. Sonia—defying Sankat’s high-handed admonitions—dances at the fair, and when she’s on her way back home that night, Sankat tries to rape her. The night turns stormy, and Sonia runs into Amar’s haveli for shelter.
Amar has just received a telegram from his father, who’s very ill. But when he discovers Sonia in the house, all thoughts of going to visit his father vanish. Amar succumbs to a sudden fit of passion—and rapes Sonia.
Later that night, Sonia goes back home, shattered. (This, by the way, is one of the most memorable scenes in the film. Nimmi hams her way through Amar, but this scene—where she climbs up to the hayloft and tells her parents and Sankat she wants to be left alone, is anguish itself. Very poignant).
Over the days that follow, Amar is eaten up by guilt. He wants to confess all to Anju, but can’t summon up the courage to do so. Anju realises something is wrong.
But Amar stays quiet, and so does Sonia. Sankat, meanwhile, has been coaxing and bribing Sonia’s stepmother to let him marry Sonia. On the day of the wedding, Sonia breaks down and refuses to marry anyone, saying she’s already married. Anju, who’s been invited for the wedding with Amar, tries to get Sonia to divulge the name of her `husband’.
Nothing comes of it. The wedding doesn’t take place. Amar and Sonia keep mum, and Amar, now engaged to Anju, is getting steadily more distraught. Sonia comes to meet him at his home (which is being renovated) and there’s an accident—the ceiling collapses—in which Amar nearly dies. He recovers (thanks to the incessant prayers of both Anju and Sonia), and shortly after, Anju discovers—by sheer coincidence—who Sonia’s mysterious lover is.
What I liked about this film:
The characters have nuances you didn’t see in most run-of-the-mill Hindi films of the 50’s and 60’s. They’re shades of grey rather than black and white: Amar, for instance, is the hero, but he’s also a spineless creature who takes an eternity to admit the awful truth. And he’s human too, able to love one woman and yet feel lust for another. Sankat is equally interesting: crooked as a corkscrew and lusting after Sonia, but being tender and understanding when she confesses she’s in love with another man.
The acting, especially Dilip Kumar and Madhubala. And yes, the chemistry between them is great!
Madhubala. Need I say more? She has my vote as the most beautiful woman in Bollywood. Here’s why:
What I didn’t like:
Nimmi. She’s almost as infuriatingly hammy and theatrical here as she was in Aan.
The songs (especially Insaaf ka mandir hai yeh) are good, but there are just too many of them. Fewer songs, fewer interruptions, and it might have been a whole lot better.
Sonia’s love for her rapist is a little hard to swallow. True, she was fascinated by him earlier, but her agony after he rapes her is palpable—and doesn’t fit with her later near-reverence for Amar.
That said and done, this is a good film. Though the end is predictable, the premise of a hero who’s not quite a demi-god is a welcome departure from the standard!
Kudos to Dilip Kumar for taking up a role of a rapist and to Mehboob Khan as well for portraying the *hero* in this manner.
Or was it again a case of men can get away with anything?
I just finished watching this movie and quite agree with you. Love for the rapist is not really a good thing.
The only justification I could find was that Nimmi was already fascinated by Dilip and in a childish, naive way (she gives ample examples of being that) she feels they were ‘married’ already.
Philip Lutgendorf talks about the class angle in this film. A rich man routinely defiles poor women and pays his way out of it. Dilip attempts that when he hands over his purse for Sonia’s wedding. Dilip rebuffs Nimmi a couple of time (before the seduction) just like a rich man would rebuff a poor woman. Their first meeting where Dilip chases her is replete with the attraction and repulsion that Dilip feels for Nimmi.
The recurrent song ‘Insaaf ka mandir hai ye’ also says the lines ‘Nirdhan bhi hai insaan mohabbat use de de’
Though the denouement dragged a bit, and you feel like yelling at Dilip, “Come on, do one thing or the other!”
On the whole, it is a film one must watch.
That’s an interesting point re: Nimmi’s character feeling that she was already ‘married’ to Dilip Kumar’s character. It’s been a long time since I watched Amar (somehow Nimmi’s acting put me off so much, I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch it again), but I remember getting the impression that she tried to console herself after the rape by convincing herself that he was married to her, so it was all right. Still, of course, no justification for him forcing himself on her, but to a girl as naive as this. it might have been enough.
But yes, it was a good film, and refreshingly different from a lot of other films of that period, which would never have had a hero behave in such a fashion – or not marry the heroine eventually!
Amar is different but somehow i found its treatment very flawed. I am not much of a fan of Mehboob Khan as a director anways. This film by the way was based on Hall Caine’s 1921 novel The Master of Man. Dilip Kumar played the role of the protagonist Victor Stowell very well. It’s another thing that i don’t like somebody, who is a rapist, having Victor as his name ( for the name is very close to my heart )
“having Victor as his name ( for the name is very close to my heart )
Any particular reason? It is for me, because it was my grandfather’s middle name – but I’m curious.
Simply beacuse Victor is my real name while Raunak is my pet name. :)
Ah. Didn’t know that!
I clearly remember that it took 6 days for me to complete this movie and the reason behind this was the one and only Nimmi, neither beautiful nor a good actress. My brother, who also loves to watch old movies asked me whether he should watch this movie or not and I warned him about Nimmi as a result he didn’t watched this movie.
That was a changed version of film. Original version saw dilip kumar denying to marry nimmi and instead accept prison.
But that lead the film to be a box office failure.
So they changed it’s climax.
(As i read)
Interesting. I’d never come across that before. I must ask my father – he used to watch a lot of cinema, and he might know.
I was trying to locate a video of Lata classic ‘na milta gham ko barbadi’ when I came across this review.
Nimmi was no trained actress and I found the comments on her a trifle harsh. It is a fact that some of her expressions were inappropriate, even comical. But, we must keep in mind that this was 1954. The very same acting had passed muster under illustrious directors like Raj Kapoor. The audience adored her. Neither Mehboob nor her other directors really guided her.
So while agreeing with DustedOff I wonder if she could have been kinder.
I wondered what I’d written that was so unkind, but going back and re-reading, I see that I’ve referred to Nimmi as ‘infuriatingly hammy’ – which, to me, was the case when it came to Amar. I’m sorry if that hurts the sensibilities of Nimmi fans, but that’s honestly how I felt.
I have watched this movie in a span of 10 years. I cried during the last sequence of the film when I first time and when I watched after 10 years did the same. I liked the movie very much for its portrayal of agony faced by the lead characters. How a moment’s weakness can ruin ones whole life and love! The song ‘Insaaf ka mandir…’ showing three different ‘situations’ I found very poignant. I agree with others I don’t like Nimmi’s acting or may I say overacting. I can’t understand why or how she is cast against an excellent lead like Dilip Kumar! I am a huge fan of Dilip Kumar.
I read somewhere this move wasn’t accepted by the movie goers in those days. I can understand why you don’t want to see your ‘hero’ as a rapist. Dilip Kumar was brave to do this role. This could easily have negative impact on his career.
True, I’ve always thought of this as being a very daring and brave role for Dilip Kumar. There have been plenty of anti-heroes before and after this film, but all have mostly really been Robin Hood-ish characters, or even if they weren’t, mostly thieves of some type. A rapist is too bold a move for a leading man to play – and yet he does it so well. I can see why this movie wasn’t accepted.
It took me an eternity to come to this objective review of the much acclaimed movie of Mehboob. It’s been on my to-watch list for long and now I feel, I should watch it ASAP. Just a trivia from my side – after four and a half decades of Amar, Dilip Kumar again played a rapist in his very last movie Qila (1998). Rekha played the victim in that movie. Once there was a discussion on your page regarding Dilip Kumar’s double roles. In Qila also, he is seen in two different roles – of one evil brother (Rekha’s rapist) and one virtuous brother (who happens to be the protaginst of the story) . It’s a murder mystery.
Interesting! I hadn’t heard of Qila before, but I must say Amar came as quite a shock to me – that was just not the kind of role I’d have associated with Dilip Kumar. Though, I will admit he did the role very well and one could see that this was a man who was generally ‘good’ but one brief spell of lust, brought on perhaps by proximity to a woman who found him very attractive, could bring on such a heinous crime. It’s a very nuanced bit of acting.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I will watch it pretty soon and share my thoughts in this regard.
Seen Amar. Yes, it’s worth a watch despite flaws. I agree that the songs are just too many. However I also feel that the script as well as the direction too could have been better. Instead of telling the story flatly, Mehboob could have inserted an element of suspense regarding Sankat’s murder to reveal it in the courtroom (through flashback) when Amar was defending Sonia. Anyway, hearty thanks for motivating me to watch this classic. Have you watched Patita (1953) which had a different story but a rape only was at the nucleus of that also ?
LikeLiked by 1 person
You’re welcome. It’s been so long since I watched this, I have forgotten most of the latter part of the film (except how Madhubala’s character insists on getting them married). But somehow, it’s not also the type of film I would want to go back and watch all over again…
I have watched Patita, but so long back that I have never reviewed it on this blog. I should do that sometime; I remember it as being quite good. And of course it had wonderful music.
LikeLiked by 1 person