Chhoti si Mulaqat (1967)

Considering my mother’s part Bengali, I suppose I should be feeling a little ashamed that I don’t know the language. The only time it’s bothered me, though, is when it means I can’t see Uttam Kumar’s Bengali movies without subtitles. Chhoti si Mulaqat is one of the few Hindi movies the Bengali superstar ever made, and luckily for me, this is (unlike Anand Ashram or Amanush) in his pre-pudgy days. Sneak peek:

Uttam Kumar in Chhoti si Mulaqat

Onto the story. It begins in Bombay, where Shankar (Tarun Bose), his wife Ratna (Veena) and fifteen year old daughter Rupa (who’s this kid? She looks too much like Yogita Bali to be anybody else) are packing to go on their annual summer vacation to Shimla. Shankar’s mother (Pratima Devi) is simultaneously preparing to go on a trip to their `village’ (well, whatever). She begs Shankar to let Rupa come with her, but the fashionable Ratna, who can’t see eye to eye with her mother-in-law, refuses.

Ratna refuses to let Rupa go with Shankar's mother

Ratna finally acquiesces, and Rupa goes off with her grandmother. The old lady takes her to meet the ailing Rai Saheb (Badri Prasad), a wealthy old gentleman who used to be the bosom buddy of Rupa’s dead grandfather’s. Rai Saheb has an eighteen year old grandson, Rajju, whom Rai Saheb and Rupa’s grandfather had long ago decided would someday be married to Rupa.

Rupa meets Rai Saheb

Rai Saheb uses emotional blackmail by the shovelful to persuade Rupa’s granny to agree to an engagement between Rupa and Rajju. The old lady prevaricates (I should hope so!), but then Rai Saheb has a heart attack. On his deathbed, he insists that Rupa and Rajju be married immediately.

Rupa and her grandmother at Rai Saheb's deathbed

By the time Shankar—summoned by his mother—arrives from Shimla, Rupa’s a wedded wife. Shankar takes her back to Bombay with him. Ratna, arriving in Bombay and discovering the truth, vows to wipe out every single memory of Rupa’s ever being married.

Ratna, aghast at Rupa's condition

The years pass, and we’re back in Shimla, where Rupa, all grown up (Vyjyantimala, looking lovely as always) sings one of my favourite songs from the movie: Mat jaa, mat jaa, mat jaa mere bachpan naadaan.

Rupa sings Mat jaa mat jaa

She’s vacationing with her aunt (Praveen Paul) and her cousin, Sonia (Shashikala). One of Rupa’s admirers, Shyam Kapoor (Rajinder Nath), who calls himself Sam Cooper after a stint abroad, has followed her to Shimla. Out skiing, Rupa meets Ashok (Uttam Kumar), and in true Hindi film style, he sets about endearing himself to her: by pursuing her relentlessly and driving her up the wall.

Ashok pursues Rupa

Also in typical Hindi film style, he succeeds. He gatecrashes a dance performance by Rupa; then escorts her home and lends her his overcoat; and by the time she comes to his home the next day to return the coat, she’s well and truly smitten.

Rupa falls for Ashok too

Shortly after, Rupa returns to Bombay, but after inviting Ashok to her upcoming birthday party. Ashok turns up, making Rupa’s day, but ruining Sam Cooper’s.

Sam and Ashok at Rupa's party

Sam meets Sonia and sobs out his sorrows to her, and Sonia (who’s nuts about Ashok) cribs to her mother. Sonia’s mother tries to console her: Rupa, she says, can never marry anyone. Sonia, livid, comes to meet Rupa and warn her off Ashok. Rupa’s reaction is not quite what Sonia wanted: she telephones Ashok and tells him she’s ready to marry him.

Sonia and Rupa have a tiff over Ashok

Sonia flings the truth at Rupa—that Rupa, after all is married—and Rupa starts feeling pangs of conscience. She tries to tell Ashok, but just doesn’t get around to it.
Ratna hosts a big party to celebrate Rupa and Ashok’s betrothal. Just as Ashok is about to slide the engagement ring onto Rupa’s finger, unexpected visitors arrive: the gumashta (agent) of Rupa’s long-forgotten husband, Rajju; and Rajju’s lawyer. They’re carrying a notice declaring that Rupa is Rajju’s wife. Ashok rips up the notice in the gumashta’s face.

Ashok and Rajju's gumashta

The party breaks up, and so does Rupa. She tries to push Ashok away, but he assures her that he still loves her, whether or not she’s married. Ratna consults a lawyer, and tells Rupa that getting a divorce is going to be easy as pie (why on earth hadn’t she launched divorce proceedings before this? Ah, the mysteries of cinema plots…) Anyway, a gloating Sonia soon goes off to woo Ashok, but finds herself rebuffed.

Ashok sends Sonia off with a flea in the ear...

The news that Rupa is already married spreads soon enough, and she increasingly finds herself ostracised. She also realises that her own conscience is pushing her to return to a man she hasn’t seen since she was married to him—but the man she actually loves is someone quite different.

Jeevan ke doraahe pe khade...

What I liked about this film:
Vyjyantimala’s acting, especially in the last half hour. Her portrayal of a woman in a dilemma—caught between love and duty—is excellent. You can feel her anguish.
The music. Shankar-Jaikishan create some little-known but very tuneful songs, and one of Lata’s very best: Jeevan ke doraahe pe khade sochte hain hum.
Uttam Kumar and Vyjyantimala: they look awesome together!

Vyjyantimala and Uttam Kumar in Chhoti si Mulaqat

What I didn’t like:
The whole point about a woman’s place being `in her husband’s house’ is a trifle trite. This is the same complaint I had about Mr and Mrs 55, and I’m still not convinced. Apparently, audiences way back in 1967 didn’t think much of it either, because Chhoti si Mulaqat was a colossal flop and nearly bankrupted Uttam Kumar, who produced it.

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23 thoughts on “Chhoti si Mulaqat (1967)

  1. It is! Frankly, I don’t see it being any worse than (say) Mr and Mrs 55, Main Chup Rahoongi or any of the other dozens of Hindi films which touted the `traditional’ Indian woman’s role as being restricted to the house. And this one had the advantage of good acting, great music, and a very good supporting cast. I still haven’t figured out why it flopped.

  2. My chief problem with this movie was not the gender relations but the fact that it tended to justify, nay, glorify child marriage. The movie was based on Ashapurna Devi’s story and I can’t imagine why such a noted litterateur lent herself to ideas that were regressive even in 60s!

    Still… pre-pudgy days Uttam Kumar is great no matter what, and Vyjayantimala gets to shake a leg – so its pretty watchable. Apparently the Bangla version of this movie was a big hit, which is why Uttam Kumar remade it in Hindi.

  3. Yes, actually. I agree; it does tend to glorify child marriage (well, if that’s one of the reasons it flopped, then does that reflect well on Indian audiences? I wonder!) But yes, the music and the Uttam Kumar-Vyjyantimala jodi is reason enough to watch, I think!

  4. O how I hated this movie, when I saw it on DD in the late 80s!
    AWFUL,
    except for handsome Uttam Kumar. Pity, he didn’t feature in much hindi movies.

  5. I have seen the film partly; yet it charmed it so much that I am looking for that. But I don’t know how can I get it. Is it possible to get it online.

  6. harvey: Oh well, to each his own! I suppose I especially liked it because of Uttam Kumar (who was gorgeous) and Vyjanthimala (ditto). And the songs. The child marriage bit was ugh, but I thought Vyjyantimala’s acting in that bit when she’s caught between love and ‘duty’ was very good.

    Dilip: The VCD is fairly easily available in India, at least – I bought mine in Music World or Planet M, I’ve forgotten which. Online, you could try maybe http://www.induna.com: they usually have even fairly obscure films, so they’re likely to have this one too.

  7. I hated this movie when it was shown in the 80s on Doordarshan. That was the time when everyone sat down together and watched whichever movie DD decided to subject its audience to.
    I remember this movie well because it got a friend of mine in trouble with her dad for saying that the heroine should have left her unknown husband and married the boyfriend.
    I can’t believe how the film is touting child marriage and wife beating (the fisherman/labourer dragging his wife on the ground while the retarded hero looks on and babbles about marriage being an unbreakable bond is sickening).
    Watching this movie again 25 yrs later I find myself liking Vyjantimala’s mom the best. Can you imagine sending your 15 yr old daughter with your mother-in-law to the village, against your better judgement, and find out on her return that she has been married off to some unknown 18 yr old. But of course the mother is portrayed as the evil one.
    I’m not surprised the movie flopped. I guess the 60s audience were more advanced than the film makers!

  8. I liked the music and Vyjyantimala’s acting a lot in this – and Uttam Kumar was great to look at. Plus their romance was rather sweet. :-) But yes, as bollyviewer says, the entire premise of the film – the glorification of child marriage – was ugly.

    I think the entire tone of the film was probably to blame for its flopping, not just the emphasis on child marriage being ‘good’. After all, even a much- acclaimed film like Sahib Bibi aur Ghulamthe same element – woman falls in love with a man, has to battle her conscience, and later discovers that he is the little boy she had been married to as a toddler. But then, that was a minor plot element in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, not the main theme as it is in Chhoti si Mulaqat. And Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam is anyway in a different league altogether!

  9. Oh, my goodness! I’ve been out of action lately, but I was just listening to the title song of this film and it hit me like a bombshell – oh, my God. Uttam Kumar is so handsome. I’ve been listening to the song itself since I was really small, but I’ve never paid much attention to the picturization until a few days ago! Oh, my gosh!

    I love the way he dances! I love the way he smiles! :D I love the fact that he’s wearing a bowtie! I love his hair! (I just wanna run my hand through it. Oh gosh. His hair kind of reminds me of John Garfield’s hair. Incidentally, I love John Garfield.) I know the movie might not be that good but I think I’m going to just forward through all the non-Uttam Kumar parts and just gaze at his face. Oh gosh, where have I been all this time?!

    And I might even have to watch some Bengali films now, thanks to him! :D Any recommendations?

    • Actually, as Greta mentions in the very first comment, this (despite its obvious drawbacks regarding feminism vs tradition) is quite entertaining. It has lovely songs, and Uttam Kumar is really delectable. :-)

      I haven’t watched too many of Uttam Kumar’s Bengali films, but two that I have seen and can recommend are:

      Agni Pariksha (the original of Chhoti Si Mulaqat:
      https://dustedoff.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/agni-pariksha-1954/

      And Chaowa-Paowa (a remake of Chori-Chori):
      https://dustedoff.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/chaowa-pawa-1959/

    • bombaynoir, so great to find another Uttam fan. I am a Bengali so I can watch all his wonderful, timeless Bangla films (sadly all Black and White). Apart from the story and it is not much different from a lot of similar stories of Indian women’s place beneath her husband, etc., Uttam Kumar looked so drop-dead gorgeous and with Vmala? First-class jori. The movie should not have flopped like this. Have seen some terrible Hindi films and they did well? Uttam was the most elegant hero and always pleasant even when he would be upset about something. He never looked aggressive and showing typical male tantrums that our society okays it. As an elegant actor and a gentleman, he would make his point without hitting the heroine.

  10. One of my rare favourites. I agree Uttam Kumar and Vyjyantimala look great together.
    But I disagree on your latter comment. I felt the movie showcased how child marriage can affect a person negatively. The psychological repercussions she faces as an adult when she is about to marry the man she loves. It also hints on the narrow mindedness of modern society (60’s), who look down on her ’cause she is considered a married woman.
    The Ending, what I liked was that she was happy that her husband turned out to be the same man she loved (who has improved himself – well educated, up to her standard,) The fact that he is not just some brain dead rich man helps. As he says, she would have never been happy if she was forced to live with him. So the ending makes sense.
    If it were another man, she would have come to her senses and left (or rather she should).

    • Let’s agree to disagree about our opinions regarding the end! I like the fact that she ends up discovering she’s married to the man she loves, but I question the entire premise about why society or societal norms must dictate how a woman’s life plays out. What if Ashok had grown up to be a total rotter? Would it still have been patni dharm for her to have gone to him, irrespective of anything else? Rather unfair, I think. In that respect, I find Agni Pariksha a little easier to like.

      • No, then she should have left him. Even if he grew up to be the good fellow he seems to be, and she did not like him, she shouldn’t be with him.
        Of course I watched it long time ago, and to my memory, it spoke against child marriage, not for it. And the mother is not the villain of the piece, she’s bold outspoken feminist. It makes sense why she tries, and succeeds, in bringing up her child as an open minded individual, leaving the past demons behind. (although it would exist in her mind to certain a subconscious level)
        In the end Vyjyantimala only goes back out of curiosity, and for mental peace.
        And she ends up being happy to see it was the man she loved.
        I don’t believe, that she would have stayed with her husband, if she didn’t care for him.

        • It was a rhetorical question, not an actual one. Of course she’d have left him. On the other hand, look at it this way: if Rupa had so convinced herself that her place was with her husband, wouldn’t she be untrue to her own ideals if she then proceeded to leave him if he wasn’t to her liking? No janam-janmaantar ka saath? After all, if she (and society, in a roundabout way) had brainwashed herself into believing that Ashok wasn’t her destiny, but her husband was, then no matter what, she should have stayed with her husband. That her husband turns out to have been Ashok is good for her.

          I have seen Choti Si Mulaqat more times than I can remember. It used to be one of my favourite films when I was in my teens, and even later. So I can almost recreate its every scene in my mind without having to rewatch the film. Which is why I know that even if the audience now thinks that Rupa’s mother was just a bold outspoken feminist, that’s not really how she’s portrayed in the film – there she’s definitely the villain of the peace. A feminist, all right, but so rabid that she refuses to accept the sanskaars and blah blah. Rupa’s final angry conversation with her – when Rupa’s leaving home, on the staircase – is obvious proof of how the film maker wants us to see her.

  11. I watched this movie recently, after reading your review, and I agree with you. This child marriage business doesn’t strike a chord in me, I see no reason behind the patni dharm part, and it annoys me when everyone goes around saying that she is already married. I had the same problem with the Gulzar movie with Jeetu and Hema Malini, I think it was Khushboo, and she spends her time waiting for the guy she got married to as a child, and refuses to move on with her life, where he has moved on, albeit unintentionally.. And then he is made to feel guilty over it. Okay, I am stopping, before I explode.
    Is this girl the same one who acted in that movie, Hey Ram, as the second wife? She looks like she has the same kind of eyes.
    Your review is probably the best thing about this movie, other than the songs.

    • “Is this girl the same one who acted in that movie, Hey Ram, as the second wife? She looks like she has the same kind of eyes.

      Which girl, Lalitha? If you mean Rupa as a teenager, the part’s played by Yogita Bali.

      I remember Khushboo. It had some nice songs, and I liked Hema Malini in it, but for me too the concept of this woman waiting endlessly for her ‘husband’ got on my nerves. And the rest – making him feel guilty, etc – was again really rather manipulative (which, basically, is the problem with Chhoti Si Mulaqat – manipulation, and one of the two partners not being able to move on in life).

  12. the movie was a remake of a bangla film Agneepariksha starring Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen based on a story of noted bangla writer Annapurna Devi. The songs are splendid. u can watch the original one if u feel like, even for nothing but the songs, especially “ke tumi amare dako…” and “gaane mor indrodhonu”. I believe u will discover the timeless charm of both Uttam and the diva Suchitra.

  13. uttam kumar’s chotisi mulakat was a box office let down because of a collective conspiracy of the bombay hindi actors led by raj kapoor…!

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