Raat aur Din (1967)

I’m always on the lookout for old, offbeat Hindi films. Something without the hackneyed romances, the clashes between rich/poor, urban/rural, good/evil, the sudden breaking into song and the neat tying up of all loose ends once the regulation three hours are up. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against masala films—some of my favourite old films are masala to the spice-sodden core. But somehow a film like Kanoon, Ittefaq, Anokhi Raat, Kabuliwala or Dekh Kabira Roya, each unusual in its own way, has a certain je ne sais quoi. So does this, Nargis’s last film. There’s something a little hat ke about a film in which the romance is really quite minimal, and the strange light-and-shadow personality of a schizophrenic woman is the main focus of the plot.

Nargis in Raat aur Din

Raat aur Din begins on a dark street in Calcutta, where a glamorous woman (Nargis) hails a taxi. She’s oomph personified: shimmering clingy dress slit to the knee, hair coiled high, dramatically made up eyes and a long cigarette holder. She looks a bad girl, this one, and she tells the cabbie to take her to Firpo’s. At Firpo’s, she launches into song and dance—the beautiful Dil ki girah khol do.

A dance at Firpo's

Dance over, the man (Feroz Khan) she’s been dancing with introduces himself as Dilip; she tells him her name’s Peggy. Dilip invites her to have a drink with him, and Peggy orders whisky (more badness shining through). Dilip tells Peggy he’d seen her a few years back in Shimla, but she denies having been in Shimla.
Just then, all hell erupts as a man called Pratap Verma (Pradeep Kumar) barges in, pulling Peggy away from Dilip and yelling that she’s not Peggy, her name’s Baruna and she’s his wife. Peggy denies this too.

Pratap arrives to claim Baruna/Peggy

Pratap and Dilip have a bit of a tiff, and by the time they surface, Peggy/Baruna’s disappeared. Pratap goes home, and Dilip finds Peggy’s handbag lying on the floor in Firpo’s. Inside the bag, he discovers a visiting card: Mrs Baruna Verma.

Dilip discovers Baruna's visiting card

Dilip goes to the address on the card, in time to find Pratap threatening Baruna with a revolver. It’s been a while since the Firpo’s episode. Baruna’s woken up after a snooze, and is a completely different woman—very much the girl next door. She’s been telling Pratap she hasn’t been to Firpo’s and that she doesn’t know any Dilip, but Pratap doesn’t believe her. Dilip tells Pratap he’d seen Baruna 5-6 years ago in Shimla, but Baruna denies it—and then, in all the commotion, passes out.

The showdown between Dilip, Pratap and Baruna

Pratap takes Baruna to a psychiatrist, Dr Dey (Harindranath Chattopadhyay). Dr Dey and his assistant Dr Alvares (Anwar Hussain) discover that Baruna’s been having frequent headaches. They can’t seem to glean much else, and finally ask Pratap to help them piece together Baruna’s past. Not that Pratap can help much; but he obliges—by telling them how he met Baruna, and what’s been happening ever since.

Dey and Alvares discuss Baruna's case with Pratap

Flashback to a hill road near Shimla, where Pratap’s car breaks down. The only habitation for miles around is the nearby home of the local contractor, so Pratap goes there to ask for shelter. The contractor’s away, but his daughter, Baruna, is hospitable and offers Pratap hot tea and food. By the time her father (K N Singh) arrives, Pratap is obviously fascinated by Baruna.

Pratap meets Baruna's father

His car attended to, Pratap proceeds reluctantly to Shimla, where he’s supposed to meet Shiela, a girl his parents want him to marry. She’s away from home, and Pratap takes advantage of the situation to beat a swift retreat—back to Baruna. He proposes; she shyly tells him to “talk to Papa”, and the next we know, they’re getting married.

Pratap and Baruna get married

Pratap’s wedding elicits mixed reactions from his family, with whom he lives. His younger sister is inclined to be friends with Baruna and his father (S N Banerjee) seems ambivalent. Pratap’s mother (Leela Misra), however, is distinctly huffy. She’d wanted Pratap to marry Shiela, and thinks of Baruna as something of a usurper.

Prataps' parents react to his wedding

It soon becomes obvious that all is not well with Baruna. She complains of headaches…

Baruna has a headache

becomes hysterical when a rock tumbles downhill while she and Pratap are at a picnic with friends…

A falling rock makes Baruna hysterical

…and dances wildly to music in the middle of the night, while the rest of the household sleeps.
By this time, Pratap’s mother is convinced Baruna is possessed. She fetches an ojha to come and do some jhaad-phoonk. This is a macabre scene, with all that tantric mumbo-jumbo—and, strangely, what I found most creepy was the audience of neighbourhood women sitting in the background, eyes riveted on the ojha.

Pratap's mother fetches the ojha

The ojha, in his efforts to exorcise Baruna’s demons, burns her hand and Pratap (who arrives just then) is livid. He takes Baruna away to Calcutta, where they’ll live on their own.
But things don’t get much better. At a party, Baruna gets thoroughly drunk and her wild, flirtatious self surfaces. A few days later, Pratap comes home from a trip to Dhanbad to find two large bottles of liquor that he’d left in his bedroom, now empty. Baruna denies having even noticed the bottles.

Baruna, the closet tippler?

Finally, one night Pratap wakes up to find Baruna gone. He goes out just in time to see her hail a taxi and go off to Firpo’s—which is where we came in.
Flashback over, and we’re now back to the present. Baruna has been admitted to Dr Dey’s Hospital. The new house surgeon, Dr Kumar (Anoop Kumar) finds himself unable to handle Baruna in her Peggy avatar—she pesters him for cigarettes, finishes off a bottle of brandy she discovers in his room, and forces him to dance with her.

Baruna latches on to Dr Kumar

Dr Kumar sneaks off and fetches the other doctors. In front of their very eyes, Peggy becomes Baruna—a Baruna sickened by the smouldering cigarette in her hand and the smell of brandy on her breath—and then, after a sudden headache, reverts to the wild Peggy.
All the while Baruna is see-sawing, Pratap is being pressurised by his mother to leave Baruna and marry that Shiela. Dr Dey and Dr Alvares haven’t been able to discover what lies behind Baruna’s schizophrenia, and Pratap himself is beginning to go to pieces…

Watch on. The truth emerges only in the last scene, and is fairly interesting.

Note: Try, if possible to avoid the Moser Baer-Indus copy of Raat aur Din: scenes have been edited so the story’s choppy; and the picture quality is bad.

What I liked about this film:
Nargis. Raat aur Din is Nargis’s film all the way, and an appropriate swansong. Her acting, both as the wild Peggy who drinks, dances, smokes and flirts as if there were no tomorrow; and as the quiet, `good’ Baruna, is excellent. Among the best scenes is the one in Dr Kumar’s room, when she dances to La Bamba, drives Dr Kumar up the wall—and then, quietening down, dissolves into Baruna. Nargis’s eyes are so expressive, you can see them change from Peggy to Baruna and back again. Nargis, by the way, won the National Film Award for Best Actress for Raat aur Din.
The music by Shankar-Jaikishan. Dil ki girah khol do and Raat aur din diya jale are probably the best known of the film’s songs, but another gem is the wonderful Awara ae mere dil, sung in two versions, one slow and the other fast.
The cameos. There are a lot of well-known faces here, even if they’re there only for a scene or two: Baby Farida as little Baruna; Sulochana Chatterjee as Baruna’s mother; and—my favourite—the lovely Laxmi Chhaya. As who, I won’t say.

Laxmi Chhaya in Raat aur Din

The chiaroscuro. I wondered why a film made as late as 1967 was filmed in black and white, but looking back, I can’t help but agree; colour would probably not have achieved half the effect that the shadows and the light manage in Raat aur Din. Director Satyen Bose uses light and shadow—more shadow, less light—effectively throughout to reflect the shades of Baruna’s character.

What I didn’t like:
The film concentrates on Baruna to the exclusion of all the other characters, leaving them half-baked. Pratap, for instance, though he’s the hero, is confusing: in one scene, he opposes his mother to rescue Baruna from the ojha; in another, while pining for the absent Baruna, he meekly allows his mother to bully him into escorting Shiela around Calcutta. And the flip-flop continues through most of the film: if I were Baruna, I would get rid of this guy.
The medical angle of the film isn’t convincing. Yes, I know most Hindi films (or for that matter, even a lot of Hollywood) don’t do convincing hospitals, but this one’s particularly bad. Dey and Alvares talk a lot, but they don’t sound like doctors, and the ambience isn’t too medical, if you know what I mean.
There are details, digressions and distractions that don’t add any value to the film (the song at the picnic; Baruna’s initial interactions with Pratap’s mother; etc). And what on earth was Feroz Khan doing in this? He had barely a couple of scenes, and in those too he was mainly hovering in the background, completely wasted.

Raat aur Din could have done with much tighter scripting, fewer characters, and yes, fewer songs too. If you can overlook those flaws, this is an offbeat and unusual film—and Nargis is a treat to watch.

Little bit of trivia:
Although it isn’t acknowledged, Raat aur Din appears to draw from Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie (1962, starring Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery). Marnie is the story of a man who marries a girl called Marnie, only to discover that she’s schizophrenic, and that her penchant for wildness and thievery stems from her past. Interestingly enough, one of the names Marnie uses is Peggy. Coincidence?

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24 thoughts on “Raat aur Din (1967)

  1. I love Marnie, and I am dying to see this. I believe my favorite band Ted Lyons and his Cubs make an appearance too (probably with Laxmi!) :-)

    It’s very hard to find, though :(

  2. I loooooove Marnie, too! But its probably more because of Sean Connery and Tippi Hedren rather than Hitchcock’s story-telling. :-)

    The songs from this movie were very popular and I remember seeing them on Chitrahaar pretty often. I love them, but, the Nargis of this movie is soooo not glamorous that, inspite of Pradeep Kumar and Feroz Khan’s presence, I’ve never been motivated to seek it out. Hopefully some kindly soul will upload it to youtube or Rajshri will decide to put it on their site – so I can give it a try.

  3. I haven’t seen Raat aur Din. But after reading the synopsis, I frankly don’t see a lot of similarity with Marnie. In Marnie, she knows what she is doing, but doesn’t know why. Here Baruna seems unaware of the flip-flop in her personality. While Marnie is about neurotic repression; Baruna seems to be a case of split personality.

    In Raat aur Din, I can smell a Madonna/whore complex ;-)

  4. memsaab: Yes, Ted Lyons and his Cubs are there with Laxmi Chhaya! You can’t see them too well, because the regulation lettering on the drum is not too prominent, and the picture quality’s bad. But it’s them, all right.

    bollyviewer: I agree – Nargis in Raat aur Din was a far cry from the Nargis of Awara or Chori Chori. She’s very glamorous in Dil ki girah khol do, but a little too hefty. And both Feroz Khan and Pradeep Kumar have very little to do in the film – especially Feroz Khan; I haven’t been able to figure out why he was in the film in the first place.

    Sabrina: Probably not as much as (say) Mann drew from Love Affair or Ek Ruka Hua Faisla drew from 12 Angry Men ;-). But there is a basic similarity, also partly in that her neurosis stems from something connected to her mother… but on second thought, I think the Madonna/whore description is more fitting!

    • everybody favourite is dil ki girah khol do chup na baitho koi geet gaayo. the movie is made by nargis’s brother i heard it. it is not of regular production house. i want to watch dil ki girah with clear print but it is not available. i appreciate lyricist shailender wrote such a beautiful song even he was himself in depression. i will watch this movie some day .

  5. Hmmm, off-beat Bollywood. Do Aankhen Barah Haath would be a starter, Sujata (altho this has romance) as does Bandini, Kanoon, Neecha Nagar by Chetan Anand, winner of Gran Prix for best film at Cannes, Howrah Bridge, Bombay Ka Babu.

    Maybe the 70s are too modern for you but there are some heart-warming films Parichay, Mili (I just watched and what fine performances), Guddi, Uphaar, Bawarchi, Koshish, Piya Ka Ghar, etc. etc. and you will get if not romance-less, but certainly more rounded movies (ok, you can see I am a sucker for Jaya’s films). You could watch Anubhav just for the music!

    For some wacky (not necessarily good) stuff: Mr. X in Bombay, Half Ticket, etc.

  6. bawa, you just named some of my favourite films! But I find Bandini a little too depressing, and Do Aankhen Baraah Haath is soured for me because I don’t like either V Shantaram or Sandhya – though the film itself is a good one. Howrah Bridge is perhaps a little more mainstream masala than the others :-)
    Your 70’s Hrishikesh Mukherjee films are lovely ones too – though I must admit I haven’t yet got around to watching Uphaar and Koshish, but they’re on my list… and if we’re talking later films, then I’d add Hulchul and Aaj ki Taaza Khabar – both very enjoyable films.

  7. This movie sounds delightful! As does your blog! I love it!!!! I love your movies and I love your writing!

    After so many exclamation points, I must suppress my glee and simply say that I hope to come back often :)

  8. shweta, thank you so much. That’s really heartening! Do please come by – I love meeting up (even if it’s only in the virtual world) with people who love old movies as much as I do!

  9. The songs are really lovely in the film. Even though I don’t remember much of the film, I do remember the songs. I do remember the film frightening me very much, as did ‘Marnie’.

    As for the ojha scene, it was very common when we were kids. I am sure it still is, but yes, it used to be a communal affair, with neighbors and relatives and kids looking on curiously.

  10. I actually saw this film for the first time a couple of years ago, so I was old enough to not get frightened – but the ojha scene was creepy. I’ve heard of ojhas, but never actually seen them in action in real life; just all these depictions in films (and how accurate can they be?!). But this one, with those women looking on so intently, was somehow much more eerie than anything I’ve seen in other films.

  11. sounds like a very interesting film…but i can’t get my hands on a copy, can you please tell me what happens next?

  12. Sure!

    Spoiler coming up:

    Baruna escapes from the mental hospital and wanders around, half-crazed, singing Awaara ae mere dil (the sad version of the song) until she is sheltered by a poor old couple. When she comes to, she remembers who she is and tries to go back home, though of course her mother-in-law isn’t ready to have Baruna come back.

    Pratap, Baruna’s father, Dilip and the doctors finally realise that the key to Baruna’s illness lies in her past. Her father admits that years ago, he and his wife had separated, and she had gone off to Shimla to live with little Baruna. So they go to Shimla, with Baruna. Her memory is jolted, and she recalls the past. Opposite their house lived a little girl called Peggy, whom Baruna was only allowed to talk with through their facing windows. Peggy was happy, allowed to sing and dance and play, while Baruna’s obssessive mother sheltered Baruna and refused to let her even go out of the house. Grown up, Baruna finally managed to sneak off to a Christmas party where Peggy (now Laxmi Chhaya) sang the happy version of Awaara ae mere dil. There, Dilip saw Baruna for the first time and was attracted to her. She shied away and ran back home, but on the way met her mother, who was out looking for Baruna. The mother got annoyed at Baruna and was railing at her when she stumbled, lost her footing and fell down the hillside to her death. Since then, Baruna has been subconsciously blaming herself for her mother’s death, while at the same time, being two people – the bright and vivacious Peggy whom she wasn’t allowed the emulate, and the `good’ Baruna whom she had to be.

    The film ends at this point, with Pratap and Baruna’s father etc helping Baruna back into the car so they can return home, with Baruna’s demons banished hopefully ever.

    Spoiler ends

    I hope you can get a copy – it’s a good film, and Nargis’s acting is superb.

  13. hi! i write a blog on old b/w hindi films and am on a constant lookout for trivia related to them. I came across your blog that has a bit of trivia related to this film, and I wanted to ask if it’s ok with you that I ‘lift’ info from your blog. I will credit it to your name, of course. Let me know!

  14. i have been reading your blog for a few days now… from one blog to the other and raat aur din, which is an old favourite lead me to another old favourite… marine. i just finished watching it. thank you.

  15. THE FILM RAAT AUR DIN IS A REMARKABLE AND ONE OF THE FILMS THE DIRECTORS SHOULD WATCH SO THEY CAN DIRECT SUCH A GREAT FILM WITH THE WONDERFUL PLOT………THE CHARACTER AND PERFORMANCES BY NARGIS DUTT IS AN HIGHLIGHT IN THIS FILMS……….NOTE THAT RAAT AUR DIN IS THE FIRST FILM WHICH ENABLE NARGIS DUTT NOTED AS FIRST HEROINE TO WIN NATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS…..RAAT AUR DIN IS ALSO THE EARLY FILMS IN INDIAN FILM INDUSTRY TO DEAL WITH SUCH A CONFLICT THEME ABOUT SPLIT PERSONALITY DISORDER….AS FAR AS I KNOW THERE ARE NO ANY OTHER FILM APART FORM RAAT AUR DIN WHICH HAD DEAL WITH THE SPLIT PERSONALITY IN INDIAN FILM INDUSTRY…….

  16. I was kinda disappointed by this one. I had wanted to watch it for so long but when I eventually saw it I was rather underwhelmed. The songs however are awesome – probably Shanker-Jaikishen’s last great soundtrack (along with the exquisite Amrapali).

    There was a lot of drama behind the scenes as to why Nargis agreed to do this movie for her brother. I read all about it in a fascinating book called Darling Ji – all about Nargis and Sunil Dutt. It documents their relationship right from the start and is utterly rivetting – one of the most exciting ‘biographies’ I’ve read and i definitley recommend it. Nargis was so complex, so ‘broken’ and insecure during her Raj Kapoor phase and right up until her and Dutt eventually got married. They both sound like really very decent, good people, respected by all, and the book doesn’t detract from this but simply shows how they grew to become that way, through pretty difficult beginnings.

    I heard Nargis helped Meena Kumari and Madhubala both during their difficult times.

    • I watched this film with no expectations at all, because I knew next to nothing of it except for the songs – so I didn’t mind it at all. In fact, I liked it quite a bit.

      Darling Ji sounds interesting. Though I doubt I’ll ever get around to buying it, because somehow I’m just not interested in the personal lives of film personalities. Little tidbits like what Shilpi Bose gives on the blog about her father are good, because they’re connected almost wholly to his professional life, but gossipy stuff about who had a relationship with whom… I prefer to steer clear of that.

  17. From Indraneil,
    So glad to go thru ur blog- on this movie, it took close to 10 yrs to complete filming /dubbing/distributing etc;In the beginning Nargis, after some reservation was quite upbeat on the film & her brother Anwar persuaded her to do it; they ran into several major & minor problems some of them were abt Nargis’s personal/heaith issues but Anwar was dogged in his determination. Thats why you may see Nargis looking differently thru the full movie because it was not shot continously. Having said that , we must admit that it is indeed a movie well ahead of its time & it is often used in psycho labs of city colleges to demonstrate what split personalities can be like,Looks like Nargis was a Taylor fan (after Cleopatra) & looked & acted somewhat like her in the filming of Dilki giraha khol do… I am an old movie buff both hindi & hollywood.

    • Thank you for commenting, and for giving that piece of information. I did wonder if perhaps the film had been a long time in production, because of the difference in Nargis’s looks through the course of the film. I agree about her resemblance to Liz Taylor in Dil ki girah – the eyes, especially!

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