Leader (1964)

Having spent most of my life avidly watching Hindi films—especially pre-80’s—I’m inclined to be indulgent. I don’t bat an eyelid when a heroine’s hairdo goes from stylish bob to flowing tresses from one scene to the next. I don’t wonder how an arch villain can defy the cops of an entire nation (occasionally, most of the world) and still fall before the combined efforts of the hero, his comic sidekick, and a faithful pooch. I forgive completely illogical turns and plot elements, ascribing them to artistic license. I mumble a puzzled “What the—!” or “How the—!” or even a “Why the—!” and move on.
Leader is one of those (thankfully rare) films that’s a “What/Why/How the—!” moment from beginning to end.

Dilip Kumar and Vyjyantimala in Leader

The film starts going berserk from the word go, when we’re introduced to an upright political activist, Acharyaji (Motilal), who, in between giving speeches, takes time out to chastise Sunita (Vyjyantimala), for posing in a swimsuit for a newspaper. Sunita, we learn, is the princess of Shyamgarh and has come to Bombay to study, along with her younger brother Shailendra `Shalu’ (I have no idea who this actor was, but since he appears in only one scene, he’s easily forgotten—obviously by the writer as well).
Sunita tells Acharyaji that a certain Vijay Khanna, the editor of the newspaper, has pasted a photo of her face on the photo of another girl’s body. Why the—!

Shalu finds herself in print - and not much else!

Anyway, next we know, Acharyaji, with Sunita in tow, is at a political rally when someone pitches what seems to be a bomb at Acharyaji. A minor stampede ensues. This is stilled by a young man (Dilip Kumar) who jumps onstage and starts singing, with Sunita etc providing the chorus. What happened to the bomb? What happened to who threw the bomb? Aren’t these guys worried? What the—?!

A strange young man begins singing

Sunita is impressed by the man, though he doesn’t introduce himself. A day or so later, though, Vijay Khanna phones, wanting to talk to Shalu. Sunita gives him a piece of her mind for printing dirty pictures of hers, little aware that the man she’s ranting at is the same one whom she met onstage the other day. Vijay flirts outrageously with her until: (a) she bangs the phone down, and (b) his father (Nasir Hussain) sends for him. For some reason not divulged, Vijay’s father is attended on by a guy in a Ruritanian uniform, complete with swish helmet. Why the—!

Vijay's pa's `Ruritanian' sidekick

From here, the film skips briefly to a college classroom, where Vijay’s father is a professor teaching law. Vijay is one of his students, and a heckler of the first order. Okay, I’m not being nitpicking, but seriously: isn’t Dilip Kumar a bit old to be convincing as a student? How does Vijay fit all his activities—editing a daily, gatecrashing political rallies and flirting—into his schedule? And we’re told he’s even been coming first in class all along. How the—!

Vijay and his pa in class

Within the next ten minutes, plenty happens. Vijay’s father and mother (Leela Misra) forcibly (yes, really: they pin him down) get him engaged to a girl he doesn’t know:

Vijay is forcibly engaged

To escape from the wedding, Vijay runs away, along with all his followers, of whom Shalu is one. Sunita and the distraught parents of the other boys wonder where their darlings have gone, and Sunita sets out to find them all. She runs into Vijay at a political rally (yes, fat lot of escaping this guy’s done). He stows away in her car and on being discovered, tells her he’s an astrologer who knows where the boys have gone. She believes him. What the—!

Vijay convinces Sunita he's an astrologer

She takes him to meet the other parents, and they’re convinced too. What the, what the.
Sunita doesn’t seem very anxious for the company of her little brother. While he’s away (which, by the way, the film never gets around to accounting for; where did Shalu disappear?), she sulks and moons about in turn. One evening, the pesky Vijay Khanna phones and sings to her a song that mixes dewy romance with farce: he pours orange juice into the mouthpiece, and the juice comes out from the mouthpiece of her telephone. Hmmm. What? How? Most important, why?? [At this point, I’m wondering if all of this is a deliberate farce and supposed to be funny. If it is, then my sense of humour is abysmal].

A phone, a song, some juice

Revert to Sunita and the gatecrasher/astrologer/whatever she’s fascinated by. They meet beside a fake lotus pond and sing a bit, in the course of which we realise they’re in love. He tells her that if her love for him is true, she’ll meet him at the Taj Mahal on the next full moon night. Huh? But she does love him, and so she arrives (Shalu is still missing, but who cares?), and they sing another song. All this singing is getting on my nerves.

And a song at the Taj Mahal

Just as they’re finishing off the last verse, the parents of those disappeared boys turn up and let the cat out of the bag: this is Vijay Khanna, printer of dirty pictures and instigator for the running away of their boys. How this lot found all this out isn’t explained. How they knew where to find him isn’t explained. I’m also a little bewildered at this easy-as-pie whizzing between Bombay and Agra. The Taj Mahal, from what I gathered from this scene, is like Colaba Causeway or the Gateway of India: just tell a Bombay cabbie, and he’ll drive you down. What the—!
The gist of the matter is that Vijay’s arrested and taken to court where he fights his own case, and wins.

Vijay wins his case

This is followed by some romancing, in the form of: (a) flirting with other people in order to make the beloved jealous; (b) thrashing each other with a long and dangerous-looking bamboo; and (c) singing. Eventually, Sunita’s appeased (I’m heaving a sigh of relief) and Vijay takes her home to meet his parents, who’re thrilled. (Hey, wasn’t this guy engaged? Where’s his betrothed? What the—?!)

Vijay's folks approve of Sunita

Vijay’s father wants to meet Sunita’s father, but Sunita and Vijay realise this is going to be tricky. Sunita’s father, the Maharaja of Shyamgarh (D K Sapru), isn’t going to take kindly to having riffraff like Vijay for a son-in-law. The solution is to pass off someone else as the Maharaja. Who?
Acharyaji, of course! Vijay goes to meet him and to convince Acharyaji of his virtues.

Vijay goes to meet Acharyaji

What nobody knows all this while is that Acharyaji’s ace rival for the elections has the backing of the unscrupulous and corrupt Dewan Mahender Singh (Jayant), the dewan of Sunita’s father. Mahender Singh’s now decided that enough’s enough, and he sends his henchman to murder Acharyaji. Which the man duly does, leaving Vijay as the sole suspect, pursued hotly by the police and by Mahender Singh’s goons.
So, just when one thought this film was settling into being a romantic comedy, it suddenly turns thriller—and completely lunatic. In his attempt to outrun the police, Vijay is helped by Sunita. In getting out of the way of rampaging elephants (Whaaat the—!), doing a song and dance with some tribals (What the—? Aren’t these two on the run?!)… these tribals, by the way, have fancy sets, complete with giant seahorses, seashells and more.

Dancing with the tribals

And dodging planes à la North by Northwest

Vijay and Sunita do a Cary Grant

They arrive at Sunita’s father’s palace in Shyamgarh, where she passes Vijay off as Dewan Mahender Singh’s son.

Sunita introduces Vijay as Mahender Singh's son

…Little aware that Vijay’s father, with his Ruritanian crony, is also here. Both of them are disguised as waiters. How and why is anybody’s guess.

Vijay's pa and pal turn up in disguise

At which point, utterly exhausted, I throw in the towel. I’ve seen some cheesy and utterly unconvincing romances; I’ve seen terrible comedy; unbearably melodramatic and moralising films; bad thrillers and patriotic flicks that didn’t arouse an ounce of sentiment in me. But I’ve never before seen a film that manages to be all of those at one go. Leader truly leads.

One last question: What the— were usually discerning people like Dilip Kumar and Motilal doing in a film like this?!

What I liked about film:
The music. It’s by Naushad, and there’s plenty of it—a song just about every five minutes in the first half of the film, and fairly frequently post that too. Some of the songs are really nice, too: my favourite is Apni azadi ko hum harghiz mita sakte nahin.
Dilip Kumar, in a few odd comic scenes. Tragedy king or whatever, he has a flair for comedy (see Ram aur Shyam), and in a couple of scenes in Leader he has funny dialogues that he carries off well. Hey, he got the Filmfare Award for Best Actor for the film.

What I didn’t like:
Above. Re-read the synopsis.

Okay. Maybe I’ve got this completely and totally wrong. Maybe this was supposed to be farce, funny all the way. If so, then why the melodrama? Why the appeals to patriotic fervour? Why the painful `romance’? Why the—!
Aaaaargggghhh.

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70 thoughts on “Leader (1964)

  1. Yes Dustedoff!
    This is the lot of us fans of Hindi and Indian cinema!
    We can just sigh and bear.

    A fitting song for this occasion is:
    Hai isime pyaar ki abroo, woh jafaa kare mein wafaa karoo

    or this one from Andaz

    uThaaye jaa un ke sitam aur jiye jaa
    yuu.N hii muskuraae jaa aa.Nsuu piye jaa

  2. I liked the song ik shehanshah ne banwa ke hasin tajmahal. For some reason I always thought this was a good movie. A few days back I caught the last few scenes of movie on some channel and was apalled.

  3. It kind of sounds like they forgot to write a script before they started shooting. Why the— indeed is Dilip in it? Perhaps I can give this one a miss, although the giant seashells, they intrigue me!

  4. harvey: ROTFL!!! You are absolutely brilliant. Gosh, I wish you’d begin your own blog. You’re depriving the world of film-lovers of a superb sense of humour! :-))…. I’m still laughing!

    Ava: Well, with a cast like that and such excellent music, I’d assumed it would be a good film too. Awful is too mild a word for it. It’s really appalling.

    memsaab: Oh, very avoidable, yaar! ;-) I’m even wondering whether anybody wrote a script for it – or did they just improvise as they went along? Whatever, the end result is easily one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.
    The giant seashells and giant seahorses seem to be part of a sort of underwater world – with bubbles drifting about and a huge football-sized pearl. The song is Diwali aayi re aayi re. I tried searching for it on youtube, but no luck. :-(

  5. Goodness, I’ve always been told its a fun film. I’ve seen only a few scenes here and there (apart from the songs) and Dilip Kumar did a good comedy turn in those (though he looked pretty old). Not having a yen for ageing DK, I havent seen this one and from your synopsis it apears that I am lucky!

    And we’re told he’s even been coming first in class all along.

    He looks like he’s been studying in the same class for years. Which might explain his coming first – practice makes a man perfect after all!

    That swimsuit picture doesnt look like Vyjayanthimala at all – not the head, not the body!

  6. The underwater-world song:

    It has been a while since I watched the movie, but I thought it was quite enjoyable in its complete lack of coherence. The music is nice, though I am not a great fan of the Taj Mahal song. At least on can’t accuse the movie of being boring.

  7. Awful film. The one time I tried to watch it, gave it up long before you did.

    As for Dilip’s age, it is well-known that all student union presidents and other such-like beings spend about 10-12 years to get their first degrees, hence Dilip’s age: although it looks more like he spent 25!

    Songs are lovely though, even the telephone one, if you are just listening and not watching….

  8. bollyviewer: There are a couple of scenes – or rather dialogues by Dilip Kumar – that are funny, but really, other than that I think the film’s quite horrid. If only they hadn’t attempted to insert melodrama and that patriotism in it, it just might have been a frothy farce throughout… which I think I could’ve enjoyed! And yes, that doesn’t look much like Vyjyantimala.

    Sabrina: Yes, watch it – you’ll be ROTFL! :-))

    Gebruss: Thank you for the link! Ah, yes – one thing Leader can’t be accused of is being boring. There’s something happening all the time, even if it doesn’t make sense. I just wish they’d figured out what they wanted the film to be: all the standard Hindi film elements are there – after all, most films of that era are comedy/romance/melodrama (and often thriller too) – but somehow, in Leader the blending in of all of these leaves a lot to be desired. There are just too many holes in the plot.
    Personally, I don’t much care for the Taj Mahal song either.

    bawa: Hehe, you’re right, he probably did spend 25 years in that class (which, as bollyviewer points out, is possibly why he’s been topping the class!) Am off to listen to the telephone song…

  9. awwww I wanted to watch this, because I’d heard it’s funny.
    I love comical Dilip kumar. I’m waiting for Kohinoor to arrive from Induna by tomorrow, and I just loved him in Aan.

    I think just for DK I have to watch it – and repent!! :-(

  10. Wel, well, well, here somebody thought, they had lots of good scenes, which they thought can be turned to moolah but no idea how to turn it into a coherent story!

    They most probably said we have two saleable stars, many good stolen scenes, lets just give them these scenes to act and then string them togehter.
    I wonder why they didn’t add a loyal dog, who saves the hero’s mother or sister! Maybe they cancelled it in favour of the air-plane!

    But the songs are great!
    ek shahanshaah ne banavaa ke hasii.n taajamahal
    hamii.n se muhabbat hamii.n se la.Daa_ii
    mujhe duniyaa vaalo.n sharaabii na samajho
    tere husn kii kyaa taariif karuu.N kuchh kahate hue bhii Darataa huu.N

    I just love them!

  11. pacifist: I wouldn’t put Dilip Kumar’s role in Aan in the comic category, but I thought he was awesome – handsome, swashbuckling, and so delightfully different from the usual tragedies he did! Kohinoor is great fun, I hope you like it. Lovely music, and even Meena Kumari is not just beautiful but also, thankfully, in a good light-hearted role. Enjoy!

    harvey: Yes, the songs are superb, aren’t they? After Apni aazaadi ko hum, I think I like Tere husn ki kya taareef karoon best… and hey, you have to agree a plane chasing them across the fields has lots more value than a dog! (Don’t forget the elephants that chased them in the jungle, though).

  12. sabrina: thank you!

    dustedoff: You are right, they thought of all possible scenes (planes as well as elephants), which would sound good. I’d completely forgotten the elephants! But memsaab would agree with me, a loyal dog is a class of its own.
    And thanks for the compliment. I think one surely needs a sort of masochistic attitude towards indian cinema, that is when one enjoys it most. And if you are sadistic enough you take along friends to watch them with you. But all the same you have a whale of a time!
    Indian cinema, since it is based on nava rasas, has always something to offer the viewer. If you don’t like one of the rasas you just take a look at the next one. It has to be really the worst kind of movie to fail in all the nine rasas.

  13. harvey, that’s an interesting thought. I’d never thought of it that way, except of course in the Sanjeev Kumar-Jaya Bhaduri starrer Naya Din Nayi Raat, where the entire premise of the film was the navrasas. Hmmm… Leader, I think, succeeded somewhat in the haasya ras category, but fell flat as a pancake on the others.

  14. Well, I might have exaggerated a bit, but indian cinema does have many components to it, and when you don’t like that bit of the movie, there is something else, which compensates for that.
    That is why, I think, is indian cinema even loved in countries, where the people don’t even know the language or have subtitles to help them through.
    People from Cameroon have told me they love indian cinema. When older Iranis come to know I’m from India they start singing “Bol Radha bol…” Armenian say Mr.420, Kenians talk of Disco Dancer, Palestanians shout Amitabh Bachchan and Turks slobber over Shahrukh khan.

  15. And I remember a guy from Turkmenistan too who thought Shahrukh Khan was the best thing on earth after sliced bread… yes, Hindi films can have a fairly universal appeal, provided you like escapism (not that all Hindi cinema is escapist, but the overwhelming majority is).

  16. Wow we seem to be watching a lot of the same stuf, i saw this yesterday and thank God i didn’t buy it with my money, i would have cried. This movie is horrible and i agree with all what you said in this post, although i have to say Dilip was hilarious in some parts especially when he was trying to make Vyjayantimla Jealous. One eally has to question the tastes of the filmfare award Jury at time, Dilip was awarded Best actor for this film, This film this film NAHIN!!!!!!

    i think i need to take imdb user comments with a pinch of salt as it was their comments that made me add this to my rental list unfortunately by the time i read your review, it was already in the post on its way to me
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058287/usercomments

  17. Bollywood owes a lot to Parsi theatre in terms of the content; you know, the variety show that has comedy, singing, dancing. melodrama and romance.

    Bollywood appeals to predominantly agrarian countries and communities that are yet, to be swept up in the wave of industrialization. If you notice Bollywood is often dismissed in modern industrialized countries.

  18. bollywooddewana: Same here. I put it on my rental list simply because the imdb user comments were positive… thank heavens I didn’t buy the film!

    sabrina: True. Barring the one-off admirer (like memsaab!), the more industrialised countries don’t go for Bollywood – it’s often places like those in Central Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe etc where you have large fan followings for Bollywood past and present. I suppose the generally lower standard of living makes escapism more popular….
    As far as the influence of Parsi theatre on Hindi cinema is concerned, have you ever watched Sohrab Modi onscreen? He had this way of spreading his arms and emoting to the skies, which was really rather ludicrous when everybody else was acting as you’d expect someone in a film to act. One of his most hilarious (unintentionally) films is Yahudi, starring Dilip Kumar (as a Roman dressed in a toga that looks like a woman’s housecoat) and Meena Kumari (as a Jewess). Quo Vadis with a twist.

  19. Oh, don’t say such things about Sohrab Modi. ;-)
    He is a darling! He really is!
    I like his theatrical way of acting, makes me feel totally nostalgic!
    His dialogue delivery in deep bass (or is it baritone) makes me feel really good.
    I love every movie of his particularly Prithvi Vallabh, Jailor and this movie of his where he plays a minister in the court of Jehangir.
    Love Sohrab Modi!!!!!!!

  20. I don’t completely agree with Sabrina and Dustedoff in the matter, that indian cinema is loved only in agrarian and similar communities.
    Otherwise people in Germany, UK, USA and Japan won’t watch them. And not that only the indian (subcontinent) expats love them, there is good sprinkling of native people among the watchers as well. Not that they wouldunderstand every nuance of it, but who does?
    But there is surely a germ (a big one at that) of truth in your statements.

    I think indian cinema has a different language, it is completely a different genre of film making. It is something like opera. The feelings and emotions are expressed in a way, which is not like in everyday life, but (maybe) in a broader and greater manner.

  21. Re: Sohrab Modi, he is delightful, but you can’t deny the fact that’s very theatrical. I hadn’t realised what my father meant (since I didn’t remember seeing any Sohrab Modi films) till I saw Yahudi: there was this one monologue of his, all in verse, which was completely as if he was on stage! But yes, quite a presence – and what a voice.

    I’m not saying people in developed and industrial countries don’t watch Hindi films; what I’m trying to say is that the proportion of people watching Bollywood is much lower. So where you do have people like Carla, Beth, Greta, Todd, Richard, etc – who not just enjoy Bollywood but are also very knowledgeable about it – the majority of the population doesn’t enjoy the run-of-the-mill Bollywood film. I’m not talking the one-off film that is in the limelight because of awards (Mother India, Lagaan, Chak De!) or because the style of film-making is more what the west is used to (1947: Earth, Black) but regular masala fare… I think the takers for that are more a minority than anything else. In the more agrarian or at least less developed part of the world, I think there’s more of an identification with Bollywood – a larger percentage of the population knows of and enjoys our films.

    Whew, I have gone on very long, na? But I agree with you about it being like opera… interesting idea.

  22. Re: Sohrab Modi. I know what you mean. But you know how it feels about your childhood idol! :-)

    *I’m not saying people…. enjoys our films.*
    You are completely right!

    (Now starts the nitpicking)
    I don’t think it has to do with agrarian population or not. Very big amount of the population in Europe is agrarian or indirectly dependent on agriculture. No Swiss meadows without farmers, you know! Maybe (a VERY BIG MAYBE) it has something to do with the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ (I’m not sure if it is the right term) which took place in Europe in the XIXth century and the resulting secularisation, which was also accompanied by industrialisation. The individualisation of the society tagged along. (There was the Age of reform in India at that time as well)
    And more important I think, is also the 1968 movement (hardly felt in India), which was a natural child of the ‘age of enlightenment’. This movement had a much more far-reaching consequences for the western/European society. This also resulted in the search of ‘reality’ and abhorrence of everything superficial and also the falls and traps of the society. How often have we discussed, why aren’t/isn’t the parents, the heroine, the hero or the society sensible. If everybody in hindi/indian film was liberal and sensible, we won’t have any movies. I don’t mean that European movies don’t have characters, who do insensible things, but they take the responsibility for them and not do it for the family or for their parents or for the society.
    A further fact, which supports the 1968 theory is the fact, that the 60s and 50s films in Germany and Austria at least, are very similar to that in India. The songs, scenic locales and at times also sacrificing for the family. The only difference is that kisses were shown instead of a bumble bee and a flower.

    Oh God, that was a long post!

    Just my opinion. It doesn’t have to be true! :-)

  23. You know, this is one of the reasons I’m glad I decided to start blogging: I get to learn so much, and from so many perspectives. Thank you for that post – it makes a lot of sense, and I’m inclined to admit that it’s a logical explanation for why Hindi films are so different from Western. (Now let’s see what Sabrina has to say about that!)

    And I think I need to see more of Sohrab Modi before I add any more to our conversation! I know, I know… it’s hard to stop idolising childhood idols! ;-)

  24. I saw Yahudi recently and loved Sohrab Modi in it. Sure he was stagey, but that speech you refer to sounded heartfelt, and so did his gestures. Any other actor doing it would have had me in splits! Maybe its something to do with liking a particular actor (I’ve loved Modi since his dramatic turn in Prithvi Vallabh, which I saw as a kid) – I hate the same kind of stagey-ness in Prithviraj Kapoor’s acting, love Ingrid Bergman’s over-the-top distress in Gaslight and Norma Shearer’s hammy acting everywhere, but when Greta Garbo does it, I switch channels!

    Harvey, if your theory is true, nobody should like James Bond or all the silly Rocky, Rambo and Terminator stuff either! I think we all tend to like the kind of fantasies/escapism we are used/taught to like. And while people wearing strange clothes and singing in strange voices (I’ve been told that Indian singing is very, very high pitched/shrill!) about loads of emotion, is fine in classical operas, it is not acceptable in a movie since the Western conventions in that have been very different. The Germans having similar kind of movies might explain why there are a lot of German fans of Bollywood! And I wouldnt relate love of Bollywood to agrarian communities but poor countries where India is not considered as culturally inferior (Indians eat with hands, you know!) as it is in the richer parts of the West.

  25. Hmm, I definitely need to see a lot more of Sohrab Modi. I didn’t find him irritating, just much more theatrical than I’m used to… a bit like Nimmi and Nadira in Aan. Both of them were so much more theatrical than the men in the film.

    Interesting to see another point of view on the escapism-and-whom-it-appeals-to theory. A valid point.

  26. Just a note on German bollywood-fans: Yes, there are quite a few around, but it still a minority. Most of them (or at least most of the ones I know) watch it for a kind of escapism which they don’t find in Hollywood movies. The German film industry doesn’t produce this kind of escapism any longe, either; it is now mainly restricted to arthouse movies.

    One thing which may contribute to Bollywood being relative unkown until recently in Germany and other parts of Europe is that in non-English speaking countries, and especially Germany, the vast majority of the foreign movies are dubbed. Apparently, this isn’t easy to do for Hindi-movies, but it can be very difficult to get Germans to watch undubbed movies. And if they want to explore further afield, they very soon find themselves watching movies in a foreign language with foreign language subtitles, as apart from recent blockbusters, very few movies are released with decent German subtitles (though the number is steadily increasing), at which point you have to be fairly obsessed to continue watching this stuff.

    That is not to say that the other points aren’t valid; but there are also more pratical reasons to consider.

  27. Ah, thank you for that input. I’d think you’d need to be quite an avid fan to be willing to watch a foreign language film, with subtitles in another foreign language. And seeing the mess that’s usually made with English subtitles on Hindi films, I’m not sure what the quality of subtitles in, say, German would be.

  28. Bollyviewer: i wouldn’t go so far as to call it a theory, it is rather a hypothesis and I admit a rather weak one and I think it would be too simple, when this case can be presented as monocausal. And I completely agree with you when you say: “I think we all tend to like the kind of fantasies/escapism we are used/taught to like.” And as to the thought or idea of India being culturally inferior is at least in the majority of the people in Europe not anchored. Maybe in the less affluent population, but surely not in the richer one. But this attitude is hardly anything, which has to do with money, but rather with education and liberalism.

    GEbruss: Agree with you! The German dubbing of Hindi films is horrible! But I’ve to admit it is really hard to translate hindi dialogues and songs.
    Just take the case of “What to be afraid of, if you make love” (a fav past time in my college days, the translation I mean!)
    “The German film industry doesn’t produce this kind of escapism any longer”
    No? What about 7-Zwerge and Bully Herbig movies? Pure Escapism AND funny, I’ve to admit. my friends are at times shocked at my shallow taste!

  29. You know, I was reminded of this discussion of ours today, when I met up with my sister and her husband. They’ve just returned from a week in Sri Lanka – my brother-in-law had to address an international conference, so they took the kids along and combined it with a family holiday. As part of the conference, there was a formal dinner for the lawyers and spouses, at which my brother-in-law happened to mention that he’d studied in the same school as Shahrukh Khan. He said, “Suddenly they began treating me as if I were a demigod!” It turned out Bollywood is really popular there, and SRK and Hrithik are among the biggest icons around. :-)

  30. Interesting set of comments, most of which I concur with… I tried to watch Leader for free online last winter but couldn’t get past the first half hour. I, too, wondered why this movie had been praised by anyone. On the other hand, I have enjoyed the soundtrack a number of times apart from the movie.

    I saw Sohrab Modi in Yahudi and also thought he was delightful.

    Don’t know if I can agree with any of the theories here about why Indian cinema isn’t more loved in Western Europe and America… Does it appeal more to agrarian populations? I took to old Indian cinema with the enthusiasm that I could never muster for American or European ciinema, and I was born and raised in New York City, where I’ve lived most of my life (and the only other places where I’ve lived were also highly industrialized cities, like Philadelphia). Though I am a bit strange. :) I am aware that Indian cinema has different storytelling traditions and conventions; that’s why I like it much more. I found it to be very refreshing after so many years of the same old kinds of movies here in America. (Plus, of course, I found the music and dance to be far superior to much of what I’ve known here.)

    I don’t know if I agree either that Indian cinema is further removed from the Enlightenment. It depends on which ideas of the Enlightenment you are talking about… One thing that interests me a lot about Indian cinema of the ’40s and ’50s is that so much of it openly advocates an idea descended from the Enlightenment called socialism. Right during the heart of the McCarthy era, when here in the U.S. we had authoritarians purging Hollywood of anyone who could even be construed of having a socialist idea, over in India there were makers of very popular, entertainment-oriented films full of song and dance openly advertising their socialist or communist sympathies and infusing their films with socialist thought. Whether it was putting a hammer and sickle in their logo or just using scripts written by Marxists, I find it fascinating that Indian cinema had the freedom to do this in the most popular entertainment while here in the U.S. such ideas were being stamped out of our films and other aspects of our culture.

    In general, in Indian films of the Golden Age, especially the early Golden Age, people are often yearning for and working toward a collective solution to the problems of the day. There may have been more of this quality in the older American films as well, but I was born in the early ’60s and most of the Hollywood films that I’ve known about during my lifetime were guided by so-called “individualism” (a misleading word, since capitalist “individualism” often results in the suppression of individuality – but this is not the time to go into that. :) Of course, in lots of Indian cinema, especially starting in the ’70s, you have heroes using a ridiculous amount of individual power to fight off the rest of the world :) , but also in Indian films, especially in the ’40s and ’50s, from what I’ve seen, you had characters getting together and talking to each other about making changes in society and in themselves collectively to fight big problems such as a socially corrupt system and widespread poverty. In American films, especially in more recent times, when poverty is discussed, there is little thought of a collective solution; it is overcome only individually, whether through individual ambition, cunning, or crazy luck.

    And what were these great accomplishments of ’68 that would influence western cinema? If we’re talking about American cinema, especially Hollywood, I don’t see any revolutionary urges of 1968 (which were actually far less advanced in America than in Europe anyway) as having a lasting effect. We had a decade or less of films challenging the usual cultural attitudes, but that was mostly it. In the past few decades, as Bollyviewer correctly pointed out, many more of our films were infused with the spirit and intellectual outlook of Rocky, Rambo, the Terminator, etc. (not to mention so many shallow, dreadful shopping mall culture comedies and the like…).

  31. Interesting. And I agree with your premise about old Hindi films concentrating a lot on socialism. By the 60’s I think we were getting more frivolous, what with romances, comedies and suspense thrillers ruling the roost, but the 40’s and 50’s, as you point out, were replete with films with a social message – look at classics like Do Bigha Zameen, Shree 420, Anari etc. Even later, the concept of the farmer or the factory worker struggling to survive while oppressed by the rich continued to be a motif in films. Not always the focal point, but often there (for example, in Kala Patthar). By this time, of course, Amitabh Bachchan’s `angry young man’ had debuted, so collective action had been replaced by individual action, but it was still more or less for public welfare – the public being the downtrodden poor.

    I think I should see Aan again. My sister, a historian, found some interesting parallels between that and the State Peoples’ Movement in India, following Independence, and the socialist motif is really so prominent in that film.

  32. I love this movie. I love Dilip Kumar’s role, his comic timings and dialogue deliveries, as well as the dialogues. And guys, I don’t think the DVD contains the complete film – and that may be the reason for disappointment. The DVD has truncated story and faulty editing just like that of Teesri Manzil. In fact, after watching the DVD some years ago I realised to my horror that it did not do justice to the movie. I switched off player. Many scenes are missing and that maybe reason why explanations are needed.
    The court room scene is one of the best but since some prior reference scenes are deleted in the DVD, the court-room loses much impact. Some other scenes that are missing include Dilip Kumar acting as football referee and cheating while uttering sarcastic dialogues that are time-tested. His sword-fight with General I did not find in the DVD but just the scene showing him dozing off in the motor-boat. So how can the new viewers know what all had happened?
    Dilip Kumar had himself written the story and this was the movie he did at the age of 42, three years after Ganga Jamuna his own home production. It was released in 1964, i.e. the time when India was passing through eonomic crisis and suffering the impact of Indo-China war of 1962. Dilip and Vyjayantimala were not on speaking terms either. Blame it on Sangam (1964). There’s lots more.
    To summarise: A good movie sacrificed at the altar of bad editing and truncating section of the DVD.

  33. Oh, okay. That seems to explain the fact that Dilip Kumar got a best actor award for Leader: it amazed me when I saw this film, because it was just so terrible. But it seems this one’s been treated much, much worse than Teesri Manzil – in that, the truncated scenes are only somewhat edited; you can still make sense of what’s happening.

  34. For example, in Teesri Manzil, it is shown that Premnath tries to be helpful to Shammi Kapoor. But what a brilliant scene has been deleted that actually introduces him to Shammi Kapoor. That is, Shammi’s bragging to Asha that his uncle owns a yonder bungalow and then Asha and her team actually going into the bungalow to the consternation of Shammi and then the sudden appearance of the “uncle” and the way he glosses over the claims of his “nephew” – that scene is simply unforgettable.

    As you said, the case of Leader is worst.

  35. Yes, that’s one important scene from Teesri Manzil that’s missing from the DVD. Another one is the prelude to the song Sahibon… yeh nazneen hai meri: it starts off out of the blue, with no reference to the original scene, which had Shammi Kapoor mistakenly hugging another girl under the impression that she was the Asha Parekh character.

    But still, I don’t think the deletion of these two scenes is too much of a problem. The main part of the film is still intact, coherent and very enjoyable. What they’ve done to Leader is terrible.

  36. Someday perhaps someone at Shemaroo/Ultra/Friends/Moser Baer/whatever will decide that it is criminal to thoughtlessly chop off parts of a film, and that even if it means putting an extra CD into a pack, it’s worth it.

    I have a horrid feeling that’s never going to happen.

  37. True, it’s a never-ending horror. In such cases, the worst part is that there is no check. Information and Broadcast Ministry must set up a department to check that the DVD’s makers give full money’s worth to the movie buffs who purchase their wares.

          • Of course, Raj Kapoor was in the competition for the FF BEST ACTOR Award for Sangam. The fact is, that those who filled in the forms for the Award thought it was Rajendra Kumar who was the main hero, when he was the Supporting Actor. Besides, when Leader was premiered at the Maratha Mandir Cinema (Mumbaites know) it did not do too well by Dilip Kumar’s standard. However, I believe that Dilp Kumar’s role in Leader is a precursor to his role of Shaam in Ram Aur Shyam – a great departure from his image of the Tragedy King.

            The DVD has done a great injustice all-round to this movie.

            • Really? What idiots. Seriously, WHAT IDIOTS! Haven’t they seen the movie? Don’t they know Rajendra Kumar dies in the end?! So RK was disqualified? :O

              (I am not even going to ask whatever happened to Dev’s nomination cause I’ve heard how horrible Sharabi is, so. :P)

              • Maybe the error happened because at that point of time Rajendra Kumar was at the zenith of his career. He was actually nominated as a hero for Aayee Milan ki Bela and as supporting actor for Sangam. After that it was downhill beginning with Aman (1967) except for Talash (1969). 1964 was a very competitive year really speaking and very very musical too.

                Speaking in the context of LEADER, BTW, perhaps you are aware that Dilip Kumar was the first choice for Raj Kapoor so much so that he was given free hand at selecting whatever role he desired whether Raj’s or Rajendra’s. Dilip Kumar, however, declined, especially because he knew that the cameraman was the pet of Raj Kapoor. Raj Kapoor did win the Best Director award for Sangam though.

                As for Dev Anand, he was not nominated for Sharabi which despite good songs flopped miserably at the box-office.

                • Around that time too, yeah. And who can forget Suraj? ;) Odd, I never thought of 1964 as a competitive year (Cause I’ve only been watching Dev’s films – I think 1961 was very, very competitive.) Ah, well. Least he got it for Guide! :DDDD -happy dance-

                  Yeah, I heard it on some show on Zee TV (It was originally on Zee Classic, I think it’s called Classic Legends… I love the intro. Cause I had fun picking out the scenes from Dev’s movies. :D -does a jig- But anyway. I don’t have Zee Classic, but I look at the schedule online every day. (They are showing Barsaat and Brahmachari! I am jealous!)) He wanted it to be something like Andaz, right? (I haven’t seen that movie either. For the past nine or ten months all I’ve been doing is watching Dev’s movies. Don’t eat me up. :P I still have to watch Baazi and stuff like that.)

                  How did you know that? Was it from Filmfare magazines? I saw some on eBay, but they were being sold for 100 dollars! Damn sellers. If I could I’d take a time machine and hoard all the Filmfare magazines. :D I think Rajendra Kumar made a better Gopal, though.

                  Oh yeah. What the heck happened to Dev’s nomination for Tere Ghar Ke Samne!? His acting was really really good and it was a hit at the box office! Even Stuart loves this movie! (By the way, if you’re looking, Stuart. don’t throw things at Dev, throw them at me if you want!) Don’t tell me some idiot filled out the wrong forms – again.

  38. What, did my incomprehensible ramblings scare you off? Sorry, I do that all the time to my classmates. I collapse in a fit of giggles if any obscure reference to Dev’s movies pops up. An example: Once, while watching Kala Bazaar, I noticed that he had some kinda shoes that were a cross between sneakers and, uh, I don’t know. (It’s when he’s gonna fall off the cliff). So, when I saw that once in a shopping mall, I screamed and then fell down giggling and a lot of crazy stuff. Hehehehe. :DDDDDDDD And SCARVES! But that’s another story. For another day. :P

    Do you have Zee Classic? (Dustedoff, I know your father has it – how is it?) You know, they’re showing Barsaat?! I am so jealous! The intro thingy for the show Classic Legends had a lot of good stuff. First it’s the music from, “Roop Tera Mastana”, and the yodelling is by Kishore from the song, “Main Hoon Jhumroo”. Oh, and I also saw Goldie, Raj Kapoor and Nargis, and Guru Dutt, and Madhubala and Waheeda! And a scene from Nau Do Gyarah! I know I’m being outrageously hopeful here, but do you think they have all those movies on Zee Classic? :DDDDD

    -falls over-

    • AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

      MY GRANDMA SPOILED THE ENDING OF TEESRI MANZIL FOR ME! -breaks down in tears-

        • Nothing! :( We were listening to the songs on the DVD, and later she says, “Who’s the murderer? I think it’s SPOILER Prem Nath.”

          ARGH. I don’t even know if it’s true (DON’T TELL ME IF IT IS OR I’LL CRY MORE!) but it seems highly likely… I feel cheated now, -crying-

    • Yes, we do have Zee Classic. But, since I don’t watch TV, it really makes no difference to me. I used to watch it years ago, shortly after the channel was first launched, but no longer. I do remember them showing a lot of old movies – the really big names as well as the more obscure ones.

      • I look at the schedule online (See, I’m that crazy), and start jumping up and down. But we don’t have it here. -cries-

        Do they have Nau Do Gyarah? :D -hopeful-

  39. It is interesting the film on Shemaroo DVD that I have is 2hr 48mins, I also had the vcd (which luckily I never used) which ran for 2hr 20min. the screenshots here look vcd quality, I wonder which chopped dvd did Nasir watch? I mostly prefer Dilip Kumar’s B/W films except AAN. I thought the film was decent with DK in a non-tragic role.

    • Yes, this was a VCD. I don’t recall the running time (and can’t check now, since this had been a rented VCD), but it seemed to run for an eternity! If, even at the DVD run time of 2hr 48mins it didn’t make much sense, I wonder how long the original, unchopped version of the movie ran.

      Yes, Aan was one of the few Dilip Kumar colour movies I like too. The others – like this one, Ganga Jamuna, Ram aur Shyam, Aadmi, etc – I can do without.

  40. i came to know a fact which shocked me after 1961 dilip saheb never worked in black and white films. why ?? only colour film of him i like is Aan .

  41. I remember how this film restored my fandom in Dilip Kumar. After watching “Dil Diya Dard Liya” and one more Dilip Saab flick I had decided to say goodbye to Dilip Kumar movies because they had a depressing vibe and I hate getting depressed for no reason.

    Then one day I was searching on net for “free” Dev Anand’s autobiography but I landed up on Dilip Kumar’s ….. I thought that would not be a bad idea to read it …. So I did …. and reading a few mentions of this movie I decided to watch it and “Ram aur Shyam”(watched) and “Sagina”(To be watched, for the mention of some ‘train scene’) and “Kohinoor” (to be watched, seems great through your review) ……

    But the autobiography and Leader and Ram aur Shyam made me a Dilip Kumar admirer once again.

  42. I love the songs of this movie…..
    And the review is just so nice and wonderful filled with “How/Why/What the -!s” ….. I really felt the same way while watching it.

    God knows where did Shalu disappear….poor guy…nobody cares for him

    The funny fighting sequence before the song “Mujhe Duniya Walon” was great too….. am surprised to see no mention of that scene here…

    • “The funny fighting sequence before the song “Mujhe Duniya Walon” was great too….. am surprised to see no mention of that scene here…

      Probably because humour is subjective? I didn’t find it funny.

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