Dekh Kabira Roya (1957)

Rewatching this film after donkey’s years, I was struck by the similarity in basics with How to Marry a Millionaire. Here too are three beautiful girls, each of whom falls in love with a man she meets—but doesn’t realise is not quite the sort of man she’d hoped to end up marrying.
That’s where the resemblance ends. Our girls, like good bharatiya naaris, aren’t mercenary gold-diggers. Which, of course, is good news for the three men whom they fall for, since their heroes aren’t exactly rolling in wealth either.

Shbuha Khote, Anita Guha and Ameeta in Dekh Kabira Roya

After a very brief prologue in which three new brides gush over a newly-published story about their romances, the film cuts to flashback. At the Janata Coffee House, a penniless artist Ranjeet (Daljeet) is tearing his hair out because he can’t even afford to buy rope to hang himself. While the waiter (a hilarious Sundar) is commiserating with him, another patron (Jawahar Kaul) enters. The coffee house is very crowded, and since the only table at which a chair is vacant is Ranjeet’s table, the man asks if he may sit. Shortly after, another man (Anoop Kumar) asks if he may join them too, since this is his usual table.

Three strangers meet in the Janata Coffee House

Since they’ve been thrown together, the three men start a conversation. It turns out that the second man is Pradeep, the owner, publisher and chief editor of a pathetic little rag called Triveni. 2,000 copies of Triveni are published every month, and only 200 copies are sold—Pradeep’s income seems to be generated mainly from the 1,800 copies he sells to the junkman.

Pradeep talks about Triveni

The third man, Mohan, is a singer. He’s convinced he can put Mohammad Rafi, Talat Mehmood, Manna Dey et al to shame with his singing, but nobody’s willing to listen to him—not even his neighbours. Mohan is understandably bitter about this lack of appreciation, and also rather desperate, since they’re threatening to have him evicted and he doesn’t have anywhere else to go.

...and so does Mohan

While they’re chatting, Ranjeet has been doodling. When Pradeep notices the drawing, he praises it and promises to print it in Triveni. Ranjeet is surprised and grateful, and tells Pradeep that this is nothing; the paintings stored in his little studio-cum-flat are way better. He invites Pradeep to come and have a look at them, so Pradeep goes along.

Pradeep agrees to go have a look at Ranjeet's pictures

The studio and flat are tiny, and Pradeep’s a bit bemused at the subterfuge Ranjeet uses to enter. He keeps the front door locked, and gets in through the back door after pushing his arm through a window beside it and opening the door on the inside.
Inside, Ranjeet’s paintings are (as promised) quite accomplished, but Ranjeet’s in a state of constant nervousness, almost tiptoeing around and trying to make the outside world believe the apartment’s empty.

In Ranjeet's dingy studio

It eventually turns out that Ranjeet hasn’t paid rent for the past six months. His landlord (Shivraj), who lives in the house opposite, has been getting antsy (with reason, I think) and Ranjeet is terrified of being cornered and made to either cough up the rent or leave. Pradeep is inclined to be belligerent and thinks Ranjeet’s being very spineless about all of this. The man won’t even open the window and let in the sunlight because he fears his landlord will see him!
So Pradeep opens the window—and finds himself looking at Rekha (Anita Guha), the landlord’s daughter, at the window opposite. There’s instant chemistry here, and Rekha rushes off, bouncing and bubbling with joy, to tell her father that their tenant the artist is finally at home. A servant is sent to fetch Ranjeet, and—like Rekha—mistakes Pradeep for Ranjeet and fetches him.

Rekha tells her father she's seen their tenant

Pradeep, however, clears it up with Rekha’s father. He tells him he’s Ranjeet’s friend, and that Ranjeet will eventually pay up. He follows this assurance with a long, impassioned diatribe on how people misjudge and discriminate against artists in general. In a final burst of defiance, he flings part of the rent down on the table: Rs 2 and 12 annas, all he can spare right now.

Pradeep meets Ranjeet's landlord

Rekha now reappears, having prettied herself up and put on a new sari. Her father, who’s woolly-headed and tends to babble, is quickly persuaded by his forceful (and by now completely besotted) daughter that not only should they forfeit the six months’ rent, their tenant should even be allowed to stay there, free of rent, for as long as he pleases.
Rekha, all dewy-eyed, escorts the young man out, and confides in him: she too is a painter, though not a master like him. She would love to see his paintings someday, please…? Pradeep tries to get a word in edgeways and tell her he’s a writer, not a painter, but Rekha cuts him off.

Rekha gets to know Pradeep - sort of

The next day, Ranjeet—now in high spirits—arrives at the Janata Coffee House and finds Mohan there. Mohan’s down in the dumps because his neighbours have ganged up on him and have promised to throw him out if he so much as squeaks one more note.
Ranjeet, however, has the perfect solution: Pradeep. Pradeep’s a forceful and resourceful sort, and anyway as everyone knows, the pen’s mightier than the sword. Pradeep solved Ranjeet’s problems; he’ll be able to get Mohan out of this mess too.

Ranjeet and Mohan discuss Mohan's problem

So they go off to the Triveni office, only to find that Pradeep’s at the press. A scruffy peon takes Ranjeet away to the press. Mohan stays behind, tinkers about a bit, and sits down on Pradeep’s chair, just as an aspiring writer-cum-poet, Kalpana (Shubha Khote) walks in. She’s downcast because she’s been sending umpteen stories through the mail but none have been printed in Triveni. Mohan assures her of his undying support (yes, love blossoms with amazing swiftness here too).
Kalpana and Mohan are getting pally with each other, when Ranjeet comes back with the news that Pradeep’s out somewhere and there’s no knowing when he’ll return. In the meantime, Ranjeet has appointed himself Mohan’s champion; he’ll see who’ll stop Mohan’s singing.

Ranjeet breaks up the tete-a-tete between Kalpana and Mohan

Ranjeet, therefore, drags Mohan off to Mohan’s home and forces him to sit down and start singing. This brings Mohan’s neighbours storming out of their homes, eager to throw Mohan out. They are thwarted, though—not just because Mohan has taken the precaution of locking himself and Ranjeet in, but because a new champion emerges. This is Geeta (Ameeta), a girl who’s just moved into the flat above Mohan’s, along with her mother (Praveen Paul). Mother and daughter are both very fond of music and think Mohan’s voice is sublime, so Geeta’s come to do battle on his behalf.

Geeta battles on behalf of the singer

After sending the other neighbours about their business, Geeta knocks on Mohan’s door to let him know he can now sing on without fear of being lynched.
Since Mohan’s dived under the bed from fright, Ranjeet opens the door and comes out into the corridor to take up cudgels on Mohan’s behalf. Geeta soon assures him of her support, and by the time their conversation comes to an end, they’re pretty enamoured of each other. Geeta, of course, thinks this guy is the singer who’s so enchanted her with his voice.

Geeta meets Ranjeet

Mohan, Pradeep and Ranjeet initially don’t realise that their ladies are as much in love with the supposed professions of their menfolk as with the men themselves. The shenanigans that ensue as a result of these misunderstandings—and our heroes’ desperate attempts to first convert the girls over to their own actual professions, and then to somehow keep up a pretence that’s wearing them to the bone—make up the rest of this light-hearted romp. In my opinion, a much more satisfying watch than How to Marry a Millionaire.

Ranjeet, Pradeep and Mohan in the Janata Coffee House

What I liked about this film:
All of it! Dekh Kabira Roya deserves to be listed among classic Hindi cinema’s best comedies: the situations are delightful and the entire flavour of the film, from beginning to end, is total farce. Especially brilliant is the acting of the girls—the mournful Kalpana, who quotes poetry (“Full many a gem of purest ray serene…”) when lamenting her love; the fragile Geeta, who faints at the drop of a hat; and the chirpy Rekha—all are superb: their acting’s overdone to just the point of being funny, but not hammy. And there’s a small but amusing ensemble of supporting characters—the matchmaking waiter at the Janata Coffee House; Rekha’s muddled father; and Geeta’s melodramatic mother. The pace is good, the screenplay taut and witty, and the tone never allowed to actually sag into anything approaching seriousness.

The music. Madan Mohan wrote the score for Dekh Kabira Roya, and though Ganesh Anantharaman, in Bollywood Melodies: A History of the Hindi Film Song, deprecates Madan Mohan’s use of classical, soulful tunes for a rollicking comedy, I don’t agree. The songs are perfect for the situations, from the romantic Humse aaya na gaya and Kaun aaya mere mann ke dwaare to the cheerful Hum panchhi mastaane.

What I didn’t like:
Daljeet’s acting; he overdoes it to the point where it isn’t funny.

Little bit of trivia:
The title of the film is taken from a couplet by the poet Kabir (1440-1518 AD):

Rangi ko naarangi kahein, bane doodh ko khoya;
Chalti ko gaadi kahein, dekh Kabira roya.

The translation’s a bit tricky, because the couplet uses loads of wordplay, but I’ll give it a shot.

“They call that which is coloured a naarangi (an orange; naarangi also means ‘without colour’). Milk that is made (combined, consolidated) is called lost (khoya, the term for milk thickened to a solid, also means ‘lost’).
“They call that which moves a gaadi (a gaadi is a vehicle; gaadi also means anything that’s dug in and stands fast); seeing this, Kabir cries.”

Which, of course, is also the source for the name of the Kishore Kumar-Ashok Kumar-Anoop Kumar starrer of 1958, Chalti ka Naam Gaadi. More on that later.

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37 thoughts on “Dekh Kabira Roya (1957)

  1. Wow, this sounds really cute and funny (and much better than How to Marry a Millionaire). Thanks for the review — it’s always good to get great recommendations.

  2. I looooove this film to bits – its so light and frothy and FUN! Initially, I was a bit surprised to see the sad and soulful Humse aaya na gaya and Kaun aaya mere man ke dwaare in their filmi setting which was totally unexpected. I expected to see a weeping hero and heroine and scenes of ineffable sadness – that was the convention for such songs, after all! But they fit the movie pretty well, I think.

    One thing you dont mention – this is probably the only film where there appears to be any female friendship at all! Female friends in Hindi films are more often of the giggling sidekick or female background variety.

  3. Cindy: Do, do watch. This one’s a winner!

    bollyviewer: I love the fact that it’s so light-hearted from beginning to end: I’ve had my fair share of films that start off light and bubbly, then lose momentum and become serious (Shagird is a case in point).

    When I was a kid, this film was shown on TV late at night – 9.30 or so, I think. My sister and I read the title and groaned: we didn’t know the Kabir doha, and on its own the name of the film gave no indication of what it’d be like – so we guessed it would be weepy and morbid. We were just about to turn the TV off when my father said, “This film had good music,” so we watched it for the music. And have loved every minute of it ever since!

    Yes, I like the female friendship in this; they’re equals, and for once not in love with the same man.

  4. I’m thrilled that you have reviewed this film. :-)

    I knew nothing about it except the name which made it sound that it might just be satirical like the doha itself. And yes, of course the classically tuned songs.

    I’m definitely ordering it now. especially after reading that it’s not CSP become the main story line.

  5. Dekh Kabira Roya is definitely worth owning. This time round, I watched it on a rented VCD, and the picture quality wasn’t that great, so I’m waiting for Induna to get the DVD (they’re currently out of stock) before I order. This is such a delightful film!

  6. O yeah, as a kid I did appreciate Dekh Kabira Roya for NOT turning serious mid way. :-D In the good old DD days, I used to dread watching films after the interval because they were ALWAYS serious with lots of crying and/ dishoom-dishoom on the menu!

  7. I’m so pleased to see Dekh Kabira Roya get some love that I decided to come out of the lurker woodworks[or should that be webworks?:-0]. This underrated gem is a sure-fire cure for the blues.

    I completely agree with you that the best thing about the movie is that it never loses its fizz and maintains a light tone throughout. A film that has Ameeta deadpanning that the reason Sunder fainted is because of her dazzling beauty, is my kind of comedy.:-D

  8. Yes, it’s out of stock on Induna as is Shagird which I also wanted to order along with this.

    But any way have asked for an email alert when it is in stock.
    Reading so many reviews here and at memsaab’s has made my list longer and longer. :-)

  9. I agree totally. From the soulful songs, I was expecting this movie to be a weepy. But what a fun flick. And you are right, it needs to be mentioned more on lists of best comedy movies.

  10. bollyviewer: That’s unfortunately so true of so many Hindi films! :-( Greta’s famous ‘curse of the second half’ is all too common.

    Shalini: Am very glad to have you out of the wood/web works! Thank you for stopping by – and if you have any more suggestions for films as light and easy watching as this one, I’d welcome them. I simply adore Dekh Kabira Roya!

    pacifist: Yes, I’ve requested an e-mail alert too. I definitely need this film! I already have a VCD of Shagird which is in fairly good condition, so just might see that again and review it.
    Ever since I began blogging (and visiting other blogs) my list of must-see films has also grown so long, it’s become almost unmanageable! Now I have a notepad file with a list from which I keep deleting films I’ve finally managed to procure and see!

    Ava: I’m surprised this isn’t as famous as say Half Ticket or Chalti ka Naam Gaadi – both of which, I think, aren’t as funny as Dekh Kabira Roya – the former descends into slapstick, and the latter turns a little serious in the second half. Probably the lack of any major stars made Dekh Kabira Roya a less well-known film. Whatever! It’s still awesome.

  11. A great movie. Though I watched it on DD, when I was maybe ten or so, I still remember the movie very fondly.
    Although all the three heroines look fantastic. The heroes are somewhat lacklustre! I simply loved Ameeta and Shubha Khote in the film!
    A pity that Ameeta had to do side roles after a good start like Goonj uthi shehnaiyan and Tumsa nahin dekha.

  12. Yes, Ameeta was good in this, as well as in Tumsa Nahin Dekha – and I even liked her in side roles, especially Mere Mehboob. Like Leela Naidu, one of those somewhat inexplicable cases of a talented and beautiful actress whose career fizzled out too soon.

    Of the heroes, I liked Jawahar Kaul the best: he’s amusing, and good-looking too. Like Ameeta, he acted in very few films too and surprisingly, I’ve seen most of them recently: Bhabhi, Daag, Dekh Kabira Roya, Kathputli and Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam. I wonder why he didn’t get more films.

  13. Jawahar Kaul was in Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam? (Yes, I still havent seen it!) I remember noticing him in Daag – probably at the same time that Usha Kiron did! ;-) He really is very good looking. Dont remember him in Bhabhi, either. Was he one of the [cruel] brothers?

  14. Jawahar Kaul, that doesn’t say a thing to me.
    He was in Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam? What was his role?
    Since I bought some Guru Dutt films in Bombay, am watching them all again.
    Am awestruck by his movies, though appalled by the message in most of the films!

  15. bollyviewer, harvey: imdb says Jawahar Kaul was in Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam. I don’t remember him in it, either – but will confirm once I’ve rewatched the film (it’s more or less at the top of my must-see list)

    bollyviewer: Yes, he’s one of the brothers in Bhabhi – not cruel, but rather spineless. He’s the guy who marries Shyama. He looks pretty nondescript there, with a moustache which doesn’t suit him at all!

    harvey: Did you buy the Guru Dutt classic DVDs pack? My sister gifted it to my parents last year – it has some great films! Personally, I like Mr & Mrs 55, Pyaasa and Aar Paar the best, despite the somewhat antiquated approach towards the role of women in Mr & Mrs 55.

  16. Kabir is one of my favourites. Though I must admit to a soft spot for Amir Khusro and Rahim, too: both were very good, too, at poetry that used simple everyday metaphors – often humorously – to focus on more serious issues. And Khusro’s riddles are delightful!

  17. “…if you have any more suggestions for films as light and easy watching as this one, I’d welcome them.”

    Have you seen “Ek Thi Ladki”? It’s a 1949 romantic comedy starring Moti Lal and Meena Shorey. Like, Dekh Kabira Roya, it has it’s dramatic tensions and conflicts, but never descends into tragedy and always maintains a wry, humorous tone.

  18. I saw Ek Thi Ladki years ago; wasn’t that the one with the song Laare lappa laare lappa laayi rakh da? Unfortunately, I don’t remember anything of it except the song .

    Thank you for that suggestion – will certainly look out for it!

  19. The music lovers had a bounty in 1957 with the release of Amiya Chakraborty’s ‘Dekh Kabira Roya’ .

    ‘Dekh Kabira Roya’ was a comedy having little scope for a Music Director. It was Madan Mohan’s musical acumen that gave a treasure trove of songs with Asha/Lata/Manna Dey/Talat having their share of glory. While Manna Dey excelled in ‘Kaun Aayaa Mere Man Ke Dwaare Paayal Ki Jhankaar Liye’ and ‘Bairan Ho Gaee Rainaa’ composed in Raag Bageshri and Jaijaiwanti respectively, Talat stole the heart with ‘Hamse Aaya Na Gayaa Tumse Bulaayaa Na Gaya’.

    Lata’s ‘Meree Veenaa Tum Bin Roye, Sajanaa Sajanaa’ and ‘Tu Pyaar Kare Ya Thukraaye’ have already secured their place among the Nightingale’s best renditions.

    ‘Ashkon Se Teree Hamne Tasveer Banaaee Hai, Ro Ro Ke Muhobbat Kee’ is the Asha number which again is a class apart.

    Thanks for this interesting post on ‘Dekh Kabira Roya’

    • Have a look at Wikipedia… that has pages at least on Ameeta, Anita Guha, and Anoop Kumar. You could also check out Cineplot: there are actor/actress profiles for a number of thespians from the golden age of Hindi cinema.

  20. Interestingly the Doha you explained above ( very well too ) is also sung in the beginning of the song ‘zindagi khwab hai’ from Jagate Raho.

  21. Madam, Wonderful summary of the story. Thank you. I came to know of this film title, around 1960 through its wonderful songs. only. ‘kaun aayaa mere ‘ by Manna Dey, Hum se aayaa na gayaa’ by Thalath, ‘hum panchi masthaane’ ( Lata and Aasha) ,meri veenaa thum bi roye’ thu pyar kare’, and ‘Lagan chote ‘ by Lata. ..all exceptionally sweet songs. Only through this blog post, I am learning about the story. Fine theme. .. The dance number by Anita Guha for ‘Lagan’ and the music were exceptional. in the film. I wish that you had provided the stills for the songs. Sometimes, giving LINK to video of the songs , especially for such a wonderful ‘ musical comedy’ film may add to the value of the blog. ( not embedding but just the URL of the video). The full film is now available in youtube. and many fans of the great music by MadanMohan for this film have uploaded their favourite song scenes. Thank you very much. Some of the followers of this blog post can help by giving lyrics with meaning in English. and the raga of each song if possible. Talat song is in Rag Bagesree. and perhaps ;hum panchi ‘ is Mand. ( lovely background music)… I was wondering about the meaning of the title for the film. Your tip helps. Thanks again.

    • “Sometimes, giving LINK to video of the songs , especially for such a wonderful ‘ musical comedy’ film may add to the value of the blog. ( not embedding but just the URL of the video).

      I have, actually – to at least three of the songs. The problem is that videos disappear off Youtube very quickly and very suddenly, sometimes within hours of being posted. It’s mainly because so many people upload videos that they actually don’t hold any sort of copyright to. So if the person holding the copyright decides to assert their rights, Youtube can remove the video and even suspend the user’s account. This is the reason I don’t embed videos – because a ‘This video is no longer available’ is very annoying seen on the blog post. And even providing a link is only temporary in most cases – because if the video itself vanishes, the link will then be dead. :-(

      By the way, I was able to find the English translation of Kaun aaya mere mann ke dwaare. It’s not very good, but I think it covers the ground:

      http://www.myhindilyrics.com/translation-Dekh-Kabira-Roya/Kaun-Aayaa-Mere-Man-Ke-Dvaare.html

  22. Madam, You are right. . So many sites have been marred by blank tube embedded / video not available. ‘ links. . Thank you. Who is the defined as the copyright owner for the tens of thousand film songs ? I think, the copyright expires after about a decade!

    • I don’t think the copyright would expire after a mere ten years. For film songs, I would suppose whichever film company owns the rights for the film in which the song appears would have a legitimate right over the song. Or, as in the case of Saregama (once HMV), the recording company. Perhaps both. I really don’t know for certain.

      • Madam, May I share a relevant link from rasikas.org ? It is about A.I.M. ( Archive of Indian Music). organized by Sri.Vikram Sampath. under a trustee board which has Sri.Pai. Quoting from a reply by Vikram. ” Reg the Copyrights–these are all in the public realm and out of copyright being pre-1947 recordings largely. 60 yrs after the date of publishing, the companies forfeit the copyright on the product. We can discuss more on this offline if you wish.my email id is vikram.sampath@gmail.com. I have a copyright lawyer on board for the Trust as being a mere author my own understanding of legalese is next to non-existent!”… Kindly look for #24 in the following page. https://www.rasikas.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=19587
        I had a large collection of old classics in carnatic music as well as hindi film songs. If they are pre-1947 and pre-1957, I think copyright of the gramaphone company and film company would have no validity. That does not mean , one can tamper with either the music or the video. But the companies will be only too happy to get some advt free of cost if we mention the names! Especially for the songs, unless the company is either streaming or selling, it should not bar others from sharing old gems. Otherwise, they will be totally lost in the next two decades. Best Regards.

        • Yes, I did think the period before which a copyright automatically lapses would be about 60-70 years. I don’t doubt what you write (since I too am a mere author!), but then that assumes that there are no heirs to the copyright and no estate to which the earnings should accrue, etc. For instance, I know for a fact that the Wadia Brothers’ Fearless Nadia films – the top ones dating from the 1930s, and therefore well past this 60-year limit – are still protected and under copyright with the Wadias. So any clips of films like Hunterwali etc which you might see floating around are a violation of copyright.

          Your owning music does not necessarily imply a violation of copyright; if you’ve bought it – the LP, the cassette, the CD, whatever – it is yours. But sharing it on a music sharing site or in a way that basically means people who haven’t paid for it are able to access it, can be construed as piracy. I’m saying can because naturally in some cases the work is in the public domain, or because whoever owns the copyright doesn’t mind it being distributed. My only point here was to explain why Youtube sometimes takes down content seemingly arbitrarily: because somebody with a (supposedly legitimate) claim has lodged a complaint about violation of copyright.

          • Madam, You are right. I just wish that atleast so far as old 78 rpm records are concerned, the gramaphone company may overlook any copyright infringement. ( not for films however).
            As suggested by you, I did some experimentation in my firefox browser to increase the viewing font size. It works. Thank you.

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