Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962)

After all the lightheartedness of the past few posts, time to get back to serious stuff. I had three none-too-cheery films lined up: Khamoshi, Andaz, and this one. Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam had been popping up in some recent posts (one song was part of the daaru list, and a discussion on Jawahar Kaul—one of the leads in Dekh Kabira Roya—ended up with a general wondering of what role he played in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam). So Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam it was, a rewatch of a memorable film with some fine performances and superb music.

Meena Kumari and Rehman in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam

The film opens at the ruins of an old haveli in Calcutta, where a group of labourers is busy pulling down what remains. When the workers break off for lunch, the overseer (Guru Dutt) stands back, gazing at the haveli, which when he first came to Calcutta as a shy and very green young man from his native Fatehpur, was a grand mansion. The film then steps back into those days, and we follow the young man, Atulya Chakraborty ‘Bhootnath’, as he arrives at the haveli of the Choudhary brothers and is greeted by his own so-called brother-in-law (Krishan Dhawan). [‘So-called’ because there is actually no relationship between them; Bhootnath used to call the man’s late wife sister].

Bhootnath arrives in Calcutta and meets Masterji

Bhootnath’s brother-in-law was once upon a time the tutor—the `Masterji’—at the haveli; his pupils are long gone, but the Choudharys have insisted he stay on. He has offered to house Bhootnath, and has even found a job for him at the Mohini Sindoor Factory. Bhootnath will be paid the princely sum of Rs 7 a month, lunch included. Bhootnath can’t believe his good fortune, but is momentarily disturbed when Masterji tells him that the owner of the factory, Suvinay Babu (Nasir Hussain) is a Brahmo Samaji. A fine man, Masterji hastens to tell Bhootnath; and lunch will be cooked by a maharaj, a Hindu cook, so Bhootnath needn’t worry about his religion being tainted.
Masterji takes Bhootnath along with him to introduce him to Suvinay Babu, who is mysteriously surprised when he discovers that Bhootnath is from the village of Fatehpur in Nadia district.

Bhootnath meets Suvinay Babu

Before Bhootnath can discover the reason for Suvinay Babu’s bewilderment, a distraction occurs: the old man’s beautiful daughter Jaba (Waheeda Rehman), who’s sitting nearby, begins to giggle when she hears Bhootnath’s name.
Over the next few days, Jaba comes to be the bane of Bhootnath’s existence—and yet so enticing that he can’t help but be drawn to her. She’s feisty, very straightforward, sharp-tongued and fiercely honest (she gets her father to fire the cook when she discovers that the cook’s been giving Bhootnath very little food and has been threatening the shy young man with dire consequences should he dare complain to Suvinay Babu).

Suvinay Babu and Jaba get Bhootnath to speak up against the cook

Jaba’s constantly teasing Bhootnath, and even though he tries to look affronted, it’s obvious Bhootnath is quite captivated.

...and Bhootnath is enchanted by Jaba

Meanwhile, Bhootnath is also getting better acquainted with the haveli and its residents. Of the three brothers who once owned the haveli, only the middle brother, the ‘Majhle Babu’ (D K Sapru) and the younger brother, the ‘Chhote Babu’ (Rehman) still live; their eldest brother is long dead, leaving behind a quivering and maddeningly orthodox widow (Pratima Devi), who ritually washes her hands sixty-three times at a go, and flies into a tizzy when a crow alights near her when she’s standing on the terrace.

The Badi bahu washing her hands

The two brothers, on the other hand, live in an almost make-believe world that’s governed by lust, wealth and debauchery. The Majhle Babu thinks nothing of spending Rs 10,000 on arranging a ‘wedding’ for his pet cat with a specially imported Persian.
He also doesn’t think anything of confiscating the lands of a starving farmer who hasn’t been able to pay his dues. As long as the Majhle Babu has his cat and his pigeons, and dancers to entertain him in the evenings, he’s fine.

The Majhle Babu at his cat's wedding

His younger brother, the Chhote Babu, is equally degenerate and spends most of his time with a tawaif, returning only in the wee hours of the morning, dead drunk. His neglected wife, the Chhoti Bahu (Meena Kumari), is a lonely, shadowy figure whom Bhootnath sees at night standing in the corridor, looking out for her husband as she sings for him to come back to her.

...and the Chhote Babu at his tawaif's kotha

But the Chhote Babu is too hardened to come back at a mere song, and the Chhoti Bahu, in a fit of desperation, turns to other means. She’s noticed an advertisement of Mohini Sindoor and is naive enough to believe that the hyperbole of the advertisement (which is along the lines of it bringing together estranged lovers) is all true. She’s also discovered that Bhootnath works at the Mohini Sindoor Factory.
One evening, therefore, she instructs Bansi (Dhumal), the ‘valet’ of the Chhote Babu, to bring Bhootnath to her: a very surreptitious visit, since there’ll be a huge scandal should anyone know that a strange young man has been in the Chhoti Bahu’s room. Bansi tells Bhootnath of the summons.

Bansi passes on a message to Bhootnath

Bhootnath is initially tongue-tied in the beautiful and dazzling presence of the Chhoti Bahu. She is, however, a kind and gentle person who soon puts him at his ease, enough for Bhootnath to jabber a bit about Jaba (and enough for the Chhoti Bahu to realise that this young man is fascinated by the girl). She then asks Bhootnath for a favour: will he get her a little box of Mohini sindoor? Will it work? Bhootnath isn’t sure what the sindoor is supposed to accomplish, but he hesitantly assures her that it will work.

Bhootnath meets the Chhoti Bahu

The following evening, Bhootnath visits the Chhoti Bahu again to hand over the sindoor, and she is very grateful. The next day, she spends a long time (all in the course of another lovely song, Piya aiso jiya main samaaye gayo re) getting ready to let the sindoor work its magic on the Chhote Babu. Bansi has already been instructed to tell the Chhote Babu that the Chhoti Bahu is ill, in the hope that it will encourage him to come and look her up.

Piya aiso jiya mein samaaye gayo re

The Chhote Babu, unfortunately, is a seasoned player: his wife’s beauty, her pleas and her sindoor leave him cold. Finally, when she begs him to tell her how she can please him, he taunts her with what the tawaif can offer him: singing, dancing, drinking… will she do all of that for him?

The Chhoti Bahu tries to keep her husband back

Though she’s shocked, the Chhoti Bahu is also too maddened by neglect to not take up the challenge. The next day, Bhootnath is sent for again, and she gives him money to buy her a bottle of liquor. A reluctant and shocked Bhootnath’s entreaties fall on deaf ears; she will have the liquor, no matter what.
So Bhootnath buys liquor for the Chhoti Bahu; and she—very unwillingly—lets her husband tip a glassful down her throat (he ends up forcing it down).

...and he turns her into an alcoholic

Bhootnath’s life, meanwhile, has taken a sudden, unexpected turn. Unknown to him, Masterji is an anti-British terrorist. One day, just as Bhootnath and Masterji meet by chance in the marketplace, Masterji notices a group of English policemen looting the nearby shops. Masterji shoves Bhootnath into a nearby verandah, and pulls out a bomb which he pitches at the Brits. They aren’t badly hurt, and retaliate by opening fire—and one bullet hits Bhootnath’s leg.
When he comes to, Bhootnath is in Suvinay Babu’s home, being looked after by Jaba. A bedside conversation soon leads to a near-confession of mutual love.

Bhootnath and Jaba come close to declaring their love for each other

Bhootnath and Jaba, however, are interrupted by the arrival of Suvinay Babu, who shortly after shares some news with Bhootnath: he has arranged Jaba’s marriage with Supavitra (Jawahar Kaul; so that was the role he played—it’s a minor one, though, and he speaks only a couple of lines), a Brahmo Samaji like himself.

Jaba with her betrothed, Supavitra

Where do these two seemingly futile love stories lead? Does Bhootnath get his Jaba and the Chhoti Bahu her husband? Or do other forces, beyond their control, play a part that neither can have imagined? And where, when and how did the grand haveli of the Choudharys turn into the ruin an older, more mature and less naive Bhootnath finds it?

Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam is one of the films I saw as a child, and didn’t like. It has too many depths, too many things left unspoken, and touches on things which require a little maturity to understand. To an older (and I hope wiser!) me, this film is a stunning exercise in contrasts. There is the contrast between the bright, cheerful household of Suvinay Kumar, where all is openness and honesty—and the Choudhary haveli, riddled with unhappiness and mindless extravagance, heading for an inevitable doom (as one of its lunatic denizens—Harindranath Chattopadhyay, in a small but memorable role—prophesises, all of this will fall prey to time; this wealth will vanish and this haveli will crumble).

There is, as a mirror to this, the contrast between Jaba and the Chhoti Bahu. Jaba is educated, smart, sassy (yet, in a refreshing change from many Hindi films, not the `bad’ Westernised girl—her education has enlightened her, not made her give up her Indianness or become ‘wicked’). The Chhoti Bahu, on the other hand, is a prime example of the helplessness of an upper class Indian woman of that era: trapped in a gilded cage, expected to uphold family honour and spend her time (as the Chhote Babu puts it), “getting jewellery made, breaking up jewellery, playing with cowries, and sleeping”. Nothing about being loved or valued for oneself. This woman’s life is expected to revolve around her husband—only her husband isn’t there.

And all of it against the backdrop of a disintegrating lifestyle, wealth literally given away in the assumption that there’s always plenty more where it came from, or in sheer indolence… leaving nothing but ruins.

This is a classic film, a must-watch. Depressing in a large part, but also mesmerising.

What I liked about this film:

The cinematography (I love the dark tones that prevail in the haveli and contrast so vividly with the airiness of Suvinay Babu’s home). The acting. The songs. The tiny details (Bhootnath, sitting in the Chhoti Bahu’s room for the first time, tucking into the sweets and the milk that a maid has served him, tells her that Jaba has said, “Other than ensuring you are fed, what relationship is there between you and me?”).

Most of all, Meena Kumari’s acting. She is awesome as the Chhoti Bahu, beginning with her first scene—when Bhootnath meets her, a woman so gentle and sweet that she instantly wins his loyalty—a loyalty that will endure through the years. As the film progresses, the desperation of the Chhoti Bahu, her triumph when she finally manages to ‘hold’ her husband by drinking with him, and her eventual plummeting into alcoholism is brilliantly depicted. (She won the Filmfare Award for Best Actress, by the way). The scenes between Meena Kumari and Rehman are especially powerful, with indifference, contempt and even some lust on his part, and pleading, coquetry, and bitterness on hers.

Meena Kumari as the Chhoti Bahu

The music. It’s by Hemant, and each song is excellent. My favourite is the hauntingly beautiful Koi door se aawaaz de chale aao, though Saaqiya aaj mujhe neend nahin aayegi and Bhanwra bada naadaan hai are right up there at the top of the list too.

What I didn’t like:

Two minor moments of masala that take away from the poignancy of the film. One is Masterji’s pitching of the bomb (his being a terrorist is never expanded upon, and I didn’t see much reason for it, anyway—Bhootnath’s being cared for by Jaba could’ve just as well been the result of an accident). The other is the somewhat (in comparison with the rest of the film) inept resolution of Jaba and Bhootnath’s relationship. It’s just too masala! A bit, perhaps, like the Joy Mukherjee-Rajshree starrer Ji Chahta Hai (I’ll do a post on that as soon as I’m able to summon up the courage to watch it again).

Barring that—a total of about five minutes—the film’s breathtaking.

Little bit of trivia:

Guru Dutt insisted that Abrar Alvi (who was better known as a writer) direct this film (or at least, as bawa and memsaab point out in the comments below, insisted that Alvi be credited with the direction, since Guru Dutt thought his own name was a jinx). At any rate, he did insist that Alvi learn Bengali so that he could read the original novel—Bimal Mitra’s Sahib Bibi Golam—in Bengali. The film won Alvi a Best Director Award at the Filmfare Awards.


117 thoughts on “Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962)

  1. I think Guru Dutt insisted that Alvi be credited there cos he was convinced that anything that had his name on it would flop?

    I agree with you about the film; it requires one to be in a positive mood otherwise you could just fall into depression.

    Another one of the little touches that make it so good: when bhootnath first meets chhoti bahu all we see is her feet, because the camera behaves like bhootnaths eyes…so when it finally slowly goes up to her face when he dares to look at her in the face and we see her as he sees her…for me it is one the genius moments of Guru Dutt.


  2. bawa: Was that why Alvi was the de jure director? Come to think of it, the film does bear the unmistakable stamp of Guru Dutt. I wonder how much directing Abrar Alvi actually did on it (according to imdb, this was the only film he ever directed, though of course he wrote plenty).
    I love that scene with the Chhoti Bahu, too. The fact that he’s sitting on the ground while she sits on the edge of the bed reinforces that slow wander up from her feet to her face… beautifully done.

    Banno: Yes, it is beautiful: another of those superbly done sequences is the song Saaqiya aaj mujhe neend nahin aayegi, in which Minoo Mumtaz is the only dancer in the light; the rest of her troupe are all shadow figures who whirl and pirouette in the background. Amazing.


    • first satyen bose and then nitin bose was considered for direction par baat nahi bani . so one day guru dutt decided that abraar will direct this movie. abraar had recorded the script in his own voice. dutt listened again and gain but still didn’t want to direct even he wished due to tensions in personal life. so abraar was chosen. abraar was introduced as a writer to guru dutt by Raj khosla assistant director of baaz. when Raj khosla came to know that he used to write drama for stage and radio in pune then he introduced him to dutt and after listening to him gave break as dialogue writer in aar paar. abraar wanted to become actor and even got a small role in baaz. jis trah itefaaq sey abraar alvi writer baney usi trah itefaq sey director bhi bu guye.


        • as in vividh bharti the announcer said guru dutt used to be always on set and abraar had to take two shots one from his POV and second from Guru dutt.and decision was left on editing room. when kalpana laazmi was asked about it she said abraar alvi dubara phir aisi koi film kyu nahi bnaa paaye.


          • i want to say about direction that it should be divided into two parts first taking shot and second directing actors how to perform. i don’t know anything about direction just know close shot long shot. even if i want to introduce choti bahu in the movie we all would have taken same shot as director did. from feet to head. i wonder if abraar knew about technicality of camera. i will be honest even we can tell our ideas that in this scene which shot should be taken. our general take may be correct. i came to know technical details when i read chandra barot saying about manoj ji that once he told him to pull 8 feet long trolley and stop at 14 points to and fro to bring different characters in one shot. it was new for me. i still wonder that how shots are taken like camera moves time to time. so does camera position changes time to time ??


              • i want to say this movie didn’t help abraar at all. due to direction controversy it is forgotten than abraar wrote screen play and dialogues. i don’t know if i am alone but i don’t like close up on meena ji in Na jayo saiya chudha k baiya. i find it too close. also the plot of bhoot nath and zbaa is commercial unlikely of guru dutt movies.


  3. I’ve always heard that Guru Dutt directed it and put Alvi’s name on it as Bawa says because he was convinced his own name was a jinx. Poor guy.

    It is a lovely, haunting movie but too depressing to watch very often. And Meena is awesome in it.


  4. “I’ve always heard that Guru Dutt directed it and put Alvi’s name on it as Bawa says because he was convinced his own name was a jinx.”

    Both of you are probably right – but yes, that is sad, isn’t it? And also too depressing to be one of my ‘repeated viewing’ films, though I still like it better than, say, Kaagaz ke Phool – the unremitting depression in that is wearing. In Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, at least Bhootnath’s relationship with Jaba, and Jaba’s own strength of character help balance (to some extent) the sadness surrounding the Chhoti Bahu’s life. And the fact that one doesn’t see much of the `descent’ (except a couple of scenes with the Chhoti Bahu) of the haveli’s people – one just sees glimpses of what may be impending doom, and the aftermath – makes this a little more bearable, I think.


  5. While Aar Paar is my favorite Guru Dutt film, SAG is my favorite depressing Guru Dutt film.:-) I like it much better than Kaagaz Ke Phool or even Pyaasa and I think the reason is Guru Dutt – the actor. I find him to be the weakest performer in all his films and when he is also the central character as in Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool, I have a hard time connecting with the overall film. Although he’s again the weakest link in SAG (contrast his portrayal of the country bumpkin to how Balraj Sahini would have played the part), the fact that he plays a supporting, rather than the main, role mitigates his negative impact on the film.


  6. Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam is one of the films I saw as a child, and didn’t like.” – Guru Dutt’s films should have been labeled “adults only” because not only were they incomprehensible for kids, they left some of us with lifelong prejudices that dont let us venture near any of them. I saw Pyaasa as a kid and am still terrified of watching any of Guru Dutt’s classics!!! I do own this one, though, and WILL watch as soon as I have built up a big enough stash of wine and Kleenex.

    Meena Kumari looks lovely – for some reason I had the impression that she looked like she did in Pakeezah, here.

    I read in a book on Bollywood (cant recall the name) that the Bhootnath role was offered to Shashi Kapoor who turned it down. Dont know if that was true (the book had so many glaring errors that this could be one of them, too), but just the idea of a Kapoor (any Kapoor) in that role elicits a big NAHIIIIIN from me!


    • This movie was released with an Adult rating, I think, because my parents refused to let me watch it when it was released in 1962. I saw it later in college and didn’t understand much of it. Now I think it is too depressing.


      • I understood it only vaguely when I first saw it – as a pre-teen, I think. Back in the days of Doordarshan, when (if I remember correctly) this was shown as part of a Guru Dutt retrospective. But later, when I have rewatched it in recent years, I’ve found it quite mesmerising. It is tragic and depressing, but not in the absolutely despairing way of a Kaagaz ke Phool or a Mother India, mostly because Bhootnath and Jaba’s love story is there as a ray of light.


  7. I adore this film. I need to see it again. My favorite tune from it is “Meri Baat Rahi”. So sad and beautiful, perfectly expressing regret of the unspoken words, and mistakenly thinking they would have changed things.

    Why didn’t I have you on by blogroll? Well I fixed that and you’re there now yaar. :)
    All the best!


  8. Shalini: My favourite is Mr & Mrs 55, antiquated notions of feminine duty notwithstanding! ;-) But of the ‘serious’ Guru Dutt films, this is by far my favourite – somehow I find all the others just too depressing. Even though this one is very sad, it manages to provide some cheer as well (without needing to resort to a comic side plot as in Kaagaz ke Phool or Pyaasa.

    bollyviewer: Shashi Kapoor as Bhootnath?! Perhaps because he was good at that sweet, somewhat innocent look? But no, I definitely don’t think he’d have fitted. Like you, I can’t imagine any of the Kapoors doing a Bhootnath – Shammi is too boisterous, Shashi just wouldn’t have fitted, and RK would probably have been a Chaplinesque Bhootnath. Nahiiiiin!

    sitaji: You are too kind :-) Am adding you to my blogroll, too – anybody who writes about films and food (two of my favourite topics) is worth reading on a daily basis!
    And yes, Meri baat rahi mere mann mein is another lovely song; the picturisation is also superb.


  9. It is sad about the Alvi name.

    I once found a clip on youtube of an old filmfare awards night (can’t find it now): I may have posted it on memsaab’s blog.

    Anyway, to my surprise Meena Kumari arrived looking Absolutely Stunning; surprise, because I didn’t think she was that beautiful. This maybe because she was so overburdened with make-up in most of her films.

    I am posting a link to a four-part interview with Naushad that I emjoyed watching


  10. Bawa, found it: this is part 1. How interesting – I’ve seen the first two parts, and will watch the rest later today. I love the bit about him saying his parents disapproved so thoroughly of his music that they passed him off as a tailor at his own wedding – little aware that the music the bandwallahs were playing was mostly from Naushad’s films! Too cute :-)

    I remember when I was a kid Doordarshan used to air a programme called Phool Khile Hain Gulshan-Gulshan. It was hosted by Tabassum, and every episode was an interview with a film personality, often from the 60’s or 70’s, reminiscing about their films, anecdotes and so on. I seem to recall seeing a couple of interviews with Naushad in that… the grand old man of Hindi film music.


  11. Saw this as my first Guru Dutt film but really couldn’t really get into it as the songs weren’t subtitled but ido like the points you made about Jaba’s education and Chhoti Bahu being the upper class indian woamn whose life revolved around her husband. I need to rewatch this i’ll order the 6 pack Guru dutt special by moserbaer, i like him and i want to get into his works a bit more
    i loved Meena in this, she played the Tragic diva to a T.

    I’m so looking forward to your post on Andaz i remember seeing it and not being able to make full sense of it at the first go, hence why i couldn’t review it, i had to set aside some time to watch it again. i was impressed by the fashion and the whole grandeur shown in the movie, Nargis was utterly gorgeous


  12. Oh, it’s a pity that the songs weren’t subtitled – the lyrics of Meri baat rahi mere mann mein, Na jaao saiyaan and Bhanwra badaa naadaan hain are especially worth understanding! The Moser Baer special pack is good – my parents have it (that’s where I borrowed Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam from).

    What I really liked about Andaz was its surprising freshness – it doesn’t have the dated feel of a lot of other pre-50’s (or even for that matter, early 50’s) films. Nargis is beautiful, and Dilip Kumar’s acting is of course superb… will review that soon.


  13. One of my greatly loved films in spite of the dark depressing aura. Any Meena Kumari film is a treat for me, and this is very special. I was struck by how her beauty glowed in the dark and claustrophobic surroundings. I have always liked Rehman too. He has that well bred air about him, even when being bad :-)
    Yes, the picturization of the mujra was good, and loved the curious ‘Boothnath’ being a peeping Tom.

    Thanks for reviewing this classic. :-)


  14. @ bawa: watch any film of Meena’s from the 1950’s…she was probably the most gorgeous woman in the world at that time. She really ravaged her beauty with alcohol (hey, I’m not judging! I think I may be guilty of it too, although I don’t have as much to ravage).


  15. bawa: Yes, that Moser Baer pack really has the best of his films! Enjoy :-)

    pacifist: Thank you. And I agree with you: Meena Kumari’s beauty shines out so amidst the grimness of her surroundings. And there’s something about Rehman that makes him very likeable – a sort of dignity. I recently saw the very weepy Biswajit-Rajshree starrer Sagaai, in which Rehman played a fairly minor role as a well-respected doctor who’s overcome disability and more to get where he is. He was very good – easily among the best things about the film!

    memsaab: Hehehe :-)) I wouldn’t say you’ve ravaged your beauty at all – you’ve plenty! I still remember how gorgeous you looked in that photo where you’re wearing the green sari – Kolkata, was it?


  16. This filmfare awards clip was around 1968 or so, and in real life, she still looked really gorgeous, more like her 50’s beauty.
    Wish I could locate it; searches seem to bring up hundreds of pages of modern filmfare award clips.


  17. I get depressed whenever I recall this film, and I also think it’s one of the best Hindi movies ever made. (When I wrote this up last December, I think I came up with the perfect one-word description of how it affected me: Devastating!) I think Meena Kumari did her best acting job of all in this movie; she was awesome indeed.

    I agree that the cinematography is one of the things to like most about the movie; it is often unique.

    I was fascinated by that Minoo Mumtaz mujra long before I saw the rest of the film. The first thing I noticed was, as you mention, how they kept the other dancers in shadow the whole time. Minoo was fantastic in this too!


  18. Richard, I’ve just finished reading your review of the film – and yes, I agree Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam is `devastating’ in its tragedy – and Meena Kumari is simply superb. Strangely enough, I don’t find this as morbid a film as Kaagaz ke Phool, which was unremitting in its sadness. In this one, though the Chhoti Bahu’s story is so utterly tragic, Bhootnath and Jaba’s story is a more cheery counterpoint to it: even when it does seem to look doomed (with the appearance of Supavitra etc), it doesn’t really go off the rails and into sheer sadness.

    Isn’t that Minoo Mumtaz mujra absolutely lovely? Beautifully done. What amazes me is that all the light and the shadow is so perfectly done in black and white, one tends to forget that the set was of course in colour – getting the tones just right must have been very difficult.


  19. @bawa
    Do you mean this one in 1971?
    I was dying to see Meena Kumari as herself.
    If this is not the one then more research needs to be done by me for the sake of Meena :-)

    It’s fun watching so many of the stars looking younger, even though they are just shown for a couple of seconds. Nargis, Waheeda etc

    Meena Kumari filmed here is a year before she died.


  20. Bawa, do tell us! Pacifist, if this doesn’t turn out to be the one, I’ll help in the research. ;-)

    Even sans makeup (or at least with much less than usual), Meena Kumari does look beautiful – though a little rundown, not surprising given the way her health had deteriorated. Sad.

    I like Nargis’s ringlets – though I’m not so sure about Sunil Dutt’s sideburns! I prefer him in his Chhaya or (later) Mera Saaya or Waqt avtars. The 70’s, 80’s and 90’s weren’t my favourite years for fashions!


  21. Ringlets seem to have been in fashion. Did you notice Waheeda Rehman sporting them? :-D

    Nutan OTOH has straight hair though piled up high. I couldn’t catch Saira’s style as the camera is too quick to move to Dilip Kumar.


  22. I love Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam for its Art. Though I don’t really know if can agree with its social message.
    The movie is like many of Guru Dutt’s film just stunning. The Photography the dialogues, the characterisations, the acting. Everything is great.
    I’m going through the Moserbaer collectiosn myself and if I had enough time on my hands, would have loved to start a blog on these films and analyse them.
    Every scene though would need its own screen cap!


  23. pacifist: Yes, I wish they’d shown Saira Banu better too – all I saw was a flash of red, and then on to Dilip Kumar. Frankly, I like the Ittefaq premier better, mainly because it’s slower and more leisurely, plus you get to see lots more beautiful people actually looking nice in fashions that still haven’t got to the 70’s (though one can see ominous signs)! ;-)

    harvey: Hmmm… when you talk of `social message’, what do you mean? I tend to think of Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam as not really imparting a message (unlike Pyaasa, which is definitely socialist in style; or Kaagaz ke Phool, which shows the grim underbelly of showbusiness). I somehow think of Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam as more of a glimpse of a social order that’s teetering on the brink of collapse.
    Please do, do start a blog of your own, even if it’s only a post a month! I promise to be a diligent and faithful reader.


  24. I think this might be, although I seem to remember a different camera angle! But that could be my doddering mind.

    She does have such a natural loveliness without those thickly painted eyebrows (among other things) of her later films.

    I think Waheeda and Nargis went to the same stylist who did not have imagination for a variation. But Waheeda is the winner in this look 10:1 , but then, I have never thought of Nargis as beautiful.

    Yes, these filmfare newsreels are too rushed; they used to be shown before a feature film in cinemas and maybe there was a time-limit. Do you think somewhere in Mumbai there is a stash of old complete filmfare awards reel? One I would love to see is where Kishore Kumar sang a whole concert rather than just the song he was called for and the award ceremony went into early hours of the morning!


  25. “She does have such a natural loveliness without those thickly painted eyebrows (among other things) of her later films.” LOL! You’re spot on: her beauty did show signs of ravage, but this was something that could definitely have been helped.

    BTW, I don’t think Nargis is really beautiful, either: but she had a great presence, and was a superb actress.

    Any idea when this Kishore concert happened during a Filmfare Awards ceremony? Good old days or in the 70’s-80’s? Would love to see it!


  26. You didn’t get the message? Well, since nobody has talked of it till now. maybe I should watch the movie again and then speak.
    But I’d a discussion about it with Philip Lutggendorf of Philip’s fillums.
    Maybe I should really start a blog after all.

    bollyviewer: “Guru Dutt’s films should have been labeled “adults only” because not only were they incomprehensible for kids, they left some of us with lifelong prejudices that dont let us venture near any of them.”

    I was brought up on Gurudutt’s films. Well, as far as I remember DD Bombay didn’t broadcast eh movies, when I was kid. I think i saw the first full length Gurudutt film at 15 or 16 and it was Pyaasa. But Chhaya Geet and its successor Chitrahaar always brought many Gurudutt film songs and watching them I longed to seea full length Gurudutt movie!

    O I remember “Phool Khile Hain Gulshan-Gulshan” and Tabassum’s fav question “To phir aap filmon me kaise aaye?”. It was parodised a lot.
    Since you are mentioning it. I remember Rehman’s interview in that programme, where he says that Meena Kumari rquired somebody to pull her back and explain the dialogues to her! Since in my teen days I was a real Meenabhakt, I refused to believe it. Now…, I wonder!

    Moser Baer pack: Am not really satisfied with it. I have to turn the brightness level of my TV to full and also change to b/w mode. The snippets, which I have seen from yash raj films DVD were way better. But Moserbaer is cheaper than the Yash raj!


  27. “Maybe I should really start a blog after all.” Absolutely. And make sure the first film you review is this one! Now I’m really curious about what that message was.

    Haha, I like Rehman’s comment on Meena Kumari :-)) I wonder how true that was. Pull her hair back and explain the dialogues to her? Did her hair keep getting in the way? (I can believe it in the later scenes of Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, where her long flowing hair was all over the place!) But, interesting.

    I tried searching for Phool Khile Hain Gulshan-Gulshan on youtube, in the hope that somebody might have uploaded an episode or two – they were so entertaining (no luck). The only interviewee I remember a bit is Joy Mukherjee, talking about how he learnt to do the dance he did in Duniya paagal hai.


  28. The film is adapted from a book, and I don’t see any message at all except a commentary on those times.

    Please tell us what the message could be. I’m really interested. :-)


  29. Geeta Duttfan: Thank you! And yes, I have visited your site (I remember an earlier comment with the link to it): Geeta Dutt had such an absolutely lovely voice. I’ll do a post on her someday.

    pacifist: Yes, I thought it was more a commentary on the times rather than a vehicle for a social message. Now I’m thinking: what could it be? You shouldn’t get your cats married? It’s not a good idea to start drinking, even if it seems like a good way to keep your husband home? (Incidentally, I read somewhere that the Academy Awards Committee turned down Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam as a nomination because, as they said in a letter to Guru Dutt. “In our culture, a woman drinking is not taboo”. Pooh. As if all films vying for the Oscars must conform to US standards.)
    Seriously, though: what is the message here?

    harvey: Please oblige! :-)


  30. I am pretty sure it was the 1975 awards, but as this is not a pure science…
    ever since I have read about it, I have wanted to see it!

    That AA comment to Guru Dutt: if I was nasty-minded I would think were being deliberately patronising because he was an Indian; seeing that Days of Wine and Roses was nominated for several awards not long after, in 1962.

    As to the message: I don’t think there was any, I have always read that the novel depicts the degeneration of the zamindari culture, something that was actively encouraged during 1800s under the British Raj, although it existed earlier. Indians loyal were given this zamindari status and they were then responsible for collecting taxes etc in return for power over the lands they were granted, i.e. feudalism. I think this was especially true in Bengal after the 1957 War of Independence.
    I always assumed that is why intellectuals in Bengal were especially sensitive to this issue.


  31. Yes, that’s what my sister – who specialises in late 19th century India – had also told me. In the wake of 1857, the British did all they could do ‘divide and rule’ – for instance, coming up with that myth about the martial and non-martial races, under which they inducted so-called ‘martial races’ (like the Gurkhas) who hadn’t really joined the mutiny, while excluding ‘non-martial races’ (especially what they called the ‘Pandies’ – the people of the Doab, the ‘Pandeys’), who had more or less spearheaded the revolt. And others – princelings, zamindars, etc – who’d helped the British, were suitably rewarded and their lands increased vastly.

    Incidentally, my mother (whose family were originally Bengali zamindars) still recalls the mindset of her grandfather. He had been disinherited by his father for having converted to Christianity, and so ended up coming to Calcutta and working on a salary. But he – and even my grandfather’s generation – found it very difficult to exercise any sort of control over their finances. They’d got so used to having huge sums to squander that they just couldn’t save – Mum still says that well into the 60’s, in their house, “food used to be cooked for a battalion”, even though there were less than 10 people to eat it: waste was the norm.

    Sad, really. But I think that is the crux of this film. Not a message, but an insight into the socio-political and economic conditions of that time.


  32. There’s a book that deals at length with Alvi’s life and his relationship with Guru Dutt. If I remember correctly these are a series of long interviews with Alvi. I will find that book and tell you its name shortly.

    Here, Alvi insists that except for one scene directed by Guru Dutt, he directed all of Sahib, Biwi and Ghulam. He was very cut up about no one really believing him…. and goes on at length giving details of how he directed the film.


  33. pacifist: You’re welcome! But now I’m even more curious about that message! I do wish harvey would drop by and tell us more.

    Himsingz: That sounds interesting. The generally accepted view is that Guru Dutt directed the film (and there are definite signs of it, too), but I’d like to know what Alvi’s take on it was. Interestingly, this was the only film for which Alvi was the director – so I wonder if anybody, even in the film industry, actually thought he’d directed Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam.


    • Very late to this discussion obviously but this was exactly my thought as well. I have read this book “Ten Years with Guru Dutt: Abrar Alvi’s Journey” (Author Sahya Saran) which discusses in detail about how Abrar directed the movie and it wasn’t ghost directed by Guru Dutt which is what many believe… I feel Abrar was unfortunate not to be recognized by his work. In the book, I believe Abrar clearly admitted that the songs were directed by Guru Dutt because he felt too strongly about how those are supposed to be shot (the lights, the angles etc.) but the movie was done by Abrar, himself. I don’t think it is hard to believe that it’s his work. He after all wrote so many screenplays for Guru Dutt and worked with him for ten years so it would not be that unusual to be influenced by him..


      • “He after all wrote so many screenplays for Guru Dutt and worked with him for ten years so it would not be that unusual to be influenced by him

        That’s true. When you point that out, it makes sense.


  34. Sorry guys for not “dropping by and telling more”. :-)

    Well, where to start?
    I agree with all of you about the movie and the story being a commentary on the fall of the zamindari system and the rise of the ‘industrialism’.
    And I think it is Abrar Alvi in Nasreen Munni Kabir’s Docu on Guru Dutt, who waxes about Guru Dutt putting women in the spotlight of his movies.
    Philip Lutgendorf sees in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam “female-centred meditation on gender inequity”. But giving Guru Dutt’s track record on his image of women, I hardly think it is a meditation on gender inequity but rather a deliberate depiction of a role model for women of India. If it were not
    It is not a straight-forward message as in Mr. & Mrs. 55 but very subtle.
    It starts with certain comments on Brahmo Samaj, a Hinduism-Reform movement.
    We have Jaba, who is the daughter of a Brahmo Samaji, modern, independent, voicing her opinion and taking initiative. But to find her happiness she has to abide by the rules of ‘conservative’ Hinduism and accept her husband of child-marriage, from which her father had saved her and even found a good suit, who loves and would like to marry her. Since she is such a ‘pativrata’ her husband turns out to be her beloved. So you see, if you are a real ‘Sati-Savitri’ God will fulfill your wishes.
    Then there is the central character of the movie, the Choti Bahu, who is a Sita impersonified. She loves her husband to a fault. She is even ready to ‘drink’ and behave like a ‘tawaif’ just to hold on to her husband. And if I remember right the character of Bhootnath is fascinated by her loyalty and devotion to her husband, which we often see symbolized in her big tikka on her forehead. It is four years since I last saw the movie, but doesn’t she tell Bhootnath, to fill her mang with lots of sindoor, when she dies? I might be mistaken.
    Hence, we see in Jaba a woman, who is modern, learned, free and independent return to the fold of conservative society and is rewarded with a ‘happy married life’. We assume it is a happy married life, since she the man she was married to turned up to be the man she loves/d. But the way which she sits in the carriage coy and subdued it looks very much like ‘Taming of the Shrew’.
    Choti Bahu on the other hand is conservative, uneducated (she comes from a poor family), shackled and dependent. But she revolts within the conventions of her society. She takes up drinking, she sings, she dances and more importantly demands hers rights. The rights, which her society has bestowed upon her. She doesn’t want much. She wants company of her husband and, very important for an ‘Indian’ woman, her right to be a mother. She is even bold enough to blame her husband for not giving her a child. In the Indian society, as I know it, the blame lies mostly on the woman’s side. But what is the reward of her revolt? Her husband ‘returns’ to her because he can’t go anywhere else. He has paralyses. And then she does a too bold an act, from which even her status can not save her. She crosses the threshold, the dahleez, the lakshman rekha and that too with a man not related to her. Sita of Ramayana had to repent this act woefully and so does Choti Bahu as well. She has to die.
    Therefore, the message, which comes across the film for me is “Women of India, don’t be too bold, you will get your happiness if you suffer enough and (more important) are ready to sacrifice”.

    And still, despite of all these irritations (too subtle a word for that), I love watching this movie. The way the story is told is spell binding. Each frame is poetry. Each glance of a character tells a story.
    Waah, jawab nahin!

    Now, that I have told my opinion, I don’t have to start my own blog! Ha! :-))


  35. Ahhhh… so that’s it. Subtly put, yes (definitely more so than Mr and Mrs 55, where the same message was drummed pretty strongly through much of the film!)

    Thank you so much for taking all that trouble to write it down and explain it. Put that way, it makes sense.

    And no, I don’t think that’s enough reason to not do a blog of your own! You know so much about cinema and have such a fabulous sense of humour, you’d make a great blogger! :-)


  36. “You know so much about cinema and have such a fabulous sense of humour”

    Music to my ears! Carry on! ;-)
    some day I really might carry out my threat!


  37. Yes dustedoff, I too will look forward to Harvey writing a blog. And Harvey, isn’t this a message for all women of the world, not just Indian women: “Women of India, don’t be too bold, you will get your happiness if you suffer enough and (more important) are ready to sacrifice”. ;)
    It reminds me of this saying: “The stake that sticks out gets hammered down.”
    Deru kui wa utareru.
    Literally: The stake that sticks out gets hammered down.
    Meaning: The nonconformist will be pounded down. / Don’t make waves.


  38. Sitaji, that proverb tempted me to do some research of my own. I came across an interesting book named Never Marry A Woman With Big Feet: Women in Proverbs From Around the World. From the little I’ve read of the online preview version, it seems like an insightful work on gender – proverbs and idioms are such a wonderfully apt reflection of society, aren’t they?

    Here’s one which sort of continues in the same tone: Women ask questions, men give the answers (an Arabic proverb).

    And a woman would do well to heed those answers, I suppose. Hah!


  39. sitaji & dustedoff: thanks for the encouragement! Will have to give it now a real serious thought!

    “The stake that sticks out gets hammered down.”
    Sadly enough, it is true for most of the times.

    “Women ask questions, men give the answers”
    Men do give the answers to the questions put by women, but
    a) the questions are mostly not meant for men.
    b) only men believe that they have the right answers and want women to follow them.
    c) men give the answers, without even understanding the questions

    But basically, you can substitute here men with any dominating part of the society and women with subjugated one.

    It is naturally to be understood that I don’t mean men are bad or women are good or vice versa, mostly such generalisations/cliches are bad!


  40. “But basically, you can substitute here men with any dominating part of the society and women with subjugated one.”

    Absolutely. I know of a lot of women whom I could call ‘men’ in this instance! ;-) [Some female relatives who tend to believe they always have the right answers, generally without having understood the question – and often even without a question being asked]

    But it is interesting to see how all our culture – language, cinema, music, etc – reflects society, and how those reflections change over time. The role of women, for instance: a lot of the films from the 40’s or 50’s (or even much later) show a different image of women: either the sati savitri type who happily gives up all for honour or whatever, or the less common firebrand (who might eventually turn into a ‘domesticated’ housewife). That was a big deal at the time; the issues now have I think changed quite a bit. As it is, I think commercial cinema doesn’t carry as many social messages now as it did 50 years ago – or at least the messages have become more modern: accepting disabilities and differences; teamwork; patriotism; secularism… ah, well. I’m contradicting myself, aren’t I? Those sound like Teen Batti Chaar Raasta, Do Aankhen Baarah Haath, Haqeeqat etc. :-)

    This could generate a post all its own. A book all its own.


  41. “Absolutely. I know of a lot of women whom I could call ‘men’ in this instance! ”

    Yes, there is a sort of pecking order. for e.g., A labourer, who is exploited by his landlord goes home and beat up his wife. She in her turn takes her anger out on her children, who might go and bully the next puny child they see. Not necessarily in this order, but just as an example!

    I’ll respond to the themes in the movies later, since I’ve to hurry for a brunch ‘session’. :-)


  42. I can’t have been more than 10 when I first saw this movie and it was love at first sight. In fact, for a while I was afraid to watch it as an adult because I didn’t want to find out that it sucked. Thankfully, that was not the case.

    What I love about this movie is how its steeped in tiny details. That bit about throwing a lavish wedding for his pet cat, for example, parallels a real incident in which one of the maharajahs threw a huge wedding for his pet dog and spent something like a lakh of rupees on it. There was a baraat and a “wedding reception” and everything.

    Plus, there’s Rehman. Who is at his awesome best in this movie.


  43. harvey: Yes, one’s position in the pecking order is of great consequence! Hope you had a good brunch session :-)

    Amrita: Thank you for reading! I agree with you re: the details. They’re such wonderful windows into the society of the period. Remember that scene where Bansi goes to the kotha to somehow get the Chhote Babu to dip his toe in a bowlful of water, so that the Chhoti Bahu may be able to drink the water and break her fast? I was reminded of a book called How to be the Goddess of your Home, a collection of 19th and early 20th century Bengali essays (translated into English) on advice to young brides… breaking a fast for a husband by drinking water in which his feet had been washed was considered to bestow blessings on the pativrata wife.


  44. Hi Madhulika,
    Congrats for the book first, I was amazed to see (thanks to the Utube extracts you indicated) that you are in fact… a woman!! So sorry at my naivety, I feel so silly, but somehow I had that feeling a man was in command of Dusted Off.
    Anyway, I just wanted to say my appreciation of Sahib Bibi aur ghulam (and thank you for giving me the opportunity of bringing it back to mind).

    What you say: “It has too many depths, too many things left unspoken, and touches on things which require a little maturity to understand” is true, this aspect is what interested me in the movie. For me the film is about desire, and how desire can eat you up and swallow in its fire.

    I don’t remember the reasons for that passage where Masterji throws the bomb, I’ll have to go back and check. There must be some kind of link with the film’s main theme.


  45. Hey Yves, thank you – and now I’m wondering what made you think I was a man! ;-) You aren’t the first; I remember making a phone call while I had a very sore throat (and therefore a rather deep voice). The phone was picked up by a friend/colleague of mine, who asked, “Whom would you like to speak to, sir?” Haha :-)

    Masterji’s throwing of the bomb is because he’s an anti-British terrorist: I could understand that, but my main problem was with the fact that his being an insurgent didn’t have any real bearing on the rest of the film – it didn’t even seem to fit in. The only significance I could find of the bomb-throwing incident was that it ended in Bhootnath being injured, so Jaba could care for him, and they could express their love (sort of) for each other… it might have been better if they had either contrived another way for Bhootnath to be injured, or if more screen time had been given to Masterji’s links with the anti-British. The latter would have been interesting, though probably pretty peripheral to the main story!


  46. Hello again,

    I’ve been back to the film to check the episode and I believe one can explain the bomb episode certainly by what you say, ie, a ploy to bring Jaba and Bhootnath closer together, but perhaps we can also place the episode in the wider perspective of the portrayal of a decaying society struggling to decide what model will be best to find its lost identity: revolution or reform. The first solution is represented by Jijaji, the insurgent “elder brother”, and the second by the Brahmo Samaj religious movement which hopes to purify India of its moral corruption.

    I believe the film’s historical background is a way to point towards a more fundamental moral and spiritual ill in India’s society of the times, which the colonised situation only exarcerbated, but of which it wasn’t the origin. Nevertheless the British occupation of India was like the fever which revealed the (spiritual) disease which inflicted India, or perhaps we should say that India’s collaboration with the Bristich was like a spiritual disease which one could either hope to cure with strong medicine (rebellion) or with a return to the religious sanity of asceticism.

    Dutt (or Alvi if you want) had this in mind when staging the tragedy of the Calcutta Haveli. And Bhootnath is a spectator of this tragedy; he’s an outsider. He watches the fight being fought. And so the dilemma between violent revolution and religious reform reflects the two main ways thanks to which men might hope to resist to moral and spiritual decay.

    By the way it’s revealing that the union of Jaba and Bhootnath is the union of the two tendancies, he being the revolutionary’s brother, and she being the Brahmo Samaj leader’s daughter.



  47. Ah, that is an interesting take on the entire tale. Your comment about the “spiritual disease which afflicted India” reminded me of a Hindi story I’d had to study in school, called Mughalon ne Sultanat baksh di (‘The Mughals gifted away their empire’). It’s a superb satire which uses an actual incident – a Mughal princess is badly burnt, and is eventually treated by a British physician – as the premise for how the Mughals found themselves displaced by the British. In the story, the princess’s father is so relieved, he tells the physician to ask for any boon. The physician asks that he be granted as much land as can be covered by a tent – which, of course, the emperor grants.

    The physician goes to England, and when he returns after a few months, it’s with a few shiploads full of barrels – and a vast tent made of rubber. He pitches the tent near present day Kolkata and starts getting the barrels unloaded and placed under the tent. Each barrel contains a soldier, and they get out and form an army. The English now start stretching the tent – as far as Buxar, Plassey, other places where historically the British scored important victories. The Mughal emperor, when informed, says that there is nothing to worry about – and he keeps saying it right until the British arrive in Delhi and dethrone him.

    Satirical, of course, but also, I think a good reflection of the ‘disease’ that the English ‘cured’, if not with very happy consequences. Shades of Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj ke Khiladi?


  48. Stumbled on this site whilst browsing thru’ Geeta Dutt sites…I had watched SBAG only 2 weeks ago for the first time, and like most people was very impressed, but still did not understand the full depth of the storyline and plot etc.

    Therefore I was intrigued by the discussion board as you have all provided so much detail in relation to film theme, plot, direction, political movements of the time and so on….thank you so much…!

    Now when I watch this film again, I shall be keeping these notes with me and referring to them…!


  49. Thank you for dropping by, ruby! The discussions are what I especially like – I am lucky to have some exceptionally interesting people as readers, who can always be relied upon to provide insights, information and even entertaining tidbits about any film I review. :-)


  50. Hey…Happy birthday dustedoff…it’s today isn’t it..!

    I should have said firstly and foremost a big thank you to yourself for starting this site and for all the wonderful reviews you have written…I am in heaven….!!!

    I am a big fan of the old Hindi movies thanks to my father who would avidly record them from BBC showings and show them to us…Madhumati was his favourite….but now I can never find people who are too keen to discuss them at great length…if at all. So I will be a regular visitor to your site from now on..!


  51. That is so sweet of you, ruby – only you’re a month early! My birthday’s on the 8th of January; but I’ll remember your wishes a month from now. ;-)

    There are quite a few of us out here, bloggers as well as readers, who simply love old films and are always looking for lesser-known and more obscure films. Welcome to the community!


  52. Thank you, Sharmi. It’s such a brilliant film, a one-page review can never be enough to do justice to Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam: perhaps an entire book is what’s required!


  53. Pingback: Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962) « Harveypam's Blog

  54. Pingback: Thoughts on Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam « Harveypam's Blog

  55. Why do you have to call Indian Revolutionaries as terrorists? I can understand the British doing so, but why must we Indians denigrate our freedom fighters in such a manner?


  56. Didn’t mean to denigrate anyone at all – just hadn’t realised there’d be people out there who’d be so touchy about semantics. After all, this blog is about films, not about language… or politics or history, or whatever. I don’t claim to be a know-it-all when it comes to what terms should be used for whom.

    Sorry if you were offended.


  57. I am posting here because I finally saw this last night and LOVED it. I even loved the happy ending for Bhoothnath & Jabba, which I’ll get to shortly. First though, a plea. My Ultra print is awful, scratchy and jumpy & with a runtime of 123 minutes according to my machine when the cover says 144, and Wiki says the film’s runtime was 155. Can anyone point me to a DVD of this film that is full length, and preferably of decent quality?

    Now to the film itself, what I saw of it. My views on this film are going to come across as slightly heretical. I was in awe of Meena’s performance as Choti Bahu, and finally SEEING, as opposed to jmust hearing “na jao saiyyan” (one of my alltime favourites, was a real treat. BUT, the lasting impression I had from this film was what a fantastic onscreen joDi Dutt & Waheeda were. My copy of Kaagaz ke Phool gave up the ghost just after Waqt Ne Kiya, by which time I’d already written the film off as a self-indulgent exercise in self-pity – “Pyaasa 2, the Oh Lord please don’t let be me misunderstood Edition”. So I was ready for another film that highlighted the magic of these 2 together & Sahib delivered, in spades! Right from their first scenes together, the chemistry was palpable and a joy to be part of, and that’s why I was so happy that they had the masala ending you felt was a bit jarring. Wiki says that the book does NOT give them a happy ending, but I’m happy that for once sad-sack Dutt lightened up enough to do the (imho) right thing. Now I simply must get a copy of this film that does it justice.


    • I must admit that though I also like Pyaasa a lot, of the three landmark Guru Dutt films – Pyaasa, Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam and Kaagaz ke Phool, Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam is my favourite. This one’s by far the best of the lot – sensitive, with a sense of doom but a doom that’s balanced by the story of Jaba and Bhootnath. And if the end wasn’t what the book had in store for Bhootnath and Jaba, then I’m certainly glad Guru Dutt changed the end for the movie! Some relief, there. It’s probably part of the reason why I like this movie more than the others.

      I don’t own Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam – I borrowed it from my parents, whose copy is part of a 6-DVD Guru Dutt pack. Moser Baer. The next time I visit my parents or talk to them, I’ll ask them to check what run time is mentioned on the DVD. Will let you know. I do remember, though, that the print wasn’t bad.


  58. Can anyone elucidate on how the book’s ending was different than that of the movie?

    The movie’s ending just seemed very fortuitous (for one to be already married to the person they love now, especially when that person is due to be married to another!). Not to take anything away from the movie, but this was the only thing that irked me a little.

    Other than that, fabulous. Movies like these are the reason people like me from the younger generation would rather watch such classics over the excuse for a movie that gets dished out nowadays.


    • Unfortunately, I haven’t read the book, so don’t know how that ends. But I agree with you about the Bhootnath-Jaba ‘happy ending’ coming so pat. It was a little too obviously filmi, the sort of thing that happens in Ji Chahta Hai or Chhoti si Mulaqat – not what I’d have expected from a Guru Dutt or an Abrar Alvi. Still, a fabulous film.


        • There are loads of old films that I really love – you might want to check out my list of Hindi films I’ve reviewed, here:

          Offhand, I’d say some of my absolute favourites include Anokhi Raat, Pyaasa, Anupama, Sujata, Neecha Nagar, Prem Patra and Haqeeqat for drama; and CID, China Town, Teesri Manzil, Woh Kaun Thi?, Junglee, Professor, Dholak and Dekh Kabira Roya for suspense/comedy/pure entertainment. There are tons of others, but these are among my top movies.


  59. Just because one cannot conjure a liking for the film does not mean that it cannot be reviewed na. The film as such wasn’t that bad.

    And I would love to see why you didn’t like the film. Maybe some of the reasons are valid while others can be dispelled!


    • No, the film wasn’t bad. I’m just saying I didn’t like it. Various reasons, actually (one being that I never did like RK Narayan’s novel anyway, so even a derivation of that was unlikely to appeal to me). Mostly, however, I find Dev Anand very irritating in the film. He was very aware of his own stardom in Guide, and it shows – he’s not Raju the guide here, all through he’s Dev Anand the star. It swamps his character.

      In any case, my reasons for not liking a film (or liking it, on the other hand) remain mine – I think that’s subjective.

      Just because one cannot conjure a liking for the film does not mean that it cannot be reviewed na.

      I am glad to finally come across someone who agrees with me! A lot of people who arrive at my blog sometimes question my reviewing a bad film, and I always have to tell them that I review films that come my way, irrespective of whether they’re good or bad. And reviewing a bad film helps warn off others!

      As far as Guide is concerned, I’m just not interested enough to rewatch it all over again to review it. I’ve got about a hundred films to see in my to-watch pile, so a film like that (or Mother India, for that matter) is totally at the bottom of my priorities. ;-)


  60. Agreed. I’m downloading Baiju Bawra as we speak. Hopefully it will be worth it!

    PS. Had a brilliant print of SBAG which was better than anything I watched online, which just seems to be a little rushed. That would be the reason why everyone was coming up with different run-times.


    • I hope you enjoy Baiju Bawra! I don’t much care for the story – it’s okay, not great – but the music is out of this world. Some really good songs there.

      P.S. Some more suggestions for you. One is the latest film I’ve reviewed – Parakh – and the other is Teesri Kasam. Both are wonderful.


  61. Hmm.. Teesri Kasam I have seen. Parakh I don’t know much about. Dunno why but watching Bees Saal Baad puts me to sleep everytime! :D


  62. So according to you the one who fights for his country is a terrorist. Then Bhagat Singh, Laa Lajpat Rai, Chandrashekhar Azaad and so so on were also terrorist. Am I right?


    • ROTFL!! One seriously aggressive (plus, ill-informed) character you are, no? I don’t know what Madhu was trying to say here, but let me add my two cents, as somebody who happens to know etymology and English. A ‘terrorist’, FYI, is (according to the OED): “A person who uses violent and intimidating methods in the pursuit of political aims; esp. a member of a clandestine or expatriate organization aiming to coerce an established government by acts of violence against it or its subjects.”

      Which means Bhagat Singh et al were terrorists, whether you want to refer to them as that or not. Technically, they fit the definition.

      Try and refer to a dictionary now and then before shooting your mouth off. :-D


      • What is sepoy? My History book says ‘it is how the britishers use to pronounce the word Sipahi’. So sepoy is nothing but an impaired form of Sipahi. The word ‘Atrifical’ is not the same which it was used to be. Meaning of words change with respect to time. The word terrorist in this contemporary world has became a synonym of violence, bomb and many more. It come the word ‘aatankwaad’ rather than any elaborated definition. I’m not an English master and I guess most of us aren’t. So you English masters should use words that are more easy for us to understand.
        As you mentioned a terrorist is a person who uses violent and intimidating methods in the pursuit of political aims; esp. a member of a clandestine or expatriate organization aiming to coerce an established government by acts of violence against it or its subjects.
        So let me clear you, Bhagat Singh and all others were trying re-establishing and not establishing a government, which would have been more beneficial for us than that british government. So this definition of terrorist will not hold true for this case. Understood. It’s good for you that you’ve called them terrorist on this blog where you are safe amid your chaplooses. Had it been another blog just imagine your condition. ;-)
        Now have a look to one of the comment posted here

        Why do you have to call Indian Revolutionaries as terrorists? I can understand the British doing so, but why must we Indians denigrate our freedom fighters in such a manner?
        Didn’t mean to denigrate anyone at all – just hadn’t realised there’d be people out there who’d be so touchy about semantics. After all, this blog is about films, not about language… or politics or history, or whatever. I don’t claim to be a know-it-all when it comes to what terms should be used for whom.
        Sorry if you were offended.”

        Madhulika is saying that this blog is about films and not about language . So this means that we can use any inappropriate words for this blog. We can make a revolutionary a terrorist. BTW it was a very beautiful tactic used by the blog owner to suppress a reasonable comment.
        I hope you’ve understood me clearly. If not then go and buy some brain, you are in an urgent need of it. Take care. Get well soon.
        :D :D :D :D :D


        • I doubt you’d have heard of “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”, since your education seems to have been pretty limited. Bet you’re also one of those morons you think anybody who doesn’t chant Bharat Mata ki Jai deserves to be beheaded.

          Chaploos? Me? Why? Because I’m liberal enough to not pounce on anybody for writing something I don’t agree with?


          • Yes. I never heard anything like “One man’s …..”,. But taking that sentence into account do you mean that you and Madhulika are supporters of the britishers because only then you people can see our freedom fighter as terrorist.
            According to you if someone doesn’t know the meanings of english proverbs his/her education is limited. What a pity! English is a language and not a criteria to measure how much educated we are. Am I right?
            Chaploos. You. Yes. Beacuse you people will never disagree with your Madhu, whatever she says is right, hers choice is yours.

            I don’t care if you’ll not say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ though everytine I wonder that what’s wrong in thar sentance that people don’t like it. And yes, I’ll never behead you beacuse I know that you are mentally retarded hence you need care. BTW how is your brain? Is it working fine? Have you bought any new brain?


          • Thank you for standing up for me, StarryNight. Let it be, though. There’s no point trying to reason with someone who refuses to listen to reason. And if someone else has already pointed it out and I have apologized for causing offence – even if inadvertently (and that first commenter hasn’t gone on flogging a dead horse, unlike this one) – why? It takes a special sort of vindictiveness to do something like that.

            Whew. Thank goodness she’s gone. I have enough stress in life without people like this adding to it.


            • You’re too forgiving, Madhu.

              But I can empathise. I dabbled in blogging briefly about 8 years back, but only for a few months – got hit by several trolls (and the more ignorant they are, the more vicious and intolerant too, aren’t they?). I argued in the beginning and tried to explain things, then simply gave up. I even deleted my blog, I got so pissed.

              So yes. Good riddance to bad rubbish, in this case. Thank your lucky stars (heehee! Pun intended) she’s gone.


    • I see that you have already had an exchange with someone else over this. And you’ve also quoted one of my earlier replies to a similar comment. If you’d already read my comments and seen what I had to say, why did you post this comment in the first place? Was it simply because you wanted to goad me all over again? I fail to understand the motivation.

      I also fail to understand why you continue to read this blog if you find it so distasteful. From the very beginning, you have had little to say that’s positive in any way (I still vividly remember your very first comment: you accused me of lying). I can handle disagreement and criticism as long as it’s civil; there are several people who are regulars on the blog and who have told me time and again that they disagree with me. They do it in a civil way, without being rude and accusative.

      If you can do that, please do. If you can’t, I think it would be better for all concerned if you stopped reading this blog. It doesn’t seem to give you any pleasure, and it certainly does nothing for my peace of mind.

      Thank you.


      • Yes, I had already read your reply in that comment, so why I posted a similar comment again? The reason is simple, that answer was hard to digest, in that comment you mentioned that you are no know-it-all when it comes to what terms should be used for whom. The one who is a writer, is unable to find a suitable word. Quite ridiculous. So my motivation was to get a reasonable reply from YOU.
        And I fail to understand that how come you can say that I find your blog distasteful. My first comment on your bolg was on Eye candy- Hindi actresses. There I provided my views, not criticised your views. I also mentioned that everyone has its own choice and I don’t think so that I’ve posted any negative comment or any uncivilised comment on your blog. As far as I remember I appreciated your review of Majhli Didi, Top ten romantic duets, Eye Candy-Hindi actors and many more.
        Well this blog was quite good sometimes it was hilarious whenever I see topics like favourite ‘aaja’ favourite ‘jaa’ favourite ‘ghoda ghadi’ and so on. While going through these topics I always use to think that how one can have such deep choices. Someday you’ll be posting my favourite ‘paani’ songs then ‘Shammi in kurta-pajama songs’ ‘Shammi in shirt-pant songs’ ‘joota-chappal songs’ and so on, such topics really make me laugh and were a good pass-time.
        But I’m quitting this blog and I don’t think so that it’ll effect any of us in any way beacuse you’ll continue to get comment from your REGULARS (CHAPLOOS).


        • My mistake. Yes, that comment accusing me of lying was your second comment, not your first. The unwarranted rudeness of it took my breath away enough to make me forget whether that was the first or the second.

          So glad you got some amusement out of this blog, even if it was unintended. Mostly all I’ve got out of this interaction has been hurt. Thank you for quitting. If you’d been a little less aggressive, this could have been a more pleasant forum.


          • It was interesting to see the war of words, and it wasn’t too nice, but one often comes across these when the people are of a particularly fixed mindset/ belief. Technically however Ms Neelam was right and Starry Nights wrong. One shouldn’t always go by exact sentence the Dictionary uses to define a particular word or phrase. A look at the etymology of the words would provide much more essence of the word.
            The governing word in “terrorist” is the “terror” and thereby terrorist is one who uses the means of “Mass Terror”/ Hysteria and thus not subtly, but in fact very different from armed/ violent rebels – from the view point of the target, the purpose (of the act), and the means to the end.
            Under these circumstances, Bhagat Singh/ Ksudiram, Rajguru etc were not terrorists but violent rebels- since each of them used violent means- aimed at certain persons, and not meant to create a terror hysteria, a la Mumbai Blast or say Jalian Wallah Bagh.
            However such a confrontationist approach was not really called for, things could be much more civil. But that’s how the life is. We don’t often get people ready to debate.
            In this movie of course I don’t know whether the person was terrorist or rebel. Haven’t seen the movie, the story I had read ages back, and it was too noir for my liking, The points could be stressed with much less melodrama. Probably I would first watch the original, Bong version, of Uttam, Sumitra, Anubha, Chhabi. But to watch these movies, I should have sufficient ‘Blue’ mood.


            • Thank you for that informative yet level-headed comment. Yes, that conversation did get very unpleasant. Ms Gulati was going ballistic in her eagerness to show me down (considering I’d already apologized to someone who’d pointed that out, her viciousness was beginning to smack of nothing more than vindictiveness). And StarryNight, in their enthusiasm to hold a contrary opinion, went off the other end, too.

              I have to admit it’s been a long time since I watched this film, so I don’t remember the ramifications of the character’s violent actions – whether others (innocent people) were killed, etc. Yes, one wouldn’t call Bhagat Singh et al ‘terrorists’ (though there has been a good deal of controversy over that too), but it’s one thing to label a well-known freedom fighter, and one whose motives are known to have been patriotic (and who didn’t spread ‘terror’), quite another to apply the same word to a minor fictional character about whom a film does not explain much…

              Anyway, let’s just say: I’m glad that’s over. And I wish I had never used that word. If I’d known it was going to invite such ire, I’d have probably not reviewed this film in the first place.


              • On the same line- I think I should have given some examples:-)
                Maosists – we rarely call terrorists – but “rebels” or “Militants”, the same were the Kashmiris or Khalistanis- the violent means to achieve a certain goal. The purpose, the goal that they are aiming for, whether it is correct or not, depends on what side we are on. For a significant number of people, ISIS ideology might be right whereas it is all too wrong for the rest.
                Till they fight it out, on a direct or indirect confrontation on equal basis, they are militants, guerrillas, army etc. But the moment they try it over innocents, the people totally uninvolved, in a mass destruction-mode – Akshardham, Mumbai,Pune, Belgium… when they lose the purpose, fight with an enemy, and instead aim to destroy the fabric through terror or psychological war – they become terrorists, since it is to publicise, create a hysteria in mass. Again it depends on which side we are on and more important – in the end who is powerful and who won. Hiroshima, Napalms were terrorist activities but we never call them so. had the axis won, it would have been, and Holocaust would have been alright :-(


                • Yes, I think StarryNight’s quoting of that ‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’ encapsulates that controversy well. To add to your example of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there’s the Kunan Pushpora incident…


              • PS: (had to add since no edit facility exist in the comment section, so that I could append it to the previous)
                A blog is personal, why to bother about whether others think the same way as the blog-owner? One shares one’s opinions, thoughts, it might not be palatable to people (some) – In that case we might correct or may be temper our line of thinking. But if it is too militant, or opposite to our line of thinking, and the controversy isn’t merited, may be just ignore. After a few rants, people usually move away.


                • Sadly, most people do seem to think that’s imperative to change another’s way of thinking. And that too by lambasting the other, by abusing them and making fun of them. Which, in my opinion, is the perfect way of alienating someone and making them disregard what you have to say – the tone nullifies the content, so to say.

                  To be honest, your way of putting what Neelam Gulati had to say – in a non-militant, sensible manner – did a lot more to convince me than she did. All she did was to antagonize me.

                  Anyway. chapter closed. Hopefully no-one else will reopen it.


  63. Pingback: Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962) - Liveworldtube -Remain connected to world

  64. This excellent review has generated one of the most exhaustive and extraordinarily rich discussions in the comments section, even by your blog ‘s very high standards. Watching “Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam” for the first time just recently, and after going through many other notable Hindi films of the same period, I was struck by how SBAG looks and feels so different from even the more serious Bollywood productions, while seemingly remaining within the accepted format of mainstream cinema: sophisticated in its artistry yet uncompromisingly honest and deeply empathetic, with a great, great performance by Meena Kumari as Chhoti Bahu: haunting and memorable!

    Since Guru Dutt produced SBAG and did at least direct the song sequences, and the whole film was apparently shot ‘from his point of view’, the so-called directorial controversy might be fittingly resolved if people can agree to consider that this movie was “directed by Abrar Alvi and Guru Dutt”.

    The last paragraph of an excerpt in “Words without Borders” magazine from a recent translation of Bimal Mitra’s Bengali novel “Shaheb Bibi Golam” confirms the feeling I had that Chhoti Bahu, desperate in her single-minded pursuit of her husband’s love, cast a hypnotic spell over Bhootnath with her glamour and kindness, and actually manipulated her emotional ‘ghulam’ into getting her first bottle of liquor:

    Horrifically ironic line from Chhoti Bahu:
    “Nobody died from drinking alcohol” (translation, paraphrase). Poor, dear, innocent person!

    Note that the scene in general is very faithful to the novel, but Guru Dutt and Abrar Alvi seem to have omitted Chhoti Bahu’s unambiguous statement that she is aware Bhootnath is in love with her, but he has to prove his devotion by procuring alcohol — an explicit meaning the filmmakers may not have wished to convey in their adaptation of the novel, so that the relationship remains an emotional, platonic ideal to the finish.

    A detailed comparison of “Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam” and “Mughal-e-Azam” can be found in this larger study how Hindi cinema mythologises the heroic feminine, where the researcher concludes that SBAG was well ahead of other films of its time in giving tremendous focus, complexity and agency to Chhoti Bahu, despite her tragic fate, while Mughal-e-Azam turned out far more conventional in its depiction of Anarkali as a relatively passive and more objectified mediator in the conflict between two major male characters, which was (according to the author) the real focus of the film:

    Finally, I found screencaps and posters that suggest a remarkable visual similarity of SBAG with the original, Bengali version of 1956 where Chhoti Bahu was played by Sumitra Devi, considered one of the great actresses of Bengali and Hindi cinema; according to Wikipedia she was 10 years older, but I see she made her debut just 2 years before Meena Kumari played her first ‘grown up’ heroine role, and is therefore very much her cinematic contemporary:

    Like its remake in Hindi, “Saheb Bibi Golam” is considered one of the great films of Bengali cinema:


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