Anmol Ghadi (1946)

Ghadi, in Hindi, can mean either a watch (as in a wristwatch or a pocket watch), or a brief length of time. I went through a good bit of life thinking this film was about a moment in time—romantic, most probably.
So this is where I own up: enlightenment dawns, buddhoo becomes Buddha. The ghadi in Anmol Ghadi is actually a watch: a pocket watch with a fob and chain. And it plays an important part in the story of Chandra and Lata, Prakash and Basanti, the protagonists of this tale.

Noor Jehan in Anmol Ghadi

The film begins in Chandra and Lata’s childhood. Lata is a rich man’s daughter, while Chandra is the only son of a poor widow (Leela Misra, looking awkwardly thin and young). Lata and Chandra are good friends and spend nearly all their time together.
All this happiness is brought to an abrupt end by the news that Lata’s father, a government employee, has been transferred out. Lata comes to bid farewell to Chandra, and gives him a watch as a going-away present.

Lata gifts Chandra her watch

Chandra tells Lata to wait while he goes and fetches something to give her in return, but while he’s gone, Lata is dragged off to join her family. She goes off, never to return again, and Chandra is quite disconsolate.

Chandra's mother comforts him

Years pass. Chandra has now grown up (into Surendra), a man who spends most of his time either playing his sitar or reading (and what yaaawn books! Reading and Thinking Part I; Reading and Thinking Part II; Reading and Thinking Part III…). Fortunately, before Chandra can drive himself—and all around him—batty, an old friend of his, Prakash (Zahur Raja) turns up. Prakash is a wealthy man who lives with his widowed mother in Bombay, and wants Chandra to move to Bombay as well.

Prakash persuades Chandra to move to Bombay

After some cajoling, Chandra agrees. Mother in tow, he shifts to Bombay, where Prakash finances the setting up of a music store for him.
And it is to this music store that society girl Basanti (Suraiya) one day comes with her broken sitar. Chandra mends her sitar for her, but scoffs at her questionable skill when she starts playing. He shows her how to play the sitar, and Basanti is enchanted.

Basanti comes in contact with Chandra and falls in love with him

Chandra, however, is oblivious. His heart is safe with his childhood sweetheart Lata, so what if he has not the faintest idea where Lata is now.
But serendipity favours the romantic, and Chandra has a remarkable stroke of luck. In a book by an author called Renu, he comes across a story that’s exactly the story of him and Lata when they were children. This can’t be coincidence, Chandra decides. This Renu must know Lata. Here’s his chance of finding Lata again: he can write to Renu, arrange to meet her, and find out Lata’s whereabouts from her.

Chandra decides to write to Renu and ask for a meeting

All excited, Chandra dashes off a letter to Renu, care of her publisher. The editor, who acts as a sorting office of sorts, receives the letter and sends it on to Renu, who is—wonder of wonders! —Lata herself! What’s more, Lata is the best friend of Basanti, and the two girls are indulging in a laugh as they read through the often idiotic fan mail Lata’s received. The majority of her fans seem to be male, and in time-honoured Hindi cinema style, in love with her even though they’ve never met her. Many of them invite her to meet them, and in a light-hearted moment, Basanti persuades Lata that they should meet one of her fans, a soulful creature who’s written that Lata seems to be able to read his very thoughts.

Lata reads out her fan mail to Basanti

Lata isn’t too keen, but Basanti coaxes her, finally offering to pretend to be Renu. What a lark it’ll be, she says.
And so our heroines go off to meet this soulful fan.

... and the two girls go to keep a rendezvous

Lata, since she hasn’t been in favour of this escapade, stays put in the car while Basanti keeps an eye out for the man ‘Renu’ is supposed to be meeting. Whom she does spot, instead, is someone she hadn’t expected: Chandra. Basanti goes off to chat with Chandra, and he shakes her off with some difficulty, but not before he’s inadvertently dropped his watch.
Basanti goes back to the car and tells Lata all about the young man she’s in love with. Finally, with a flourish, she unearths the watch he’d dropped—and Lata, in one shattering moment, recognises it as the watch she’d gifted years ago to Chandra.

Lata recognises a long-ago watch

While Lata is nursing a broken heart, Basanti is delirious with happiness. After crooning and cooing over the watch a bit, she goes to return it to Chandra, who is very grateful. He admits to Basanti that he’d been frantic with worry at the thought of having lost the watch. Basanti also realises the awful truth: that Chandra is in love with someone else. Lata, when Basanti bares her soul to her friend, is sympathetic but also puzzlingly pleased and hints at having regained a lost love.

Lata and Basanti discuss a mysterious love in Lata's life

Will the watch, once given as a token of childhood love, finally come full circle? Instead of drifting from Chandra to Basanti and back again, will it find its way back to Lata? Or will—as Chandra’s mother had once sadly foretold—the gap between wealthy and poor be too wide for either to ever bridge it?

What I liked about this film:
Naushad’s music. It’s by far the best thing about this film, which is chockfull of songs. Personally, I like Noor Jehan’s songs the best: Aawaaz de kahaan hai duniya meri jawaan hai, Jawaan hai mohabbat haseen hai zamaana, and Aaja meri barbaad mohabbat ke sahaare in particular. The music is fabulous, of course, but what makes it sublime is Noor Jehan’s voice: glorious.

The acting. I haven’t seen too many pre-1950’s Hindi films, but those that I remember seeing are invariably marked by theatrical acting—Sohrab Moti’s ‘declaiming to the skies’ is a prime example. Anmol Ghadi is refreshing in that the acting isn’t theatrical. Mehboob, who directed this film as well as the blockbuster Aan, definitely did a better job with Anmol Ghadi.

Noor Jehan. Her voice is lovely, and though she’s not classically beautiful, she has a screen presence that puts everybody else completely in the shade.

What I didn’t like:
There’s too little story and just too little happening. I don’t mind a film that moves slowly or has a very simple plot, as long as something concrete happens: character development, for example. The problem with Anmol Ghadi is that the bulk of screen time is taken up by songs. I’d have preferred it if more time and attention could have been diverted towards giving the audience a deeper insight into the characters. And, of course, the watch. For a film called Anmol Ghadi, and in which a watch actually had plenty of potential to be an important plot element—it’s badly messed up. There was scope here to make the watch a more intrinsic part of the plot, not merely a now-here, now-forgotten symbol of love (and of the divide between rich and poor), but it peters out into nothing.

My final take on Anmol Ghadi? Pleasant enough, but other than the songs, not leaving a lasting impression. An hour after I’d seen the film (less, perhaps), I couldn’t remember much of what happened, especially in the last half-hour or so. On the other hand, it’s not rife with self-sacrifice and misunderstandings, so it is, at least, not hard to sit through.

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22 thoughts on “Anmol Ghadi (1946)

  1. Songs are awesome, Noor Jehan is even more awesome. She was always such a lady…and Naushad was great from day one!

    Awaaz de Kahaan hai is the title tune of AIR Jalandhar’s old songs programme at 10:00 at night every evening…and even then I never tire of it.

  2. Thanks for enlightening me too, about what this ‘anmol ghadi’ really is :-D
    I too was under the impression that it’s about a precious moment in time.

    The reason I even know about this film is of course the songs, especially ‘awaaz de kahaan hai’.

    OT: because you mentioned ;
    “it’s not rife with self-sacrifice and misunderstandings, so it is, at least, not hard to sit through.”

    Last weekend I watched ‘Bhabhi ki chudiyan’ and what a surprise film this is. In short exactly as you have described ‘anmol ghadi’ in that quote above.

  3. Your review of this made me add it to my rental list just now, i haven’t seen many films pre 1950’s as well apart from Andaz which had me scratching my head. I’ve long known the Aaawaz de khan hai song ( is that ‘the voice of today?’)

  4. Love ALL the songs in this film! With the exception of the Rafi solo (Tera khilona toota), I think they were all hits.

    And I am disappointed in the Ghadi – “precious moment” has such a poignant and poetic ring to it while “precious watch” sounds so very prosaic and uninteresting! ;-)

  5. bawa: Don’t worry – I’m in the same category! My mind’s a goin’ wanderin’. :-)

    pacifist: That’s such a relief when it comes to most Hindi films! I’ve been steering clear of renting Bhabhi ki Chudiyaan simply because it sounded like it would be full of self-sacrifice (all the ‘relative’ films – Bhabhi, Chhoti Bahen, Badi Bahen etc seem to be based on that theme)… am going to add it to my rental queue. Thank you for the suggestion!

    bollywooddeewana: The acting and the general ambience of Andaz was fine with me; what irked me was that it was just so depressing. Still, in comparison with a lot of (even later) Hindi films, it’s aged well.
    Aawaaz de kahaan hai literally means “Call out to me, where are you?”

    bollyviewer: Hehe :-D
    Yes, “precious moment” sounds much more poetic than “precious watch” – especially as the watch doesn’t really play that major a part in the romance after a while. Maybe whoever named the film was trying to be punny! (Like Neela Akash, in which the hero and heroine are named Akash and Neela respectively, and are a pilot and airhostess – so one couldn’t be absolutely sure what the film’s name was about).

    Ava: Yes, if for nothing else (though I think Noor Jehan is mesmerising), Anmol Ghadi is worth seeing for the songs. Terrific.

  6. I’m glad that I have, as you pointed out, inspired you to see this movie :) , because of the things that you liked so much (and also because this is such a nicely written review – and very amusing, even if sometimes at Anmol Ghadi’s expense :). Of course, I couldn’t agree more about the music and Noor Jehan! I agee that Noor put everyone else in the shade. But upon repeated viewings of some scenes, I realized that Suraiya isn’t bad in this either – her first fine moment, I think – and her songs here are among my favorites by her (thank Naushad!). I even like Surendra in this (singing and acting/persona), though I know not everyone does. It was also nice to hear singing by Zohrabai and Shamshad Begum and that guy who would become a bit more famous later on ;) …

    I’ve seen other takes on the title of the movie, saying that the double meaning was intentional. The precious moment that is the focus here is the childhood romance. After all, the watch always brings back that moment for Chander, etc. (BTW, I’m spelling his name as I have seen it – but I understand it doesn’t really matter?)

    There were so many themes and plot twists in this film that I saw pop up in other Hindi movies, but remember, this one came before all those other movies! (And I also think it did a better job with them than many, though that may not be saying much. :) I personally appreciated the social messages of the film – most notably the comments about class. (I recall some witty/satirical touches also (which I mention in my writeup ) – not always melodramatic or humorless (as in some other films).)

    I also think the song “Tera Khilona Toota” is noteworthy for its nice use of the people-as-puppets theme (nine years before Kath Putli!).
    And, as Philip of Philip’sfil-ums pointed out, Chander’s decline at the end of this movie anticipates (and probably influenced) a few Guru Dutt films (most obviously Pyaasa and Kagaaz Ke Phool).

    And I loved some of the design and camera work, especially in those Noor and Suraiya piano scenes!

    Anyway, I could go on about this, and I don’t want to hog your comments secton too much :)… I obviously liked this film a lot, but my view was of course influenced by Noor Jehan’s presence throughout. I think many people have had mixed feelings about the movie overall, and that’s fair enough. But we can all agree on the music!

  7. Richard, you’re not hogging my comments section at all! :-) And I’ve read your comments with a lot of interest – not always agreement (I am one of those who don’t particularly like Surendra), but interest nevertheless.

    I didn’t much care for Suraiya in this one – there’s something a little too gauche about her. But that may be the immediacy effect of having seen Mirza Ghalib not too long back. She’s much more poised and appealing in that, somehow.

    I agree with your comment about the satirical touches to the social messages in the film. Even otherwise (where it wasn’t focussing on a social message), the dialogue in the film was more realistic than one often encounters in films of that era.

    Chandra/Chandar/Chander are all equally acceptable as the hero’s name; if you notice, some of the people in the film call him Chandra (a Sanskritised form of the word) while some call him Chander (a more Punjabi pronunciation of the name).

  8. Am very tired today. But just wanted to say that I feel exactly the same way as you when I watch the films of this era. But have to admit, the last time I saw a film from the 40s was some 15years back

  9. Me too! Most of the 40’s films I saw were when I was a callow teenager (and, am ashamed to admit, not terribly patient with what I termed ‘theatrics’ or ‘nasal singing’ or other hallmarks of that era). Now I think I’ve become a bit more mature and am able to see the finer points of a lot of the work from that period – enough to appreciate them more, at any rate.

  10. I had heard about this movie on Bioscope ki Baatein on vividh bharati before I actually watched it. So I knew it had more to do with the watch than the moment.
    Saw it around 10 years back. There wasnt much of a story to remember but few scenes are still vivid in my memory :
    1. Chandra running on the road behind the vehicle after he realizes that Lata has left
    2. Lost and found case of the anmol ghadi. The ghadi falling off, and the expression on Lata’s face when Basanti shows it to her
    Though it was a pleasant movie, story wasnt gripping enough to keep one hooked to it. But music was a treat to the ears. It had some lovely tracks esp Awaaz de kahan hai and jawan hai mohabbat
    I even saw the remake of this movie in Telugu, it was named Manasanta Nuvve which was later on made in Hindi as Jeena Sirf Mere Liye starring Tushar and Kareena. Telugu version had few scenes exactly the same as Anmol Ghadi, but I never watched Jeena Sirf Mere liye (just read somewhere that it was a remake of a telugu movie)

  11. You’re so right – it was pleasant enough, but the story (and the execution) wasn’t gripping enough to keep one hooked. If it hadn’t been for the music, I doubt if I’d want to see it again!

    I had no idea this was remade – either in Telugu or in Hindi. I’ve heard of Jeena Sirf Mere Liye though I haven’t seen it, but simply can’t imagine the same story with Tushar and Kareena as the protagonists!

  12. I just loved Suraiya in this movie. And somehow I like Suraiya’s songs more than that of Noor Jehan. She looks so beautiful. Noor Jehan looks older than her age here. But she had a great voice as well.
    Thanks for your and Richard’s comments, they offer a good insight in the story.
    Since it a long time since I saw this movie, I can’t remember much of it.

  13. Yes, I was surprised to discover later that Noor Jehan was only 20 when she made this film – she looked definitely older. In a good way – more mature – I mean! Suraiya, I thought, looked rather gauche in this film: I preferred her in Mirza Ghalib: she’s much more self-assured in that. Though, again, Basanti’s character is an appealing one… there’s something very girlishly charming about the way she happily and precipitately falls for Chandra.

  14. Watching those two women in that car, when I was a little boy, was my first experience falling in love with a woman. Well, two women actually. Noor Jehan and Suraiya, I thought, were the most attractive, singularly irresistible living creatures I’d ever seen in my life, and now, decades and decades later, I still can’t look at that scene and still not feel the same way.

    The car scene in this film is indelibly burned into my consciousness, in a way that no other scene, in any other film, has ever managed to do. Consequently, I try to live a good life, in the hope that, when it’s time for me to move on, I’m rewarded for my good behavior with 72 Suraiyas and Noor Jehans.

    And a nice car, like the one in the film, to drive them places in would be very welcome too.

    • That is such a sweet little bit of memory! Yes, I can well imagine a little boy falling head over heels in love with two women as lovely as that. :-) And I think some of our earliest loves do remain with us all our lives. I first fell in love with Shammi Kapoor when I was about 11 or 12, I think, and still think of him as my favourite actor.

  15. I think the ‘ghadi’ in Anmol Ghadi refers to both the watch, and the precious moments of youth they spent together; indeed, I seem to recall a reference to ‘Jehanabad ki ghadiyaan”, though that could be my memory playing tricks on me! Another thing I really liked about the movie was the very brief shot of Marine Drive in the 1940s, and the Punjabi couple providing very random comedy!

    • I have to admit it’s been far too long since I watched this film. Don’t recall the shot you mention, or Jehanabad ki ghadiyaan, but yes, I do agree that it’s very likely that the anmol ghadi refers to both the watch itself as well as the moments they spent together. Makes sense.

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