Ek Musafir Ek Haseena (1962)

My post on how similar classic Hollywood actually is to classic Bollywood omitted a popular cliché: amnesia. So, if Greer Garson’s character could fall in love with a soldier who’d lost his memory in Random Harvest, Sadhana can do so too, in Ek Musafir Ek Haseena.
Two years after they both debuted in the generally-enjoyable Love in Simla, Joy Mukherji and Sadhana acted together again in this film. It has lots to recommend it: a very beautiful lead actress (I personally think Sadhana looks her best in this film), a superb musical score by O P Nayyar, Raj Khosla’s direction—then why, at the end of two and a half hours, do I feel a sense of dissatisfaction?

The story starts off promisingly enough, in November 1947. In Kashmir, the insurgent Kabaalis are raising hell and the Indian army is trying to drive them back. Lieutenant Ajay Mehra (Joy Mukherji) has been deputed to infiltrate Kabaali territory in the area near Baramullah to gather intelligence. Ajay’s two guides, Seedha Ram (Dhumal) and Ulta Ram (Rajendranath) take him into the area; Ajay changes into civvies and heads into Kabaali zone.

Simultaneously, in Uri, the orphaned Asha (Sadhana) is being married off. Her bridegroom (Kamal Kapoor) and his father (? From the vast gaps between his teeth, he looks like Rai Mohan, but I don’t think it’s him) are a bad lot. They’ve paid Asha’s chachaji (Chaman Puri) Rs 15,000, but this has in no way endeared Asha to her groom, whom she hates.

Just as the wedding is getting under way, the Kabaalis attack, and everybody runs helter-skelter. Asha’s to-be husband and daddy-in-law show their true colours: they drag her into a room and make her hand them all their jewellery (for safekeeping, they say). The father runs off, and when Asha begs her groom to take her with him, he refuses too. He disappears, leaving Asha to her own devices—

—and she ends up being attacked on a hillside by a troop of marauding Kabaalis.
Fortunately for Asha, Ajay Mehra is there too, and he comes to her rescue. In the crossfire and the bombardment, the Kabaalis are killed, but Ajay is hit on the head and gets knocked out. Asha drags him into the straw-filled cellar of a deserted house and looks after him, bandaging his head, keeping watch over him, and hiding his inert body when some wandering Kabaalis enter the house.
When Ajay comes to his senses, however, he can’t remember who he is or what he’s doing here. He gets a bit frantic, and tries to bully Asha into telling him who he is.

Asha, out on a foraging trip, makes friends with a boy called Abdullah (Master Aziz), who along with his dog Sheru (Tommy the dog) comes along to help with Ajay. The four of them set off for Srinagar, where Asha hopes a doctor will be able to treat Ajay. On the way, Ajay falls in love with Asha and tells her so, in several very nice songs. Asha is obviously very attracted to him too—but there’s that obnoxious husband lurking in her memory, so she tries to ward Ajay off and tell him there’s no future for them.

In fact, when they reach Srinagar and Ajay is admitted to a hospital, Asha tells the doctor (Nazir Kashmiri! For once, not Ramu Kaka) that she’s a married woman, so will not be coming back to meet Ajay—she must go back to her husband.

Now some fairly time-consuming and pointless to-and-froing happens in the Ajay-Asha-nasty groom triangle. Asha, by turn pativrata sati Savitri and gutsy filmi heroine, begins by going home and mooning about as she looks out over the Jhelum river when Ajay (who’s run away from the hospital) sings mournful songs for her in a passing boat. She even hides behind a curtain, so Ajay won’t see her.

But then her groom and his parents come to decide when Asha will be taken to their home. In passing, Asha’s ‘father-in-law’ even raises doubts about Asha’s chastity—she’s been away God knows where all these days, in the midst of the Kabaalis; how could she be pure? It’s finally decided, though, that they’ll come in a couple of days to fetch her.
Asha now shows a bit of spirit and tells her tauji, her older uncle, what her groom and his father did: grabbing her jewellery and leaving her to fend for herself—and anyway, the wedding rites didn’t end, so how can she be considered married?

The long and the short of it is that when groom and baaraat come to take Asha, Asha’s tauji stands up for her and even summons the priest who had officiated at the wedding, and who now confirms that the wedding wasn’t completed. Asha isn’t married! Her chachaji—the younger uncle—also shows a bit of spine, with the result that the aspiring groom and father-in-law go away, huffing and puffing and plotting vengeance.
Asha, of course, goes happily off to find Ajay so that they can sing another song together.

There’s another brief interlude when the thwarted groom and his father try to kidnap Asha but are once again thwarted—this time by Ajay and some friends of his—and then the story finally gets a move on. Ajay finds a tailor’s label—‘Continental Tailors, Bombay’—on his clothing and figures that he may be able to find some clue to his identity if he goes to Continental Tailors. So, after assuring Asha of his love for her, he arrives in Bombay, only to find that Continental Tailors has shut shop. Instead, there’s now a Continental Hotel in its place. Its manager (Siddhu) tells Ajay curtly that he can’t help him, sorry.

Ajay, wandering on the pavement shortly after, inadvertently finds himself the sole witness to a daring bank robbery. There’s a getaway car; a bunch of robbers who make a quick escape; and the leader of the gang, a masked bandit who gets into the car. He’s chased by Ajay, who also jumps into the car. In the fight inside the car, the masked bandit’s mask gets stripped off, and Ajay sees his face: it’s the manager of Continental Hotel. The villain, however, manages to push Ajay out of the travelling car.

Ajay falls out, is hit by a passing car, and taken to a hospital by passersby. When he finally comes to, he tells the inspector (Jagdish Raj) who’s come to take his testimony that he doesn’t remember a thing about any bank robbery or car chase or anything. In fact, he’s surprised that he’s in a civil hospital: since he’s an army officer, he should be in the Military Hospital. Ajay’s memory is back!

Unfortunately for Ajay, the manager of Continental Hotel doesn’t know this. He thinks Ajay can identify him as the robber, so he decides it’s time to do away with Ajay…
…by introducing a person who will have a bonafide reason to be in the same house as Ajay: Ajay’s wife. The wife, Kamini, of one of the gang members (Jankidas) is sent off to accomplish this task.
[Look closely at Siddhu’s amazing bandgala in this screen cap. Why the question marks along the front and on the breast pocket? Is this man constantly wondering whether Ajay will suddenly remember him as the robber? Since this guy is pretty dangerous too, wouldn’t a skull and crossbones have been more appropriate?]

Ajay, though he remembers nothing of the past six months, is sceptical when the woman tells him that she’s his wife.
What’s more, there’s another person who would much rather not have Ajay around. His cousin Sundar (?) had been given news of Ajay’s death in Kashmir six months previously, and has ever since been considering himself the heir to Ajay’s millions. With Ajay back, alive and kicking, Sundar’s dreams of wealth untold have gone kaput. It would be so much better if Ajay were out of the way…

With the bank robbers and Sundar both trying to kill Ajay; with his memory gone on the blink; and with the lovely Asha God knows where, how will Ajay survive? Who will win through? (Yes, well: this being a mainstream Hindi film, one sort of knows who will win through eventually, but how?)

What I liked about this film:

The music, by O P Nayyar: sublime. There are lots of songs in the film, but my favourites are Mujhe dekhkar aapka muskuraana, Bahut shukriya badi meherbaani and Zabaan-e-yaar-e-mann Turki.

Sadhana. She’s so exquisitely pretty.

What I didn’t like:

There’s something very lopsided about the structure of this film. Take the first half: it proceeds at a very leisurely pace, mainly one love song after another as Ajay falls in love with Asha and she with him. Other than her groom’s occasional attempts to get her back, not much happens. Worse, the romance is unconvincing, especially on Asha’s part. On the one hand, when she’s singing, she’s coquettish (wouldn’t you think a girl who called you ‘haseen jaadugar’—handsome magician, literally—was more than merely interested in you?). But when she isn’t singing, she’s trying to keep her distance from Ajay. In any case, the conflicts Ajay and Asha face in their romance—her groom, her initially greedy chachaji, her threatening father-in-law—are all pretty half-baked.

In the second half, everything changes, with the action shifting to Bombay, the pace speeding up and the multiple attempts on Ajay’s life becoming the focus of the film. With Raj Khosla (the master of the suspense thriller) as the director, I’d have expected this bit to be more interesting, but it has too many plot holes, loose ends and implausible motives to be convincing. Too many people crowd the scene with too many motives for getting rid of Ajay, and some of them peter out for no rhyme or reason.
It’s as if the makers of the film started off with a wide canvas of villains and henchmen and molls, then lost track somewhere along the way and decided to concentrate only on some villains—without accounting for the rest.

A less complex plot, fewer characters, a shorter film, and this could have been very entertaining.
As something that merely looks and sounds good, Ek Musafir Ek Haseena is worth a watch. Don’t expect more than that.

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32 thoughts on “Ek Musafir Ek Haseena (1962)

  1. Hei Do,

    G8 to see a review of one of the top musicals of this era, each and every song a masterpiece. I for one will never get tired of this, saw it in a big hall in Nairobi. All is still fresh in the mind.

    And yes u spotted our good ol Ramu Kaka, this time as a sophisticated Doc, man sure has many faces. A chip of da ol block.

    Keep ’em coming DO.

    Cheers .)

  2. ash: Yes, this was an entertaining film, all right. I first saw it when I was a kid, then again maybe around 15 years back – and remembered the main plot fairly well (which is saying a lot!). Only this time, while watching it, I realised that it does have its shortcomings. But so what, still fun – and the songs are out of this world.

    bollywoodeewana: I love Shagird – it’s probably my favourite Joy Mukherji film! I think he was especially good at comedy; they should’ve cast him in more comic films.
    Thank you for the Papa Ajoba article. I’ve read a few of the posts on the blog, and always find them very enjoyable. Tipnis’s reminiscences of his days in good old Bollywood are priceless.

  3. Oh! So Nazir Kashmiri has a face too? Now I wont forget him! Abdullah was identified as Master Aziz by a commenter on my blog.

    Dont you realise this film is way before its times in the 60s? Can you imagine any other Bollywood heroine daring to repudiate a marriage (even if the wedding was only half-done) and actually gaining family approval for it? Besides, the first half has enough melodrama packed in it for an entire soap opera. And you say nothing happens! You are demanding!!! ;-)

    I love this film to bits. Sadhana is beautiful, Joy is handsome, the songs are great, there is “emoshun, drama, romance” and happily-ever-after, even plot holes generously provided. I need no more!

  4. bollyviewer: Yes, someone managed to identify Nazir Kashmiri as part of Greta’s Author Identification Project. Thank heavens – I’d have gone nuts wondering who this man was, who kept appearing in so many credits! Thank you for identifying Abdullah for me.
    Hehe about being so demanding!! Actually, I guess that’s because of Raj Khosla. I’m used to most Raj Khosla films being fairly well crafted (Woh Kaun Thi, Mera Saaya, Solvaan Saal, CID), so this one fell a bit short of expectations on that front. But yes, enjoyable enough. I used to love it to bits till my last viewing of it (a couple of days back), but now that I can see the flaws in it, not so much. :-(

    Rathi: Yes, aren’t the songs awesome? Apparently Jatin-Lalit (who composed the music for Sangharsh) thought so too!:

    Is it my imagination, or is the tune more or less the same as Mujhe dekhkar aapka muskuraana?

    Ava: Timepass is good enough! At least it’s good to look at and good to listen to – what’s irritating is when a film has nothing to recommend it.

  5. er… folks n friends bollyviewer, DO… er.. it was er.. undersigned who had the ‘honor’ of putting a name on our RAMU KAKA .).)

    Cheers

  6. I’m just going to repeat what everyone has said – Sadhana, Joy Mukherji (so tall and handsome) – above all the songs!!! Everyone of them a gem. Just love love them.

    Perhaps if I see it ‘now’ I too will find faults, but as of now it satisfies me completely. :-)

    Of course I have to see it again just for Ramu Kaka. Didn’t know that the first time I saw it.

  7. Pardon me if this has been mentioned b4, but all folks who loved the Joy N Sadhana Jodi, must see Love In Simla also, again superb performers and absolute blaster as far as songs are concerned, MD was the very under rated Iqbal Quershi Saheb and Lyrics the evergreen Rajendra Krishan Saheb.
    Ably Supported by-

    Azra
    Kishore Sahu
    Shobhna Samarth
    Durga Khote
    Vijayalaxmi
    Hari Shivdasani

    Wah Wah Songs like-

    # Alif Zaber Ah – Mohammed Rafi

    # Ae Baby Idhar Aa – Mohammed Rafi & Asha Bhosle

    # Yo Zindagi Ki Raaste – Mohammed Rafi.. MY FAV.

    # Muskuraayen Khet – Mohammed Rafi & Suman Kalyanpur

    # Love Ka Matlab Hai Pyar – Mohammed Rafi & Asha Bhosle

    # Haseenon Ki Savaari Hai – Mohammed Rafi & Suman Kalyanpur.

    # Gaal Gulaabi Kiske Hain – Mohammed Rafi..rockin’ number

    # Dil Thaam Chale – Mohammed Rafi

    # Dar Pe Aaye Hain – Mukesh

    These will etch in yr memory for ever and yu will wanna hear it over and over again.
    Haan… Eros had a DVD out, thats what I can recall.

    Cheers .)

    P.S. we def need a lil rememberance and write up on Iqbal Quershi Saheb !

  8. pacifist: Unfortunately, Ramu Kaka – or should I say Nazir Kashmiri – is there for only about 2 minutes. Sad!

    Banno: I have very pleasant memories of Bahut shukriya: when I was a kid, it used to be shown fairly often on Chitrahaar. Joy Mukherji is one of those people whom I like in some films, not so much in others. I personally think he’s at his best in more light-hearted roles, like in Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon or Shagird.

    ash: Yes, it has been mentioned before! ;-) I mentioned Love in Simla – and provided a link to my review of it – in the second paragraph of this post. I like Ek Musafir Ek Haseena more than that, though – even when it comes to the music.

    • Dustedoff, I finally saw this film yesterday. I agree with you, despite the superb songs, beautiful Sadhana and Kashmir as a location for the better half of the film, it was not a satisfying watch. Mainly because the screenplay and characters are cobbled together in a very rough way. Sadhana not only fluctuates between coquettish to distant in the course of the film, but also within the songs. Sad, it could have made such a lovely film.

      • Yes, the scripting is pretty weak, isn’t it? Such a waste of Sadhana, good music and a lovely locale. And it could have been – with a little bit of effort – a good mystery as well, even though amnesia has rather been done to death as a plot element!

  9. I re-watched this movie not too long ago with my Mother and we throughly enjoyed ourselves. As you mentioned, the fabulous songs and the oh-so-lovely Sadhana(I have no love for bug-eyed Joy M. though) are reasons enough to like the film, but we had the additional and nostalgic pleasure of familiar-place-spotting thanks to all the scenes shot in Kashmir.

  10. unfortunately never had the chance to watch this movie. But I would jsut watch it for joy Mukherjee wooing Sadhana.
    Sadhana looks so beautiful, that some of it even rubs of it on Joy!
    And the dog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I just love it! or what I saw of it in the songs!
    thanks for reminding me of it!

  11. Shalini: Yes, seeing Kashmir again was a big plus for me too. I lived in Srinagar for three years as a child, and have very fond memories of the place. While watching Ek Musafir Ek Haseena, I kept wishing that it had been filmed in colour… those songs filmed in the glades and beside the streams would look even more beautiful in colour.

    harvey: Oh, this one’s at least worth a one time watch! More, actually. I know there are holes in the plot, and bits that don’t match up, but still… good eye candy, and fabulous songs!

  12. Wanted to tell, inspired by you and through your encouragement, have started movie blog
    The first review is on and it is Baazi (1951)
    Thanks for your pushing!

  13. I have this in my “to watch” pile (it’s so huge, sigh)…Can I use your screenshot of our pal Nazir? I don’t think I’ve ever seen his face without a huge ‘stache!!! :)

  14. Yes, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Nazir Kashmiri without the moochh either (or as anything but a servant or kindly villager of some sort!) Do go ahead and use the screen grab – anything to have more people see what he looked like! :-)

  15. Hi,
    I listened to the songs of this film as a very young girl. And to this day, Tujhe Dekhkey, keeps haunting me. Yes, I saw the film recently and i swear the songs are the best part of the film. They stir my soul!!! Btw I’m also a sucker for old films and write a blog on them. its called http://www.oldfilmsgoingthreadbare.blogspot.com
    You can visit it if u like and lemme know what you think about it. Compared to you all professional bloggers I’m just a starter. But my love for films egg me on.
    take care.

  16. Oh, I’m no professional blogger! I’m just mad about old films. :-)

    Thanks so much for giving me your blog address – I’m off to read your The King and I piece now!

  17. oh[for the first time i am not using the word well],i just love this movie.The romance between Joy m and Sadhana [i agree with you that she looks the best in this movie along with asli-naqli and parakh] is just so sweet and beautiful.I personally love the hospital scene between joy and sadhana and their antics in the song tumhein mohabbat hai humse mana..There was a big craze for joy-asha parekh pairing way back in the 60’s but i always found joy-sadhana pair better.I wish they did more movies together.

    and yes, the songs are wonderful too. I often sing HUMKO TUMHARE ISHQ AND MUJHO DEKHKAR AAPKA for my mother.she loves these two songs..

    one more thing,i agree with you that the screenplay was quite topsy-turvy ,but i don’t mind that since the first half was supremely romantic.also,the end result was perfect as the movie was a superhit and became the second biggest hit of 1962.This movie along with Kali topi lal roomal are said to have popularised the theme of amnesia [yaadaash chali jana syndrome] in bollywood.

    and ,finally one last thing,you said that joy m was very good at comedy [i also think the same].but this is no surprise considering that Kishore kumar was Joy’s own mama.

  18. Have just finished watching the film. Had been warned by you about the second half, so I kept my expectations somewhat low. :-) That probably helped because, overall, I quite liked it.

    It’s always fun to read your review after watching a film – and this is no exception. Btw, I have identified two characters for you that you have put a (?) against.

    (Kamal Kapoor’s father is Narbada Shankar.
    Sundar Mehra (Ajay Mehra’s cousin) is Ravi Kant.

    • Ok, correction. Although I do know how Ravi Kant looks, it is possible Sundar Mehra isn’t Ravi Kant. But am sure about Narbada Shankar (sometimes referred to as Narmada Shankar). :-)

    • Thank you for identifying Narbada/Narmada Shankar for me, Raja! :-)

      Yes, it’s good to have someone warn you against a film – or part of it – always helps lower expectations, which means you may well end up enjoying it far more than you might have otherwise. I’ve lost count of the number of films people have gushed over to the extent that I’ve begun watching them with sky-high expectations, and have as a result felt let down. But all said and done, I do think Ek Musaafir Ek Haseena is quite an enjoyable film – entertaining, good eye candy, and superb music.

  19. I love this film, even though the plot goes haywire or the direction is muddled up at times. What i love about the film is that though it is based on the novel Random Harvest, its screenplay and shots are entirely different from Random Harvest the film, something akin to what Harano Sur did earlier. Of course Harano Sur is a far superior film but that doesn’t take away from the fact that EMEH, though confusing and distracting at times, is entertaining and enjoyable for the most part. And it has got awesome songs and Joy-Sadhana chemistry is superb.

    Coming back to Random Harvest, i think this novel can easily give some serious competition to Devdas as far as film adaptations go. I myself have seen four adaptaions i.e. Random Harvest (1941), Daasi (1944), Harano Sur (1957) and EMEH (1962). Of course Harano Sur is the best film of the lot, while i found Daasi to be the worst. But while all the elders of my family agree with my view, they say that there exists another version of this novel, which is the worst of all the adaptations of Random Harvest and i.e. Guru Dutt’s Sailaab (1956) !!

    • Which reminds me… I’m yet to get around to watching ,I>Harano Sur. Plenty of people have told me that it’s the best adaptation of Random Harvest and I have been wanting to watch it, but somehow have just not done that yet… the Greer Garson-Ronald Colman Random Harvest (which I’ve also reviewed on this blog) is good, though Colman isn’t a huge favourite of mine.

      I had no idea Sailaab was another version of this. Will steer clear. ;-)

  20. I loved this movie alot as its joy mukherji’s one of the best movies with perfect script and lovely music. I loved the way the story was executed as was not boring. Would have loved it even more if it was in coloured. But overall it was a lovely movie to watch over and over again

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