Sunehre Kadam (1966)

This film has the distinction of not being listed on imdb. I’m sure there are other films like that, but the exclusion of Sunehre Kadam came as a surprise to me: it’s not as if it has an obscure cast (not that that is a criterion) or is unknown in other ways—I had heard at least one of the songs before, and I discovered what I would rate as one of Lata Mangeshkar’s most poignant songs.

More on that later; for now, a big thank you to ash, who shared this film with me. I enjoyed it!

Sunehre Kadam begins at a club, where a function is in progress. This is an annual affair, in which two-member teams, one consisting of men and the other of women, compete in a singing contest, the winners taking away a fancy silver trophy. This year, two friends, Shekhar (Rehman) and Ganjoo (Agha) win, leaving the women—the wealthy Shefali (Shashikala) and her friend Malti (Sabita Chatterjee)—pretty annoyed. So annoyed, in fact, that Shefali, in a burst of unwarranted rudeness, slaps Shekhar.

On their way home, Shefali explains that the slap was premeditated. Why? Because, as Shefali happily sings to Malti (quoting the song from the 1951 film Malhar), “Bade armaanon se rakha hai balam, teri kasam, pyaar ki duniya mein yeh pehla kadam”. Malti is sceptical about how slapping the loved one can win him over—or, indeed, can be construed as a sign of love—but Shefali insists that she is in love with Shekhar, and all she’s doing is calculated to one day make Shekhar hers. This is only the first step. (I’m recounting this otherwise inconsequential bit because that’s where the film’s title is derived from: the first step, the second step, and so on: golden steps, ‘sunehre kadam’).

Shekhar and Ganjoo soon fall on evil days. Shekhar, who works as an insurance agent, hasn’t been able to get any new customers for a while now, and Ganjoo, a salesman for a shoepolish company, is in the same boat. They’re both pretty broke, and when their landlord starts pestering them to pay up, they are forced to pawn the silver trophy. They also shift into cheaper accommodation (read derelict: the roof is missing tiles and much of the furniture is falling to bits).

As luck would have it, Shefali goes to a jeweller to get a necklace reset, and there she and Malti see the trophy, which they immediately recognise. Shefali buys it and the two girls go to Shekhar and Ganjoo’s ‘new’ house to give it back to them. Shekhar thinks Shefali’s rubbing salt in their wounds and showing off her own wealth, but the two men do take back the trophy…

… and the story is repeated, again and again. Twice more Shekhar and Ganjoo go and sell off the trophy; twice more Shefali and Malti bring it back to them. In the process, Malti and Ganjoo fall in love, and Ganjoo decides he must fix up Shefali and Shekhar as well.

Unfortunately, the third time the two men sell the trophy, Shefali has some trouble getting it back. The woman who’s bought it from the jeweller refuses to sell it; it’s a birthday present for her husband. Eventually, Shefali gets so desperate that she and Malti enter the lady’s house dressed as dancers come to perform at the birthday party. While the other guests are busy dancing, Shefali filches the trophy and she and Malti run off—after giving the chowkidar at the gate an envelope for the master of the house, containing money as compensation for the trophy.

What they don’t realise is that the chowkidar’s a crook, who pockets the money as soon as they’ve gone.
Shefali and Malti return the trophy once again to Shekhar and Ganjoo, who decide enough’s enough. Shekhar’s managed to sell a policy, so his commission will soon be coming to him. They must resist temptation and not sell the trophy again. They therefore bury it in the house of their friendly neighbourhood couple (Randhir and Tuntun)…

…but end up digging it up shortly after, because Ganjoo’s attempts to get Shekhar and Shefali together have borne fruit: Ganjoo has been sweet-talking Shefali on the phone while pretending to be Shekhar, and she has promised to come along, with Malti, on a picnic.
To pay for the picnic, the men need money (that long-awaited commission Shekhar had been expecting has been delayed), so Shekhar unearths the trophy and sells it.

With the result that when they return from a thoroughly enjoyable picnic, the police are waiting to arrest Shekhar. He’s livid at Shefali, who he thinks is actually guilty. But stoic and noble that he is, Shekhar doesn’t squeal on Shefali, and instead takes the rap himself: three months’s rigorous imprisonment. Shefali’s conscience pricks her during the hearing ; she tries to intervene and confess that she’s the one to blame, but Ganjoo stops her, saying Shefali’s name will be mud. In any case, Shekhar will be out in three months.

Now things start going downhill with a vengeance. One of Shekhar’s uncles arrives in town with the news that Shekhar’s mother is very ill and not likely to last even one night. Ganjoo goes to the jail to try and get Shekhar released just for the one night, but it’s no use: the jailer refuses. He won’t even send Shekhar under escort; Shekhar must wait till the next day, when parole will be arranged.

That night Shefali, having found out Shekhar’s family’s address, takes a doctor and drives down to the village where Shekhar’s parents live with his little brother and sister. The doctor examines Shekhar’s mother, and tells Shefali to get an injection from town. It’s already 1 AM; getting the injection and bringing it to the village will take till at least 8 AM—which, according to the doctor, will be too late. So Shefali suggests one desperate measure: they’ll take Shekhar’s mother to town.

Which they do, but by the time the servants carry the old lady into Shefali’s house and lay her down on the bed, she’s long dead. Shortly after, Shekhar—having first gone to his house in the village—blunders in and finds his mother dead. This sends him over the edge, and he slaps Shefali, just as the police arrive. It turns out that Shekhar has escaped from jail with the help of another prisoner.

Now he’s sent back in, with his sentence soon after increased to three years’ RI.
As if that wasn’t enough tragedy, Shekhar’s father now falls seriously ill, with asthma and consumption. Shefali, who’s being eaten up by guilt, gives up being the flighty socialite and takes herself off to the village to look after the old man and the children, to cook and clean and be the good pseudo bahu. But will it help? Will she be able to save Shekhar’s father? Will she be able to win over Shekhar—who, whenever Ganjoo and Malti visit him in jail, refuses to even let them mention Shefali’s name? Will the sunehre kadam that Shefali has been dreaming of reach their destination, or is this finis?

What I liked about this film:

The music, by Bulo C Rani and S Mohindra. The one song I’d heard earlier is Naazuk hoon albeli hoon; the one really good Lata song I discovered is the lovely Na baaz aaya muqaddar—very touching, and sung with great feeling.

Shashikala. I have long felt that Shashikala’s full potential wasn’t explored by too many directors. She was a fine actress, and capable of much better roles than usually came her way. This is one of the good ones. She’s good as the frivolous and frolicsome Shefali, equally good as her guilt-ridden and more serious-minded avatar.

What I didn’t like:

The occasional dragging of the first half. The last hour of the film is well scripted, brisk and without much hither-and-thither; the first half, in contrast, is mostly all fluffy songs, some unfunny comedy with Tuntun, Randhir and Agha (and a guest appearance by Johnny Whisky), and some completely pointless faff about a ghost haunting Shekhar and Ganjoo’s house. Tedious, but I’ve seen—and sat through—much worse. Fortunately, the second half (though melodramatic) compensates.

On the whole, though, I’d say this film needs to be better known. It doesn’t have very big stars in the cast, but all the main actors are good. The story is entertaining, uncomplicated and generally well scripted (barring those hiccups in the first hour) and the music is good. Worth the watch. Thank you, ash!

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42 thoughts on “Sunehre Kadam (1966)

  1. Wow that was so nice to see yu do review of this wonderful musical movie, it has a superb flow from start to end, a star cast of very established actors , dashing Rehman Saheb, Shashikaladi and AghaBhai and for sure rest of the crew .). Music as yu said by Maestros S. Mohindra and Bulo Rani wah wah tracks !

    Thx a lot for yr mentioning the credits .), my pleasure to share this Goldie.

    I agree Shashikala never got her dues for her 101 superb performances, just check the variety of roles she did like Phool Aur Pathar or Pati Patni, Junglee,Waqt, Teen Bahuraniyan… and do note she had to her credits 2 wins & 4 nominations, pls see IMDB.

    And I had the pleasure of seeing her a few years ago in a Supermarket, ELEGANT AS EVER and deadly looks , so sad no1 has ever brought her to the fore and remembered her.

    So sry not very active on Blogs lately, hv visitors (brother’s) on visit and soon off to the Northern hemisphere, but will def read what useful comments come in from the readers.

    Lagate raho DO and yaad karate raho, these Oldie Goldies.

    Cheers .)

  2. I can’t think of any other film where the plot revolves so much around a silver cup. So it must have been really silver, and not silver-coated, as trophy cups usually are. :) I’d love to see this film, I like Shashikala, and Agha.

  3. ash: I saw Shashikala on TV a few years ago – I think at some cinema function where a number of stars of yesteryears had gathered, and she struck me (as did Waheeda Rehman) by the dignity and grace they exude. Two ladies who’ve aged beautifully. Oh, and talking of other roles in which Shashikala has excelled: Anupama and Sujata – it was such a pleasure to see her as something other than the shrew she generally got slotted as. And Aab-e-Hayat!

    Banno: It’s actually a small statuette, looked a bit like a dancing Natraj. But I did wonder if Shekhar and Ganjoo would have been free to sell it off: it was apparently some sort of annual competition, so a trophy like that – silver, too – would probably have been demanded back from them at the end of the year. But niggles aside, an enjoyable film. And Agha has a fairly substantial role!

    Sharmi: Isn’t he, just? Especially in that photo from the first screen cap. He looks so handsome in that, I decided that had to be the opening screen cap for this post. :-)

  4. That picture of Rehman in the first screencap is really swoon worthy. :-)

    Interesting story here, and a very interestingly written review.
    I seem to recall the lovely song ‘bade armaanon se rakha hai…’
    I’ve always liked Shashikala, especially in her ‘nice’ roles. Among the ones I clearly remember is the one in Junglee.
    Does it mean the film is unavailable in the market?

  5. Who hasn’t heard – Bade armaan se rakha hai sanam. I have always liked Rehman and Shashikala, and this does sound like an interesting movie.

    Lovely review!

  6. leena: Thank you for sharing that! Shashikala looks so graceful and chic, even now. I was wishing, even as I watched that clip, that I could understand Marathi. Would have loved to know what that was about.

    pacifist/Ava: Yes, Bade armaanon se rakha hai balam is a very famous song, but it’s actually from the film Malhar. Shefali only sings it (or rather, Shashikala sings it, not a playback singer) to tell Malti what she’s planning. And anyway, she sings only a line from it, not the entire song.

    pacifist: The film is available in the market – the VCD is by Moser Baer.

    Ava: Thank you! It is an interesting film, and with a much more coherent and well scripted storyline than a lot of other films I’ve seen. A good watch.

  7. Wow, never ehard of this movie before!
    So Bade armaanon se rakha hai balam is from this film. I thought that this song must be from the 40s!
    Shashikala unfortunately hardly ever got lead roles. She deserved them!

    “the first half, in contrast, is mostly all fluffy songs, some unfunny comedy with Tuntun, Randhir and Agha”

    Aren’t they all? ;-)

    • No, no. See the comment I made, to pacifist and Ava, just above your comment. Though Shashikala sings it to Sabita Chatterjee, Bade armaanon se rakha hai balam isn’t from this film; it’s from Malhar (1951).
      By the way, another fairly enjoyable film (as far as I remember it) starring Shashikala was the fantasy Aab-e-Hayat, with her opposite Prem Nath. Lovely music, and a very attractive hero! :-)

  8. “Sunehre Kadam” was too much of a downer (heck it has a song with the words “mangne se jo maut mil jati kaun jeeta iss zamane mein”) for me to say I enjoyed it but it was nice to see Shashikala and Rehman in lead roles. Very attractive pair.

    • Heh! Yes, Maangne se jo maut mil jaati has to be one of the most depressing songs I’ve ever heard. Still, I’d say Sunehre Kadam was worth the watch for me, because it was well plotted and scripted. I’ve come across too many films – barring the big hits – that can’t even manage that, so now I even appreciate something so basic!

  9. This sounds very interesting and i agree with your comments on Shashikala, i have a soft spot for her in spite of all those stereotypical hateful roles she often played, i saw her weeks ago in Raaz where she had a minor role, she has indeed aged well

    • Yes, she has acted in a handful of films in the early 2000’s too – including two that I’ve seen! ;-) (quite a feat, considering I watch very few new films) – Mujhse Shaadi Karogi and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham – in both of which she looked pretty much as she did say, in the 70s, except plumper and grey-haired. The same lovely complexion, the same bright eyes.

  10. I didn’t know who she was when i saw K3G but i remember her from Mujhse shaadi karogi and i meant to say Rakht (a remake of the hollywood film the Gift) starring Bipasha Basu not Raaz which also starred Bipasha, hence the mix up

  11. I’d love to see this for Rahman, Rahman, Rahman! thank you so much for covering this, and also letting us see Shashikala in a lead role, which I agree, she completely deserved.

  12. I love Hero Rehman. He was so to die for handsome for so long (I’m about to write up a 1950 movie where he starred opposite Nigar Sultana). I am a huge Shashikala fan too, and she does still look gorgeous—but her career ups and downs were her own fault, essentially. I’ve got an interview with her somewhere from the seventies where she says as much herself. She never really took it seriously, and was easily led away from the industry for periods of time. She always returned, though, and it’s a measure of her talent I think that she was always taken back. I just got Ab-e-hayat (but without subtitles of course…I’m so unfortunate! *wrings hands a la Meena*)…

    • I’m already looking forward to the review (and more precisely, the screencaps of your review)! I think both Rehman and Nigar Sultana were gorgeous, so I can imagine what the combined effect would be. Woo-hoo!!

      Thank you for that little insight into Shashikala’s career. If she managed to keep coming back – and so successfully too – I guess as you say it’s really quite outstanding proof of how talented she is, and how much film makers do respect her.

      I hope you like Aab-e-Hayat. As far as I remember, it’s one of those films that’s high on action, low on dialogue. But still… If you can persuade Tom to undertake a restoration project, I’m willing to do the subtitles!

  13. Rahman looks so dashing!!! And I am extremely fond of Shashikala as well. This movie does sound interesting. Listened to both the songs you have listed above. Would have loved to see the vidoes. Liked Naazuk hoon albeli hoon – quite a catchy number. Na baaz aaya muqaddar was touching and serious.
    Let me check for the vcd on mosebear online. Will place an order if I can find it.
    Thanks Ash and thanks Madhu for this one. Though the songs sound vaguely familiar, I didn’t know about the movie itself.
    PS : I find Aagha very adorable!!! :-D

    • Yes, Agha is fun, isn’t he? :-) My uncle used to live next door to him in Bombay years ago – in the 50’s and 60’s – and used to work in the Filmistan studios too, so had some interesting stories to share about Agha and his son Jalal. He had a very good sense of humour and was very funny even in real life.

  14. Rehman is so yum! And though I don’t care for Shashikala in her shrewish roles, I do like her too. Plus, anybody who noticed that a thhapad is only the prelude to courtship (in true filmi tradition) gets my vote! ;D

    The story does not sound very entertaining, but for Rehman, Shashikala and Agha, I need to find this film.

  15. Yes, Shashikala as a shrew is – well, like any other shrew. But when film makers have taken the trouble of giving her more interesting roles (Gumraah, Sujata, Junglee, Anupama…) she’s definitely done them justice. This one’s story is so-so, depressing and predictable in the second half, but at least fairly well scripted. And Rehman, Shashikala and Agha are good.

  16. can you tell me on whom the song “Na baaz aaya muqaddar” was picturized on?
    on what references the song was sing?
    thanks.

    • The song is picturised on Shashikala. It’s been a long time since I saw the film, so I don’t remember the exact context, but I know it was towards the end of the film – when all those tragedies and tribulations come piling on one after the other. The Rehman character also leaves her, accusing her of being bewafa, so she’s sunk in utter despair.

    • My uncle H B Nirmal was the producer and financier of this film. But had disagreement with Haldia.who wanted major share after the film was made, which was not acceptable to my uncle. Hence he did not produce any more films, he lost all his money in making this film

      • Oh, that is sad, that your uncle lost all his money in making this film. Though it starred two people who were well past their prime as far as being leads was concerned, I thought the film was quite good, and the music of course was good. As I mentioned in my post, I wish it had been released.

  17. Dear Madhulika, I was delighted to stumble upon this site…it happened thru that Lata song, mangane se jo maut mil jaati ..your writing skills and empathy for things are moving, so is the sweep of your interests….I share at least three stray things with you- I’m a Delhiite who has regularly been to Haflong (used to bathe there with bisleri water, so bad was tap water)…and most importantly my wife’s name happens to be Madhulika as well! I have my site called indrayanikaathi.com which is quite weird but similar subjects…there is a relayed yt channel on which the last uploaded video is of Uggarsen ki Baoli…

    • That is such a series of coincidences! I had a quick look at your blog, and it looks – well, different, and interesting too. That photo caption about the Maharashtrian women coming and arranging a haldi-kumkum if the occasion called for it made me smile. :-)

        • Gosh, that was sad! I hadn’t known about this (actually, come to think of it, this is the first time I’ve seen any videos of Haflong and its environs – I left the place when I was just three months old, so obviously have no recollection of it.

          Pretty place, but the plight of those poor birds distressed me.

          • Ya quite distressing. I assumed I was just analysing a strange phenomenon dispassionately, but some viewers, mostly overseas, were furious with the video and the uploader. I has to insert a disclaimer in the ‘info’. As of date there are 18 likes and 26 dislikes but a huge number of hits, implying that most like/dislike respondents react to the feeling a video generates, rather than to it’s intrinsic merit…

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