Shagoon (1964)

Dare I repeat myself by admitting that one of the reasons I wanted to see this film was the music? Shagoon (which I think should have been spelt Shagun) combines Sahir Ludhianvi’s lyrics with Khayyam’s music, to stunning effect. But my other reasons for watching this film were equally valid. It stars the matchless Waheeda Rehman in the only film where she co-starred with Kamaljit, later to be her husband. What chemistry there must be here, I thought. Plus the film featured some of the most dependable character actors of Hindi cinema: Nasir Hussain, Achla Sachdev, Pratima Devi, Chand Usmani. This one had to be worth seeing, I thought.

The film begins well enough, in picturesque Nainital. (The cinematography, by the way, is first rate from the first frame itself; crisp and beautiful. And there are some fine camera angles and striking frames scattered across the length of the film). A group of girls, who’ve come to Nainital to help raise funds for charity by participating in a show, are boating on the Naini Lake. Among these are Geeta (Waheeda Rehman) and her pal Shobha (Chand Usmani).

Geeta is being pestered by a man (Kamaljit, looking rather jowly) in a motorboat. He keeps whizzing by dangerously close to the girls’ rowboat, and Geeta, exasperated, remarks to Shobha that he seems to be one of those “men who think if you pester a girl long enough, she’ll fall in love with you.” Yay! This is a film, I think, that’s going to be offbeat. Geeta is going to be a smart cookie, the type who won’t fall for a man just because he sings songs or pursues her.

Alas, the smart cookie turns out to be a complete wimp. After he’s bugged her a bit more (chomping noisily on food at a nearby café table: now that is irritating, isn’t it?), Madan (that’s his name) sings a song at the same charity show where Geeta is supposed to sing and dance—and she is entranced. One song, and poof! Geeta is obviously not one of those who believe in doing what you say.
Oddly enough, despite the fact that this is Waheeda Rehman—a very fine dancer—we don’t get to see her dance at the charity show.

Instead, we get treated to a few quick glimpses of Geeta and Madan’s romance. They just about get time to sing the lovely Parbaton ke pedon par shaam ka basera hai, then Madan gets a telegram summoning him home to Delhi because his mother is ill.

Madan’s mother (Achla Sachdev) is anything but ill. She is, instead, getting various poojas and havans performed because a pandit has told her that the planets are in a very inauspicious mood right now. Over the next couple of scenes we get to know a bit more about Madan’s clan. They’re a wealthy family. Father Rai Sahib (Nasir Hussain) has a weak heart. Mother is incorrigibly superstitious. Younger sister Sheila (? Neena?) and little brother Gappu (Master Pradeep) are Madan’s siblings. Right now, the pandits seem to have taken over the house.

Also almost a part of the family is Girdharilal (Nana Palsikar), Rai Sahib’s right-hand man, manager and assistant. Rai Sahib trusts Girdharilal so implicitly that he doesn’t even read papers Girdharilal gives him to sign, and he gives blank cheques to Girdharilal whenever Girdharilal asks for them. I know where this is heading…

A few scenes down the line, Girdharilal tries to encourage Rai Sahib to make a tidy profit by mixing sand in more expensive cement for the construction of a hospital. Rai Sahib, though he does forgive an apologetic Girdharilal, is so shocked he nearly (?) has a heart attack.

Around this time, Girdharilal’s orphaned niece Rekha (Nivedita, in her debut film; she’s billed as Libi Rana) returns from America after being educated there. Girdharilal immediately sets about trying to present her as a prospective bride for Madan. Rekha is made to give up her dresses and her love for rock-n-roll:

… and has to start wearing saris (which she seems thoroughly uncomfortable in, at first). Fortunately, everybody—including Madan—remembers her from her childhood and is kindly disposed towards her. Madan is even affectionate, and his parents openly praise Rekha. Rekha falls swiftly in love with Madan.

All the while, of course, totally unaware that Madan has Geeta up his sleeve. Having ensured that his mother’s good and well, Madan goes back to Nainital and his lady love. He proposes, is shyly accepted, and following the dictates of good society, goes to meet Geeta’s mother (Pratima Devi) to seek her permission, which she gives gladly.

Back home in Delhi, Madan’s parents have been trying to look for a bride for Madan (Girdharilal’s broad hints about Rekha’s being a fine girl have been of no avail). Madan easily manages to slip Geeta’s photo into the pictures being perused, and soon after, everything falls happily into place. Madan’s mother goes to meet Geeta’s mother and ‘see’ Geeta, whom she approves of, heartily. In fact, Madan’s mother gushes so lavishly about Geeta and her beauty, one imagines nothing is going to ever stem the flow.

—except superstition. Geeta’s horoscope, when shown to the family pandit, reveals that Geeta is a manglik. Any household into which she marries, declares the pandit, will be ruined. She will bring destruction and poverty, death and strife, in her wake.
Madan’s mother does a complete about-turn and refuses to let Madan marry Geeta. The poor girl suddenly goes from being a beauty and a Lakshmi to being inauspicious beyond belief.

Madan’s father tries reasoning with his wife, but she doesn’t listen. When Madan goes to Geeta’s house to convince her of his love, he finds that his girlfriend is acting as silly as his mother. This superstition is idiocy, Madan says; their love for each other should be powerful enough for them to ignore the hurdles that Madan’s mother tries to erect. He incites Geeta to marry him, no matter what, but she refuses. She feels her inauspiciousness will ruin his life. She loves him too much to do that.

So Madan goes mooning about, staying out and roaming the streets till late—until one night, when his mother, under the mistaken impression that Madan has committed suicide, capitulates. Madan can marry Geeta, if it makes him happy.

Madan’s father therefore goes to meet Geeta to get her to agree. He talks long and convincingly, and tells Geeta that Madan’s happiness lies in being with her. Finally, better sense prevails and Geeta agrees. She and Madan are married.

And as Geeta and Madan are entering the house for the first time after the wedding, Madan’s mother digs in her heels and refuses to come down the stairs to welcome the new bride into the house. She’s an inauspicious witch, bringing misfortunes with her, says the crone (okay, Achla Sachdev is hardly a crone, but I got tired of going on referring to her as ‘Madan’s mother’). Rai Sahib tries to reason (poor man, he seems to spend most of his time doing that) with her. But she’s obstinate as a mule, and he loses his temper so completely, he has a heart attack and dies right there.

Which gives Madan’s mother the perfect proof of Geeta’s inauspiciousness: the new bride, even before she’s entered the house, has already killed her father-in-law. Horrors! What more will she do? Will she spare the husband she purports to love so much, or will he fall prey too? Will health, wealth, reputation, everything the family holds dear, withstand the misfortune Geeta brings with her? Or will all—including her marriage, shaky under the assault too of a still-hopeful Rekha—collapse?

What I liked about this film:

The music, and when I say that, I mean not just the tunes but also the lyrics. Parbaton ke pedon par has some lovely imagery of nature as a backdrop for love, and Tum apna ranj-o-gham has to be one of the classic empathy songs. There are others too: the immeasurably sad Bujha diye hain khud apne haathon or the romantic Tum chali jaaogi parchhaiyaan reh jaayengi, for instance—or the wedding song, Gori sasuraal chali (which, by the way, is used in a very humorous way right at the end of the film).

Purely as far as eye candy is concerned, Waheeda Rehman and Libi Rana, both so very pretty.

What I didn’t like:

Where do I begin? Over the first hour of Shagoon, I found myself wondering why this film was never a hit. I mean, the story seemed interesting—a romantic triangle, plus the superstition angle—and the songs were fantastic. The scripting seemed good, and with a lead actress of the calibre of Waheeda Rehman? By the end of the film, I’d figured out all the many problems it suffered from.

1. Kamaljit is just not hero material. Other than the fact that he’s not especially good-looking (an important consideration in Hindi cinema, especially back then), there’s the fact that he’s somewhat hammy in places. And his chemistry with Ms Rehman is really rather close to nil.

2. Libi Rana, while very pretty, leaves a fair bit to be desired in the acting department.

3. The characters are all wonky, especially the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Geeta, otherwise educated and modern and supposedly not believing b******t like the stuff Madan’s mum touts, suddenly decides that she does indeed not want to ruin Madan’s life. She lets Madan’s mother ride roughshod over her for the silliest of reasons, and doesn’t have the guts to stand up—not even for her love.

And Madan’s mother is the most horrid, cruel, selfish, unreasonable and one-dimensional wretch I have ever seen on the Hindi silverscreen. Her love for her children is probably genuine, but it doesn’t stop her putting her superstitions first.

Spoiler follows:

4. I would think the basic premise of the story is that superstition is wrong. This means that whether or not Geeta was a manglik should have made no difference—if one had to be formulaic, I guess the film would have ended with it being revealed that though Geeta was a manglik, the family’s misfortunes were attributable to other reasons. But no; we discover that Geeta wasn’t a manglik after all. So, lesson learnt? A manglik can ruin your home, but if you examine a horoscope well, you may discover that someone you thought a manglik isn’t actually one.

Ugh.

Spoiler ends.

My advice: Watch the songs. They are the nicest part of the film, and look the nicest too. Otherwise, it’s just a lot of screeching and hollering (Achla Sachdev) and weeping (Waheeda Rehman) and looking dissipated (Kamaljit).

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45 thoughts on “Shagoon (1964)

  1. Hhehehehehehehe. that’s a funny piece out there. And yes Kamaljit is really not hero material. U know, I know how u felt watching the film. Imagine the feeling when Ashwariya Rai was married first to a tree when it was proved in her kundli that she was manglik!!! Yuck yuck !!!

    • Actually, I think Kamaljit looked better in the first film I saw him in – Son of India (of Nanha-munna raahi hoon desh ka sipaahi hoon fame). That was made in 1962, so I guess his looks deteriorated a bit in 2 years!!

      Sheeesh… in this day and age, being married to a tree! I wonder what happened to the tree, if they believe so much in women being mangliks etc. Did it wither up and die? Did it never have fruit? What?

      • Poor Bachchans.
        I believe that was a nasty media attack on them for not letting/inviting the media in at the wedding and keeping it absolutely media free.

        They have strongly denied this false attack on them by the media.

          • Bachchan himself has denied this story many times in his blog.. He had challenged media to prove it. But as usual, media will fist publish/show some scandalous nonsense to sell their stuff and then quietly back out.

  2. Those were my reasons too, for watching this film.
    Waheeda, Kamaljeet (expected great chemistry too), songs.
    I did all I could do like Kamaljeet for Waheeda’s sake, and there were moments when his face looked good, but………

    BTW I’m a bit confused. Isn’t the name ‘Nazir’ Hussain?
    In all the films where he acts it’s always Nazir Hussain in the cast list at the beginning.

    • Yes, there are certainly moments when he looked good, and I could see why Waheeda would have been enamoured (though I’m hoping her love for him must have been based on something deeper than his looks) – but by and large, he looked a little too swollen-faced in Shagoon.

      Nasir/Nazir Hussain seems to have been billed as either. In a lot of his best-known films – including Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, Anuradha, Aayi Milan ki Bela, Mere Sanam, Aarzoo, Ram aur Shyam, Shagird, Kati Patang, Aaya Saawan Jhoomke and Shagoon, he appears in the credits as Nazir, not Nasir. But in an equally large number of films (Anpadh, Asli-Naqli, Bahurani, Dr Vidya, Preet Na Jaane Reet, etc) he’s billed as Nasir Hussain. Everybody seems to have been very liberal with spellings back then!

      • I would think Kamaljit was more enamoured with Waheeda than the other way round. In her biography on the web, it seems she married late – around 38 and I think he wooed her quite a bit before she consented. For some reason, I always think Waheeda must’ve loved only her mentor Guru Dutt. I don’t know, maybe it’s more romantic in a tragic sort of way to think that.

        • “…I think he wooed her quite a bit before she consented.”

          I did wonder about that. Because I’ve noticed that most co-stars who fall in love and get married do so shortly after (a) film(s) together (Nargis-Sunil Dutt, Dev Anand-Kalpana Karthik, Rishi Kapoor-Neetu Singh, etc). In Waheeda and Kamaljit’s case I was surprised to note that though Shagoon was made in 1964, they actually got married only in 1974. Ten years is a long time!

  3. This film was unbearable! The only reason I sat through the whole film was that I saw it in the good old DD days when one never abandoned a film mid-way and I was too young to break with tradition!! ;-)

    Madan (that’s his name) sings a song at the same charity show where Geeta is supposed to sing and dance—and she is entranced. One song, and poof!” I must admit that anybody singing that song in that voice would probably bring the same expression to my face as the one Waheeda Rehman is wearing onscreen! :D

    • The first time I saw Shagoon was also way back then. I remember seeing a fair number of really intolerable films back in the Doordarshan, simply because one couldn’t leave a film half-seen! Fortunately, though, I recall a lot of films that were also very well worth watching – but which we ended up seeing only midway because either the electricity went (and we never had invertors in those days) or because the transmission went, or something of the sort. :-(

  4. what lovely songs! and what a totally nonsensical way of handling this manglik stuff….another film where we can enjoy the songs on youtube.

    • Absolutely. The songs are out of this world, but the film is really hard to bear. It’s sad when you see actors, MDs, lyricists etc obviously putting in so much good work, but into a film that’s been let down so badly by its story…

  5. N0ow that everyone has ranted about the manglik stuff, I don’t know what to say more on that part! ;-) Awful!
    Spoiler ahead
    “A manglik can ruin your home, but if you examine a horoscope well, you may discover that someone you thought a manglik isn’t actually one.”
    That is about the same premise in Kati patang, only that a manglik is replaced with widow!
    Spoiler end

    Waheeda Rehman looks gorgeous!

    • True! And a widow is as much to be avoided as a manglik! Whew. It’s amazing that on the one hand, we were making some really progressive films back in the 50s and 60s, and on the other hand, stuff like this was being churned out…

      But Waheeda Rehman is certainly the saving grace; she’s beautiful.

  6. You have echoed my thoughts in your review. Kamaljeet was no actor and neither was Nivedita, incidentally she is billed Libi Rana because that is her name, she later took on the screen name Nivedita. If I am not mistaken her first film as Nivedita was Jyoti co-starring Sanjeev Kumar and Master Suraj who was none other than Sarika. I guess you are aware of the fact that when baby Sarika played a male child she took on the name Master Suraj.

    • Yes, I guessed Libi Rana must have been her real name and Nivedita her screen name. I haven’t seen Jyoti but one of its songs is among my favourite duets, Soch ke yeh gagan jhoome:

      I hadn’t known that when Baby Sarika played a male child she took on the name Master Suraj! Or maybe I just hadn’t noticed. She was one of the few child actors who I thought was usually very natural – a good actor.

    • Libi Rana AKA Niveditha’s was introduced in ” Tu Hi Meri Zindagi ” (1965) along with Deb Mukherjee , she later acted in Shagoon , Jyothi , Dharti Kahe pukarke and very few other films and disappeared

  7. That’s sage advice, Madhu. Despite the lovely songs, I’ve never gotten around to watching “Shagoon.” And now thanks to you, I never will. You’ve turned out to be very auspicious for me! :-)

  8. Thanks for the detailed review – when I saw “Sahir Ludhianvi” AND “Waheeda” I thought, “I’m going to HAVE TO get this one”. Now, I will just look for the songs. As for your comment, “And his chemistry with Ms Rehman is really rather close to nil.” I always find this interesting. A modern example for me is Ajay Devgn and Kajol – she lights up the screen with SRK, but every movie I’ve seen with her & Ajay together there’s nothing there. I’m grateful to you for sparing me this movie!

    • It does seem odd that people whom one would expect to have great chemistry actually don’t. On the other hand, there are people who apparently didn’t really get along – I’ve heard the legendary Suchitra Sen and Uttam Kumar, who sizzled onscreen, were one such pair – manage to pull off such superb passion when they’re acting.
      Kajol and SRK do have great chemistry. The only film in which I’ve seen her with Ajay Devgn is Pyaar Toh Hona Hi Tha, and I don’t remember it well enough to recall their interactions in it…

  9. I’d like to watch it for Waheeda, I think, and the songs. But what’s with Nasir Husain and his heart attacks? I wonder why, he was made to clutch his heart in almost all his films, poor guy.

  10. Ahh i love these ridiculous melodramas most times, i love the moment they picked for the superstition to kick in, the cinematography and your lovely lovely screencaps you have on here makes this tempting, but i’ll take your word and wait for it to come on Tv

    • Yes, it looks lovely – and I think you’d enjoy the melodrama! I just wish the Achla Sachdev character had been a little less irritating. She really got on my nerves! You’re right, this is a film one could watch, but not a film one should actively search out.

  11. Sahir is imaculate .He can web words in best form to make it cry of soul.Melodies voice of Suman Kalyanpur and immortal music of Khayyam made it a legend.

  12. True, it is melodramatic movie….. most social fmly movies were made those days had wicked ma-in-law…or … daugher in law…. ‘Neelkamal’ had waheeda in the similar situation…i watched the whole movie for the songs…
    never seen nasir playing hero…poor guy even in 50’s movies he played father figure

  13. Didn’t like this film but couldn’t help watching it because of Tum Apna Ranjh O Gham – one of my absolute favourites. It is amazingly sung and amazingly written. Amazing!

    • Yes, the song is fabulous, the film terrible. What Waheeda was doing acting in such a film, I don’t know. But anyway, since it led to her getting to know Kamaljeet, I guess it was worth it, eventually, for her… :-)

    • It almost seems as though she’s trying to imply that she was manipulated into getting married to Shashi Rekhi. I’m just speculating so, thus what I’m saying is probably not true. For what it’s worth, however, she states that she and Shashi Rekhi had had a beautiful married life together.

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