Ek Saal (1957)

Did the producer and director Devendra Goel specialise in film names that incorporated numbers? Have a look at this (admittedly select) filmography: Ek Saal, Ek Phool Do Maali, Ek Mahal ho Sapnon ka, Do Musafir, Dus Lakh…  Was he, perhaps, doing a countdown to what he hoped would be some blockbuster magnum opus that would put Mughal-e-Azam or Mother India firmly and permanently in the shade?
I don’t know, but this I can say: of all the Devendra Goel films I’ve seen (six), this is by far the best. It’s coherent, interesting, romantic – and it stars a wonderful lead couple: Ashok Kumar and Madhubala.

We don’t see the lead pair till a few minutes into the film. Instead, it begins with a conversation in a doctor’s room in Bombay. The greying and grim-faced doctor (unusually cast, Mehmood in a cameo) has to break the bad news to the retired Colonel Sinha (S K Prem?): his beloved daughter Usha has a brain tumour. It’s a vicious growth, too: inoperable and incurable. Usha cannot hope to live more than a year at the most.

Colonel Sinha is devastated – he’s a widower, and Usha is his life. She isn’t right now in Bombay – she’s gone to her nanihaal (her maternal grandmother’s home) in Lucknow, to celebrate her birthday. Her father cannot bring himself to tell Usha the bad news, but decides right then that he will do anything he can to ensure that Usha is supremely happy in the 12 months she has to live.

The scene now shifts to Lucknow and we finally get to see Usha (Madhubala), who’s at a party being hosted by her grandmother (Pratima Devi, in a guest appearance). A group of dancers, led by a bright-eyed and smiling Sheila Vaz, sing the ironic Tu jiye hazaaron saal gori” (“May you live thousands of years, beauty”), and Usha simpers her way through the verses, as the singer wishes a loving husband, children and whatnot on the birthday girl.

… and someone takes advantage of the fact that everybody’s attention is on the dancers.

This is the suave gentleman thief, Suresh (Ashok Kumar), who uses his education, charm and air of self-sufficiency to dupe people so that he can lay his hands on their wealth. Right now, at Usha’s birthday party, he uses his nimble fingers to pluck Usha’s granny’s necklace – worth Rs 10,000 – from around her neck.

A lot happens within the next few minutes: granny raises a hue and cry, a private detective named J B Pinto (Johnny Walker – more on this character later) steps forward, offering to search out the culprit, and Suresh manages to surreptitiously slide the necklace into a lady’s handbag which he sees lying open beside a telephone. There is some dilly-dallying while JB Pinto tries to initiate a body search. Usha’s granny shoots down the idea (her guests being subjected to such suspicion? No!), and announces that she’d rather let her necklace go missing than antagonise her friends.

Soon after, Suresh discovers that the bag in question is Usha’s; he follows her through the corridor as she goes off with it, engages her in conversation, and manages to slip the necklace out, which he returns to Usha’s granny. Granny is pleased, but Usha thinks this man is a flirt whom she’d rather not get to know better.

But she does – on the way to the railway station the next day, when both Usha and Suresh are going to Bombay, and she rushes into the taxi he’s in. She ends up going willy-nilly with him to the station, but shakes him off soon after.
Only, when she arrives home in Bombay, she soon discovers that Suresh too has turned up there, and as none other than her father’s new estate manager.

There’s a story behind this. Suresh’s wad of recommendations and glowing tributes to his efficiency are all forged. He has his eye on Colonel Sinha’s wealth, and has come to Bombay with the express purpose of slowly (well, preferably swiftly) robbing Colonel Sahib of all his money. Also in on the plot is Suresh’s partner-in-crime, Rajni (Kuldeep Kaur, looking like – as PG Wodehouse would have said – “What she wants is a cracking good gallop every morning and no starchy foods.).

Rajni, besides being Suresh’s accomplice and equally (if not more) unprincipled, is also in love with him. She’s been nagging Suresh to marry her, but Suresh tells her flat out that he has no time for – and no belief in – stuff like love. Give him money, give him material things, and he’s happy. Love is for the birds.

Colonel Sinha deputes Usha to show Suresh around – to introduce him to the staff, take him around the estate, and accommodate him in their own house. All this close proximity – this being a Hindi film – soon leads to Usha falling head over heels with Suresh (why he doesn’t is hard to fathom; all that gorgeousness and this man remains unaffected?!).
One day, a friend of Usha’s comes calling, bringing with her a garland from another friend’s engagement. (Why? Why would one give away a garland that had so much sentimental value; and why would anybody want it anyway? To recycle the flowers and sell them?)

The friend soon discovers Usha’s love for Suresh, and Usha tries to prove to her that her love is not unrequited. She sings a song and when Suresh turns up, she lovingly slides the garland over his neck. But oh, tragedy! – only to have him fling it off. “I only came to hand over this letter that came for you,” Suresh tells her, and poor, heartbroken, rejected Usha faints prettily, just as her father – who has been standing at the door and has witnessed the entire scene – comes rushing in.

Soon after, the colonel comes to meet Suresh on personal business. Usha’s father explains the situation – that Usha has only a year to live, and that he wants that one year to be the happiest of her life. Now Colonel Sahib thinks that Usha’s happiness, since she’s so in love with Suresh, lies in that love being reciprocated. If Suresh will pretend to love Usha in return, he (Colonel Sahib) will make it worth Suresh’s while. This, by paying Suresh Rs 10,000 a month.

Suresh hems and haws a little and asks for some time to think over the proposition, but that ten grand is too lucrative an offer for him to resist. Soon, the game starts: Suresh convinces Usha that he loves her, and Colonel Sahib, every month, begins handing out a cheque of Rs 10,000 to Suresh. Everybody’s happy. Suresh is happy because he’s getting richer by the month. Usha is happy because she’s found – as she imagines – true love. Colonel Sahib is happy because Usha is happy.

But far away, in Lucknow, someone is definitely unhappy. Rajni has been getting restive. Suresh’s initial letters and phone calls to her from Bombay have kept her in the know, so she’s aware of how he’s built up a web of deceit to keep Usha and the Colonel hooked. Now, though, Suresh’s communication with her has fallen off – he’s banged the phone down on her the last time they spoke – and Rajni fears that Suresh is actually in love with Usha, not just playing along.

…so she employs the private eye, JB Pinto (who uses the suffix PDF – ‘private detective first class’) to check on Suresh and Usha. JB Pinto and his assistant (who is also the light of JB Pinto’s life), Mary (Minoo Mumtaz) are given an advance to go to Bombay and find out what the real story is.

But what is the story? Is Suresh really just acting a part, or is he succumbing (who couldn’t, really?) to Usha’s charm and beauty? And even if Suresh does fall in love with Usha, how long can this love last? Just that one year? Or is there some way love will triumph, finally?

Some melodrama does ensue (how could it not, with that set of circumstances?) and there’s a lukewarm comic side plot, but mostly it’s the romance between Suresh and Usha that occupies centre stage here.

Interestingly, Ek Saal reminded me a good deal of the wonderful Charles Boyer-Olivia de Havilland film, Hold Back the Dawn. I rate that film as one of the best romances I’ve ever seen, and it’s on similar lines as Ek Saal: an unscrupulous man fakes love for a woman for selfish reasons, and much drama – also, as in Ek Saal, at a hospital bed with the heroine struggling for life – ensues. If you watch Ek Saal and like it, do look out for Hold Back the Dawn: it’s lovely.

What I liked about this film:

Madhubala and Ashok Kumar. In my opinion, Hindi cinema’s most beautiful actress – and one of its best actors. They make a fine pair together. And oh, Madhubala. Ethereal as ever.

The fact that, for once, Christians (JB Pinto and Mary) talk in normal khadi boli Hindi, not that awful stereotypical “Humko yeh nahin maangta” type that seemed to be universal amongst Hindi cinema Christians.

(The repercussions of that, by the way: entire generations of non-Christian Indians grew up thinking all Christians talk that way, or can barely understand Hindi. A case in point: my mum-in-law. My husband’s a Hindu, I’m a Christian; the day after we got married, I was sitting in my in-laws’ dining room and writing out thank you cards. One was to a lady who knows only Hindi, so of course I wrote my thanks in Hindi. My mum-in-law was flabbergasted: “You can write Hindi?!” Since then, she’s discovered that my Hindi is actually better than her son’s).

By the way, Johnny Walker and Minoo Mumtaz – a time-tested comic jodi – are also great here. They have two delightful songs –  both fabulous, one of them part of Tom Daniel’s Johnny Walker Songs Compilation DVD – picturised on them: Miyaan mera bada beimaan and Dil toh kisi ko doge.

Some songs. I wouldn’t call the score of Ek Saal one of Ravi’s best, but it has a few songs that I really like: the two Johnny Walker-Minoo Mumtaz ones, and the classic Sab kuchh lutaake hosh mein aaye, both male and female versions.

What I didn’t like:

The end has too many convenient coincidences: it’s too pat. And the comic side plot, though I adore Johnny Walker and Minoo Mumtaz, really wasn’t needed.

But: a fairly good romance, good acting, and the sublime Madhubala. I can forgive a lot for that combination.

By the way, some trivia: the story was based on an idea that was I S Johar’s.

And, finally: I discovered another of those firang (Anglo Indian?) actors who occasionally have more than walk-on parts in classic Hindi cinema. Ek Saal features in a few scenes, R H Stowell, who acts as Dr Lawrence, an English doctor who specialises in brain surgery. I haven’t been able to find R H Stowell in any other films (Hindi or not), so I wonder if he really was a full-time actor or not. Would love more information about him!

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67 thoughts on “Ek Saal (1957)

  1. Ah!! Madhubala is quite a vision!! And this is quite a story!! Ashok Kumar looks good for a change, as a leading man! Infact, I never doubted his acting! It’s just that I cannot take him in the leading man’s shoes! But this one does sound thrilling!! Thank you so much for the reco :)

    • I agree re: Ashok Kumar. I’ve always acknowledged that he’s a fantastic actor, but as a leading man… well, probably that has something to do with the fact that my earliest memories of Ashok Kumar are from films like Khoobsoorat. The quintessential grandfather! But yes, he is really very believable here as the romantic hero – and Madhubala is certainly a vision. A must-watch.

      • “….but as a leading man… well, probably that has something to do with the fact that my earliest memories of Ashok Kumar are from films like Khoobsoorat.”

        Same here! It took me a long time to accept that Ashok Kumar was a leading man when he was young. It took Mahal to convince me :-)

  2. Heh heh re: Kuldeep Kaur needing a gallop every morning and no starchy foods (according to PGW). It’s very true.

    I liked the film too, but wished Ashok Kumar had fallen for Madhubala, if not immediately, then soon after.

    Actually the ghoda-gaadi song from Howrah Bridge brings out a new dimension in Ashok Kumar as being very romantic and very smitten. ‘That’ has changed my outlook on Ashok Kumar being hero material.

    • Yes, Howrah Bridge is quite the Ashok Kumar-as-leading-man showcase, isn’t it? Though I have seen earlier films with him as the hero – such as Kismet or Samadhi – I guess Howrah Bridge is what woke me up for the first time to the fact that he was more than (as Mukul Kesavan put it in an essay): “An almirah clad in a dressing gown” (I’m paraphrasing – I don’t recall his exact words)!!

      And Kuldeep Kaur used to be so striking – in films like Baiju Bawra or Samadhi. She has those flashing eyes and expressive mouth here too, but the fleshiness distracts…

  3. The song though from Ravi sound very boring, don’t they? ‘Chale bhi aawo’ sounded to me more like ‘so bhi jaao’ and I nearly did.

    Ashok Kumar looks good as usual! And I think he is good at such roles, though Dev would have suited it as well.

    Very broad-minded of Colonel sahib to afford a gigolo for his daughter. Usually the father’s do such stuff only for their sons.

    BTW, all my christian friends at school spoke proper bambaiya Hindi. :-) and the jewish and the parsi as well.
    Well, in Bombay anything goes …as Hindi. ;-)

    Some more notes which I made while reading
    “What she wants is a cracking good gallop every morning and no starchy foods.”
    ROTFL!!!!Poor Kuldip kaur!

    “why he doesn’t is hard to fathom; all that gorgeousness and this man remains unaffected?!”

    If she is being childish as in mr. & mrs. 55, I can understand!

    “Why? Why would one give away a garland that had so much sentimental value; and why would anybody want it anyway? To recycle the flowers and sell them?”

    Maybe they have this custom with the garlands like with the bride bouquet. ;-)

    • LOL about so bhi jaao! I was reminded of when my sister and her husband were bullied by some friends into going to watch the Soha Ali Khan-Shiney Ahuja starrer Khoya-Khoya Chand. They later told me it should have been named Soya-Soya Chand!

      That was interesting, what you said about the Christians, Jews and Parsis in school speaking “proper bambaiyya Hindi”. But tell me – is bambaiyya Hindi spoken only by them, or also by Hindus? My theory is – at least from what I’ve seen here in Northern India – that language is dictated more by region than religion. For instance, in MP cities like Bhopal or Gwalior, the church we attended had services in Hindi – and pretty thet Hindi too! And then, in Srinagar, our church had bilingual service – English and Urdu. My father, who was brought up in UP mainly in the early ’40s, learnt Urdu before he learnt Hindi, owns an Urdu Bible, and knows lots of hymns in Urdu or Hindi (I know some too!) So maybe, while it’s plausible for a Bombay Christian to be talking that way, it wouldn’t be for a Christian elsewhere.

      Hmmm… which probably shows why JB Pinto and Mary don’t talk that way. They’re from Lucknow, see, not Bombay.

      Ah! I think you’ve answered two questions for me: the garland one, and the language one. Bless you! :-)

      • Oh no, my statement about Christians, Jjews and Parsis was meant in the sense, that they gave as much attention to what is proper Hindi like anybody else living in Bombay including Hindus and Muslims.
        what with everybody coming from different parts of India. In fact, the Christians, Jews and Parsis are more pukkah Bombayites since they are living there longer than the later migrants.
        Everybody speaks Hindi in Bombay with their own flavour (accent) and mixes it with the language what they hear on the street and what they hear in the movies. AND still everybody understands everybody.
        In Europe so much research is being made on inter-cultural conflict based on speech. I often think what a good field for such research would Bombay provide.

        I would love to hear the Sermon of the Mount in Urdu. That should sound fabulous!

        • That sounds like an interesting insight into bambaiyya Hindi, harvey! Thank you – I am really not very familiar with Bombay, because I’ve never spent quality time there. I’ve probably spent a total of one month in the city, either on work, or to catch a flight (once upon a time El-Al flights to Tel Aviv were only from Bombay, not Delhi), or for a book launch – have never really had a chance to interact much with pukka Bombayites. Delhi has a way of absorbing people’s individuality to a great extent and converting everybody into a sort of ambiguous, Punjabi-influenced mass. Bombay sounds so much cosmopolitan, so much more a respecter of individuality.

          I must ask my father to get out his Bible and read the Sermon on the Mount to me someday! Incidentally, these are the words of one of my favourite Urdu hymns:

          http://stutiaradhna.com/m/277-mai-yeshu-ke-saath-noor-mei-chalunga.html

          And a rather cute rendition (which is also a reflection on how Christian families in Indian don’t necessarily go around clad always in dresses+floppy hats and suits!):

          http://www.4shared.com/video/u0uqMIsO/mein_yeshu_ke_saath_noor_mein.html

          • Loved the video ‘yesu ke saath’!!
            Reminds me of satsangs!

            Sermon on the mount is my favourite Bible part. I think it is everybody’s!

            “a reflection on how Christian families in Indian don’t necessarily go around clad always in dresses+floppy hats and suits!”

            :-D

            • Thank you – glad you liked that video. I thought it was sweet; reminded me of family gatherings, Christmas and so on, when my father’s parents were alive and we’d go to their home for Christmas. Other uncles, aunts and cousins would be there too, and sometimes in the evening we’d get together and sing some hymns.

  4. I know the song Sab Kuch Luta ka hosh me aaye to kya kiya.. so well. It ruled the airwaves and I knew it by heart.

    The song sounds sad, but the movie sounds like its fun.

    • Yes, the song is sad in both its versions – the male version is riddled with guilt, the female is rife with a sense of betrayal. But the movie is entertaining, and highly recommended if you like romance.

      • Sub kuch luta ke hosh is among my favorite Talat Mehmood songs. I sing it often – especially when, like the male character, riddled with guilt. :-)

        The beauty of most old Hindi songs is that there is one for every turn of feeling, every mood, every occassion.

        • “The beauty of most old Hindi songs is that there is one for every turn of feeling, every mood, every occassion.”

          So true! I think that also has something to do with the fact that our films don’t let anything – crime, illness, sorrow, whatever – get in the way of songs. And of course the sheer volume of songs. There are so many songs in Hindi cinema.

  5. Good review, Madhu. Sounds like a watchable movie too.

    I’ve known the song “Sab kuchh luta ke hosh mein” a long time but have only ever heard the Talat version. Did not even know there was another version!.

    And you are very right about the region being the bigger influence on Christians speaking Hindi than religion. I grew up in Eastern India and had Christian friends whose Hindi style/accent was no different from anybody else’s. Since most Hindi movies are set with Mumbai as the backdrop, I think it is the Mumbai style/accent that is portrayed in movies. This being a Lucknow-based film, the regional style must have been respected.

    Madhubala was oh-so-pretty! That smile was to die for.

    On Ashok Kumar, initially I used to find it difficult too to accept him in a hero role. But now that I’ve seen him in a few such roles, I’m quite ok with them – though I’ve yet to see him in a real dancing-type role (like, say, Dilip’s “nain lad gayi hai” in Ganga Jamuna :-)). That could be interesting though!

    • Thank you, Raja! And yes, I think the fact that most films are based in Bombay (where, as Harvey explains in his comment above, there are so many different flavours to bambaiyya Hindi) it wouldn’t be out of place for someone to be speaking like that.

      That’s a neat observation on Ashok Kumar in a ‘real dancing-type role’! Yes, I don’t recall seeing him in anything like that. Though, as you mention, Dilip Kumar wasn’t above being the dashing hero who didn’t mind pulling punches or donning disguises or even dancing (I’m thinking Aan here, plus of course Naya Daur). I wonder if Ashok Kumar ever did do films like that!

      • I have been encountering this song a lot in the recent past, Harvey! Yes, that’s probably as close to one sees Ashok Kumar dancing – but that’s past his ‘hero’ days, isn’t it? When his contemporaries were prancing around, shaking a leg now and then, Ashok Kumar was generally the very picture of dignity.

  6. I think this movie has been reviewed in some other blog as well. Sounds familiar.

    Yeah – Ashok Kumar, ever the grand old grand-daddy of Hindi movies! But he could pull off a Jewel Thief or a Kanoon or an Aarti (all grey shaded characters) with equal finesse! Always a pleasure to watch him – in virtually Any role under the sun. I think Kishore made for a better leading man than Ashok but the latter’s got a certain unidentifiable but undeniable charm. Especially when paired opposite Meena Kumari and Madhubala who seem to be able to bring out the romantic even in the likes of our grand old grand-daddy.

    • I remember having read about Ek Saal on bollyviewer’s blog – maybe a couple of years back? I don’t remember now.

      Ah, yes! Our grand old grand-daddy was very versatile, wasn’t he? :-) Have you seen Sharafat? Hema Malini acted the part of his illegitimate daughter there, a girl whom he doesn’t own up to because she’s the daughter of a tawaif and herself becomes one after her mother dies… lots of grey in that character too. He was a very good actor.

  7. My theory is – at least from what I’ve seen here in Northern India – that language is dictated more by region than religion. <—– This is a great observation and I think it is very true.

    For example, most of the Muslim socials which I have seen Elan (1947), Mere Mehboob (1963), Pakeezah (1971), Barsaat Ki Raat (1960), Nikaah (1981) show that Muslims speak flowery Urdu, words like "Adaab", "Zahey Naseeb" etc, muslim women wear lehanga, gararas etc, men wear sherwanis, Jinnah caps etc are all stereotypical representation of Muslims in Hindi Cinema.

    As a Punjabi Muslim myself, I can assure you that I can't speak the flowery Urdu with the same accent as shown in Muslim Socials. We Punjabis have the tendency to mix Punjabi words with Urdu when we speak Urdu.

    Also Punjabi Muslim women hardly wear gararas, lehangas, chori daar pajamas etc as shown in films except perhaps during Eid. And Punjabi Muslim men never wear those sherwanis etc when at home.

    The clean and flowery Lucknowi Urdu and the nawabi Muslim culture which is shown in Muslim socials makes up only a small minority of Muslims of the sub-continent.

    • Your point about Urdu with a Punjabi accent is uncanny, because I was thinking of that a couple of weeks back.

      The background: My husband is a Punjabi (I’m not), and a large number of his relatives speak mainly Punjabi, though they do usually make an exception with me! But over the years, I’ve managed to pick up enough of the language to at least get the gist of what’s being said.

      A couple of months back, a book on cinema essays, The Popcorn Essayists, was released here in Delhi; I’d written an essay for it, and so had Pakistani writer Musharraf Ali Farooqi, on the cult film Maula Jatt. On a whim, I decided to go check it out on youtube. Besides the fact that it turned out to be just as mad as Farooqi Sahib had painted it – and so I got tired of it very soon – I did realise that the language was not too similar to the Punjabi I’ve grown accustomed to. The Punjabi in Maula Jatt had more Urdu or Urdu-derived words in it, while the Punjabi my husband’s relatives speak is very much more like Hindi.

      And earlier today, while doing some research on Muslim weddings in India, I came across this web page:

      http://www.zawaj.com/weddingways/three_days.html

      … which more or less proves for anybody who thinks stereotypes are always true, that Muslim women are always clad in salwar-kurtas and the men in achkans. This is a wedding, so everybody is obviously dressed in their best – including saris for the ladies! (Incidentally, in old photographs of my father’s heyday – back in the 60s – there are lots of scenes from parties he went to, and a large number of the men, including Christians and Hindus – also my father – are in achkans).

      Hindi cinema has a lot to answer for, when it comes to stereotyping!

      • Achkan makes a man look so good!
        Yesterday I was watching bits of Junoon on you tube and I thought to myself, I want what he is wearing! What is that called?

        We need a renaissance of this piece of cloth!
        BTW can one buy such a thing nowadays or does one have to go to the tailor and get one stitched?

        • What Shashi Kapoor is wearing in this clip is a jama – that flowing white muslin tunic. It was very common even into the early 1900s – if you see old photos, for instance from Raja Deen Dayal’s works, you’ll see a lot of these around.

          Yes, achkans do look wonderful, don’t they? One reason I actually liked Rajendra Kumar in Mere Mehboob was because of that beautiful black achkan! ;-)

          I don’t think you can buy them readymade, though – the only thing close I’ve seen in stores are those glittery ‘wedding shervanis, all sequined and embroidered and lacking any sort of charm! But I’m sure some tailors can stitch them.

  8. This (and Kismet) was the first time I saw Dada Mani as a leading man – and he is a joy to watch! We all knew what a great leading lady Madhubala made, but Dada Mani as an object of her affections?! And it works so well, too… After this, I was very eager to see Howrah Bridge. Ashok Kumar + Madhubala + great songs – what could possibly be better? As it turns out, nothing is quite as good as this film (or maybe Madhubala speaking “foreign” Hindi just grates too much). I love re-watching this film every few years, and every time I am surprised to discover that there is even a Johnny Walker sub-plot. I do like him a lot, but his part is so superfluous to the main story (and not even particularly funny) that it’s almost forgettable!

    • I must watch Howrah Bridge again – it’s been years, and I remember only the very basic plot. What I do recall vividly, though, are the songs, and Madhubala looking out-of-this-world gorgeous in Aaiye meherbaan! She is so completely exquisite in that. :-)

      Johnny Walker was wasted here, wasn’t he? His and Minoo Mumtaz’s story was so not needed. Really, sometimes that entire ‘you can’t have a film without a comic side plot’ thing just doesn’t work. :-(

  9. Madhu, coinkadink. :) I was working on a post on Madhubala and had watched Ek Saal a couple of weeks ago to refresh my memory! It is one of the ten that I finally chose to showcase her ( still working on it by the way’; staining kitchen cabinets got in the way of finishing it, and I did a mini-article for a magazine in between). I can *always* watch Madhubala – that smile is to die for!

    You know, I liked Dada Moni better as a villain (think Jewel Thief) or even the grey characters than I did his ‘dadamoni’ avatar. And he did do a decent hero’s role though it’s a shame that he was riddled with such staid characters! He had such a sense of humour, I wish someone had tapped that. I think the only one that really looked at that side of him was Pasand Apni Apni, and earlier Victoria No 203. What a riot he and Pran were!

    • We seem to specialise in watching the same films or the same songs around the same time! Ek Saal had been lying at home for a long time (at least a few months), so I decided now was the time to watch it – and yes, Madhubala is one of those people I will watch in anything, she’s so utterly lovely. I am looking forward to your post on her!

      By the way, have you seen Ashok Kumar’s Bandish? A romantic role, but also funny in parts – and his chemistry with Daisy Irani, who plays a little boy called Tomato, is awesome. :-)

      • As harvey said, we must be twins! Or as bollyviewer and I have decided, we are ‘masala’ twins. :)

        And no, I haven’t seen Bandish, so I will put that one on my ‘to watch’ list. I am watching Strangers On a Train now; one of the lesser known Hitchcock movies, but I absolutely love its premise. ‘Your murder for mine’ is not your average comment between strangers.

        • “Or as bollyviewer and I have decided, we are ‘masala’ twins. :)”

          Did you happen to have gone to the Kumbh Mela when you were a little kid, and got bichhro-ed from parents? ;-) Or – do you know any song which nobody else does? :-D

          Strangers on a Train is a good film – it was, in fact, one of the first films I reviewed when I began this blog. Along with Frenzy, Family Plot and The Trouble with Harry, it’s among the lesser-known Hitchcock films that I like quite a bit.

          • Did you happen to have gone to the Kumbh Mela when you were a little kid, and got bichhro-ed from parents? ;-) Or – do you know any song which nobody else does? :-D

            *Sniff!* Nothing so ordinary! We are ‘different’…

            We both

            *like Helen, hate Kaajol
            *love Balraj Sahni, and Dev Anand, and Shammi Kapoor
            *love Georgetter Heyer and Anne of Green Gables, but hate Barbara Cartland.
            *wonder why everyone oohed and aahed over Shah Rukh Khan in Fauji
            *have walked the stretch between Churchgate and Flora Fountain looking for books on the footpath
            *have crossed each other’s paths *several* times without running into each other
            *grew up – one to like Shashi Kapoor and the other to love Amitabh Bachchan (isn’t the great divide essential in a good masala movie?). Bonus points for guessing who likes whom.
            *have a yen for Jane Austen.

            And as I wrote to her: This really is true masala phillum script, no? We are both at the same venue and we don’t meet… years later, a chance encounter across ether gets us talking, and we find much to our surprise (dismay / happiness / anguish / insert emotion of choice here) that we *could* have met and talked phillums so much earlier!

            What say you? Masala phillum or not? :)

              • Yes, isn’t it? So much so that I have forgiven her for not liking Amitabh Bachchan and Raj Kapoor, and she has forgiven me for liking them. And now all that we need to do is to stand on both sides of the Niagara (she is in Canada and I’m in the US) and hold our hands out to each other over the great divide, yelling “behenaa…”

  10. Ek Saal sounds interesting. I like your observation about Goel’s fixation with numbers. Personally I do not like the Ashok Kumar – Madhubala pair. He looks so much older to her, besides I have always felt that his expression while he looked at her did have love but not that of her lover but the deep affection of a father or uncle, well that is my personal opinion.
    As for the Christian Hindi, well you are right about Bombay Christians speaking in that manner. You see in Bombay be it Christians, Hindus or for that matter even Muslims all of us speak Bombay Hindi. We are quite comfortable doing so, though had my father been around I would not dare do so in his presence. As for Christians majority of them are Roman Catholics most of whom are Goans, East Indians and Mangloreans. While the mother tongue of the Goans and Mangloreans is Kokani, a few of them also speak Portuguese, East Indians who are the original inhabitants of Bombay speak a dialect of Marathi. In most Catholic homes parents converse in English with their children as a result most of them cannot speak Kokani, Marathi or even Portuguese, so obviously Hindi is also not a language they are comfortable with. There are a few Protestants, the most famous being Mala Sinha and most of them are not from North India while the few Syrian Christians (John Abraham is one) are from Kerala so none of them are comfortable with Hindi. I guess, as the Hindi film industry is based in Bombay they tend to stereotype the Christians as that is what they hear.

    • That’s an amusing observation about Ashok Kumar! Coincidentally, I’m watching another of his films right now (Kalpana), and I had been thinking that his affection for Padmini seems more avuncular than romantic.

      Thank you for that insight into the stereotyping of Christians in Bombay – that was similar to what Harvey said in his comment too. That was one reason I was glad that someone actually had the intelligence to realise (in Ek Saal) that Christians from Lucknow would likely speak more pure Hindustani than that bambaiyya Hindi!

      By the way, I seem to recall the Amol Palekar-Tina Munim film Baaton Baaton Mein as being another film that, though set in Bombay, didn’t stereotype Christians. Ages since I saw it, though, so I can’t be sure.

      • Baaton Baaton Me was a great film.
        The variation in accent and dialect of Hindi among the Christians in Bombay (like Shilpi has already mentioned) is also very diverse.
        What annoys me most is when Christian men are depicted as drunks and how the alcohol flows freely. ‘michael daaru pike dhandha karta hai’

        • harvey, I think that follows from the priniciple that ‘western’ values are bad while ‘Indian’ traditions are good. (Manoj Kumar beat that trope to death – Purab of Paschim was, in my opinion, where he scraped the bottom of the barrel – even the songs were so prejudiced, if you pay close attention to the lyrics.) Which is why the ‘vamps’ aka ‘bad’ girls (or girls who reach a bad end, which comes to the same thing) were always named ‘Lily’ or ‘Ruby’. The only ‘good’ Christians were the motherly figures who usually played the ayahs or the nannies.

          Ugh!

          • Mrs D’Sa in Anari? Occasionally, a male version – Nasir Hussain’s character in Sharmilee, who was a priest. But there seems to be no middle ground – either Western is really bad (and yes, I agree – Purab aur Pachhim was the nadir when it came to that theme) or, sometimes (and invariably this is with elderly characters), good and kind. The one old film where I can remember a pair of leads playing Christians is in Chaar Dil Chaar Raahein, where Shammi Kapoor and Kumkum play Christians. But then that film did go the whole hog when it came to secular – the Ajit-Nimmi pair were Muslims, and Raj Kapoor and Meena Kumari were Hindus (what’s more, she was a dalit.

        • Harvey: Oh, yes! That idea that Christians are great tipplers – that seems to be a defining aspect of many onscreen Christians. Part of the reason why my father never got believed by anybody when he admitted he was a teetotaller – at parties, there would invariably be people pestering him, all through the evening, to have “just one chhota peg!

          • Yes Madhu, you are right about Baaton Baaton Mein. Yes this stereotyping of Christians as drunkards is also quite irritating. My Catholic neighbours’ parties were always quite sober no free flowing drinks.

  11. While searching for my moon song list, I came across this song, which I looked at properly only today. And since we are (also) talking of good looking leading men, I think it fits in neatly here:

    • Isn’t he absolutely gorgeous? *sigh* *swoon*!! I’ve seen this song before, and have always lamented the fact that she’s dressed in such a silly-looking outfit. Maybe the costume designer was smitten with Premnath too, and wanted him to shine in this song, which he does, especially in that uniform… in contrast to Rehana, whose churidaar-kurta (or whatever it’s supposed to be) is really pretty awkward.

      • “that she’s dressed in such a silly-looking outfit.”

        who she? I didn’t see anyone! Whom do you mean? What churidaar-kurta? You mean there is a woman in this video?
        didn’t see anybody!

        • Very valid point! ;-)

          BTW, I’ve also seen another version of this song, a duet. It’s very brief, and Premnath doesn’t look so wonderful there as he does in the song you’ve linked to, but anyway; here it is (with the preceding scene included):

          • hahahahaha!!
            Well at least it showed up Premnath’s talent in acting. He had to look enamoured while eyeing her in that silly dress. :-D

            IIRC The girl is disguised as a boy on the ship, and Premnath has just (or a bit earlier) discovered she’s a woman, and so I guess she had to arrange for some feminine attire at short notice.

            • pacifist,

              the only problem with your explanation is that she wears the same thing when performing for this song on stage earlier in the film. And if I remember correctly, she continues wearing the same thing off and on throughout the film… :P

              • Ufff! Surely, if she had to keep wearing the same outfit through most of the film, they could’ve deisgned something better for her – like Nargis’s chiffon sari through most of Chori-Chori? It may be repetitive, but at least it’s graceful.

      • [in contrast to Rehana, whose churidaar-kurta (or whatever it’s supposed to be) is really pretty awkward] <—–ROTFL! haha! You are right. I remember watching this film with my younger brother few years ago, he was only 8-9 at that time and he said the same thing, what is she wearing? lol!

        In contrast Prem Nath looks very handsome, my mom was a big fan of him.

  12. I have yet to see an Ashok Kumar as hero film, maybe I will start with this one.
    Interesting film & review, I also followed the comments about stereotyping. Harvey & Shilpi made some elaborate comments about Bombay Hindi and Christians & other religions in Bombay, and they match my experiences. Mr Jinx’s comments about Muslims were also very illuminating, I myself really have no experience (except via Hindi films) about North Indian Muslims. Anu’s comment was also perceptive, “I think that follows from the priniciple that ‘western’ values are bad while ‘Indian’ traditions are good. ”
    It would be interesting to decipher whether the various Christian (& other regional) stereotypes are still prevalent in today’s BWood movies. Several HWood movies of the past had sterotypes as well.
    I would like to recommend a French movie L’Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment), as another viewpoint on the stereotyping issue. It somewhat ties in with what Harvey said about “inter-cultural conflict in Europe based on speech”, and contains strong stereotypes. The interesting conclusion drawn is “people tend to stereotype others they have not dealt with, but many outgrow this after some positive experiences.”

    • Thank you for that recommendation, Samir. I’m always on the lookout for interesting foreign-language films, so this will go into my list of ‘to look out for’ films! (And Audrey Tautou is in the cast?! Yay!)

      I do agree with that premise about people stereotyping others out of ignorance – that does seem to be a very universal failing.

  13. Ek saal is good movie, but you already knew that.:-) So let’s talk about Ashok Kumar behaving uncharacteristically…

    I always get a kick out of seeing him engage in typically filmi chhed-chhad:

    And he looks positively carefree here frolicking in the water with Nalini:

    And finally, a bit of dancing!

  14. Thank you!! Thank you!!! Shalini.

    The Farishta song would have done even Shammi Kapoor proud. Did I spy Bela Bose on Meena’s right?

    The frolicking in water song and the dancing one (complete with thumkas) are rare specimens indeed.

    Such a treat.

    • Yes, certainly a treat! Thank you so much, Shalini – those were lovely songs, and introduced me to an Ashok Kumar I really didn’t know. :-) I have a feeling I’ve seen Phoolon ke haar before, but hadn’t remembered it. And the in-the-water song with Nalini Jaywant came as a surprise! That barechested look is something I’d have associated with Shammi Kapoor or even with Dev Anand, but not Dada Moni… on the same topic (of the song), there seems to be something tattooed on Nalini Jaywant’s back, just below her neck. Anyone been able to figure out what it is? A decorative heart, I thought – and then it started looking like a skull!

      • Let me add my thanks to the chorus, Shalini – it took me so long to comment because I had to pick myself off the floor after watching these videos! Ashok Kumar, dancing? Flirting? In the water with a swimsuit clad nymphet?? I had to watch them twice over to believe my eyes!

        Madhu, the tatoo is a heart with Cupid’s arrow through it. (I laughed so hard at the thought of the heart turning into a skull!)

  15. I will have to see this movie as I have seen the songs of Dad & Minoo Aunty but not the movie.
    Regards
    Tasneem Khan

    • You should see the film – it’s a very sweet romance, and the songs are lovely. Though I must admit that my favourite songs are the ones filmed on your dad and Minoo Mumtaz! They are fantastic. :-)

  16. Ugh, my reply just got cancelled! Let’s try again…

    Madhubala looks so radiant here! And some amazing Lata songs. I read in a Ravi interview that Lata wuld always be his first choice if it was upto him but he only wrked with asha because often his small films couldn’t afford Lata. Harsh, but then when you hear these songs, or Milti Hai Zindagi Mein Mohabbat Kabhi Kabhie or Ghairon Pe Karam or Ae Mere Dil E Nadaan or Tumhi Mere Mandir you can see his point :-)

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