If Rajkumar is the trademark ‘Shammi Kapoor at his peak’ film, then Tumsa Nahin Dekha is an equally – if not more – important film, because this is the one that made Shammi Kapoor into the icon he was by the mid-60s. Till Nasir Hussain got Shammi Kapoor to shave off his moustache and act as the devil-may-care hero of this film, Shammi was (as my father puts it), “Just another actor with a thin moustache and the usual roles. Nothing exceptional.” Tumsa Nahin Dekha gave him the opportunity to transform from the half-hearted, unexceptional sort-of-hero into a Shammi Kapoor who became almost an institution in himself.
Someone – I’ve forgotten who, now – said that Nasir Hussain “came to Bombay with one story in his briefcase, and made four blockbusters out of it.” The story was a simple one, of separated parents and offspring who are reunited years later. The details and the plot changed a little with every film (the other films were Dil Deke Dekho, Jab Pyaar Kisi Se Hota Hai, and Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon), but the basics were the same. The first film of this particular formula was Tumsa Nahin Dekha, written and directed by Nasir Hussain – and starring a new, vastly improved Shammi Kapoor.
The film begins in the village of Ghatpur in Assam, where the wealthy and imperious Sardar Rajpal (BM Vyas) has estates, stables, a large cattle-yard, and a much-loved foster daughter, Meena (Ameeta). Meena is Rajpal’s old (now long dead) friend’s daughter, and has been brought up by Rajpal, who’s had her educated in the city. Now that she’s come home from the city, Rajpal tells her a little bit about his own history.
Rajpal, it transpires, wasn’t always a goodie-goodie (not that he’s one now, but he seems to have mellowed a little with age). Twenty years ago, Rajpal lived in ‘the city’ too, with his wife Kamla ‘Kammo’ (Anjali Devi) and his baby son Shankar. One evening, having squandered away even his wife’s jewellery on gambling, a desperate Rajpal turned on the two cheating gamblers – brothers – and killed one of them (though in self-defence) before running for his life.
The brother who remained alive, Vishnu (Raj Mehra) called the police, and Rajpal (whose actual name, back then, was Gopal), having said a hurried goodbye to Kammo, escaped.
He ended up here in Assam, where’s he built a new life for himself. But he still yearns for Kammo and Shankar. Worse, he had read a newspaper article, long ago, that both of them – his wife and son – had gone missing after their house caught fire.
Meena is getting ready to go to the city for a friend’s birthday, and Rajpal asks for a favour: while she’s in town, can she insert an ad in the newspaper? He needs two men (both of whom should be able to ride a horse and shoot a rifle) to look after his stables and cattle-yard.
Meena agrees, and suggests another idea: how about a notice addressed to the long-separated Kamla and Shankar, giving them his whereabouts? Perhaps they’re still alive. Rajpal is hesitant – even though he thinks he covered up his trail well enough, the police may get suspicious – but Meena persists. Perhaps he could address the notice to Kammo – surely no-one would guess that the erstwhile Gopal’s affectionate nickname for his wife Kamla was Kammo? [This sounds like a shot in the dark to me. If Hindi films of the 50s are anything to go by, Kammos were as common as fleas].
But it works. Of those many Kammos floating around the country, the correct one – Rajpal’s long-lost wife – sees his notice, alongside his ad asking for two employees for the estate. Kammo is excited beyond belief at finally having heard from her beloved husband. [Why she still worships him – literally, since she sits with folded hands before his photo – is beyond me. This man deserted her years ago and hasn’t uttered a squeak ever since]. Shankar, now grown up (Shammi Kapoor), has more sense, and tells his mother off for mooning over such a neglectful man.
Kammo, therefore, keeps mum about the fact that the ‘Sardar Rajpal’ who has inserted both ads – for employer and for ‘Kammo’ – is one and the same, Shankar’s father and her husband. Instead, all Kammo does is to encourage Shankar to travel to Ghatpur to Sardar Rajpal, going in response to the ad for an employee. On her own, she writes a quick letter to her long-lost husband, telling him that the young man bringing him this letter is his own son, who now harbours a deep hatred for his father and so has not been told that Rajpal is that father…
Kammo seals the letter and gives it to Shankar, telling him it’s a recommendation from an official whom she knows, who also happens to be acquainted with Rajpal. Shankar takes the letter, bids goodbye to his mum, and goes off to Ghatpur. Kammo plans to go on a two-month long pilgrimage, after which she’ll go to Ghatpur. Hopefully, by then Shankar will have come to know Rajpal well enough for a reconciliation to take place.
But Rajpal’s ads in the newspaper haven’t gone unnoticed. The police have seen them, and an officer realises that this Rajpal just might be the same criminal, Gopal, who absconded after a murder twenty years back. [Okay, I didn’t know the Indian police was that vigilant, or prescient, or just plain without any other work to do than read the ‘Help wanted’ ads]. Let’s investigate, they decide.
As if that wasn’t all, Vishnu (Remember? The brother of the man Rajpal killed) is still alive, still thirsty for revenge, and – worst of all – as observant as the cops. He remembers Gopal referring to his wife as Kammo, and guesses that Gopal must be Rajpal. And Rajpal has obviously – if he’s got such large estates – done well for himself. He, Vishnu, must lay his hands on that wealth.
Vishnu also remembers that long-ago bit of news about Kammo and Shankar having died in a fire. He tells this to his equally evil son, Sohan (Pran), and it is Sohan who comes up with a scheme to wreak vengeance on Rajpal. Rajpal, after all, has been amassing wealth all these years in the hope of someday passing on that wealth to his beloved son. He doesn’t know that the son is, in fact, long dead. The greatest revenge will be if Rajpal were to end up giving all that wealth to his enemy’s son!
Sohan’s plan is that he will answer Rajpal’s ad and present himself at Ghatpur as Shankar.
Meanwhile, our hero boards the train to Soonanagar – the railhead for Ghatpur – and finds himself travelling in the same compartment as the fiery Meena. [Of course. Where would a Nasir Hussain flick be without coincidences?] Sparks fly at once. He is insolent, she is imperious, and they have a brief argument before they finally disembark at Soonanagar…
…where, after a tussle, they end up having to share the lone tonga that’ll take them on to Ghatpur. It’s an entertaining ride (at least for the tonga-wallah, though even Meena, by the end of it, is secretly looking less and less huffy with Shankar). Unfortunately, it comes to a sad end, because a wheel comes off.
Meena gets a lift in a passing bullock cart, but when it begins pouring cats and dogs, is forced to seek shelter in the bungalow of a colonel known to Rajpal. The colonel isn’t home, but his servant lets her in, albeit reluctantly.
And who should arrive soon after, also looking for shelter, but Shankar?
Some madness ensues – Meena and Shankar are in adjoining rooms, their wet clothes hung out to dry on clotheslines in the balconies, while they themselves traipse around, wrapped in sheets (a circumstance that later forces Shankar to tell a suddenly-returned colonel that Meena and he are husband and wife):
Late that night, when everybody’s asleep, a thief, Johnny (Ram Avtar), comes by and steals both Meena’s and Shankar’s clothes. He doesn’t notice it, but the letter that Shankar had been carrying in his jacket pocket, falls out onto the ground while Johnny is creeping out of the house… and is picked up by Sohan, who’s been sheltering, unknown to the inhabitants of the house, in the shed nearby.
Sohan opens the letter and reads it: it’s the one Kammo has written to Rajpal. The bearer of this letter is your son, Shankar, but he hates the very thought of you as his father, so I have not told him that. Ah! What more could Sohan want? This is serendipity, indeed. He tucks the letter into his own pocket –
– and presents himself the next day, calling himself Shankar, to Rajpal. ‘Shankar’ hands over the letter, and Rajpal is overjoyed to discover that this young man is his long-lost son. But, following Kammo’s instructions, Rajpal refrains from revealing the relationship.
He does, however, tell Meena, who is happy for Rajpal and tries to be sweet to this Shankar, but finds herself remembering the other, vastly more attractive and rakish Shankar more often than she would like to.
And here he is, back again! A few days later, another man arrives in response to Sardar Rajpal’s ad for an employee. He too introduces himself as Shankar. He too carries a letter from Kammo – Rajpal recognises the handwriting, all over again – telling Rajpal that this is his son who hates him (Shankar had written to let her know that he’d lost her letter of recommendation, and could she send him another? That’s why he’s arrived so much later; he’d been waiting for her letter to come).
Now this is a dilemma indeed. Who is the real Shankar? Rajpal is puzzled. Meena is equally puzzled and frustrated too, because she’s attracted to a man who may well be a thief and a murderer, for all she knows.
As if that wasn’t enough of a complication, there’s another element in the story: the tribals who live nearby. They’re led by Bhola (Kanu Roy), and they’re not on good terms with Rajpal, who they think has been robbing them of their land. When Sohan tries to rape Bhola’s fiancée Seema (Sheila Vaz), things begin to get out of hand – but could this just be what it takes to finally settle matters?
Fortunately, the real Shankar – our Shankar, the fun, upright, honest, Meena-loving Shankar – has a lot on his side. Meena, for instance. Johnny, the ex-thief (the one who, not so long ago, stole Shankar’s clothes) for another – he is now Shankar’s friend. And virtue, of course. Right is right.
Yes, I know. It sounds like a horrifically complicated plot, but it isn’t. Nearly everything does tie into the plot somewhere or the other, and there are few digressions from it (the scenes between Shankar, Meena and the colonel are pretty pointless, but short, so they don’t get tedious). There is no comic side plot (you don’t really need one, with a livewire like Shammi Kapoor in the lead, do you?), and there’s plenty to please.
What I liked about this film:
Everything, really. This is one of my favourite Shammi Kapoor films, an out-and-out entertainer. But two special likes:
OP Nayyar’s music. Yes, Shankar-Jaikishan later became almost synonymous with Shammi Kapoor’s films, but Tumsa Nahin Dekha was scored by OP Nayyar – and from the casual joie de vivre of Jawaaniyaan yeh mast-mast bin piye, to the madcap-romantic Yoon toh humne laakh haseen dekhe hain, to the fun-romantic Dekho kasam se to the Punjabi folksy-romantic Sar par topi laal haath mein resham ka roomaal… this is a winning album.
Shammi Kapoor. From his pre-Tumsa Nahin Dekha films, I’ve seen a few – Hum Sab Chor Hain, Shama Parwana, and Rail ka Dibba among them. If I hadn’t already admired and adored the later Shammi Kapoor, I’d have probably not looked for any more films of his after just seeing these ones. Tumsa Nahin Dekha was the watershed. The Shammi Kapoor here is a far cry (literally – Yoo-hoo! – as he keeps whooping every now and then in this film) from the Shammi Kapoor of the earlier films. He’s impossibly handsome, very likable, and more than enough reason for Meena’s dreamy-eyed look.
Incidentally, for those looking for early glimpses of future ‘familiar faces’: there’s a very young Shetty here, as one of Bhola’s men:
And Bela Bose appears in a couple of songs. Here she is, sitting on the left of, and a little behind, Ameeta in Aaye hain door se milne huzoor se (Bela can also be spotted as one of the dancers in Sar par topi laal haath mein resham ka roomaal).
What I didn’t like:
Except for Ameeta’s very unflattering Western outfits in some of the scenes – nothing much, really. And that’s something I can easily overlook.
… And now, a completely unrelated topic:
For those of you who’re interested in my writing other than this blog, here’s news. The second of my books on the 17th century Mughal detective Muzaffar Jang is finally out. It’s called The Eighth Guest & Other Muzaffar Jang Mysteries, and it was released on August 19th.
The book’s available in the Indian subcontinent, the UK and Ireland. It consists of ten short mystery stories, with Muzaffar pitting his wits in a wide range of crime and puzzles, with settings as far apart as the Royal Elephant Stables and a nobleman’s garden in Mehrauli, to a baoli (a step-well) and the Imperial Atelier.
Here is more about the book (including where you can order it online), and here is the book trailer. if you liked The Englishman’s Cameo (to which this is a sequel), don’t miss this one!