Aan (1953)

I’ve seen this film – a ‘raja-rani’ film, like Rustom-e-Hind – several times, but the most memorable viewing of it was at my parents’ home a couple of years ago.

My parents live in Meerut, about two hours’ drive from Delhi. Every year, at Christmas and Easter, my husband and I, and my sister, her husband and her two children spend at least a couple of days at Meerut. Those days consist of much chatting, feasting, relaxing, and long afternoon siestas.
Flashback to about two years ago. My father’s been saying he wants to rewatch Aan – which had been released when he was 15 years old – so I’ve gotten hold of the DVD, and we’ve decided we’ll watch it one afternoon while we’re all in Meerut. My husband and my brother-in-law will be snoozing in their rooms, my sister will probably be reading, and the children will almost certainly be busy either reading or playing.

Come along,” Papa tells Mama – she likes old Hindi films, even though she’s not as devoted a viewer as Papa or I. “It’s a classic.” So Mama draws up a chair, too, and sits down.

As the credits roll, we see Jai Tilak Hada (Dilip Kumar) pushing a plough, drinking water, and riding off on a horse. He is the sardar, the chieftain, of the Hadas of Sanganera, which is part of the Tamba kingdom. [“Dilip Kumar drew a lot of flak for Aan,” Papa informs us. “Many people were very critical of him for having done such a frivolous role. They thought such a good actor should’ve confined himself to films like Andaaz and Shaheed.”]

Jai Tilak – Jai for short – has, as his best friend, Chandan (Mukri), a blacksmith. We soon meet the other important characters in Jai’s life too. There’s his childhood friend Mangala (Nimmi), who, unknown to Jai (who thinks of her only as a buddy), is in love with him.

And Jai’s mother, the widowed Sardar Ma (?), to whom the Hadas’ loyalty to the royalty of Tamba is paramount. Jai’s ancestors have had a long tradition of wielding their weapons only on behalf of the Maharaja of Tamba.
Now, when Jai asks Chandan to forge a sword for Jai – so that Jai can take it along to the annual festivities at the Maharaja’s palace, where he can show off his skill – the Sardar Ma forbids it.

(Incidentally, Jai seems to be the only one who’s blind to Mangala’s love for him. The Sardar Ma, Chandan and the rest of the clan seem to realise that she adores him, and the Sardar Ma has even gone so far as to talk it over with Mangala, assuring the besotted girl that she will one day be Jai’s bride).

Unfortunately, all these schemes to decide Jai’s lovelife for him are going to come to naught.
When all the Hadas turn up at the palace, the Maharaja (Murad) is welcoming and gracious – he thinks of his subjects as his ‘children’. But the Maharaja’s ambitious (plus lecherous, proud, unscrupulous and any-other-not-nice-adjective you can think of) brother Shamsher (Premnath) doesn’t agree. He sends his elephant – carrying Shamsher’s sword – around the arena, with an open challenge to anybody in the audience, to come and duel with Shamsher.
[My sister, who’s long been (almost) as nuts about the early Premnath as I am, abandons her book and pulls up a chair to watch the film too].

The Sardar Ma, of course, glares at Jai for even thinking that he’ll duel with the Prince, and our hero subsides. But another challenge awaits: Shamsher’s fiery sister Rajeshwari ‘Raj’ (Nadira, in her debut role) is quite a horsewoman. She has just ridden an obstreperous charger into the arena. She sends out a challenge too: whoever can tame her horse will get a reward.

Jai does, of course [Why hasn’t his mum objected this time? Does she think it’s okay for Jai to stand up against the princess, but not against her brother? That smacks of sexism…]. He manages to control the horse, and Raj has to eat humble pie.

Shortly after, in a chamber of audience, the Maharaja meets Shamsher, Raj, and his ministers. It turns out that the Maharaja has to go abroad for surgery, and is on the verge of giving last-minute instructions for the fate of Tamba while he’s away. Much to the annoyance of Shamsher, the Maharaja’s announcement – on a fancy-looking scroll – is that he’s handing over Tamba, not to his brother or his sister, but to the people of Tamba. Long live the public!

The Maharaja is all benevolent smiles, but Shamsher and Raj are furious. This is unacceptable! After the Maharaja has gone, Shamsher takes up the scroll and rips it in two.
Off to the side, someone in a very scruffy and obviously artificial beard looks on.

…and later that night, two of Shamsher’s men enter the Maharaja’s chamber and kill him. Shamsher means to have it proclaimed that the Maharaja has died during his surgery abroad – after which Shamsher, having already ripped up the Maharaja’s farmaan – will crown himself the Maharaja.

The dead ‘Maharaja’ is dumped in a dungeon –which is approached through a very innovative doorway:

What they don’t know is that the bushy-bearded man is watching intently, and has seen all that’s happened. When the coast is clear, he takes off the shrubbery, and we see that it is – the Maharaja! [“How did that happen?” I ask – I mean, earlier, this guy was in the same room as where the Maharaja was presiding. What’s the secret? Twins separated at birth? A mask? Really bad eyesight on the part of Shamsher and his cronies? The rest of my family is as puzzled as I am].

The real, live Maharaja (now with fake beard and moustache back in place) surreptitiously comes to say goodbye to the corpse, which turns out to have been a loyal someone called Soorma Singh, who had vowed to lay down his life for his Maharaja.
The scene shifts now to the countryside of Sanganera, where Shamsher (apparently not plagued by an overactive conscience) is going driving. Along the way, he comes across Mangala and her friend, singing and prancing down the road.
[Isn’t it just slightly dangerous to be waltzing down the road? Shamsher’s car comes up right behind these two women, and they don’t have the faintest idea. Morons, as my mum succinctly puts it].

Mangala soon proves herself to be even more of a moron than I’d have given her credit for. She sings – half-cheekily, half-seductively – to Shamsher, and doesn’t even have the sense to shut up when he starts leering at her. Shamsher vows to get his grimy paws on her sometime, and drives off in a roar of tires and dust, leaving behind an upturned cart and a screeching Mangala. [She throws a tantrum, gritting her teeth, shaking her fists at the car, and howling threats at Shamsher. All of us agree that a tragic Nimmi is vastly preferable to a childish Nimmi].

The scene now shifts to Jai and Raj. After he’s tamed her horse, Jai’s decided his next task is going to be to tame the shrew. Raj is too much of the imperious princess to take kindly to be tamed, but a couple of songs, one sneaky smooch, and even Raj – though she refuses to admit it – is actually pretty smitten by her admirer. Instead, she does all she can to drive him off; he’s too low-born for a princess.

She spews threats at him, orders him shoved into prison (from where he continues to sing ballads in her praise), and orders him whipped (an order she swiftly revokes when she hears the lashes). An important element in the Raj-Jai romance is Raj’s impudent maid Manohari (Sheela Naik?), who seems to spend all her time – not in ‘maidly’ duties – but in singing provocative songs, or passing cheeky comments. [No wonder Raj always looks so huffy when Manohari’s around. I would be too, if I had help like that].

[By this time, what with Manohari’s song-and-dance around the fantastic bathtub with the fake waterlilies, we’re doubling over with laughter. My sister’s kids, curious, come to see what’s up, and think this is so much fun, they join the audience too.]

While Jai is trying to make Raj fall in love with him – his main technique seems to be to break her spirit – there are other things going on. Shamsher, for instance, has decided to make good on his promise to Mangala. He has her kidnapped, and eventually imprisons her in that same tooth-gated jail dungeon where he’d once deposited the murdered ‘Maharaja’.

This gives Mangala loads of opportunity to moan and groan and make awful faces. An unknown (and unseen – she’s in a cell above Mangala’s) woman who’s in the same predicament, sympathises with Mangala and sneaks her a vial of poison, saying that this is a way to defend her, Mangala’s, honour. [Why this woman hasn’t used the poison herself is a question. Or where she got it. Security in Shamsher’s prison seems to be lax].

And, just in case we hadn’t forgotten, the real Maharaja is alive and well – and intent on making sure that the people of Tamba get their rightful due.

Much more is to come. There’ll be more songs – and some dancing, including one dance by Cuckoo, one by Nimmi, and a brief one by Sheela Naik. [Papa, watching her, says: “Doesn’t she look like that relative of ours in Calcutta? Almost as if she were a younger sister.” Considering this auntie of ours is dignified and bespectacled and grey-haired, it’s a bit hard to imagine her dressed in ghagra-choli and pirouetting… but yes, there’s a definite resemblance].

[In fact, by this time, what with the guffaws and giggles and squeals of the six people crowded around my laptop, my brother-in-law has given up his attempt to grab some shut-eye. He comes out of the neighbouring bedroom, bleary-eyed and rumpled. “What are you people watching?” he says, gets one glimpse of Sheela Naik making eyes at Mukri, and decides this is too fascinating to miss. He joins us].

There’ll be Jai, trying to romance a reluctant Raj, there’ll be misunderstandings (and more plot holes)… and there’ll be the Maharaja, intent on (from behind the scenes) passing his kingdom onto his people to govern. [“That’s a nod towards the States’ People’s Movements,” my sister, a historian, explains. “When the republic of India was formed, there were all these princely states, several hundred of them. The States’ People’s Movements were aimed at ensuring a democratic government…” But another song begins, and she’s lost her audience].

I wouldn’t call this one of the best films ever made, but yes: it’s watchable. Especially on a lazy afternoon, with your family clustered around and passing inane comments.

What I liked about this film:

Dilip Kumar’s acting. He is such a natural, and so especially likable in a swashbuckling, romantic role.

Naushad’s music. Dil mein chhupaake pyaar ka is by far my favourite song from Aan, but there are others too that are particularly good, such as Khelo rang hamaare sang and Tujhe kho diya humne paane ke baad.

The dream sequence. It’s a fine example of the splendour of Mehboob Khan’s films – everything is bigger and vastly more extravagant than real life. The thoughts of the dreamer are played out superbly, and the way the subconscious comes to the forefront is interesting. Plus, it’s a pleasure to watch. [Incidentally, one of the images in my current blog header is from the dream sequence].

Ah, and the Technicolor. [Papa tells us, “This was one of the first Hindi films to use Technicolor. It was sent abroad for processing; every single frame was coloured manually.” I don’t know how accurate that is – if my daddy has his facts right or not – but the gorgeously colour-saturated frames sure look wonderful].

What I didn’t like:

Besides the obvious plot holes and the somewhat overlong meandering of the film, this:

[“Don’t these women’s eyes hurt with constantly opening them so wide?” is the whispered consensus].

Honestly, what really got my goat was the theatrical acting of most of the women characters – Nimmi, Sheela Naik, the woman who acted the Sardar Ma, and even in some scenes, Nadira. Surprisingly, the men were mostly fine. The OTT histrionics seem to be confined to the women.

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64 thoughts on “Aan (1953)

  1. Madhu, my laughs for the morning! And believe me, they weren’t for the (accurate) review or the plot holes – they were for your family’s comments in parantheses! LOL

    I swear Aan must have been much more fun to watch when viewed with people whose comments are better than the dialogues.

    But I loved it, you know, in a kind of -‘its-so-bad-it’s good’ kind of way. I even forgave the plot holes and the taming of the shrew plot. Nadira has that effect one me. :)

    • Thank you, Anu! Yes, my family went completely berserk with this one – when we’re together and watching a film that has any shortcomings (My father on Khushboo: “Wasn’t that the film in which Jeetendra played a doctor whose patients kept popping off?)… well, we do tend to be rather vocal about our thoughts. Even if we do like the film a lot!

      The combination of Dilip Kumar, Nadira, Premnath and Naushad made Aan what it was. With a different cast and not such good music, it might’ve been pretty awful – but they pulled it off. :-)

      • *WE* should get together to watch a movie, Madhu! I bet there will be more comments off-screen than dialogues on screen. :)

        I agree that it was the cast and music that pulled Aan from being truly awful, but GOD! Nimmi! She had no clue how to act – most of the time she looked like she was drugged. The sleepy-eyed look doesn’t appeal to me, as you can tell.

        • I would LOVE to watch a film along with you, Anu! And you’re right; the comments would probably end up generating a post longer than the screenplay itself (especially if our film of choice happens to be one of those morbid, long-silences, wide-eyes, tragic-songs ones).

          Yes, somehow I’ve never been able to summon up a great liking for Nimmi either. She never does seem to act normal – either OTT tragic, or OTT silly, or generally OTT anyway.

          But here’s one song where I think she looks absolutely lovely:

      • >(My father on Khushboo: “Wasn’t that the film in which Jeetendra played a doctor whose patients kept popping off?)

        LOL! I see where you get your wit from :)

  2. But the men look so good. I liked how saucy Nadira was. I so totally love her!! Nimmi was screachy but overall an enjoyable film!! It was fun. All those sword fights, dances and colour!!

    • Yes, yes, and yes – to the men and Nadira, the swordfights and the colour – and to Cuckoo’s dancing (I will reserve my comments about Nimmi’s and Sheela Naik’s dancing). ;-)

  3. This is one of my all time favourite films.
    I just love it, mainly for Dilip Kumar’s excellent portrayal of a swashbuckling hero. And I find him super sexy in this film.
    Nimmi with her overacting was soooo annoying.
    Nadira as the unlikeable character did well to arouse that very sentiment in me.

    Very enjoyable review DO. :)
    Loved your family’s comments. :-D

    • PS:
      >Does she think it’s okay for Jai to stand up against the princess, but not against her brother? That smacks of sexism.

      I understood this as;
      the sword would be raised by the family *only* in support and defence of the maharaja or his family (?). So fighting a duel with Premnath would be like raising the sword ‘against’ them.
      Taming a horse doesn’t come in that category.

    • Thank you, pacifist! Yes, wasn’t Dilip Kumar absolutely super sexy here? I was wanting to hit Raj on the head for going on turning him down – if I’d been in her place, I’d have been yelling “Yesssss!!” as soon as he grinned at me. :-D

  4. She sings – half-cheekily, half-seductively – to Shamsher, and doesn’t even have the sense to shut up when he starts leering at her.

    pacifist up there inspired me to interpret the above thus: my take is that that part is to show how innocent and naive she is – she is not being seductive; she is supposed to be nadaan and friendly and charming.

    Until she turns into a virago, of course. :))

    • I don’t know, really. I thought it was supposed to show her as being naive and ‘innocent’ – one of those ‘simple village girls’, but somehow the way she makes eyes at him: I couldn’t believe any girl wouldn’t know what she was about. On the other hand, Mangala strikes me as being such a duffer, she probably wouldn’t have have known anyway!

      I actually wished Mehboob Khan had changed the story a little, to make Shamsher prey on Mangala just because he’d seen her, not because she’d (even unwittingly) done the come-hither act. That would’ve accentuated his evilness, no? And it would have spared Mangala looking as if she brought it on herself, at the end of it all…

    • I think that’s what the director may have meant it to be, but Nimmi’s histrionics in this matter far surpassed the director’s vision :-D

      I think when a car is driving slowly to keep behind the people going for a walk , one may not hear it.
      From personal experience when going for walks in the countryside it’s some time before we discover that there’s a car behind trailing us (because it’s considered bad manners to blow the horn especially on a road where people have equal rights on the road) so I would give it a pass that the two didn’t hear it.

      • “I think that’s what the director may have meant it to be, but Nimmi’s histrionics in this matter far surpassed the director’s vision”

        :-D :-D

        As for your comment on why the car may not have been heard by the two girls… yes, well. You have a point. I guess you’re more forgiving than I am, pacifist! (Yes, I can see why you chose that name). I think I was just too irritated with Nimmi in this film to get over my little prejudices.

        • And sometimes (when I was younger and didn’t know better :( ) we wouldn’t move *even* if we heard a car, because hey, it was so much fun to make the guy irritated, no?

          (I did say ‘when I didn’t know better’.)

          • Heh! But have you noticed one thing? In Hindi films from the 50s and 60s, people routinely seem to walk in the middle of a road if it happens to be deserted at that particular moment. And then they crib about getting knocked down…!

            • Well, considering they *are* in the middle of the road, and the hero *usually* is driving at the rate of 1 kmph, he should be watching, no? :) But no, off he goes and plonks her from behind (on her behind? is it is Asha Parekh?) and then there is this screech “Yooouuu SHtoopeed!” (*especially* if it is Asha Parekh!)…

              • I was actually thinking of all those 50s’ films in which someone – usually either blind or crippled or confused or fresh from some tragedy (deserted by husband or having literally ‘lost’ a child, more often than anything else) goes off to search – walks in the middle of the road – and is hit by a passing vehicle and rescued by a kindly doctor who then proceeds to give the person (a woman, of course) a job as a nurse.

                But if you’re young and fashionable and nothing’s wrong with your life – except the absence of the hero – then walking in the centre of the road does get you instant attention from the hero.

                So convenient, these tropes! :-)

  5. I haven’t seen the film, but I must watch it. I love the Technicolor, it has the same look as old colored photographs, definitely looks hand-painted.

    Nimmi with her histrionics is almost unbearable. And I quite agree, it is easier to take her when she is being tragic, but just not, when she is trying to be all bubbly.

    I love Dilip Kumar in swashbuckling roles. Wish he had done many more of those.

    • Yes, you must watch it! Even though I’ve lambasted it no end in my review, it’s really rather a lot of fun, and the colour is really gorgeous.

      I couldn’t bear Nimmi’s chulbulaapan in either this film or in Amar – in both she gave me the impression of being half-demented rather than bubbly. Give me a Nimmi in Udan Khatola or Chaar Dil Chaar Raahein any day!

      And oh yes – ditto on the Dilip Kumar-swashbuckling roles! I so wish he’d done many more. He was fabulous in them.

  6. Your review had me giggling :) You have a very engaging way of writing; its amusing to read the review of both the viewed and the viewing. Well written!
    I too saw the film a few months back to write a review of its music. Unlike your other readers, I found the film quite annoying. I found nothing to like about the shrewish Nadira throwing tantrums – I wondered at one point whether the film was written by a mysoginist! Nimmi with her wierd half-closed eye and really skewed perception of what is innocence (stupidity?) was awful. Her poison-drunk dishevelled ‘sensual’ dance had me watching her in open-mouthed incredulity! Really?!!! Only Dilip Kumar kept me watching this till the end, but I shall not repeat the experience. The music however was (is) very good indeed.

    • Thank you, Suja, for the appreciation! :-)

      I have to confess I thought Nadira worth watching mainly for her looks (and she wasn’t as theatrical as some of the other female members of the cast). Raj’s character, otherwise, didn’t appeal to me at all – she was more like a spoilt child throwing one tantrum after another, than a grown-up, mature woman too haughty for her own good. Poor Jai… on the one hand, to be loved by a silly, giggly idiot like Mangala, and on the other hand, to love a shrew like Raj. Not an enviable situation to be in.

      But, I agree: the music is very good [Another of Papa’s observations: “Have you noticed, some of Naushad’s best music is in films where he was assisted by Ghulam Mohammad?”]

  7. Lovely review, Madhu. I liked in particular the references to various members of your family joining in at appropriate moments to share in the fun and give their expert comments. These are things that make watching a movie enjoyable. Often far more enjoyable than the movie itself.

    I haven’t seen this movie though I’ve heard a lot about it. Now that I know the story, it sounds like an ok film, though the female acting may have been OTT (not unusual in those days).

    I love “dil mein chhupake”. It has energy and also happens to be one of the Rafi saab songs that I remember from my early days.

    I like Mehboob Khan movies – have you seen his Elan(1947)? I found it interesting but then I love Urdu! :-) Its timing intrigues me – seeing as it is a 1947 movie. Also, I couldn’t place where it is based – Delhi or Lucknow or Lahore? Do watch it if you haven’t – am sure you will be able to fill in the missing pieces. You can find it on youtube.

    • Thank you, raja! Yes, Aan is one of those films that are rendered much more fun if you have a gang of like-minded friends or family members sitting by and dissecting it all. :-)

      I have noticed the theatricality of many of the actresses of the 40s and 50s – a period when one could often see the male actors being pretty natural onscreen. That was what struck me about other films like Dahej, Kismet and Nadiya ke Paar (what I saw of it – the DVD packed up midway). I haven’t been able to come up with a plausible theory to account for that. Same film – but vastly different styles of acting between men and women (and in a number of cases women who went on to act pretty well too).

      Ah, so you recommend Elaan, do you? As it happens, I’d found and downloaded all 12 parts of it from Youtube a year or so back – haven’t got around to watching it yet, but will do that soon, now! Thank you. :-)

      • Hey, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I recommend Elaan but I do like Muslim socials, what with the Urdu et al. There are parts in the second half where you want to tear your eyes out ;-). But overall, I was just intrigued by the fact that I could not make out WHERE the movie was based (Usually you get an idea!). Also since it was a 1947 movie, I thought it might have been made just around the time of partition, maybe partly before and partly after. These aspects of the movie were quite interesting for me. And the fact that it is Mehboob Khan means that any message the movie has HAS to be hammered in hard. :-) Worth a watch, IMO. I remember liking a couple of songs too.

        • Okay, your saying that it’s a Muslim social makes it enough for me to want to move it up to the top of my to-watch list! I am very fond of Muslim socials, and I’m now very curious about where it’s set. That could be a very interesting exercise in itself… incidentally, the main reason I wanted to see the film was that it was released in 1947. I wanted to see what effect, if any, could be discerned in the film of the Partition and independence.

  8. I might have seen Aan when I was small, but can’t remember it, but have heard of it so often on blogosphere, I would like to see it, but it never makes it to my shopping bag.

    Great review! Loved reading it, although I was expecting a under-rated composer list!

    “And Jai’s mother, the widowed Sardar Ma (?)”
    IMDb says it is Amir Banoo

    Loved reading the review!

    “She has just ridden an obstreperous charger into the arena.”
    What is obstreperous?

    “The Maharaja is all benevolent smiles… Soorma Singh, who had vowed to lay down his life for his Maharaja”
    Not benevolent to poor Soorma Singh! Fine king he is, who lets his loyal servant be killed so that he test his siblings!

    “Mangala and her friend, singing and prancing down the road”
    They started the ‘pedestrians-take-over-the-roads’ before the cars had! Some pioneers! I side with Nimmi and co., after all the roads at that time were more for the pedestrians than the cars! Well done, Nimmi!

    “doesn’t even have the sense to shut up when he starts leering at her”
    If women start to stop singing just because men are leering at them, then we would have very few songs in Hindi films! And why shouldn’t she? I bet she would have taken part in the slut walk!

    “All of us agree that a tragic Nimmi is vastly preferable to a childish Nimmi”
    Agree and how!

    “Jai’s decided his next task is going to be to tame the shrew”
    *groan*

    “orders him shoved into prison (from where he continues to sing ballads in her praise)”
    never understood this!

    “Manohari’s song-and-dance around the fantastic bathtub with the fake waterlilies”
    What was she doing in it? She seems very much lost there, just getting wet, I think. That was not enough time to get yourself clean, was there?

    “Doesn’t she look like that relative of ours in Calcutta?”
    This happens to me as well. I can see more than three-quarters of our extended family in Hindi films. At time I could even see likeness of Sridevi in our dog Goldies’s face. Everybody used to laugh at me for that, but it was true!

    “with your family clustered around and passing inane comments.”
    Yes, one needs that for some films!

    “He is such a natural, and so especially likable in a swashbuckling, romantic role.”
    I too love him in such roles, but don’t really like the looks of superiority, which he gives to Raj!

    And Naushad’s music is simply great!

    “Honestly, what really got my goat was the theatrical acting of most of the women characters”
    Blame it on the director! It was Nadira’s first film and Nimmi was also much of a director’s heroine. Most probably Nehboob Khan asked them to go wide-eyed through the film. But I think it was a trend of sorts at that time. Even Sandhya and Jayshree have this tendency of going eyes-wide-open through their husband’s films.

    • Wah! That is what I call a long and very involved comment, harvey! Thank you – I love the interest you show. :-)

      I’m not sure whether that is Amir Banoo acting as the Sardar Ma. She’s definitely credited in the film, but my only point of reference – the only other Amir Banoo film I remember seeing in the recent past, in which I recall her, is Dholak. Granted, her role was very different there, but she looks much older in Aan, even though Aan is just two years later than Dholak. But it could be her.

      Obstreperous means ‘uncontrolled’, or ‘difficult to control’.

      As for Jai singing ballads in Raj’s praise from the prison… well, she gets him jailed in a cell, along with Chandan, next to her palace. At night, Jai starts singing Mohabbat choomein jinke…, obviously aimed at Raj – and goes on singing it, even when Raj sends Manohari to tell him to shut up. In fact, he sings it so well that even Manohari joins in the song and makes it a duet!

      Yes, poor Nadira does look rather lost amongst those fake waterlilies, doesn’t she? There’s a shower – also certainly pretty effectual – sprinkling water from the end of a plaster fishtail (or something – I don’t remember what now). Watch the song – it’s hilarious!

      ROTFL about seeing Sridevi in your dog Goldie’s face!! Quite a compliment for Goldie, but I’m not sure what Sridevi would’ve thought of that. :-D

      You might have a point about the theatrical acting being a result of Mehboob Khan’s influence. Nimmi, as I’ve mentioned in earlier comments, has never struck me as much of an actress, so I wasn’t really surprised to see her act the way she did here. Nadira, strangely, wasn’t too bad, except in a few scenes. Sheela Naik may have been too junior an artiste (was she? No idea) to be able to say no to what Mehboob Khan dictated, but I remember Amir Banoo (if it was her) being definitely better in Dholak

  9. Thanks for the amusing review and wonderful screen cap of Nimmi’s terrible performance in this film.

    Philip Lutgendorf wrote a very accurate summary of Mehboob Khan’s influences in this, which, he says, include Soviet populism and “Disney animation come to life.” I kind of agreed that “communist Disney” would be a fairly accurate description of much of this.

    I am surprised you didn’t include “Aaj Mere Mein Sakhi” in your list of favorite songs here. It’s so uplifting, and Lata’s at her best here. And visually, the whole song is hilariously like a communist propaganda poster, with the raising of the sickles, etc. At least it looks that way to me. I don’t think Mehboob Khan would have gotten a nice reception in 1952 here in the U.S. (By the way, most sources I’ve seen say this came out in 1952 – not that it makes a big difference, I guess.)

    Philip also pointed out the “semi-dominatrix” nature of Nadira’s original outfit. (Too bad she switched to saris. LOL)

    I do like quite a few of Mehboob Khan’s films. I really enjoyed watching Roti (1942). (Especially since I got to see a special subtitled edition… By the way, is Raja commenting above the one who subtitled that?) Mother India is an accomplishment, even if it drags on a bit. And I adore Anmol Ghadi! But, really, I guess that’s mainly for the music. You can never knock the music when Mehboob Khan brings in Naushad. Aan is not seriously one of my favorite of his films :) , but even here, as you point out, the music is splendid.

    • I’d read Philip Lutgendorf’s review of Aan a long time back (when I first discovered his site – and read almost all the reviews, I was so hooked!). Had forgotten it, but I think ‘Disney animation come to life’ combined with Soviet populism perfectly describes Aan (also, I’d say, Mother India and to some extent Roti). The mix of ‘the janta rising up in arms’ and a fairytale romance, with loads of good songs laced through it all is certainly quite “communist Disney”, as you say.

      I really, really liked Roti too – what impressed me a lot was the very undated and surprisingly ‘modern’ (arrrgh! am I sounding patronising? I don’t mean to) feel of it. It’s intelligent, non-melodramatic, and there’s a gritty reality to most of it that’s very refreshing. (And yes, the raja who’s commented above is the same person we have to thank for having subtitled that!)

      I also like Andaaz a lot – yes, pretty melodramatic, especially towards the end, but also good. And with some lovely songs. By the way, for me the songs of Anmol Ghadi were what I liked most about the film – and Noorjehan! So lovely. :-)

      • >By the way, for me the songs of Anmol Ghadi were what I liked most about the film – and Noorjehan! So lovely. :-) <

        Well, Dustedoff, you know I how feel about that. :) I thought I'd just let Noor Jehan fall under the category of "the music" in my comment this time. But you're right, seeing young, pre-Partition Noor Jehan on screen had a lot to do with my fondness for that film, and the film brought out the best in her. (Of course, there was Suraiya, too, but as we've discussed before, I wasn't as impressed by her in this film as in others, maybe because Noor Jehan eclipsed her. But it was fun seeing them together! )

    • P.S. The date of release of Aan seems a little confusing – my father seemed to think it was 1951 (in fact, I’d noted it down as 1951, until I cross-checked on IMDB when I wrote this post…). Not that IMDB is the gospel truth, anyway. Far from it. Whatever. Early 50s. :-)

      • Hey, I also would have sworn that Aan was released in 1951 and checked it on imdb and thought, okay, then it must be so!
        On Philip Lutgendorfs and Upperstall the release date is given as 1952.
        Now why does my brain tell me it was 1951?

    • >the raising of the sickles,

      LOL, Richard. As much as I know this was a common dance movement during harvest in almost all films showing this :-D

      • Pacifist, maybe it was in a general way (I recall that there was something similar going on with Nargis and a sickle in Mela (1948))… But in Aan, I think there was a little something else to the imagery, also noticed by Philip… Though maybe we were looking for it, too, considering Mehboob Khan’s company logo. :)

  10. Wonderful,as always. I love to read about families watching films together! This was one of the first Indian films released in the United States under the title “Savage Princess”. I don’t know how it was recieved, but the advertising posters are amusing saying things such as…Stupendous!…Thousands upon thousands in the cast…See!…Camel Stampede!…Pillage Of A Village!…

    • Thank you!

      Savage Princess? Hmm. That sounds like some sort of exotic bodice-ripper. I can just about imagine Xena… I would’ve loved to know what audiences in the US thought of it! As Richard points out in his comment above, Mehboob Khan (and, by extension, I guess some of his definitely leftist films like this one) would probably not have been very warmly received in the US back then.

  11. I watched this movie some years back, but it has left absolutely no impression on me, so it was fun going through your review. I have a feeling I probably fast forwarded through most of it, after watching the first couple of songs! And I agree with you about Nimmi, but I think this is how most Hindi (and probably movies in other Indian languages) films portray a naive person – by making him or her appear to be either a dimwit or demented person! I think the fun part of the movie for you has been in watching it with the entire family and getting the combined reactions and comments, and I will have to content myself with that vicarious pleasure, since hubby here gets all serious about a movie when we watch and then gets upset if I make some funny comments!

    • Well said, Lalitha. Your observation about how most Hindi films portray a naive person – more as a dimwit than anything – made me think, and sure enough, I couldn’t think of too many films where naivete is shown by means other than pure dumbness. They seem to think being simple is the same as being simple-minded! (By the way, have you watched Amar – also Dilip Kumar and Nimmi? Nimmi does a very similar ‘simple’ act there too. Frightfully irritating.)

      I don’t get serious about films, but I don’t like to miss any dialogue. As long as people I’m watching the movie with pass comments when there’s no dialogue happening, that’s more than fine with me – especially when the comments are funny! But I HATE the endless chatter and disturbances – ringing cellphones are a major irritant – when I’m watching a film in a cinema hall. Grrr!

  12. Aan is one of my favourite films, and Dil Mein Chupaake about my favourite song. I love the grandeur and the swashbuckling, and especially Dilip Kumar’s excellent acting. I’m so happy you chose to discuss it!

    (I nearly died of laughter after reading your comment about how a female in major distress will be knocked down by a car, and a female generally okay with the world will not be.)

    • Thank you – and I’m glad you got to read a review of a film you like so much! I do wish Dilip Kumar had done more of these light-hearted swashbuckling roles – he’s so dashing and wonderful in films like Aan or Kohinoor. Which reminds me, I have to look out for Azaad too…

  13. Loved your family’s comments on the movie. I remember those Sundays of yore when there was only one channel (good old Doordarshan) and all of us would watch the movies being telecast, even the regional ones in the afternoon with the subtitles. (BTW, what happened to them? I remember watching some very well made Bengali and Malyalam movies. Once there was that heart-wrenching Percy also).

    • Thank you!

      Heh. :-) I remember us watching any film that was being telecast in that 5:45 slot on Sundays – even really obscure, rotten stuff like a film called Fauji, which starred Joginder Singh… even my parents, generally very patient people, gave up on that one midway!

      Now, on the other hand, I don’t watch any television – I’d much rather spend time watching a good old Hindi movie on a VCD or DVD. I think Zee Classic still shows some good old movies now and then.

  14. I just saw the movie and was going through a few of my favorite blogs to see if anyone had written it up…and you had – thank you!

    Looks like it was a fun viewing experience with your family…thanks for sharing that with us…great comments…and as usual a great review from you :)

    In real life, any man who tried any of this taming the shrew business with me – that would have been his last attempt at shrew taming! But this movie..and..well..Dilip’s absolute deliciousness…I felt ashamed that I totally loved it! I justified the feeling thinking that Raj really was too cruel and arrogant and that she kinda did start liking Jai a little bit before the grand kidnap…wasn’t very convincing so asked my feminist self to sit in the corner for a bit, while I thoroughly lost myself in this film! I seldom watch these swashbuckler movies so this was quite an experience for me! I only felt bad that we didn’t get to see more smoldering and smooching onscreen! Sigh!

    Kinda happy to see that there are other human people who liked this loud and pot hole ridden extravaganza too…makes me feel “normal” again ;) Couldn’t agree more on the eye-popping acting and Nimmi’s twitches! Looked like all the women were “spas(z?)ming” to some high frequency music indistinguishable to the rest of the populace!

    And jawan-Premnath! hubba hubba ;) Btw, could you please recommend any Premnath movie where he’s looking as delish? Thankee!

    • Raj did need some taming, in my opinion too – she was just too nasty. But then, if she’d been male, I’d have felt the same, so I’m not going against my inherent feminism. ;-)

      Premnath is absolutely gorgeous in his early films – though, as I and another reader were discussing on one of my blog posts, he’s best off when he’s not giving one of his ‘goofy grins’ – his teeth aren’t that great, so he looks waaaay better when his mouth’s shut. Two of my favourite early Premnath films are Abe-Hayat (okay, he’s not that young here, but still lookin’ good, and it’s literally fantastic) and Naujawan – he’s to die for in that. Barsaat has him looking awesome too, though the film itself is rather depressing and not a favourite. Another film I’d bookmarked on rajshri.com was Sagaai, where he’s simply out of this world. Unfortunately, rajshri.com seems to have gone on the blink, so I don’t know when and if I’ll ever see that film. If it’s any consolation to you. here’s a song from Sagaai. Have a look:

  15. Thank you so much, will look up these movies. This site is a virtual treasure trove for movie buffs like me! Thanks for being so generous with your knowledge :)

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