73 thoughts on “Benazir (1964)

  1. I remember disliking ‘Benazir’ for the same reasons you mention. The relationship between the woman and the men just didn’t make sense, and she did seem to be taking advantage of them. But Shashi Kapoor and Tanuja, are really wah together.

  2. The movie may not be equal to the others from the Bimal Roy stable but I liked it due to S. D. Burman, Tanuja and Shashi Kapoor, in that order. Husn ki bahaaren liye aye the sanam, with the classical dignity of composition and instruments like sitar is beautiful and so is the Rafi’s romantic number, Dilmen ik jaan-e -tamanna ne jagah payee hai, aj gulshan men nahin ghar men bahar ayee hai. (Sachin Dev Burman can never fail.) I liked the picturisation of this song also.These two songs were enough for me to buy the VCD of the movie and I got to see the lovely pair of Tanuja and Shashi Kapoor as bonus.

    • Despite Shashi Kapoor, Tanuja and SD Burman (all of whom are generally sufficient by themselves to make me want to see a movie) – they couldn’t redeem Benazir, at least for me. I think the problem was that I began watching with extremely high expectations. A Bimal Roy film, with such a great cast, and with music by SD Burman – I’d have expected it to be fantastic.

  3. You are right, the film leaves the taste of something amiss. Everything being top notch, a tighter screen play and development of the principal characters in the hands of a seasoned director – Bimal Roy himself – may have helped the film rise a few notches.
    SDB’s music has indeed captured the nuances of the Muslim environment of the film – he has refrained from using known western instruments in his orchestration, his tunes faithfully reflect the native culture.
    In fact when I was advocating this film to Dusted Off for review, I was aware that she may come up little disheartened, as I was when I saw the movie on VCD couple of years ago. But, I did buy the VCD, in fact I was always on search out for it.
    That is dichotomy of the film, you may like some part, but may not end up fully satisfied!

    • Very true; I think if perhaps Bimal Roy himself had directed the film, it might have been better. On the other hand, it’s not the direction of the film or the acting I have a problem with – it’s the characters and the story, which in any case had been the work of S Khalil himself. So unless the story was changed, I doubt I’d have liked it much even if Bimal Roy had been the director.

      he has refrained from using known western instruments in his orchestration, his tunes faithfully reflect the native culture.

      I agree, though I thought Gham nahin gar zindagi had a distinctly Western feel to it. This one did surprise me, considering the scenario.

      • I do agree on Gham Nahi Zindagi Viraan Hai. The song has captured the emotion of loneliness very well, but it does appear to be away from other typically native-oriented styled songs of this film.
        In fact, after posting out my remark, it was this song that would keep on coming back to my mind.. and I increasingly felt that I ought to have qualified my carte blanche statement> And yes, I ought to have recalled that quawalli I had note in your post on quawalli – Hum unko dekhte hain — Mubarak Begum & Asha- http://youtu.be/TXiPK-pFUdQ, which makes [probably] makes up SD’s one digression.

        I also agree with the views of Annuji in her following comment and your reply thereto that probably the story writer and director did want to portray such sides of the human nature only! But, then It would take a far more accomplished director to put across such a complex set of human natures. Very few Hindi movies have dared to present such a candid view of the human nature. A compromise here a compromise there – some characters or some sequences – would ‘have to be introduced’ to address the commercial concerns and the effect is what we see here.

        • Yes, that qawwali is, of course, a good one – not the type of music one generally expects of SDB (though I do think he’s very versatile). Fits in perfectly with the milieu.

          I agree about what you say about compromises being introduced in the film, perhaps to address commercial concerns… only, I got the feeling that even that was done in a half-hearted way. Either they should have gone the art movie way, and shown characters exactly as they were, nice and not-so-nice, or they should have gone the commercial, predictable way. This middle-of-the-road technique doesn’t work, at least not in this case. :-(

  4. Wow. This must be the first time that I have seen such a reaction from you. :)

    I remember not liking Benazir very much when I first saw it. My second watch (not voluntary, let me assure you) made me look at it a bit differently – that no one is exactly ‘good’; none of them are sympathetic characters – not Anwar, not Nawab sahib, not Benazir. She is not above making use of her admirers (and is thus a more-realistic depiction of a nautch girl than usual); the Nawab and Anwar are typical male chauvinists, with the more than usual double standards… the ‘good’ woman, as characterised by Shahida really has no will of her own and is a pawn… and so on and so forth.

    Perhaps I’m over-analysing the film – but I think, on the whole, it takes a not-so-rosy look at human emotions. And things are not quite as pretty as we would like it to be, or think it is. (No, I still do not like it!)

    • Anu, I agree that this film took a “not-so-rosy” look at human emotions. I thought so too, just after I saw it (in fact, I spent all of one day just trying to figure out what it was that didn’t sit right with me regarding the film). I figured it was an attempt to portray people as shades of grey rather than stark black and white, but I think it needed at least one main character whom the audience could root for… and this had none. (Shahida is too minor to be considered a big character). And for me, the absence of that character meant that I distanced myself from the film and didn’t really care what happened by the end, because nobody was worth it.

      I’m fine with films depicting people as flawed (The Postman Always Rings Twice is an example), but it has to be done in a certain, accomplished way. This one just seemed ham-handed to me. :-(

  5. I haven’t seen Benazir, always confusing it with another film with Sunil Dutt (where she loses her voice), and thinking I have seen it :-D

    Reading the review made me come to certain conclusion;
    -though Shashi Kapoor and Tanuja seem more likeable and endearing it seems to be the run of the mill characterization.

    -The nawab and Benazir are perhaps the shades of grey that you are talking about, especially Benazir. Her good work has to be the superficial type, according to my reasoning from what I’ve read in the review. Can’t imagine her going about doing anything more than that considering her situation.

    -above all, finally a film where Meena Kumari does not do a weepy role (I presume) – and no mention of it? After all she’s always derided for her weepiness. ;-)
    She seems to have done a role without a hero (a real one), a role which is not a likeable one, something quite bold.

    I agree with your comment about MK being flirtatious in a dignified way. She has done that very nicely in other films too.

    I know my opinion is misplaced without having seen the film. :-/

    • Lovely review. The story does seem rather long winded. Haven’t seen this movie. I like the song “Dil me ik jaane tamanna ne jagah payi hai” I should listen to the song you have mentioned.

    • You’re right about Tanuja and Shashi Kapoor’s characterisation – it is nothing out of the ordinary. But Meena Kumari and Ashok Kumar aren’t the only people with shades of grey – if that were the case, I’d have probably not minded so much, because I’ve come across others too (for example, Balraj Sahni’s character in Izzat, or Ashok Kumar in Sharafat, neither of whom was really izzatdaar or shareef! ;-) The problem here was another character who turned out to be pretty grey – and that, because they changed character in a very illogical, unbelievable sort of way.

      Meena Kumari’s ‘superficial charity’ is understandable, given (and I agree with you here) her profession – she probably didn’t have the time to do any more. And I don’t condemn her for it. For me, what was irritating was the way it seemed that the film was trying to idolise her, and make her out to be a self-sacrificing, saintly martyr. Whereas what she really was, was probably an eventually self-serving, selfish normal human being.

      Actually, now that I come to think of it, the hypocrisy is what put me off. I could have easily swallowed Benazir’s own two-sided nature, if it hadn’t been repeatedly dinned into my head that she was so good!

      She doesn’t weep much here, but she gets pretty depressed (and depressing) towards the end.

    • This is precisely the first comment everyone would proffer when the film was originally release – A muslim social and SDB ‘s music? Can you ask a horse to pull a camel cart in the desert?
      However, whatever be the comments on the other aspects of the film, every one acknowledged that SDB was not found wanting. And that is no mean credit, particularly when the comparison is with Roashan or Naushad.
      Even Madan Mohan was also subjected to similar scepticism for his Jahan Ara score – and he had virtually resurrected Talat Mohamad in that film.

      • I suppose I’m one of the odd ones out, who am open to a music director (especially one of the stature of SD Burman!) composing for a film that was not their ‘typical’ type. I think SD Burman did a good job with Benazir. Not as mind-blowing as some of his superb Navketan songs, but good, nevertheless.
        Thank you for reminding me of Jahanara. It has some of my favourite songs.

        • I agree. I think SDB did more than a fine job in “Benazir” and I think it’s dangerously narrow-minded to say that only someone from XYZ background can or should attempt ABC artistic endeavor.

          • I agree with Shalini. I have a problem with that view as well – by that token, Naushad should never have given music to the bhajans in Baiju Bawra.After all, what did he know about Hindu culture? O duniya ke rakhwaale had three devout Muslims – Naushad, Shakeel Badayuni and Mohammed Rafi. Can anyone say that we should have got Ravi to compose the music?

            Naushad insisted on everyone wearing white while recording the song. Rafi wasn’t happy with his recording; the take was okayed only after Rafi asked them to bring him a statue of Lord Krishna – he placed the statue in front of him and recorded the whole song in one take. In an interview, Naushad said that everyone present had tears in their eyes – the devotion in Rafisaab’s voice was so touching. And this was a man who never missed saying his namaaz! He had the same devotion towards a Hindu god as he did towards Allah.

            I do not think any good music director would be constrained by the subject. Burmanda was perfectly capable of composing for a variety of genres.

            It is the same attitude that leads to a typecasting of heroes and heroines in the same roles over and over again – and then we complain that they do not do anything different.

            • Anu, well said! And, imagine: Geeta Dutt was known mainly as a singer of devotional music (or similar) before SD Burman took a risk and got her to sing Tadbeer se bigdi hui… thank goodness for people who are willing to fight against being typecast (or letting others being typecast).

          • True. I would actually think it an insult to an artist to be considered a one-trick pony. When it comes to someone like SD Burman, he’d have the intelligence and talent to understand the nuances of the society being depicted in a film and compose accordingly. Bandini has very different music from Teen Deviyaan, for example. So why not a Muslim social? And he does justice to it.

      • OK, let me put it this way-I didnt find anything great in the songs of Benazir except “Mil Ja Re”, I somehow didnt get the “Muslim social” feel like in Mere Mehboob. There is a clear Same goes to Mere Huzoor. Please, for heavens sake Anu, dont start writing about this typecasting stuff again, thats a boring topic too :-):-) (beaten to death).
        I am not commenting about the capabilities of Burmanda.
        I could see a distinct difference in quality of Shakeel’s lyrics in Benazir and Mere Mehboob(Naushad) or even Noorjehan(Roshan). Part of a music director’s job is to get the best out of a lyricist.
        Another point-Jahan Ara had some great songs-Madan Mohan and Rajinder Krishen paired up brilliantly. Gazal-MAdan and Sahir paired up effectively again.

        If I were to touch my heart and speak the truth, I am not sure if Burmanda’s efforts were as great in bringing out the best in Shakeel.
        Pray, how many hits do we have from Benazir?

        • I agree that Benazir was not one of SD Burman’s best scores – far from it, as I’ve mentioned in the post. On the other hand, I don’t think he did a bad job, either.

          I think the point of “getting the feel” of a Muslim social is probably subjective. It depends on what you consider de rigeuer in a Muslim social. From that angle, this worked for me, even if the story didn’t.

  6. That’s a pretty complicated story. I like Dil mein ek jaan-e -tamanna ne jagah payee hai , and have always wanted to watch the film. I didnt even know that this movie had so many characters in it.
    It might still be interesting to watch it with ‘“not-so-rosy” look at human emotions’ like Anu mentions but again like you said when there’s no character one could root for, it’s hard to establish a connection and like the film. Now I’m wondering if I am sounding like one of the characters myself – confused.
    For now, I’ll just watch the song on youtube and feel happy.

    • Archana, the story, actually, isn’t as complicated as many others that I’ve seen. It’s fairly straightforward, but the flip-flops of the Ashok Kumar and Shashi Kapoor characters really got my goat. They’re odd. And yes, there must be at least one person (even if it’s an anti-hero, who dies at the end!) whom one can sympathise with. This one just left me feeling irritated.

  7. I warned you! ;-)
    But you are right it is not outright bad, but it is also not overwhelming and all those pretty faces are nice to see.
    And I also liked the simplicity and the fact that the misunderstanding caused by Shaukat Iago is resolved in the middle and not at the end.
    The ending was very tame though! Not that death is tame, but the way it is handled, you can see it coming from thousand miles.
    It is once again a film where A loves B loves C loves D loves E loves D and F loves E as well.
    Sounds like Prem Patra! https://dustedoff.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/prem-patra-1962/#comment-13823

    • Yes, you warned me! And yes, the fact that Shaukats’s treachery gets found out pretty much before the end is a refreshing change. But please, please don’t compare this to Prem Patra – no matter in which way! Yes, that one too has this chain of A-B-C-D etc, but otherwise the two films are like chalk and cheese. Prem Patra is one of my ‘watch repeatedly’ films; this one is (sad to say) a ‘who wants this DVD free?’ film. :-(

  8. I remember reading the story of Benazir when it was released and listening to all the promos on Radio Ceylon and deciding it didn’t sound like any of the lead characters were likable, so we didn’t watch the movie, even though I was definitely a Shashi Kapoor fan and my mom liked Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari was, well, Meena Kumari! I am glad we didn’t do so, even if I liked the song Dil mein ek jaan e tamanna ne jagah …, and if Muslim socials were a top favorite in those days.
    Thanks for watching, enduring, and then analyzing and writing the review for all of us!

    • You’re welcome, Lalitha! :-)

      You chose wisely to not watch Benazir. I don’t think I’d have been able to resist the combination of that cast, SDB, and Bimal Roy Productions, even if I’d known more about it. The blurb on the DVD cover described it in a way that sounded more like Love Marriage than anything else… but it wasn’t.

  9. I didn’t mind “Benazir.” You’re right, the story doesn’t have much emotional pull but it’s reasonably engaging and I like the cast and the performances. I also really liked the music, especially “Dil mein ek jaan-e-tamanaa” and “husn ki baharen liye.” Another plus point for “Benazir” is that it’s never really depressing – even the end is rendered more farcial than tragic (to your point of emotional detachment) thanks to the completely misplaced “gham nahi kar gar zindagi veeran hai.”

    • Another plus point for “Benazir” is that it’s never really depressing – even the end is rendered more farcial than tragic (to your point of emotional detachment)…

      Hehe. Yes, that is true. It never got depressing – just irritating. And, all said and done, I was never bored. Plus, the acting was very good.

  10. The Sashi-Meena Jodi just doesn’t seem right. She looks more like an older sister/aunt than a romantic prospect. Shashi looks too young for her.

    • It’s high time we accept an older woman with a younger man.
      Meena Kumari was 6 years older than Shashi Kapoor.

      Perhaps that was also one of the ‘different’/hatke angles here.
      Agree with harvey.

      • harvey, pacifist: I agree! But yes, there have been other films that have used the older woman-younger man element too, haven’t there? Dil Chahta Hai, for example, in which Akshay Khanna’s character falls in love with Dimple Kapadia. Or Wake Up, Sid! (though the gap wasn’t that much, there). Or even (I think) Maya Memsaab, though I’ve only read about it, not seen it.

        • Yeah, but this is 50 years back, while the films you mentioned are from this century or the 90s. So it must have been quite a sensation at that time.
          Like many thing sin Hindi films the scene of Meena-Shashi meeting reminded me of a similar scene in The Suitable Boy, but in that scene the boy falls in love with the tawaif.

          • Oh, dear. I forgot to write the most important word in my previous comment – ‘new’ films. Yes, the ones I’ve mentioned are all new films!
            Incidentally, I was also reminded of an old film – Satyajit Ray’s Charulata – where an older woman falls for a younger man. In that case, though, I think she’s not that much older than him.

    • It’s not only that she looks much older, she is supposed to be older – after all, if the story’s set in 1964 and she was a baby in 1934 (when she was orphaned in the earthquake), Benazir would be at least 30. And Anwar has just finished his BA – so cannot be more than 20 or 21.

      Initially, I was a little uncomfortable with the difference in their ages, but only for the first couple of minutes. Then I realised: one can’t really control whom one falls in love with, right? So I didn’t mind that, after all. There were other aspects of that story that didn’t sit right with me.

  11. I haven’t watched Benazir though I have seen bits and pieces of its climax when it was being aired a few years back on Star Gold early in the morning. I feel that SD Burman is not the right person for Muslim socials. With a deep understanding of culture and urdu poetry, Naushad would have been a good choice for music.

    • We won’t go any further into whether or not SD Burman was a good choice as an MD for Benazir (Anu, Shalini, and I have aired our views on that point quite vocally in the comments above)…

  12. Shasikapoor and Tanuja are very beatiful people and a pretty pair to watch in this movie. Bur they have not acted together not in many pictures after this. why?

  13. I didn’t find myself rooting for anyone

    With Shashi looking so beautiful, you still found nobody to root for? *shakes head in disbelief* Dustedoff, you are demanding! ;-)

    What made it completely unacceptable was the look of deep love on Anwar’s face when he looks at Benazir… Is this young man so fickle?

    If we must have logic in masala land, how about this – I bet the guy was extremely flattered by Benazir’s sacrifice. His family threw him out, his beloved told him she loved him and believed in him, but never offered to give up everything to be with him. So Benazir’s “sacrifice” is probably the biggest thing that anyone had ever done for the spoilt young man! If he’d seen Teen Deviyan, he’d know that the hero must choose the girl who would put him before anything else in the world, particularly her own self. ;-)

    I must admit that I liked Benazir for some of the reasons that you did not. I dislike the stylised Urdu of most Muslim socials, the extremely exoticised Muslim families and the melodrama. So this was perfect – the dialogues sounded like Urdu that real people may speak, the melodrama was very subdued, and the acting was mostly good. In sexist stories like these, it is usually impossible for me to like any of the characters (I watch them for the actors!), so that was no barrier to liking the film, either. And I loved the songs. I’d never heard them before, so they had a sweet freshness to them that some of my other favorites like Mere mehboob tujhe meri mohabbat ki qasam and Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi woh barsaat ki raat no longer evoke.

    • Welcome back, bollyviewer! So good to see you here again. :-)

      And yes, I am demanding. When Shashi Kapoor looks that good, his character needs to behave sensibly too. Maybe all of Benazir’s sacrificing really went to his head.

      I have nothing against Benazir for the fact that it isn’t the ‘typical’ Muslim social. For one, I certainly don’t think a Muslim social needs to have the stylised Urdu and the exoticised Muslim families, and melodrama is something I am better off without. But the hard-to-understand motives and emotions of this bunch of people really got to me after a while.

  14. Hi Madhu, thanks for this interesting review; maybe you discussed this with others (I didn’t read all the comments), but they say in IMDb that Bimal Roy directed, even though he’s indicated in second after Khalil. Yet you write he didn’t direct? Also you say this isn’t worth a rewatch – is it worth a first watch though?

    • The credits don’t list Bimal Roy as the director, Yves – only S Khalil. And, somehow, it didn’t have the Bimal Roy ‘stamp’ either, if you know what I mean – so I don’t even think he ghost-directed it.

      You could watch it a first time, because the acting is good and the songs are nice enough. But the characters irked me – which is why I wouldn’t advise watching it. Of all the recent old movies I’ve seen recently for the first time, the one I’ve liked the most has been Dupatta. If you want to see a film for the first time, that’s one I’d recommend. Here’s the link to my review:

      https://dustedoff.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/dupatta-1952/

  15. As usual personal matters keep me away from the net and I am left out of all the discussion not only that I missed posting my favourite qwaali in your last post, now while you have already moved on to another of my favourite films ‘Charade’ featuring my favorite stars, I the late comer am trying to put in my two bit about Benazir. Yes, I do probably will someday write about it on my film blog- hopefully that is- but here are some bits of trivia.
    Many years before directing Benazir, Khalil had made a film called ‘ Bhaijaan’ featuring Noorjehan, he was very keen to remake the film with Meena Kumari, he was looking for a good banner for his venture and that is how Bimal Roy Productions came into the picture.
    Meena Kumari initially refused to do the film because she had seen Shashi Kapoor grow up in front of her,but I believe she was more or less coaxed into doing the film.
    You did mention you liked the Shashi- Tanuja pairing and in case you are wondering why the were not paired more often well the story goes that Shashi Kapoor who had seen most of his films flopping at the box-office refused to team up with her, he preferred to so films with heroines who were successful at the box-office.
    I find myself giggling at all the references to dad, lecherous, Iago well, well I am sure dad is laughing up there somewhere, happy to see all of you appreciate his work even after so many years.

    • Shilpi, thank you for sharing those little bits of trivia! I can imagine why Meena Kumari might have had trepidations about working opposite Shashi Kapoor. In fact, when I was watching this film, I remembered that in 1951, Shashi Kapoor played the part of Raj Kapoor’s child character in Awara; and in the same year, Meena Kumari was the heroine in Baiju Bawra. Still, even if she was cajoled into doing the part in Benazir, she did it well – that scene where Anwar first arrives is beautifully acted.

      Hmm. Now I understand re: Shashi Kapoor and Tanuja. I believe Nanda was one of the few successful actresses who did quite a few films with him – and many of them did well, too.

      Heh! Your dad was immensely talented, Shilpi! Even if he was Iago here (and pretty nasty in both Anokhi Raat and Gumnaam), I always remember him as the loving foster father who gives little Sujata a spoonful of halwa from his own plate… God bless him.

      • Shashi Kapoor after a series of flop films was very grateful to Nanda -then a successful heroine – for agreeing to star opposite him, though strangely enough he did not do the same he not only refused to work with Tanuja, I recently read somewhere Mumtaz recalling how Shasi Kapoor refused Saccha Jhoota because he did not want to star opposite her though later he requested her to do Chor Machaye Shor with him for by then she had reached the top.

  16. From what you have painted about the movie, it seems all the characters have shades of grey (except Shaukat who seems mostly gray), which is how it should be. If Benazir was shown to be so goody-goody, in a way that there was nothing that was off about her, then that wouldn’t exactly be a real character portrayal according to me. Everybody has shades of grey, for some they are just hidden under a coating of white.

    As for the, the only reason Anwar seemed to despise Benazir was due to the fact that she was the other woman in her brother’s life, and because she had never done anything that redeemed her of that, he never looked beyond it to care about how he really felt for her. Maybe in the hospital bill case, he was finally able to look beyond the outer facade to who she really was, and accepted what he felt about her.

    Another thing could be, that he had subconsciously liked her all along, but being angry at himself for liking her so, and seeing how she was coming in between her brother’s marriage, he replaced those with hate and disgust (partly coz of what he had thought she was doing, and partly coz he knew he still liked her), thus making an extra effort to “really” hate her, while not letting her know that he did not.

    So I don’t find his turnaround completely surprising. But then, I haven’t even watched the movie.

    And just an observation, but was it a norm for the rich men of that time to completely ignore their women? Seen that in an awful lot of movies!

    PS. Will get back once I have watched it. And maybe re watch it, just for the lovely Meena Kumari!

    • I don’t have a problem with the greys – I prefer characters to be shades of grey rather than black or white. The problem with Benazir is that the characters are treated in such a way as if to make them out to be very wonderful people, though – if you think a bit – they are actually not very likeable. My analysis is based on the entire movie (not just the half for which I’ve provided a synopsis), so that might be a little difficult to relate to, until you’ve watched it.

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