Sharaabi (1964)

Today, September 26, 2012, would have been Dev Anand’s 89th birthday. To commemorate that occasion, I decided it was time to watch a film that had been sitting in my to-watch pile for nearly a year. Just looking at the cast and crew—Dev Anand, Madhubala, Lalita Pawar, Madan Mohan, Rajinder Krishan—and listening to some of the songs from the film made my mouth water.

Now I’m wishing I’d rewatched a Dev Anand film I already knew and loved (Kaala Paani, perhaps?), because Sharaabi turned out to be a damp squib. Okay, let’s forget the damp. Sodden through and through. Dripping wet.

Actually, sometime during the course of the film (and pretty early on, too, I must admit) I began thinking what a perfect kiddie-style picture book this one would’ve made. You know, the drool-proof ones which are meant (or were meant, in my long-ago childhood) to teach toddlers the basics of language? Well, if Sharaabi were made into a picture book [which I doubt, considering the extent to which it’s steeped in liquor], it would go something like this:

This is Keshav. See Keshav drink.

This is Kamla. See Kamla smile.

Kamla loves Keshav. Keshav loves Kamla.

Keshav also loves liquor.

This is Keshav’s mother.

Anyway. You get my drift. Keshav (Dev Anand) starts off the film with pretty much the entire scene already set: he’s already in love with the lovely Kamla (Madhubala), who is also already in love with him. And Keshav is also already a drunk, totally devoted to his daaru.
Right at the beginning of the film, Keshav’s father (whom we never see) cops it after a long illness. Keshav, not the epitome of the dutiful son, is away drinking. By the time Keshav’s weeping mum (Lalita Pawar) drags him home, the father’s dead…

…and Keshav’s mum, after the cremation, packs up her belongings and takes Keshav’s little sister Munni (Daisy Irani) in tow, getting ready to leave. Keshav begs them to stay, and makes many promises never to drink again. It takes a lot of dialogue, most of it terribly melodramatic, before Ma forgives him and agrees to stay.

As part of his reform plan, Keshav goes to meet Lakshmidas (Badriprasad), who used to be his father’s best friend. Lakshmidas lives in the neighbourhood and is relatively well-to-do; he deals in coal. Lakshmidas also happens to be Kamla’s father.

Lakshmidas knows of Keshav’s alcoholism [who couldn’t, in the neighbourhood, what with Keshav’s nightly serenades?] And, like a good, upright (and more importantly, sober) citizen, Lakshmidas sniffs at Keshav.
Though Lakshmidas and his old friend had agreed that Kamla and Keshav would marry as adults [why can’t these filmi parents refrain from deciding their children’s futures?]… Lakshmidas has now been getting cold feet.

However, Keshav convinces him that he (Keshav) is now in earnest and wants to turn over a new leaf. Lakshmidas therefore gives Keshav a job in his own business, and Keshav happily spends his days working his butt off. He’s so deeply engrossed in unloading and sorting and packing coal that Kamla, who’s been missing him, comes to meet him at work, and gets just as grimy as him.

This draws Lakshmidas’s disapproval. He tells both Kamla and Keshav, separately, that he doesn’t want them to meet at the coal depot. He admits that now that Keshav’s working hard and is on the wagon, he can be considered as a prospective son-in-law. But. Only after he continues to be on the wagon for a while (Lakshmidas doesn’t specify how long).

Meanwhile, Keshav seems to be winning the battle. His old drinking buddy, Shankar (Radhakrishna), tries now and then to coax Keshav into having a swig, but Keshav always manages to fend him off.

It’s not a roller-coaster ride, though, and one night Keshav ends up getting dreadful cramps in his tummy. [I’d have thought alcoholism would have led to liver problems, but Keshav consistently grabs the left side of his stomach—either he doesn’t know where his liver is, or something else is the matter]. His mother helps soothe him with some water, but both of them know what his body craves: liquor.

The next day, Keshav goes off to a local hakim to get an aniseed tonic (‘saunf ka arak’) for himself. The hakim doesn’t have an empty bottle in which to pour out the concoction; after much searching, however, he finds an old discarded bottle:

…and Keshav refuses to take it. Even the sight of a bottle that once housed liquor now distresses him. However, the hakim really doesn’t have anything else into which he can pour the tonic—so Keshav has no choice but to take it. He tucks the bottle into the carrier on his bicycle, and goes off for a rendezvous with Kamla (he sees her on the way, and abducts her—not that she puts up much of a fight).

They have a fun time together [having completely forgotten Lakshmidas’s diktat about not meeting], and when it’s finally time to leave, there’s a brief encounter between Keshav and a couple of drunks, who’ve been swigging from a bottle of rum—incidentally, the same brand as the bottle Keshav’s received from the hakim. The inevitable happens; unknown to him, Keshav ends up with the bottle of rum, while the drunks get the tonic.

That night, Keshav’s tummy ache begins again, and he reaches for the ‘tonic’—and, after one sip, realises what it is. He throws it away and runs out, into the rain. A passing Shankar tries to force a bottle of daaru down Keshav’s throat, but Keshav flings it away and breaks the bottle, leaving Shankar pretty depressed.

Unfortunately, though, the damage has already been done. Keshav’s mother, coming into his empty room, sees the shattered bottle of rum lying there, and jumps to the obvious conclusion: her son has gone back to his evil ways.

See Ma cry. See Ma berate Keshav. See Ma tell Keshav that she wish she’d never had a son.

And that little incident snowballs fantastically. Keshav, for no fault of his own, is accused by all—including Kamla and her father—of having slid back into drinking all over again. Nobody listens to his pleas of innocence. Lakshmidas, thoroughly disillusioned, breaks off his daughter’s engagement with Keshav, and Kamla, even though she loves Keshav, feels he’s betrayed her.

See Keshav drink. See Keshav rave. See Keshav repent. And back again, the same cycle repeated over and over.

Sharaabi could have been a good film. After all, it had a great cast; it had wonderful music—it even had the potential to be an interesting insight into a man’s struggle against alcoholism. Even as I was watching it, I could imagine this being a thought-provoking and touching short story: a man tries to break loose from the fetters of his alcoholism, even succeeds—and then slips back because of a chance mishap, coupled with the contempt of those he loves, but who cannot believe that he did not drink intentionally.

Unfortunately, what works as a short story may not necessarily work as a full-length film. Sharaabi ends up being tedious and repetitive, with too much of the same “I didn’t drink!”—“You have betrayed my trust in you!”—“No, I haven’t!”—“Yes, you have!” business going on. Between Keshav and Kamla, Keshav and his mother, Keshav and Lakshmidas (thankfully, the latter only for a while). Emotions run high and there’s much melodrama.

Handled with more subtlety, this might have been an interesting study in dipsomania. As it is, it’s a rather boring, slow-moving film that just goes through the roof at times when it comes to turning on the waterworks. Too many tears here, too much drink, too much rain.

What I liked about this film:

Dev Anand and Madhubala in the first half an hour or so of the film. This is when Keshav has just given up drinking, and there are some very sweet scenes of them together: romantic, playful, and just generally wonderful together.

The songs. Madan Mohan composed the music for Sharaabi, and though the songs (other than Kabhi na kabhi kahin na kahin) aren’t very well-known, they’re mostly pretty good. Kabhi na kabhi kahin na kahin is my favourite, but I also discovered the teasing Jaao ji jaao dekhe hain bade, Tum ho haseen kahaan ke, and another great daaru song: Saawan ke mahine mein ik aag-si seene mein.

What I didn’t like:

Need I say more? Read the last couple of paragraphs of the synopsis. Avoid Sharaabi if you don’t like melodrama, or if you like your films fast-paced and with plenty happening. This one, while it has the advantage of being fairly uncomplicated, does stretch things until the viewer is close to breaking point.

Rajrishi (who both wrote the story and the screenplay and directed the film) might have done better to have given the idea to someone more capable of doing justice to it.

63 thoughts on “Sharaabi (1964)

  1. I would like to remember Sharabai for Rafi songs. Each one – Mujhe Le Cahlo, both versions of Sawan Ke mahine men ( of course, the lighter one is just passable) and Kabhi Na Kbahi koi [ I have put them in the order that I like them].
    In fact, If I would have remained satisfied with audio cassette of the songs that I has years back and would have resisted temptation to see the movie on a VCD, I would have put the songs a much higher in ladder of the respect and would have continued to imagine the beauty of picturization of such gems – in fact all time gems of Rafi.
    But that is the sad part of quite a few of the films of the golden era of Hindi film music golden songs in brass films(!).


    • My father was the one who first told me about Sharaabi‘s music. He asked me if I could keep an eye out for the DVD for him, so this DVD (which I’ve currently borrowed from my parents) was actually a gift from me to my father. And my father too, after having seen the film, admitted that the music far exceeds the film itself. Rafi is superb here – especially in those beautifully slurred renditions of Saawan ke mahine mein, sung without any music…


  2. OHHH, I wish you had continued with the review in the same style all through :-D
    It was fun.
    What I gather from the review is that the film is repetitious, melodramatic, and slow paced. Hmmm, I might not mind that. Depending on the mood, slow films tend to soothe me, melodrama, I don’t mind, the repetitious part, I’m not sure.
    I guess I’ll watch it and let you know. If I am too disappointed and feel I’ve wasted my time you’ll have the opportunity of saying, ‘I told you so’. :-D

    THanks for the morning humour, DO.


    • Hehe. :-D

      Sharaabi could actually have been reviewed all in that strain, now that I think of it. It was all pretty much “See this” and “See that”. On the other hand, though, I didn’t know how long I could keep that up!

      I don’t mind slow-moving films (some of Bimal Roy’s best films as a director don’t move especially fast – but there’s a subtlety to them, and there are beautiful insights into characters, which compensates for any lack of obvious action). And melodrama – well, that is something most of us who love old Hindi cinema have come to at least tolerate, if not actually like!

      The problem with Sharaabi is mainly, in my opinion, with the repetition. It’s the same story again and again, and the dialogues are often very trite: almost as if they’d been lifted out of a dialogue cookie cutter, if one existed. :-( And the melodrama is just too OTT.

      But the songs are great, and Madhubala and Dev Anand are lovely (incidentally, she gets to show off some of her acting skills too, not just be the pretty lady throughout). So give it a try. :-)


  3. Madhu, I just watched Sharaabi last week, hoping to write a review for Dev Anand’s birthday! Between the way I feel and the film itself, I couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm. Now, I’m glad I didn’t!

    This review was hilarious, and I spluttered coffee all over my keyboard (thank heavens for keyboard screens!) before I decided that I either drink the coffee or read your review – your review won. *grin*

    I kept thinking ‘Run, Spot, run’, ‘See Spot run’ as I was reading your review. :) The film was horrible, wasn’t it? As you said, so much could have been done with the story!

    By the time the film ended – and it’s a wonder I didn’t leave it half-way – I needed a drink! Thank you so much for some much-needed relief. (Going off to read it again, so I can laugh some more!)

    By the way, I had listed Saawan ke mahine mein in my tribute to him last year. (


    • Anu, you’re too sweet! Thank you – I’m glad my review came before the coffee. ;-)

      I just wish I’d chosen Kaala Paani to watch instead of Sharaabi – at least that film I know and love already. Unfortunately, I’d left it till the last minute, and ended up finishing my viewing of the film only on the 25th. So there was just no time to watch a better film and review that!

      I did seem to recall Saawan ke mahine mein when I heard it. It must have been from when I read your post.


  4. Madhu, I watched the film a year or so ago, and agree with you. The movie was simply dreary!

    The only fun part is when Dev is working for Papa dear and romancing his daughter.

    Sawan ke mahine me, and kabhi na kabhi are fabulous songs! They drew me to the movie, but what a letdown!


    • That’s the worst thing with a lot of these old films, isn’t it – the songs are so wonderful, you’re tempted to think the film will be, too. And then it’s a total let-down. I think the music department tended to be, by and large, much more capable than scripting and directing.


  5. Ahahahahahahahaha! Oh God Dustedoff, remember once I told you I would die laughing if you reviewed Sharaabi? AND YES, I DID! HAHAHAHAHA! Well, as much as I love Dev, I won’t watch this film. One – I have a sore throat, Two – I don’t want to break my other arm.

    But that was funny! HAHAHAHAHA! A PICTURE BOOK! HAHAHAHAHA! How is alcohol appropriate for toddlers? Tell me!

    Keshav’s nightly serenades LOL! My first thought – “Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai”! COULDN’T HELP IT! HAHAHAHAHA! And seriously, how does everyone handle all that alcohol?! (Once I tried a bit of whiskey. Had a horrible stomach ache the next morning and slept until 2pm.)

    …But Dev… don’t you know where a person’s liver is? Oh oh oh, and I actually read the ending of the film somewhere. My first thought – WTH NO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Then I rolled off my bed. And I lay on the floor for a while.

    You might smack me for what I thought next, but after ten or so minutes, I said out loud, “Hey Dev… you know what? Nau Do Gyarah.



    • How is alcohol appropriate for toddlers? Tell me!

      Yup, that’s what I wrote. :-)

      Okay, I must admit I’m also not sure about why you said ““Hey Dev… you know what? Nau Do Gyarah.” The connection escapes me for now. Lalita Pawar?

      But yes, don’t watch this film. Watch the songs instead – they’re good, and the two romantic songs with Madhubala (Jaao ji jaao and Tum ho haseen kahaan ke are sweetly picturised – they look really nice together).


      • Nope, I actually wanted him to run away (Thus Nau Do Gyarah!) from… -there-. Yes, -there-. (I refrain from using those words outright or else I will freak out.)

        Mehh, it might be just me being confusing. I can write a post that’s perfectly coherent to me, but makes no sense to my friends. Am I really that crazy?

        Yeah, okay, I’ll watch those! :D Just the thing to cheer me up on a day that I’m sick.


  6. Madu
    You have chosen a wrong picture for the occasion .when there are so many good pictures of dev available why chose a dud? I always wonder why dev allowed third rate directors do his films . Most of the failures of dev are attributed to poor direction or bad script.kala bazz,roopr ki rani choral ka raja, pocket maar,and post des per des films suffered due to bad direction .
    How ever madan mohan did a very good job. I think his only film with dev.


  7. As Pacifist has said, I also wish you had done the entire review in the “See Spot run” style – much more fun that way! The movie was a big flop, I remember, because I wanted to see it for the songs, and I am glad my parents refused to see it. On the other hand, I probably wouldn’t have noticed the absence of a story in those days. Thanks to your review now, i will steer clear of this movie.


  8. It seems the mid to late 60s had a slew of melodramatic films. Most of those were south remakes and they looked regressive compared to the 50s.(refer Nutan’s filmography)I prefer the b/w films , most of the color melodramas are unwatchable (or only watchable once) for me even with good music.
    Here is one of the more happier songs of Dev,

    Is it me or are these disguises ‘offensive’ in today’s times?


    • Oh, yes. I agree completely re: the colour melodramas in which Nutan (often opposite Sunil Dutt) starred in the latter half of the 60s. Those were really hard to sit through. I don’t remember how many of those I’ve seen, but they tend to all blur together into one weepy, colourful mass of self-sacrifice and misunderstanding and family strife.

      It’s not just you, Chris. I’m with you, too. In today’s day and age, I’d say those disguises are offensive. Not politically correct at all.


      • I have to exclude Rajendra Kumar’ s melodramas from the unwatchable ones. ‘Arzoo’ is the reason I got into watching and ‘enjoying’ melodramas and ofcourse Muslim Socials. Jubilee Kumar’s ‘painful’ acting is good comic relief , sometimes I have to mute the film, though.:)
        Dharmendra also has a list of 60s melodramas before he did spy thrillers and Hrishikesh mukherjee films.


        • “Jubilee Kumar’s ‘painful’ acting is good comic relief

          Hehehe. I agree, Chris. I’m not very fond of Rajendra Kumar, but I think a couple of his colour melodramas were not bad – Sangam, for instance, or Aarzoo. Also Mere Mehboob, which is easily my favourite Rajendra Kumar film. But something like Saathi… just the thought of that makes me shudder.


    • Excuse my butting in. :D I watched Funtoosh and I actually really liked it. (My grandma thought it was absolutely stupid though she liked Dev’s comic acting.)

      I showed my friend that song, and she being a Chinese, just told me, “MEH, THAT’S RACIST.” I retorted, “YOU SHUT UP. I’M HALF CHINESE TOO AND THAT’S NOT RACIST.”

      Oh, and why do you say Rajendra’s acting is ‘paiiiinful’? I think he’s pretty cool. Jhuk Gaya Aasman. :)



        That sounds suspiciously like Dev-love speaking. See? Even your friend thought it was racist.

        I think we’ve just become more aware of what’s done and what’s not, nowadays. I remember, when I was a kid, it was quite normal to refer to someone of African origin as ‘negro’ – no offence meant. Later, when I was a teenager, ‘black’ became the accepted word. Maybe when Funtoosh was made, most people didn’t give a second thought to the idea of poking fun at people of certain ethnic backgrounds. See Padosan, for example – even though that was made well after Funtoosh.


        • That sounds suspiciously like Dev-love speaking.
          …Well, I… -blush- Okay, okay, you’re right. :)

          Padosan was more of a comedy and that kind of thing made people laugh, but I dunno about Funtoosh. All I know is that it made a great screen name. :D

          I was just watching Bawarchi. Cool, they had Coke in India back in the 70’s too? But really Rajesh, really, offering Coke in place of alcohol?! Really? Coke rots teeth, you know. (I like it sometimes, but I stick to my Asian drinks.)

          …Though I will be miffed if he doesn’t end up romancing somebody or the other. Yes, yes, I always want romance.


          • Padosan was a comedy, but you might be surprised by the number of people who were deeply offended by the stereotypical way in which South Indians were depicted in it, as embodied in Mehmood’s character. I must admit to thinking the film pretty funny, but I also admit that yes, it is rather racist, in that sense…

            Yes, Coke was in India back then. Then sometime in 70s itself, India closed its doors to all these foreign brands, and we had to survive on Indian ones. Globalisation in the 90s brought them back.


            • Oh, really? My grandma and I were ROFLing at Mehmood’s character! “Ek Chatur Naar” was so side-splittingly funny! I showed it to my friend, and her first reaction was, “What. The. Hell?” But I provided a translation and she laughed too.

              Oh, I thought that Coke was banned because of the Emergency. But Indian Coke, pffft, that doesn’t sound appetizing. :P


      • P.S. Chris is referring to Rajendra Kumar’s acting in melodramas, not his acting per se. And I agree with Chris! See Rajendra Kumar in Saathi or Aap Aaye Bahaar Aayi, and you’ll know what I mean. He can be pretty OTT.


    • Yes, this is the same Radhakrishna. Any idea which film this is from? It looks familiar, but I’m not being able to place it.

      And you reminded me of something that had puzzled me. Through most of the film, Daisy Irani is a little girl (if you look at the first screen cap where she appears, for instance). However, there’s one scene where Ma and Munni, in another fit of despair at Keshav’s alcoholism, leave him… and Daisy Irani there looked about 10 or 11 years old. So you may well have a point about the film having been delayed.


      • The description (more info.)mentions the film, it is ‘Ek ke baad ek’ from 1960. I have seen a certain Premnath suddenly aging fast in couple of late 60s films, could be a Rakesh Roshan style wig but his voice also changed.


        • I hadn’t noticed Premnath’s voice having changed, but yes, he went to seed pretty rapidly, didn’t he? Even till the late 50s (Abe Hayat, Changez Khan), he looked pretty good. And by the time Johny Mera Naam came around, he was looking pretty bloated.

          It was hard to imagine that he had actually been a contemporary of Dev Anand’s – when Dev Anand was doing Baazi in 1951, Premnath was starring in Sagaai and looking absolutely fabulous:


    • Carla, if you like Madhubala (I do – I adore her!), you should watch this for her. She’s luminous and her chemistry with Dev Anand – especially in the songs – is great. She also gets to show off her acting skills. A bit.


  9. Dustedoff, Off topic request. Have not seen Sharabi but just finished watching Manzil – Dev & Nutan. Great Music and Better justification for Drinking !! and far better acting from Dev. Look forward to you review of the same sometime soon.


  10. When I aw the title of this film, I wondered if maybe it would be a fun drunk Dev, perhaps doubling the number of Dev roles I like, taking that list all the way from one to two. Instead, it sounds like this is Devdas Anand. Thanks for the warning, and for the music recommendations!


    • Yes, this is definitely Devdas Anand (good description!), but minus Dilip Kumar’s relatively refined acting skills as a melancholy drunk. Dev Anand, trying to act a cynical and embittered drunk, ends up being unintentionally very funny.


  11. There is no doubt Dev could NOT do several roles, a Sharaabi being certainly one of them I can well imagine either ROFLing over such a Dev or being moved to tears. Glad you chose the former approach, and this is a really hilarious review. Indeed, one of the main reasons I like Dev is sometimes he is good to great, and the rest of the time he is deliciously spoofworthy :). Never a dull solemn moment with him, fortunately !!!!


    • I think the only time Dev Anand manages to be a believable drunk is in two songs: one is Haai haai haai yeh nigaahein in Paying Guest, where he’s a happy drunk, totally loony:

      And the second in Din dhal jaaye haai from Guide, where I think he does manage to pull off the bitter cynicism – perhaps because it’s so restrained?

      But yes, never a dull solemn moment with Dev Anand onscreen! Even when he’s not good, he manages to amuse. ;-)


  12. The cast and crew sounds very promising! This was Madhubala’s last film, wasn’t it?

    “This is Keshav. See Keshav drink.” (or try not to drink).
    This could be theme of the story

    “Lakshmidas has now been getting cold feet.”
    I would too, if I were Kamla’s father. Like Sholay’s mausi says yeh saraab aur juwe ki aadat kiski chuti hai aaj tak

    “…comes to meet him at work, and gets just as grimy as him. This draws Lakshmidas’s disapproval.”
    He must have been worried aobut the laundry bills.

    The songs of this film are so good! I had an audio cassette of this film, to which I used to listen very often.

    Thanks for the warning, Madhu!
    BTW, there is this Marathi play called “Ekach Pyala”, which could be roughly translated to “one more glass”, which gives a more realistic, though at times melodramatic, account of down-slide of a drunkard.


    • (or try not to drink).

      Oh, why didn’t I think of that?! So true – that’s what the essence of this film is all about!

      Stick to the songs of this film, Harvey. Give the film itself a wide berth.


    • Thanks for that link, Chris. I’d heard of Jwala, but have never seen anything of it – not even a song. I wonder why the release of this film was delayed so much. Looking at both Madhubala and Sunil Dutt, it seems obvious that this was shot sometime in the mid-60s (?).


    • Thanks for reminding me of it, Chris! I had completely forgotten about it. This must have been the only full-length colour-film which starred her. Mughal-E-Azam got its colour later.


  13. Watched this movie a couple of days ago. Except for the songs, there’s absolutely nothing I liked about the movie. Ok, maybe Madhubala. (Hard not to like her). I normally like Dev but I found it tough to handle him in this film. And like you say, the scenes are SO repetitive, they really annoyed me.

    Also, if I had to make a list of films with the most ridiculous endings, this film would not just make the list, it would top it. The story could have gone multiple ways – every other way would have been more plausible than the way it finally ended. Almost as if the director decided that since he’d made everyone miserable till the penultimate minute of the film, he just had to contrive a happy ending somehow. Ridiculous beyond belief.

    Your review is good fun though. I think you’re being charitable to the movie than I am. If it weren’t for the songs, I’d give it 0/10.


    • Would you believe it, I had actually forgotten that I’d ever reviewed Sharaabi? I knew I’d seen it, but every single element of the film (except the songs) has disappeared from my memory… which just goes to show, doesn’t it? And, a few years ago, if anybody had told me that I’d forget the story of a film starring Dev Anand and Madhubala, I’d have been sceptical.

      Sigh. What a waste.


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