Ek Do Teen (1953)

I am a fan of Meena Shorey’s. I find her a delight to watch: those eyes are very expressive, her smile is wonderful, and the characters she plays seem to be invariably feisty, self-assured young women who are resourceful and witty. Just my type. I’d already watched (and adored) Meena Shorey in Ek Thi Ladki and Dholak, so when my father offered to lend me his VCD of Ek Do Teen, I pounced on it. Meena Shorey with Motilal. Directed by Roop K Shorey, and with music by Vinod. Could it get any better?

Meena Shorey in Ek Do Teen

Ek Do Teen starts off promisingly enough. Roma (Meena Shorey) and a bunch of her friends have been visiting one of their group, Asha (the also-delightful Yashodhara Katju), who has recently got married. Yashodhara’s husband Shekhar (a very young Iftekhar) is a Superintendent of Police. The girls pull his leg quite a bit, so he leaves the scene pretty quickly.

A party at Asha's home

After a song and dance [a group of women get together and don’t sing a song? Can that ever be? This time it’s Bela-bum-beena aaya hai saawan ka mast mahina; a good saheli song], the party comes to an end. Roma, who lives nearby, decides to walk home, and this proves her undoing, because two robbers leap on her and try to grab her bag.

Roma is attacked

A woman with more sense would probably have thrown the bag at them and run for her life, but Roma opts to take them on—and is abysmally outnumbered. Obviously. She fights back, but when one of the robbers pulls out a lethal-looking dagger, Roma catches one glimpse of it and faints right away. [Okay, I take back my words about Meena Shorey playing feisty and smart women].

A robber brandishes a dagger

Fortunately for her, just as the robbers are trying to pick her up and carry her into a dark alley, rescuers arrive. These are Motilal ‘Moti’ (Motilal) and his friend Heeralal (Majnu), who were driving past in a car and pull up when they see what’s going on. They chase off the robbers, and finding Roma unconscious, ponder over what should be done with her. Moti finally figures that the best thing would be to take her to his home, where a doctor can be fetched and she can be looked after until she recovers.

Moti and Heeralal rescue Roma

This they do, and Roma, when she does come to her senses [and after the mandatory “Main kahaan hoon?”] gives Motilal a patient hearing when he tells her how she happens to be in this strange house, with these two strange men. She is soon convinced that they mean her no harm—and that, in fact, she should be grateful to them for their help.

Moti tells a recovered Roma the whole story

There is instant chemistry between Moti and Roma, with shy glances and gentle smiles on both sides. Moti, though, realises that there are more practical considerations: would Roma like to phone home? She does, to inform her father Sir Mansukh Lal (?), who nearly has an apoplectic fit when he hears that some man has taken his daughter off to his home. Before Roma can explain things, her father gets the address of Moti’s house from her, and bangs the phone down.

Roma phones home

A short while later, a furious Sir Mansukh Lal arrives at Moti’s home, intent on rescuing his daughter from this den of vice. He’s yelling blue murder and promising to tear Moti apart limb from limb, with Moti and Roma trying to reason with him but not succeeding at all.

Hearing this commotion, downstairs comes Moti’s father (?), in an irritated and deeply suspicious frame of mind.

Who is this girl? He asks Moti, and Moti blabbers that she’s a girl he’s brought home. Oh? [Cold look at Roma, followed by more fury directed at Moti].  “No, no,” Moti hurries to clarify, “she was unconscious at the time. [Which, of course, puts the fat straight in the fire]. The two old men have a massive quarrel and come close to fisticuffs, until Mansukh Lal drags his [to him, errant] daughter home.

Roma's and Moti's fathers have a face-off

But, as I’ve already mentioned, Moti and Roma have fallen in love, and their love progresses swiftly, through meetings and phone calls (eavesdropped upon—and with the participation of—Asha and Heeralal on either side).

Love on the telephone...

...with friends eavesdropping

Roma’s father, when the topic of a Roma-Moti match is broached, puts his foot down very firmly. No; he will not let Roma marry a no-good, who-knows-what.

Thankfully for the two lovebirds, this obstacle is soon removed. Moti, creeping into Mansukh Lal’s house to meet Roma, is mistaken for a burglar, and the cops are sent for. Who should arrive but the SP, Shekhar—Asha’s husband, and (as it turns out), one of Moti’s best friends. [An SP, going to arrest a common thief? Ah, well. We live and learn]. Shekhar is able to assure Mansukh Lal that Moti is not just an honest and upright man, but that his father is also a crorepati.  All those beautiful millions will someday be Moti’s.

Shekhar tells Mansukh Lal of Moti's wealth

This turns the tables, and Roma’s father is very eager to say yes to the match. So Moti and Roma are engaged to be married, and there’s much happiness all around. Everything is ready, and they’re about to send out the invitations when Moti’s father suddenly falls ill. [He seems to have had a heart attack, but it’s never actually spelled out].

Moti's father on his deathbed

Now that he’s on his deathbed, the old man realises that he should have a last chat with Moti. He politely asks the others—Roma, Mansukh Lal, Asha and Shekhar—to leave the room, and tells Moti that he has three pieces of important advice for Moti. So important, that Moti must promise to always follow them. [If they were so important, why not pass them on earlier? As it turns out, the advice, in fact, should probably have been imparted to a youth, not to a man who’s at least in his mid-30s].

Some dumb and sexist advice...

Anyway, this is what the old man tells his son:

1. Never drink alcohol; it makes you lose all sense of logic, gets you into gambling and bad company, and ends up bankrupting you.
2. Stay away from wicked women. [“badchalan auratein” is how he describes them, which is really rather vague, leaving Moti to draw whatever inferences he would like].
3. Never confide in a woman. Women are a loyal and good lot, but they are incapable of respecting confidences, says Daddy.

[What a nasty generalisation that is. I can’t wait for this old man to cop it].

...which is listened to, most patiently

Thankfully, having uttered these idiotic platitudes, he does kick the bucket, but with one last request to Mansukh Lal: that Moti and Roma be married as soon as possible.
This is no bother to anyone, so the wedding date is fixed. On the evening they’re going to be married, Roma is busy getting ready…

Roma prepares for her wedding

…while Moti, in the company of Heeralal, is trying to spend some of the money he’s inherited. “There’s so much money here,” he says despairingly, “how shall I spend it?”—which doesn’t sound like a huge problem to me. But Heeralal is more than willing to help. Basically, this is all a stupid digression of the script to allow:

1. A very good song-and-dance by Cuckoo, followed by a brief flirtation between her and Moti, which enables Moti to discover that she is a total fraud.

Moti gets friendly with a dancer

2. A slapstick free-for-all in a night club, caused by Moti pretending to drink; and
3. The arrest of Moti in connection with this free-for-all.

Naturally, the wedding doesn’t take place, and Mansukh Lal ends up having to come and bail out his future son-in-law. Roma, who’s thoroughly miffed now [this is the second time her wedding has had to be called off], comes to Moti’s office to confront her beloved and try and knock some sense into him.

Roma takes Moti to task

Moti, far from being repentant, decides to act out a farce to test out the last of poor old dead Daddy’s theories. He’s already discovered that drink and ‘badchalan auratein’, as Daddy said, are best avoided But how about that bit about not confiding in a woman?
So Moti and Heeralal concoct a plan whereby Moti phones Roma, asking her to come to his home to meet him. When Roma arrives, it’s to find his room door locked.

Roma overhears a threat

Through the door, though, she can hear Moti angrily telling Heeralal: “You stole a cheque of Rs 75,000 from me! If you don’t return it, I will kill you!” Some indistinct babbling from Heeralal. Then a scream. Roma’s eyes are starting from her head by this point, and she’s hammering away at the door, pleading for Moti to open it.
Moti, meanwhile, has emptied a bottle of blood [I didn’t know you could get them on the market easily—and that too at room temperature. Wouldn’t it coagulate or separate or whatever?] all over the carpet. He also has a huge knife, which he smears with blood.

To add verisimilitude to the scene, he smears blood on his own shirt, and on Heeralal’s clothes. Heeralal is made to change into a fresh set of clothes, and is told to hurry off to Ambala, where he is to disguise himself and stay at a hotel, calling himself Seth Ghanshyam Das.

A murder is faked

While Heeralal exits through a back door, Moti lets Roma in. When she sees all the blood and gore, she starts freaking out, and Moti confesses to her that he has killed Heeralal because Heeralal had stolen some money from him. He spins a yarn that he’s chopped up Heeralal’s corpse and burnt it. [Quick work, that, considering he’d been yelling threats at Heeralal just a few minutes earlier].
Roma must not tell anyone. Remember, not a word. [I can see where this comes from. That idiotic bit of advice from the old man].

Moti confesses 'all' to Roma

And [this is where I was really disappointed] Roma, after days of trying to keep it to herself, eventually blurts out the ‘truth’ to her friend Asha. She makes Asha swear that she won’t utter a word to anyone, and Asha tries her best to obey. But it all gets too much, and she too ends up telling her husband that Moti has murdered Heeralal. And, Asha’s husband, Shekhar, being a cop, goes and arrests Moti.

Asha tells Shekhar the secret she's been harbouring

With the result that Moti is tried for the murder of Heeralal, and all that circumstantial evidence—the blood-stained clothes and knives, the vanished Heeralal—piles up against him. Instead of trying to defend himself, Moti quarrels with his own lawyer in court and ends up parting ways with him. He then asks the judge if he may plead his case himself, and is immediately granted permission to do so. [This has to be the most farcical court I’ve ever come across, even in Hindi cinema].

In the courtroom

Moti now has Roma summoned to the witness stand, and she—under his interrogation [he isn’t a lawyer, by the way, just in case you were wondering]—blurts out everything that had happened. What she had overheard that night, what she had seen, what he had said. As a result, Moti is sentenced to death. [Um. Without Heeralal’s corpse having been found? And did anyone even analyse those bloodstains?]

So Daddy’s third theory is proven right, and Moti is going to hang for the pleasure of having discovered that. What next?

What I liked about this film:

Meena Shorey in the second half of the film, where she is far more the go-getter I’d expected from the star of Ek Thi Ladki and Dholak: spunky, resourceful, and funny. In one song (Ek do teen hon toh karoon aitbaar), she even lifts Motilal up in her arms for a while!

Meena Shorey lifts Motilal in a scene

The songs, with lyrics by Aziz Kashmiri and music by Vinod. The Cuckoo number, Tu jabse gaya pardes, is good old-fashioned dance club style; Lo phir chaand nikal aaya is soulful and beautiful; and Chal meri gaddiye tu chhuk-chhuk-chhuk is the quintessential train song, picturised on Roma, Shyama (Kaushalya, acting as Heeralal’s love interest), and Heeralal. Perfect.

What I didn’t like:

The sheer silliness of much of the first half of the film. Even considering that this was supposed to be a comedy, it was just too over the top to be believable. For example, if Moti did want to test Roma’s ability to keep a secret, why not try for something less likely to be suicidal? And there’s the fact that this entire thing about women being untrustworthy and unable to keep from gossip really got my goat. Terribly sexist.

Verdict? Ek Do Teen is all right, if you’re willing to suspend all disbelief and don’t mind pointless idiocy at times. Otherwise, stick to Ek Thi Ladki (or, better still, Dholak—which is even more fun). If you do want to watch Ek Do Teen, it’s available on Youtube, here.

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47 thoughts on “Ek Do Teen (1953)

  1. LOL, after all the hue and cry over the old man’s advice, this Roma tells Asha, Asha tells Husband, did prove to be right. Grrrrr! How I hate to admit, I too can’t keep a thing in my stomach nor my tongue from wagging and I thought it was only the disease inflicted on my mother-in-law!! Just joking! I really enjoyed reading…:)

  2. For Meena Shorey, Motilal, Majnu and Yashodhara Katju, I’m willing to suspend ALL disbelief. :-)

    In such movies, you pretty much know what to expect – but you still watch them just for the sheer joy of seeing the characters act out their predictable roles. :-) One shouldn’t expect a gripping, edge-of-the-seat type storyline, just general timepass. :-)

    So Ek Do Teen refers to the three pieces of advice given to Motilal? Yes, the third one is somewhat sexist but perfectly par for the times, I think. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if even today a slapstick movie is made along these lines.

    Thanks for the review, Madhu. I’m going to see this. Dholak and Ek Thi Ladki were good fun. Even if this isn’t quite as much fun as those two movies, I think I’ll like it. :-)

    • Have a look, Raja. You just might like it. I am totally willing to suspend all disbelief when it comes to movies like this, but the drastic measures Moti took to test his father’s last theory – well, that struck me as just too lunatic a thing for anybody to do, even in a comedy like this. Fortunately, the second half of the movie redeems it quite a bit, because it’s loads of fun.

      Not as good as Dholak, not as good as Ek Thi Ladki, but a darn sight better than a lot of other movies I’ve seen. Oddly enough, though, I just didn’t warm to Moti’s character – he seemed too calculating most of the time. :-(

  3. :-D
    I must confess I too can’t keep a secret. Whenever I buy a present days before the day to be given – I tell the person concerned :-/ and end up giving it there and then.

    I saw this film some months ago on youtube, and rather liked Meena Shorey. I haven’t seen Ek Thi Ladki (must search for it on youtube – or other places).
    I was getting annoyed with Moti for taking the ploy so far. It should have stopped at his arrest. I was on edge towards the end and wanted to bite my nails.
    Thanks for the review DO :-)

    • Forgot to mention something about the ‘keeping secret thing’.
      I think women do tend do ‘share’ much much more tha men.
      It’s this sharing that leads to giving away a secret.

      In the sitcom ‘Friends’ there was this episode where Ross and Chandler discuss about women telling each other ‘everything’ and decide to try it too.

      Another of their episode had the men discussing Ross and Rachel’s first kiss, where Ross conveys it in a sentence over a pizza, while the women discuss it over wine with several adjectives used by Rachel. :-)

      • Ah, well. I suppose it differs from person to person. I am quite an introvert, so I usually don’t share a lot of things with people. There are plenty of aspects of my life that my closest friends don’t have a clue about.

    • “Whenever I buy a present days before the day to be given – I tell the person concerned :-/ and end up giving it there and then.

      That is SO cute! I’m sure nobody minds. :-D

      Yes, Moti did irritate me, the way he carried on the farce so long – if he’d spoken up when he was arrested, the point would have got across to Roma without things getting so desperate. Come to think of it, as I mentioned in my reply to Raja’s comment, Motilal is (surprisingly, considering I like him a lot) one of the people I didn’t much like in this film.

  4. DO, it sounds like a pretty ok movie. I have seen neither Dholak nor Ek Thi Ladki, which is really inexcusable. I must remedy that first, and then see this one :)

    Lovely review, as ever!

    • I’d suggest you proceed in the opposite sequence, Ava. See Ek Do Teen first, then Ek Thi Ladki, and then Dholak – in my opinion, they get progressively better!

      Thank you for the appreciation. :-)

  5. I wish more of these very old movies were available with subtitles. (I can squeak by without subtitles but I get much more with that crutch.)

    Anyway regarding your question, can a group of women get together without a song happening? One thing I love thinking about is the taxonomy of justifications filmmakers use for songs. Given that a filmmaker has to shoehorn 4-6 songs into each movie, there are a few common devices that make them at least nominally fit into what is going on. Stage shows (sometimes one of the characters in the movie is a professional performer; other times the characters go to a show); weddings and associated celebrations; religious festivals; dream sequences, and of course just gatherings of friends where someone says something like “Nisha! You have such a wonderful voice, please sing us a song.” or “Amit! Remember that song we used to sing in college” There are so many such justifications but it seems like they can be broken down into a taxonomy of common types.

    carla (filmi geek)
    http://filmigeek.net

    • You could write an entire post on the taxonomy of songs, Carla! That’s an interesting topic, actually – and I agree with what you’ve listed. I’d probably also add another: occasions or situations in which songs do take place even in real life – lullabies, for instance. Or religious gatherings (not necessarily festivals). I have a feeling the professional performances and stage shows could probably dominate as one of the main ways to insert a song into a film.

      • Mainly ‘love’, I guess, loveduets, hoping to fall in love, – leading to ‘sad’ songs, when parted temporarily or permanently.
        Then there’s the ‘comedian’ songs – (love them :-)

  6. Great review, Madhu! I particularly liked (and agreed with) your spirited advice to Moti’s father to “cop it” already.:-) It’s been years since I watched “Ek Do Teen” but I think my take on it was the same as yours – the fun on the screen has a forced air to it at times but the it’s still a watchable and reasonably enjoyable film. Thanks for reminding me of the songs, they are unqualifiedly good.

    • That’s very aptly put, Shalini, about the fun having a forced air to it. Still, all said and done, it’s not a bad movie – and Meena Shorey is always fun to watch. Plus, the songs are great. Especially the train song. :-)

  7. I’m trying to figure out whether I liked the review or your comments, and came to the conclusion that they were both great, with your asides a smidgen better. Now you owe me a keyboard. :)

    If that father hadn’t copped it when he did, I think I would have helped him along the way! What a pest he was!

    ps: Hated the sexist connotations of ‘A woman can’t keep a secret’.

    Signed: The Sphinx. :)

    • I hate the sexist connotations of that bit about women not being able to keep a secret! Fortunately, Moti does redeem himself a bit, but the very fact that Roma and Asha actually do not keep the secret was enough to make me feel pretty annoyed.

      LOL about the keyboard. Well, between you and Harvey (and some others), I’m owed a keyboard too, so let’s call it quits, shall we?

  8. Somehow your review makes the film very attractive in fact! ;-)
    Barring dad’s advice, which he should have imparted to this fifteen year old son. Except for the last one.
    But since the whole film is based on this advice, I can understand the story becoming baseless. But if you suspend disbelief, is it funny? The plot seems to be like one of those screwball comedies, so rampant in Hollywood of the 40s!
    I hope you didn’t suffer too much!

    • It is quite ironic that Motilal had not followed advice #1 “Never drink alcohol; it makes you lose all sense of logic, gets you into gambling and bad company, and ends up bankrupting you” in his real life…….

    • I remember reading somewhere that Roop K Shorey was in fact highly influenced by Hollywood, so it’s not surprising that his films do seem like Indian versions of those Cary Grant style screwball comedies. Dholak is, in my opinion, the best example of that.

  9. I like your review, DO! I think I would watch this movie just to see a young Motilal and Meena Shorey, but would probably get up and walk out halfway through, after listening to the sexist comments from the old man.
    By the way, I have a group of friends here and we meet once in a while for a girls’ night out, where we belt out old songs in the most unmusical manner!

    • Thank you, Lalitha! Motilal and Meena Shorey were the reasons I wanted to watch this film too, and it did start off well enough, until the old man began spouting rubbish from his deathbed. Then it picked up again and became fun in the second half. I wish that bit in the middle could somehow have been ironed out and made less sexist…

      A bunch of friends and I invariably end up singing songs – playing antakshari, to be precise, when we are together too. :-)

  10. What a flimsy premise to base a film on. But I guess the actors make the film worth watching, anyway. I do find myself more and more intolerant of sexist biases though.

    • Same here, Banno. If that sexism hadn’t been there – if there’d been a more solid, funny reason for him to have pretended to murder Heeralal and get into such a terrible scrape… now that would have been fun. As is, it’s just fun in the second half, downright irritating in the middle.

  11. You really know how to evoke the interest of your readers in a film, I guess that is the novelist in you. It sounds like a fun film, as far as the sexist bias is concerned, those days quite a number of films had some kind of gender bias, for instance a widow had to be shown in white and so on.– Shilpi

    • Thank you, Shilpi! Glad you liked the review. :-)

      Yes, there were a lot of gender biases in many films back then. On the other hand, Meena Shorey did play strong, resourceful characters in Ek Thi Ladki and Dholak (plus there were films like Shrimatiji and all the Fearless Nadia films) where there were more go-getter females. But I suppose these sweeping generalisations about women and how they behave (or were thought to behave) were more the norm than the exception…

  12. Ek- A (jolly) good review
    Do- Equally engaging exchanges in “cooments”
    But, Teen – Is It the songs in the film or the selection of ‘always-something-very-new’ for the presentation or the subtle variations in the way the presentations go…….??

  13. Watched Dholak and Ek thi Ladki over the weekend (both available on youtube).
    My view is that Dholak > Ek do Teen > Ek thi Ladki.
    :-)

    • Long time since I watched Ek Thi Ladki, so I can’t immediately compare it to Ek Do Teen, but I agree that Dholak is better than both of them! Such a delight. :-)

      • Dholak and Ek Thi Ladki are quite similar. In the latter Meera is quite a silly woman bursting into tears – or more of a ‘waaaahahaha’ many times.
        IMO Meena was totally independent and feisty in Ek Do Teen. (even if she faints after her initial resistance of those thugs). More than even in Dholak where she had to be saved by the hero in a ‘horse’ chase scene. While in Ek Do Teen she’s on her own trying to save the hero with the help of a couple of friends :-D

        This film was entirely different from the other two, which have been described so eloquently by Ashok M Vaishnav. ;-)

        • Yes, Meena Shorey really comes into her element in the second half of Ek Do Teen, doesn’t she? I love those scenes where she’s careening about the countryside, now in a tractor, now in something else… and that train song. Too good. :-)

          • I am now persuaded that my rating of the three Meena Shorey’s films would be different.
            Dholak and Ek thi ladki were fresh on my mind because I had just watched them, so thought dholak better, (also felt intimidated by the general opinion of sexism re: Ek Do Teen so hesitated to rate it best) but now my memory has further been jolted especially by your mentioning of the tractor scene. :-)
            So my rating;
            Ek Do Teen > Dholak > Ek Thi Ladki

            • We will agree to disagree, then! :-)

              (But, I find it interesting that both of us don’t think too highly of Ek Thi Ladki, which happens to be Meena Shorey’s best-known film).

  14. I am only aware of Thumak Thumak Chali Kamini
    and ek do teen karo aitbaar,

    both songs are lovely and i like them very much!
    vinod and aziz kashmiri together gave nice, meaningful songs, may not be hits
    but good songs!

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