College Girl (1960)

Look what I found!

[To make that clearer to those not in the know: I am a die-hard Shammi Kapoor fan, especially of the Shammi Kapoor between 1957 and 1966. I have watched most of his films from that period, and to find one I haven’t seen is cause for rejoicing. Even if it turns out to be a dud. Therefore the euphoria].

I first came across a mention of College Girl while watching a video of Halke-halke chalo saanwre (from Taangewaali, also starring Shammi). Besides the music (which I loved), I thought the song looked great too, and was eager to try and get hold of Taangewaali—until someone told me that a neat job of mixing had been done here: the audio was of the Taangewaali song, but the video was from College Girl. College Girl went up on my list of films to search for—and I discovered it last week on Youtube.

Shammi Kapoor and Vyjyantimala in College GirlUnlike the quintessential 1960s Shammi Kapoor film (which tended to focus on the hero, often even being named for a character trait or the profession of the lead man: Junglee, Professor, Budtameez, Bluffmaster) this film, from the beginning, focuses on the heroine of the film, the eponymous college girl.

Except that she isn’t in college yet.

Kamla (Vyjyantimala) is the only daughter of widowed hakim Ram Prasad (Om Prakash). At the start of the film, Kamla has just finished her matriculation. [And, in a refreshing departure from the usual “pass ho gayi”, she’s not just passed—or got a first division—but has actually stood first in the university]. Kamla is, naturally, thoroughly chuffed about this, and goes to break the news to her friend Janaki (Purnima).

Kamla tells Janaki the news
Janaki, unlike Kamla, is illiterate. She is also a rather pathetic figure. Her father (Nana Palsikar) has recently remarried, and Janaki’s stepmother (Tabassum) is—well, about the same age as Janaki herself. The one ray of light in this gloom is in that her stepmother is not the usual stepmother. She treats Janaki like a friend, and in a moment of shared sorrow, they admit that if Babuji hadn’t married a woman young enough to be his daughter, these two could have actually been friends, not mother and daughter…

Janaki with her stepmother
But, back to Janaki and Kamla. Janaki is very happy for her friend, and urges Kamla to hurry home and share the news with her family. [Which I’d have expected Kamla to have done first, but—seeing her family in the next scene—I can understand her reticence].
Her father, on hearing that Kamla has topped the university [should this be ‘school board’ or something, though?] is very pleased. He’s even more pleased when he hears she’ll get a scholarship as a prize.

Janaki accompanies Kamla to tell Kamla's family the news
Both he and his sister (Leela Misra), who lives with them, however, balk at the idea of Kamla joining college. Ram Prasad thinks Kamla’s school education is more than enough; he doesn’t want her joining college and studying alongside men [she’d been in a girls’ school, so the question of the opposite sex being in close proximity hadn’t arisen]. Besides, there’s no money. Kamla reminds him of the scholarship.

Ram Prasad refuses to let Kamla go to college
But Hakim Sahib is adamant. No college for Kamla. He even breaks into a sweat when she asks him for a rupee to send a telegram to a friend, telling her about Kamla’s success.
“Here’s three paise,” says her father. “Send your friend a postcard.” Kamla returns the money, and with a lugubrious sigh [totally lost on Ram Prasad] says that the results will probably be announced in the newspapers; her friend will no doubt read about it there.

Ram Prasad is rather more generous to his two sons, Heera and Panna (one of whom is Kumud Tripathi). These two are utter wastrels who spend all their time at the akhaada, supposedly in training for wrestling, but actually just lolling around and eating almonds. Ram Prasad holds them up as paragons of virtue whom Kamla would do well to emulate. [I cannot imagine Kamla lolling about in an akhaada and tossing almonds into her mouth, though].

Heera and Panna and their doting father
Kamla, thankfully, is no wimp. When Ram Prasad’s old friend, Dr Ratan Lal (Raj Mehra), comes visiting—after many years—and is openly appreciative of not just Kamla’s success but also her desire to study further, she decides to ask him for help. She goes to his house and tells him why she wants to study (to become a doctor, since her mother had died due to the absence of a lady doctor—and, presumably, a reluctance to be examined by a man).

Kamla meets Dr Ratan Lal
Dr Ratan Lal agrees to help, and between them, they stage a little drama for the benefit of Ram Prasad. Kamla convinces her father that she would like to join a tailoring college; Ratan Lal pitches in and supports her, telling Ram Prasad that this is a laudable venture, since it’s something every young woman should know. Ram Prasad ends up having to acquiesce.

Dr Ratan Lal helps Kamla stage a little drama
Kamla therefore joins college, and on her very first day, meets a classmate named Shyam (Shammi Kapoor, at last). Shyam is a bit of a joker, and (unknown to Kamla) is the son of Ratan Lal. Ratan Lal and his wife (Achla Sachdev) have more or less given up on Shyam achieving anything in the way of academics. He’s got into college, but how long he’s going to be there is anybody’s guess.

Shyam with his parents
Kamla discovers soon enough who this young man is—because Shyam, who knows Ram Prasad, comes to consult the hakim for some minor ailment. While he’s sitting with Ram Prasad, Kamla emerges, and is introduced. She has to resort to much subterfuge to prevent Shyam from informing her father that it’s not a tailoring college she’s going to.
Thankfully for Kamla, Shyam—despite his clownishness and his reprehensible preference for hockey over books—is a sweet soul. He plays along and doesn’t reveal her secret to Ram Prasad.

Shyam helps Kamla continue to pull the wool over her father's eyes
He even helps Kamla keep her secret when Ram Prasad hands her a length of woolen material and tells her (since she’s been learning, as he thinks, to be a seamstress) to make him a sherwani. Kamla hasn’t the least idea of how to go about doing that, so Shyam helps by taking the cloth and getting it stitched. It’s hardly surprising that they become good friends very soon.

Kamla and Shyam become good friends
Ratan Lal decides to  help along what he probably thinks is a good match, by proposing that he and Ram Prasad get together and buy a tonga, so that Shyam and Kamla can be spared the long-term expense and inconvenience of having to go to “their respective colleges” by public transport. Ram Prasad being the skinflint he is, agrees to buy the tonga if Ratan Lal will buy the horse and keep it fed. [This is all basically a set-up to allow this song].

Things seem to be getting along fabulously. Two years pass. Kamla is making good progress at college, and Ram Prasad hasn’t yet thought of asking her why she doesn’t seem to be churning out garments by the dozen.

Colleges being what they are, this one has an annual function, invitations to which are sent out to all the parents. Kamla, when seeking admission, had shown considerable foresight in giving her father’s address Care Of Dr Ratan Lal—that has helped keep Ram Prasad in the dark.
Unfortunately, when the invite to the annual function arrives at the good doctor’s home, he is not at home, and Ram Prasad (who’s popped in to say hello) is.

Ram Prasad receives an invite
He’s surprised; why should he, Ram Prasad, be receiving an invite from Shyam’s college? But it’ll be interesting, he supposes, so he goes along for the function—just in time to see his daughter cavorting onstage with Shyam.
All hell breaks loose, of course. Ram Prasad is furious [enough to break one cardinal rule of Hindi film songs, to never ever cut off a song midway]. Kamla is dragged home, and locked up in her room upstairs—and told that she’s never to even think of going to college again.

All hell breaks loose
In the meantime, Ram Prasad decides he must get Kamla married off as soon as possible. And not to Shyam, since Ram Prasad now realises that Ratan Lal and Shyam have aided and abetted Kamla all this while. In a dramatic scene, he unhitches his tonga from Ratan Lal’s horse, openly stating that this friendship is at an end.

Ram Prasad breaks off his friendship with Ratan Lal
Ram Prasad goes off to find a groom for Kamla. And Shyam, who’s overheard his plans, follows. It takes all of Shyam’s wits, disguises, a baby [whose antecedents are never revealed] and the use of a friend (Mohan Choti) who obligingly dresses up in drag, to throw a spanner in the works. Kamla, even if she can’t study, is at least not going to be forcibly married.

Shyam and a friend - and a baby - set off to stop Ram Prasad
Not content with this, Shyam comes to meet Kamla [by shinning up the pipe to her room]  and is discovered. Ram Prasad barges into his daughter’s room and pushes her sweetheart off the window sill. Horrors! Shyam, fortunately, doesn’t cop it, but is badly wounded enough to be in bed, all bandaged, for a brief scene where his mother can worry about him.

Shyam is injured by an irate Ram Prasad
While Shyam is temporarily out of the picture, Kamla receives news that her friend Janaki is getting married. Kamla, of course, goes for the function, and is standing outside, watching the baaraat come in. The groom, when he arrives, is so old and decrepit that Janaki’s father has to help him walk to the mandap. Kamla is aghast, and rushes to talk to Janaki.

Janaki tells Kamla the truth
Janaki admits that her own illiteracy has brought her to this pretty pass, but Kamla is educated, she mustn’t let herself be bullied. She begs Kamla to not let anyone [read: Ram Prasad] run her life for her.
And, to reinforce that lesson, Janaki (unknown to Kamla) has already drunk down a bottle of poison—she collapses and dies in the middle of the pheras.

That is when Kamla realises how serious this matter of being educated or not, self-willed or a doormat, can be. But what will she do about it?

What I liked about this film:

The eye candy. I like both Shammi Kapoor and Vyjyantimala a lot, and they’re both equally pleasing to the eye in this.

Shammi Kapoor in College Girl
Vyjyantimala in College Girl
The music, by Shankar-Jaikishan. Hum aur tum aur yeh sama, while nowhere as gloriously romantic as its Dil Deke Dekho counterpart, is very pleasant (though I will admit to being turned off a bit by the “lovely, lovely, lovely” bit). Pehla-pehla pyaar ka ishaara and Hum bhi karte hain pyaar are two others that are especially nice.

The basic premise of the story, about the importance of women’s education. And the fact that the central figure in it is a strong female character, without being a tomboy or very Westernised. Kamla conforms very much to Ram Prasad and his sister’s idea (or most of contemporary Hindi cinema’s idea)—at least when it comes to appearance and behavior—of what a ‘good girl’ should be like. She dresses in saris or salwar kurtas. She is respectful to her elders, does all the household chores—and yet is determined enough to push for what she sees as her right. I liked that Kamla was more real than most of the screen heroines of the period.

What I didn’t like:

I would’ve liked less of the melodrama in the last half hour of the film. It’s not unbearable [and I guessed pretty early on that this was coming], but still. Less would’ve been better.

And—conversely—more would’ve been better, in the case of Shammi Kapoor. He was the main reason I watched College Girl, and he actually didn’t have that much screen time in it.

Note:

College Girl is available for online viewing on Youtube, here. Be warned: the print is pretty bad. Plus, MM (the Pakistani avatar of Friends, methinks), appear to have summarily chopped off sections mid-scene in several places, leaving the story a bit choppy, particularly in the second half.

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43 thoughts on “College Girl (1960)

    • You’re welcome! On the topic of Boy Friend, I had wanted to see it for years – ever since I discovered that it starred Shammi Kapoor opposite Madhubala. But it was a damp squib. So much potential, so terribly squandered. The music is lovely and they look great together, but otherwise an unimpressive film. College Girl, by contrast, doesn’t have such great music, but I liked the story and its execution much more.

  1. Thanks for the link, Madhu. :-)
    Just read the beginning and ‘What you liked and didn’t’. Will read the rest after watching it.
    The songs are typically good of that time, especially pehla pehla pyar ka ishaara.
    Yes, that ‘Lovely, lovely, lovely’ is a turnoff.

    • There’s something about that “lovely, lovely, lovely” which sounds very 90s style, doesn’t it? That mix of English and Hindi in a way that isn’t usual in everyday language – I mean, we do use English words like bread or time quite easily even when speaking in Hindi, but…

      Do let me know what you thought of the film once you’ve seen it! Happy viewing, I hope! :-)

  2. When I got the update in my email inbox, I thought should I visit your blog or should finish with Usne Kaha Tha? but you won. You see I had heard about this film and was always curious to know about it so Usne Kaha Tha took a back seat and here I am. Interestingly this film made years ago has a story which is relevant even today what with the gender bias that prevails even now. As for the melodrama bit you have mentioned, that is typical of most Hindi films. Another thing that I found interesting while reading your review and seeing the screen caps was the youthful Poornima. I have seen some of her old films but that is so long ago that I had no memory of them, what I remember of her was the older Poornima. What is interesting about Poornima you met well ask?. Well I recently learnt that she is Emraan Hashmi’s grandmother and what I found interesting was the similarity in features of Hashmi and Poornima. Now whether there is really a similarity or I am imagining it I do not know.— Shilpi

    • I didn’t know that Purnima was Emraan Hashmi’s grandmother! (In fact, I didn’t know till a few days back that Zarina Wahab was married to Aditya Pancholi). We live and learn. Thank you for telling me about Purnima, and I do agree (now that I come to think of it) that there’s a resemblance in Emraan Hashmi’s and Purnima’s features.

      By the way, I had reviewed, several years back, another Purnima film, Aurat, which is based on the Biblical story of Samson and Delilah. Bina Rai acts in an unusual role as the villainess.

      https://dustedoff.wordpress.com/2009/07/22/aurat-1953/

      • Thanks for the link, I will take a look and by the way thanks for reminding me that I am quite old—HA! HA! You see now that you have mentioned that you did not know that Zarina Wahab is Aditya Pancholi’s wife, I realized that is obvious how would you know, I doubt whether you were born when they married or you were probably just a toddler. You know sometime in the late seventies or maybe in the early eighties Nari Hira of Magna, the publishers of Stardust, Savvy and so on, used to produce video films.These were released only on video and not on the big screen, if I am not mistaken Aditya made his debut in such a film.

        • You always have something new to offer when it comes to information, Shilpi! I honestly didn’t know about those video films. I had seen Zarina Wahab in some films – was it Gharonda, with Amol Palekar? – and a few others. And my major memory of Aditya Pancholi was from Yes Boss. I somehow never discovered till poor Jiah Khan killed herself and their son got into trouble that these two were married!

    • True! Hindi cinema and melodrama do go together. And, to be honest, this film didn’t have as much melodrama as some of the others I’ve seen. Not anywhere close to, say, Anpadh, also about women’s education, but totally OTT when it came to melodrama.

  3. Those were the days, when heroines would stand for themselves and not wait for the hero to come and save them. (Yes, DDLJ. I’m looking at you)
    Sounds to be a very good story!
    So, one could join the medical college at that time after matriculation? Confusing bit that and what with completing her matriculation at the university. Mind-boogling! Maybe the script-writer needed a course in school-system in India. Or maybe I!
    Sorry that Shammi was not more visible in the film. But the songs are nice!
    Thanks for the very entertaining review Madhu!
    Glad that our conversation lead you to this film.
    BTW is there any major heroine from the 50s and 60s with whom Shammi didn’t act? I can only think of Nanda.

    • Yes, all that stuff about her having topped the ‘university’ in her matriculation was a bit baffling. Perhaps, when she joined college, she spent the first couple of years just doing some sort of general courses (though why that should be, I don’t know) – she certainly didn’t seem to be in a medical college.

      I’d completely forgotten that you were the one who’d told me about College Girl being the one where the video of Halke-halke chalo saanwre had been taken from on that Youtube link. Thank you! I did like this film. :-)

      BTW is there any major heroine from the 50s and 60s with whom Shammi didn’t act?

      Yes, Nanda was the first one who came to my mind too. Also Nargis, perhaps? I don’t recall seeing them together – though she was, of course, too busy acting with bade bhai sahib. I also find it interesting that Shammi actually opposite a lot of fairly minor actresses too – people like Jabeen Jalil and B Saroja Devi, for instance. Even Kumkum.

      • Oh yes, Nargis! I’d completely forgotten her.
        This would explain Nargis missing in his filmography.

        Shammi Kapoor must have an impressive list of leading ladies, who acted with him.
        Oh yes, I think Waheeda Rehman must also be missing from the list or am I mistaken? she might have acted opposite him in some 80s films but surely not in the 60s.
        Didn’t Nanda play his wife in Prem Rog? Will have to check that.

        • May I join the discussion? Actually both Nanda and Waheeda Rehman did not act with Shammi Kapoor, both the friends – they are best friends– refused films with Shammi Kapoor as his reputation preceded him, I read that they had heard stories of how he troubled his heroines. Later when Nanda finally acted with him in Prem Rog, ShammiKapoor asked her,”What were you afraid of? Nanda laughingly recalled in one of her interviews.

          • Hehee!! I can imagine. :-D Thank you for that, Shilpi. It seems Shammi had quite a reputation in more ways than one. I remember Saira Banu talking about how he yelled at her, “If you can’t act in front of a crowd, wear a burqa on the set!” when she was doing her first scene ever – filming Kaashmir ki kali hoon main. She was so upset that she burst into tears.

        • What a delightful little anecdote! Thank you for sharing that, Harvey – loved listening to Shammi recount that. Yes, it might’ve been a bit odd to act with Nargis after that. But then – that’s what acting is all about, isn’t it? :-)

          If I remember correctly, I haven’t ever seen him paired with Nimmi either. They’ve been in the same film (Chaar Dil Chaar Raahein), but she was paired with Ajit, he with Kumkum.

          • This question is somewhat off-topic, so apologies in advance. But what’s with the name Chaar Dil Chaar Raahein? I saw it, oh, at least twenty years ago, but I still distinctly recall, if not so many roads, at least six dils involved: Raj/Meena, Ajit/Nimmi and Shammi/Kumkum. Could someone elucidate?

            • We’re in the same boat. I figured out why the chaar raahein because of that overhead shot showing the four roads coming together to meet at the top of the hill. But the chaar dil eludes me too. Maybe poetic license? Or sheer bad arithmetic?

      • Wasn’t ‘Intermediate’ (11th and 12th) college though? Most schools only had classes until the 10th standard, and then off people went to ‘college’ (they called it Intermediate even in my father’s time, I remember him saying)… In my time, we called it pre-university; in Bombay, they called it Junior College. I do know that state boards of education were set up as early as the 1920s.

        • I do know that back in the 60s, college began when you were 16. There are photos of my mum, in Calcutta, along with her college friends – all of them dressed in summery cottons, all of 16. School used to end at Class X, I think – the “Plus 2”, 11th and 12th, was at college. In that case, it might have been that in the film, Kamla topped Class X (which would be ‘matriculation’), then went to a regular (I mean non-medical) college for two years, basically doing what would be equivalent to Class XI and XII.

          I could be totally barking up the wrong tree, though.

          • Madhu, now you make me feel very old! :( I went to St Mary’s College when I was 15. Passed out of school after the 10th and went to college for my Plus 2. It was called pre-university then, and we went to PUC1 and PUC2.

            • I don’t think so, Anu! From what I can gather, we pretty much about the same age. It may be because of different school boards or even states. My sister, for example, is five years older than I am, but even she had to do Class XII in school before going to college for her BA. In fact, except for a couple of books that had been redone by the NCERT, I ended up reusing most of her textbooks too!

  4. What I really appreciated about “College Girl” was how committed it remained to it’s main message – women should be educated. Unlike other “message” movies that either waver from their point or worse, sabotage it, “College Girl” keeps it’s focus. And while I would have loved more Shammi myself, I rather liked that his purpose in the movie was soley to support the heroine! Even the relationship between the lead pair was more respectful and equal than is normally the case in Hindi movies. I thought it was especially nice that the melodrama was confined to the Father-daughter story and didn’t contaminate the romance.

    PS. I wish I could find a clear video of this movie, even my VHS tape is a fuzzy, indistinct mess.:-(

    • I agree wholeheartedly, Shalini. I like the fact that the film stays committed (and Kamla stays committed) to her goal. And also that the melodrama was confined to the father-daughter (and, to some extent, the sons and their wives) story.

      Another thing that I thought was different (and which I liked because it was different!) was that the hero wasn’t the quintessentially perfect hero, in being academically-minded and a good sportsman and a great singer, etc. Not great at academics, but a very sweet soul. And, thank goodness, he doesn’t chase Kamla!

  5. Rivetting review, Madhu. It’s a film I haven’t seen, but was curious about. I must confess that I didn’t look very long or hard for it because I was sure it would be another of those films which associated ‘educated’ with ‘westernised’ with ‘bad’. Good to know that it actually had a clear focus. and that it kept to it. And I like Vyjayanthi (that I like Shammi is a foregone conclusion!) – she was the only south Indian actress of the time who came in with clear diction (until Rekha, who slogged to achieve it) in the language. (Discounting Waheeda, because she was born in Hyderabad and I suspect spoke Hindi anyway.)

    • Yes, I was watching Vyjyantimala after a couple of years, and ended up automatically comparing her diction to that of others like Padmini, Ragini, and Hema Malini. And yes, of course: there is no comparison. She has no trace of any accent.

      If you get the time, any time, I would recommend this film. It does a good job of showing that progressiveness and traditional values can easily go hand-in-hand; one need not be at the cost of the other.

  6. I saw this film about a month back and liked it a fair bit.
    In fact I’ve seen a good number of Vyjayanthimala films lately – over a dozen I think.

    Isn’t she a tad underrated in the public consciousness today? In my book probably the most well rounder ouevre among all actress of Bollywood ever. Yet hardly anyone seems to remember her.

    Nobody has acted in more thought-provoking pictures than her. Films like Phoolon ki Sej, Chhoti si Mulaqat – practically unheard of, but littered with insights into Indian life as it existed in the 60s.

    • I agree; today (and actually, for quite a few years now) people have tended to wax eloquent about Nargis, Meena Kumari or Waheeda Rehman for their acting, or Madhubala for her gorgeousness – but Vyjyantimala seems to get left out. She is one of my favourite actresses, though: not just because she’s beautiful or a great dancer, but a fine actress. Look at a film like Sadhana, for instance – she was fabulous in that. And the ones you mention. And College Girl.

      • Yes. Also I think across all her films there is a consistent screen persona that emerges – an independent-minded girl who is “modern” and “traditional” at the same time! Especially in films like Aas ki Panchhi, Nazrana and Ishaara

        I don’t find such a consistent screen persona for any other major actress.

        • Ah, three more films that I haven’t seen before, though Aas ka Panchhi has been on my to-watch list for some years now.

          I like the fact that even in some of the historicals/non-urban roles she’s assayed, Vyjyantimala does manage to be mostly quite independent-minded. In Amrapali, for example. Or even Madhumati, to some extent – she, after all, is the one who pulls off the revenge!

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