Nakli Nawab (1962)

Muslim socials are among the genres I can never have too much of. Back in their heyday, they had some of the best music around (remember Chaudhvin ka Chaand? Barsaat ki Raat? Mere Mehboob? The inimitable Pakeezah?) There was the chance to savour the mellifluous sound of Urdu; to peek into a social structure and lifestyles that often went otherwise unexplored in cinema; and to see women in shararas and men in achkans [the latter, like military uniforms, equipped with some inexplicable means of making even Bharat Bhushan and Rajendra Kumar look good].

pic1And there was invariably a mushaira tucked away somewhere in the plot, allowing for some good Urdu poetry.

Nakli Nawab begins, more or less, at a mushaira of this sort. A trio of siblings—Nawab Sharafat Ali (KN Singh), his younger brother Shaukat Ali (Ashok Kumar) and their burqa-clad sister Shabnam (Shakila, looking possibly the most gorgeous I’ve seen her) make a late entry. While the men are greeted effusively [they are nawabs, after all] and seated in the front row, Shabnam slips away into the zenana.

Sharafat, Shaukat and Shabnam arrive at a mushaira
There are a few laughs at the mushaira, thanks to the comic [though he considers himself very serious] poet ‘Shaiza’ (Munshi Munaqqa), who discovers too late that he’s misplaced the ghazal he’d penned for the gathering. In his absence—while he’s gone off to retrieve the paper from his house nearby—Shaiza’s nephew, a pickpocket named Baadshah (Maruti), passes off Shaiza’s ghazal (which he’d purloined before the mushaira) as his own. This isn’t great shaayari [“Tere deewaar khade hain tera kya lete hain, tere kutte ko kaleje se laga lete hain”], so just about anything that comes after this is bound to be appreciated.

Baadshah recites a stolen ghazal
As it happens, the next poet up—and the last of the evening—is Nawab Sharafat Ali himself, who reads out a sher ridiculing love. He is greeted with much praise and is looking pleased with himself when Baadshah’s equally unscrupulous friend Yusuf (Manoj Kumar, unshaven, greasy, with a marigold tucked behind one ear and a string of jasmine flowers tied around his wrist, looking utterly louche) challenges him.

Yusuf sings a song...
Nawab Sahib is annoyed, but the rules of the mushaira are democratic: if this man wishes to recite a poem, he is welcome to. So Yusuf goes up on stage and sings in praise of love, which brings a yearning dreaminess into Shabnam’s eyes.

... and wins Shabnam's heart
The rest of the audience is pleased with Yusuf’s song, too, and he receives a solid round of applause—but the prize goes to Nawab Sharafat Ali, since, after all, he is the chief guest. [No; not quite as democratic as one would have liked, this mushaira].

Much happens in the next few minutes: Sharafat’s younger brother Shaukat speaks up, saying that the prize should go to the best poet, in which case it is undoubtedly Yusuf [considering Shaukat arrived in time to listen to only the fag end of the mushaira, this is rather presumptuous]. Other members of the audience, however, agree; but when a cry goes up for Yusuf… he’s already left.

…and is next seen outside, talking to Baadshah, who’s been keeping himself busy by robbing a passing woman of her handbag. One of those women, there, in a burqa, walking down the street. [How a woman on foot and with nothing else in her hands could have had a fairly large handbag taken out of her possession without her knowledge is beyond me].

Baadshah brags about a bag he's stolen
(P.S. An interesting little detail in this screen cap above: behind Maruti is a torn poster of Reshmi Roomaal, which also starred Manoj Kumar and Shakila).

Yusuf is a crook (‘shehar ka mashhoor gunda’, as Sharafat describes him in a later dialogue), but he has some principles. No stealing from women is one of them. So he grabs the bag and goes to return it to the surprised women—leaving them in flutters. Especially one of them, who happens to be Shabnam. She excitedly tells her friend Najma (Shammi) that this is the man, Yusuf, whom she’s infatuated with. [Quick worker, this girl]. Najma is horrified: Yusuf has a frightful reputation; Shabnam should get over this infatuation, pronto.

Najma cautions Shabnam
The scene now switches to the household of this family of nawabs. We learn several things in the course of the next scene:

(a) Sharafat is married and is the father of two small children, but seems to be neither a loving father nor a devoted husband [more on this later].
(b) Shaukat is arranging Shabnam’s marriage to a young nawab, whom he’s been corresponding with. The potential bridegroom, along with his mother, will be coming to their home a few days from now to see Shabnam.

At the nawab's house
And, (c), the most important of all, and something that comes up as a sort of by-the-way. It turns out that, 20 years ago [and why must it always be a round figure? Why not 19, or 18? Why 15 or 20?], Shaukat’s dearest friend had been a widower named Mohammad, whose little son Yusuf was very fond of Shaukat. And vice-versa. [You can guess where this is going. A little boy called Yusuf, and 20 years ago…]

Shaukat remembers Mohammad and little Yusuf
One day, Shaukat, Mohammad and Yusuf went to a mela [No! One should never go to melas, least of all with little children!]. There, at a photographer’s, Shaukat got a portrait photo taken of Yusuf. As a memento of their jaunt, one copy was given to Yusuf, one to Mohammad; and the third copy, Shaukat kept with himself.

Of course, with all of this set up complete, what happened next should hardly come as a surprise. There was a stampede at the mela and Yusuf got lost. Mohammad, to make matters worse, got run over by a car and was fatally injured, though he stayed alive long enough to make Shaukat promise that he would look for Yusuf, and bring Yusuf up as his own son.

So Shaukat has looked for Yusuf all these years, but to no avail.

But Yusuf—at least, the Yusuf we’ve already been introduced to—finds Shaukat shortly after. On the street one day. Shaukat recognises the young man as the brilliant young shaayar of the mushaira, and embraces him. An embrace which Yusuf eagerly returns, since it gives him the opportunity to pick Shaukat’s pocket in the process.

Yusuf hugs Shaukat - and picks his pocket
Yusuf hurriedly bids farewell to Shaukat (who’s blissfully unaware of the theft) and goes his way. He  meets up with Baadshah (who’s helped in this escapade), and hands over a couple of currency notes from the stolen wallet for Baadshah to buy them something to eat. Yusuf opens the wallet to examine its contents at leisure… and is pounced upon by Shaukat, who’s smarter than Yusuf had imagined. He bashes Yusuf up, but Yusuf, though angry, cannot bring himself to bash up Shaukat in return [Anybody who’s seen Hindi cinema and knows how the lost-and-found trope works, will guess why this is so. Yusuf has obviously not seen too many Hindi films and is puzzled at his own inexplicable reticence to beat the hell out of Shaukat]. He does, however, decide that he must have his revenge.

Yusuf wonders why he couldn't bring himself to thrash Shaukat
Baadshah meanwhile has discovered, tucked away between the rupees that Yusuf pulled out of Shaukat’s wallet, a letter—written to Shaukat by Shabnam’s potential bridegroom, mentioning that he and his mother will come visiting to fix the match.
This is the perfect way to dupe Shaukat, make themselves wealthy, and have their revenge, decides Yusuf.

So he and Baadshah negotiate a deal with a seth, to whom they will pay a commission from what they make.  The deal is that the seth will, give them the necessary capital for their nefarious venture, and the three of them will divide the proceeds.

A plot is hatched
There’s a brief interlude where the scene shifts to the kotha of the naachnewaali Zohra (Indira Billi), with whom Shaukat’s elder brother, the much-married Sharafat [how ironically named, as it transpires] is carrying on a torrid affair. Zohra and her brother Abdul (Kamal Kapoor) are a canny twosome and well aware that she’s managed to catch a tagdi asaami here, as they say.

Sharafat at Zohra's kotha
In a conversation that should be ominous, Abdul points out to Sharafat that people will talk about him and Zohra—and can Nawab Sharafat Ali allow his reputation to be besmirched with talk of infidelity? In the very next breath, Abdul reassures the nawab; he is ever-loyal to Sharafat Ali: he will protect his mentor’s honour. “Chaandi ke dhaage aur sone ki soonyee mein badi taaqat hai, Nawab Sahib,” he says. “Aise honth silte hain…ke uff tak nahin nikalti.” So Nawab Sahib hands over 10,000 rupees to Abdul to stop up whatever tongues are liable to wag.

Abdul has a chat with Sharafat
And back we go to Yusuf and Baadshah, who turn up at Shaukat’s—disguised respectively as a nawab and his mother [a rather unpleasant looking mother who should have been in purdah, if only for aesthetic reasons]. They pretend to be Shabman’s prospective groom and mum-in-law, with the ‘groom’ saying his mother was too impatient to wait any longer to meet her daughter-in-law-to-be, which is why they’ve come earlier than expected.

'Nawab' and 'Begum Sahiba' arrive at Shaukat's
The ‘Begum Sahiba’ goes off to see Shabnam, who tries very hard—by pretending to be cross-eyed, mute, and partially paralysed—to get rejected, but is approved of. Begum Sahiba, in passing, also approves of Najma: Baadshah has obviously fallen in love at first sight.

The end result is that ‘Begum Sahiba’ emerges, with the happy news that the wedding is fixed. There is rejoicing, and [following a gentle hint from ‘Begum Sahiba’, recounting her own long-ago betrothal], Shaukat gives a large sum of money to the pair. They retreat into another room when Shaukat is approached by his rather distressed munshi, the poet Shaiza. Shaiza gives Shaukat the news that the nawab and his mother had arrived, but since the nawab and his mother were already with Shaukat, he’s sent these two packing. Put another way, there have been two pairs of sons and mothers, both visiting for Shabnam’s hand in marriage.

Shaiza brings some startling news
The penny drops. Shaukat suspects he’s been fooled. And, going back into the room, finds his new in-laws-to-be merrymaking and gushing over the money. Shaukat is furious, of course, and tears off Yusuf’s fake beard and bashes him up again. Yusuf and Baadshah take to their heels, and in the process, Yusuf’s wallet falls out of his pocket.

Shaukat finds this and picks it up, only to open it and discover a long-ago photo. Yusuf! Yusuf?

He has finally found Yusuf, after all these 20 years of searching. And what a Yusuf. But Shaukat is apparently not a man to be easily deterred. He goes, finds Yusuf, tells the young man the truth, and with some difficulty, manages to convince Yusuf that his father had wished Shaukat to bring up Yusuf, so it’s now right that Yusuf should shift to Shaukat’s home.

Yusuf is found!
…which happens, much to Sharafat’s anger. Yusuf overhears him berating Shaukat: even if Yusuf is Shaukat’s old friend’s son, it doesn’t erase Yusuf’s history as an aawaara, a badmaash, and a hoodlum of the worst order. Their womenfolk will not be safe in the same house as him!

Sharafat throws a hissy fit
And Yusuf, being the hero and a good man deep down, decides there and then that he will uphold the honour of this household, come what may.

Shabnam, meanwhile, after some initial exulting over Yusuf’s arrival, has been trying her hardest to attract his attention. When he doesn’t even lift his head and look at her, she applies to her buddy Najma for help, and Najma comes up with a scheme. This involves Najma luring—with the help of a dropped handbag—Yusuf to Najma’s own home, where Shabnam will be, too. This is duly done; Yusuf falls for the bait and Shabnam, after singing him a song, manages to arrange a date.

Shabnam manages to arrange a meeting
Soon, they’re in love and have graduated from solos to duets. All without Yusuf realising that this isn’t Shabnam’s house, and that Shabnam is actually Shaukat and Sharafat’s sister.

...and they fall in love
All seems joy and bliss. But we know better, don’t we? Because Shabnam is the laaj of this nawabi household, and Yusuf—being a conscientious man, despite his goonda past—will never agree to have any sort of relationship with the daughter of the house. And there is, too, Sharafat Ali’s far-from-shareef other life. Watch what happens.

What I liked about this film:

The music, by Babul. One of my favourite qawwalisHum deewaane tere dar se nahin—is part of this film (and features house favourite Edwina Lyons, in an unusual appearance as a harmonium-playing qawwaliwaali).

Shakila with Edwina in 'Hum deewaane tere'
Mast aankhein hain ke paimaane do
is beautifully romantic, and Tum poochhte ho ishq balaa hai ke nahin hai is a good song, a great Rafi-sung ghazal. Interestingly, three different singers sing playback for Manoj Kumar in Nakli Nawab: Rafi, Mukesh, and Talat.

Shakila and Manoj Kumar, who are total eye candy. (Manoj Kumar, I have come to the conclusion, is a bit like Dev Anand for me: when I like them, in their early films—Shaadi, Nakli Nawab, Woh Kaun Thi? etc for Manoj Kumar; Paying Guest, CID, Nau Do Gyarah, etc for Dev Anand—I like them a lot. When I don’t like them—in Manoj Kumar’s ghastly über-patriotic aka jingoistic Purab aur Pachhim, Upkaar, etc or Dev Anand’s horrid 70s films—I find them hard to tolerate). In Nakli Nawab, Manoj Kumar looks very dashing, and his acting, as the arrogant and crude goonda Yusuf, is pretty good, though he’s rather run-of-the-mill and uninteresting once he’s been ‘adopted’ and reformed by Ashok Kumar’s character.

What I didn’t like:

The last 20 minutes of the film, when the story suddenly goes off the rails with a vengeance and becomes illogical, implausible, very melodramatic and just plain silly. Not utterly unbearable (it’s stuff I’ve seen in other films before), but enough to make one roll one’s eyes.

All in all, though, Nakli Nawab is an entertainer. It’s not one of the best Muslim socials out there, but it has a good mix of drama, romance, angst, villainy, and even some comedy thrown in—and that too all in a fairly coherent way, without deviating too much from the central plot. A good time-pass film.

Nakli Nawab is available for viewing on Youtube, on various channels:  here on Biscoot Talkies, on Sepl Vintage Movies here, and on 21CenturyProduction here.

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47 thoughts on “Nakli Nawab (1962)

  1. simply brilliant. Liked it… i am now following your blog for more than 2 months. most of your posts are simple fantastic. Check out mine.. sachinmanan.wordpress.com… pls share your feedback

    • Do, Sharmi. Manoj Kumar is really quite entertaining in this – particularly in his scenes when he’s still a badmaash. He can’t manage the ‘gritted-teeth-and-blazing-eyes’ angry scenes too well (he comes off looking ludicrously melodramatic), but the rest is fine.

  2. Bravo, Madhu! Loved every bit of the review. Replete with your usual gems, to my delight. ” [a rather unpleasant looking mother who should have been in purdah, if only for aesthetic reasons].” And then, this beaut: “[Anybody who’s seen Hindi cinema and knows how the lost-and-found trope works, will guess why this is so. Yusuf has obviously not seen too many Hindi films and is puzzled at his own inexplicable reticence to beat the hell out of Shaukat].” Loved ’em all, please keep ’em coming!

    • Oh yes, and then this one ” . . . men in achkans [the latter, like military uniforms, equipped with some inexplicable means of making even Bharat Bhushan and Rajendra Kumar look good].”

      • And I was just thinking of yet another outfit to add to that list: a well-cut, well-tailored formal suit. Preferably dark. It won’t change a Surendra into a Shammi Kapoor, but it can help make most actors look a couple of shades better than they do in kurta-pyjama and muffler.

  3. Lovely review! Manoj Kumar looks so dashing in the first screencap! and Shakila,now I must watch it!Thanks for the links to the movie! “Lost in the mela” seems a favorite trope among the filmmakers at that time.
    Ashok Kumar suits the role of Nawab very well à la Mere Mehboob.Totally agree with you on your observation about Dev Anand and Manoj Kumar!

  4. This was lovely to read, Madhu. I am sure the movie would not be as good as your review. One thing I noticed – its music is pure Roshan. Was Babul ever an assistant to him?

    AK

    • Thank you, AK! And thank you, also, for that observation re: Babul’s music resembling Roshan’s. You are absolutely right, of course – when I went through those songs in my head, I realised they probably wouldn’t have been out of place in one of Roshan’s films.

      Unfortunately, I have absolutely no knowledge of Babul’s career. IMDB (which I hadn’t held out much hope from, anyway) has what seems a very sketchy filmography, and I feel they’ve mixed him with other people, one possibly an actor and the other possibly a more recent composer. I could be wrong, of course. It’s probably time to have a look through the credits of some of Roshan’s films and see whether Babul is listed there…

  5. Mehboob ka mehandhi a Rajesh khanna leena film and Nikka are other Muslim socials in 70’s. Christian socials are very rare
    Johnny mera naam ,tere mere sapne of Dev are perhaps exceptions in horrid 70’s.
    Your review is fantastic as usual. Thanks a lot

    • Thank you, Epstein!

      Yes, I agree with you both about the exceptions to Dev Anand’s ‘horrid 70s’ films, as well as about Muslim socials. Rishi Kapoor acted in a few Muslim socials in the early 80s, if I remember correctly – Tawaif, Yeh Ishq Nahin Aasaan, and I think Deedaar-e-Yaar. Christian socials do seem to be few and far between (the only one I can think of is Baaton-Baaton Mein, though some films had the theme of a Christian falling in love with someone who wasn’t Christian, and thus bringing in some elements of Christian social life and norms – as in Julie, Sagar or the Manisha Koirala Khamoshi.

      • Remember “raat Ke Rahi”? I thought it was an interesting movie in that aspect. Almost all the characters (and seemingly the entire town) are Christian but all are presented “normally” without much stereotyping as is typically the case in Hindi films.

        • Raat ke Raahi is a film I haven’t seen yet, though I’ve got it lying around waiting to be watched. I had no idea it was a Christian social (I wanted to see it merely because it starred Shammi Kapoor). Must see it now – it’s so rare to see Christians not being stereotyped in Hindi cinema!

  6. Madhu, so-oo worth the wait! :) NowI have to see this! I wonder if I will find the film as appealing as I found your review though. Laughing at your asides, especially a rather unpleasant looking mother who should have been in purdah, if only for aesthetic reasons] and this [How a woman on foot and with nothing else in her hands could have had a fairly large handbag taken out of her possession without her knowledge is beyond me]..

    But a bone to pick – Manoj Kumar and Dev Anand in the same breath? Madhoooo… *pained, sad sigh*

    • Thank you, Anu! I’m so glad you liked that. :-)

      Oh, yes, Manoj Kumar and Dev Anand in the same breath! I do think Manoj Kumar was pretty hunky in his early films, before he decided to go the Hai preet jahaan ki reet sada route. And Dev Anand, in films like Warrant and Heera-Panna… no, I don’t even want to think about him!

    • Have to agree with Anu here. While Dev and Manoj might have been equally swarmy in the 70s (and beyond), to me Manoj was never more than tolerable even in his B&W days, while Dev was a joy to watch. Ah well, different strokes, different folks.

      As for the Naqli Nawab, I confess I don’t remember much about it except for the songs which I love and Ashok Kumar’s always pitch perfect performance.

      • Yup, Ashok Kumar could always be depended upon to deliver. Have just been watching him in Dhool ka Phool, and even though he’s far from being the central character, he’s definitely one of the most likeable.

  7. Another post already, I will be returning tomorrow so maybe I will have some time later in the week to catch up with you and Anu. To be honest these are the only two blogs I am able to follow. See you later.

  8. Thanks for the review this one looks like a worthy time pass. I too love Muslim socials, I have every fond memories of watching Najma, Chaudvin Ka Chand, Bahu Begum and Mere Mehboob multiple times with my Daadi-ji as a child and my lack of interest in films at that time in my life had her explaining to me the significance of certain scenes and imagery…I think I’m going to dig this one up and watch it with my Daadi-ji, She’ll love it, it’ll be a trip down memory lane for us. Actually she taught me Urdu via these films, she would give me quizzes which consisted of dialogue and song lyrics written in Urdu and I would have to either Romanize it or translate it into Hindi, Bengali or Punjabi/Gurmukhi, sometimes all four lol

    Thanks for stirring up fond memories Dustedoff! I’m never disappointed by your posts they always make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. :D

    PS: While I don’t usually like Manoj Kumar (Upkaar–UGGH!), I find myself sitting through his films because I think he was soooo attractive–and judging by your screen caps he’s certainly swoon worthy in Nakli Nawab.

    • Hehe. :-D Yes, I agree with that ‘UGGH!‘ description of Upkar. Purab aur Pachhim and Patthar ke Sanam I find equally irritating – Purab aur Pachhim is probably my most-hated of Manoj Kumar’s films, it’s so sanctimonious and simply jingoistic.

      But Manoj Kumar in his early films – yum! Certainly in Nakli Nawab. Do show it to Dadiji. I think both of you will like it. :-)

      P.S. I am very impressed at your multilingualism!

      • Watched Nakli Nawab earlier today with my Dadiji. I liked it and Manoj Kumar didn’t drive me nuts with he slo-mo dialogue delivery (is it just me or does he do that a lot in his films? Maybe I just find his voice and diction to be insufferably dry and boring?). And we literally LOL’d at the part where the mela scene fades in, we knew it was going to end in tragedy. If there is one thing I’ve learned from watching old films its:
        MELA + CHILDREN = SEPARATION–always.

        Overall the film was pretty decent minus the last part, you’re right totally illogical and just plain WTF? for me. But as my grandmother pointed out with a smile as I rolled my eyes “Nisha beti, this the way of the Hindi film. For what is a Hindi film without the melodrama and illogical scenarios? If you can leave a film without having any questions in your mind then the film has failed to entertain you. A good Hindi film will always leave you with some questions regarding the plot, illogical nonsense or over the top emotional strain displayed by the characters.” I suppose she has a point lol but that’s apretty weird outlook to have on films though–I’ll let it be since she’s my grandmother and is much older and therefore wiser (also she’s watched 1000x more films than I have so there’s that too).

        Once again thanks for the suggestion and review!

        PS: Thanks for the compliment on the multilingualism (it makes me feel so cool you don’t even know :D). I have a penchant for learning languages. the multilingualism started young (the benefits of a muddled Indian background and having to go a English/French school as a child? lol) but to be fair I do have a MA in Linguistics. It is however a great party trick being able to converse in multiple languages lol. And to think my Mom thought I was wasting my time learning all of these technical jargon about languages when I was in school!

        • I’m glad you and your Dadiji enjoyed the film! :-) And I really must admire your Dadiji’s patience and philosophy – I would never have been able to take that last half-hour of Nakli Nawab in my stride so effortlessly. It’s a bit like Paying Guest, that way – an otherwise good entertaining film, but just such a dumb ending.

          An MA in Linguistics? Wow. I mean, wow. I do find languages interesting, and always have this euphoric moment when I discover some point of similarity between two languages that I wouldn’t have instantly thought were related, but I’ve never had the courage to actually get down to it and learn – till the point of fluency – a new language. Urdu and French were the only ones besides English and Hindi where I made some progress, but I’m nowhere close to being fluent in either.

  9. Muslim socials—-hmmmm—– I will be honest are not my cup of tea, primarily because for me it is like watching a foreign language film. I unfortunately am clueless about Urdu, I just understand a few words here and there. My father did 2 Muslim socials Benazir and Shama even as I watch these films now I get frustrated and miss my father, he would have been able to explain the meaning of the dialogues. Oh and btw, I still have those typical caps, like the one worn by Manoj Kumar with me. My father wore them in Benazir and Shama.
    Coming back to Nakli Nawab, I enjoyed your comments on the cliches in Hindi films it reminded of the popular Hindi serial Filmi Chakkar, it was very funny, it was about a film crazy family. I do not know whether you have seen the serial. There was one episode where Ratna Pathak tells husband Satish Shah that it is high time their family decides on a signature tune or song, it would help in locating each other if they get lost in a mela. Childhood songs and photos placed in wallets are the usual means of recognizing each other.
    You are right about everything being 20 years back, it is all about bees saal pehle or bees saal baad.
    I like Shakila but Manoj Kumar, I find him extremely irritating, patriotic Bharat or not, so would I want to see this film? I guess not. Your review though was quite entertaining.

    • I have to admit I don’t remember having seen Filmi Chakkar. But that thing about a family wanting to learn a signature tune or song – that is certainly familiar, because a cousin of mine had once suggested it! He said, “What if we get separated someday and can’t find each other? We should all compose a song only for the Liddles, and learn it up. That way we’ll be able to find our way back to each other!”

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