Dhool ka Phool (1959)

Yash Chopra’s debut as a director, Dhool ka Phool is unusual in a lot of ways.

Leela Chitnis, for instance, is not a coughing-her-guts out (or basket-making) pathetic old mum.
The hero and heroine travel by train—and that too in trains that go over bridges—without the train falling into the river or crashing and the protagonist losing their memory in the process. Or being given up for dead.
And two people in love in the first half-hour of the film end up moving on in life and not loving each other till the end of time.

On the flip side, it does have a long-lost mother feeling an inexplicable affection towards a strange boy, who for no reason that he can fathom, instinctively calls her “Ma!” It does have a thunderstorm at the end of a love song, with the expected consequences [read: raging hormones, libido and “Humein aisi galti nahin karni chaahiye thhi”]. And it does have Manmohan Krishna being the goodie-two-shoes who stands up for what is right and righteous.

Manmohan Krishna as Abdul Chaacha in Dhool ka PhoolDhool ka Phool starts off with a bang. Rather, a crash. Mahesh (Rajendra Kumar, looking far too old to be playing a college student) is cycling along and collides with Meena (Mala Sinha), also on a cycle. She’s very miffed, since the collision has bent the front wheel of her cycle all out of shape. But Mahesh is gallant and offers to help. After she’s made some huffy excuses, he ends up escorting her to her home. He apparently has hidden charms, because by the time she says goodbye to him, Meena is bestowing shy smiles on Mahesh.

An accident leads to a romance
Meena, we see in the next scene, doesn’t have the happiest of domestic lives. She’s an orphan and lives with her chaacha (Jeevan, which—by the mere casting—should give you an idea of how loving an uncle this man is) and chaachi (Amir Banu). Both uncle and aunt spare no opportunity to tell Meena just what a burden she is on them, even though her dead father had left behind Rs 20,000 for Meena’s education and care.

An irritable uncle and aunt...
The only one who loves Meena like a daughter is her old daai (Leela Chitnis, for once not looking as if one strong gust of breeze will blow her away. Deceptively, as it later turns out).

... and a loving daai
Now that Meena’s met Mahesh, they soon [in the usual way of Hindi film jodis in colleges] find themselves onstage singing a duet. From there, it’s a short step to singing a duet in a garden. And, when the rain comes pouring down, taking shelter in a deserted hut [how come there’s always a conveniently placed deserted hut or cave in the vicinity when filmi characters are drenched?].

The inevitable happens; Meena and Mahesh end up being naughty, and—just as inevitably—end up feeling thoroughly remorseful for what’s happened. This was sinful of them, they admit, and Mahesh reassures Meena that they’ll get married soon. This cheers her up considerably.

"Humein yeh galti nahin karni chaahiye thhi"
What Mahesh doesn’t know is that while he’s been here in town studying in college and whooping it up with his girlfriend, back home his father (Radhakrishna) has been working like a beaver to have Mahesh set up well in life. This involves getting his beloved son both a good job and a good wife.

About a month after Mahesh and Meena’s momentous tryst, Mahesh receives a letter from Daddy, bearing good tidings. A plum job has been procured for Mahesh. It comes, too, with all the trappings: a house and a car [and, though Daddy does not mention it, and so Mahesh does not realise, a bride]. Mahesh is summoned home.

Daddy arranges a match
And, just as this happens, Meena discovers she is pregnant. Strangely for someone in a Hindi film, not because she feels nauseous, but because she has a cramp when she gets up too hurriedly. A wall calendar with a large photograph of a baby is near at hand for us—and Meena—to realise, with horror, what the implications of this are.

Meena goes rushing off to tell Mahesh, and he again reassures her: they will get married, their baby will not be born out of wedlock. He has to go home to meet his father, and while he’s there, Mahesh will wheedle Daddy into agreeing to the marriage.

Hope springs eternal...
Meena goes home, relieved. Perhaps her life will not fall apart, after all. Mahesh goes off to his hometown [in a train, as I mentioned, that actually manages to cross a river without plunging into it].

…and days pass. Weeks pass. Meena waits, with increasing impatience and anxiety, for news from Mahesh, but there’s not a squeak out of him. No letters, no telegrams, no anything. Finally, when she can’t bear it any more, Meena decides there’s only one option: to go to Mahesh’s father’s home and see what’s delayed Mahesh’s return.

But, disaster. Meena discovers that Mahesh is getting married. In fact, as she stands in the street, about to set forth for his house, the baraat passes by, with Mahesh mounted on a mare [and no, the sehra isn’t so thick or all-enveloping that it disguises him; Meena can see, quite clearly, that this is Mahesh and no-one else]. There is no question about this whole affair; the camera—and Meena—follow, and it’s clear as crystal: Mahesh has married another girl, Malti (Nanda).

Malti gets married to a man with an unsavoury past as a jilter
Meena crawls back home, defeated. And things begin to happen in quick succession. She’s so distraught that her daai asks what’s wrong, and Meena confides in her: only to have chaachi, who’s lying awake in the next room, overhear the sordid confession. Chaacha and chaachi come storming out of their room to heap abuse on Meena. “Tujh jaisi kulta ke liye hamaare ghar mein jagah nahin hai!” they yell, and throw her out of the house in the middle of the night.

What is there for Meena to do? Commit suicide, of course. But just as she’s looking down from the edge of the cliff [why do people in Hindi films always pause before taking that big leap? Why not just go racing till the edge and leap off without a second thought?—because that would considerably shorten the story?]—the daai arrives and pulls Meena back. She even takes Meena to her own little hut and gives Meena a surprisingly level-headed lecture: if this is a sin, then it is more Mahesh’s wrongdoing than Meena’s, for having dumped her in this shameful way. Meena will have her baby, and will live with the daai for as long as it’s needed.

Daai saves her darling from committing suicide
So Meena gives birth to a son, and they live for a few months with the daai. Then one day, out of the blue, the daai drops dead in the street. [The absence of coughing and sighing weakly, in the case of Leela Chitnis, is apparently no guarantee that her character will last till the end of the movie]. Meena and her baby are suddenly all alone and adrift in the world.

Meena, therefore, does the only thing she can think of: she takes her baby to its father. She arrives at Mahesh’s house just as he drives up in his car, and confronts him. This is his child, Meena informs Mahesh, and as its father, he is responsible for bringing it up. Mahesh blusters and gets belligerent, telling Meena that she should never have gotten into this mess in the first place, and that he’s now a married man. How can he take this baby into his house? When Meena retorts that she will go into his house and tell his wife that this is her husband’s illegitimate child, Mahesh asks her what proof there is.

Our hero acts most un-hero-like
There is none, of course, and Meena is left dumbstruck. Mahesh goes off, and she—in a fit of rage and helplessness—does the unthinkable [at least by the standards of Hindi cinema’s ultimate-in-self-sacrifice motherhood]: she puts her baby down on a pathway in the middle of a forest and abandons the little tyke.

Shortly after, along this path comes Abdul Rashid (Manmohan Krishna). He’s surprised to see the baby (which, by now, has acquired a guardian—a cobra has come slithering along and raised its hood over the baby as a sign of its protection; rather a cheesy motif that I’d not expected from Yash Chopra). Abdul Rashid, having marvelled at how someone can be callous enough to abandon a baby [and also having marvelled over the wonders of the animal world], picks up the baby. He shouts out, asking whose offspring this is, but—receiving no reply—takes the child to his own home.

Abdul Chaacha finds an abandoned baby
In his neighbourhood, Abdul Chaacha (as he’s almost universally known) is initially praised for having taken pity on this poor baby. Then, when he tries passing the baby on to various neighbours for them to bring up as their own, people do an about-turn. Who knows whose baby this is, they say. Is he Hindu? Is he Muslim? And his parents must have been unmarried, too. Nobody wants to have anything to do with this paap ki gathri, as they label the little bundle.

... and faces the censure of his neighbours
Abdul, therefore, takes the baby to his own home, and spends the next few years lavishing all his love and affection on the child, whom he names Roshan (Sushil Kumar, who went on—a few years later—to play one of the protagonists in Dosti).

Roshan grows up a bit
In the meantime, Roshan’s biological parents have gone their own ways. Mahesh, having gotten over Meena in a jiffy, has settled into blissfully happy married life with Malti. They’ve also had a son, Ramesh (Daisy Irani), a precocious and spoilt little brat whom his parents dote on. Mahesh, in a surprisingly short stretch of time, has gone grey-haired and in need of very thick glasses, and has also become a well-respected magistrate.

... as does his half-brother
…and Meena, trying to scrape together a living, has managed to get a job as the secretary of an advocate named Jagdish Chandra (Ashok Kumar). She had, on that fateful night when she abandoned her baby, gone rushing back in a fit of remorse, but by then Abdul Chaacha had already taken the baby. Meena has not forgiven herself in all these years for that lapse in maternal duty and affection. This guilt, needling away at her, makes her commit some startling errors in her job at the beginning (a typed letter which wanders into a series of ‘mother-child, mother-child’), but she eventually settles in. Enough for her boss to, a few years later, propose to her. Meena agrees, and they get married.

Jagdish Chandra proposes
And so we end up, a few years after this all started. Abdul Chaacha has been skimping and enduring hardship so that Roshan may be able to get a good education, but whichever school Roshan goes to, he ends up being asked who his father is—and when Roshan can supply no name, the children start bullying him. Now, in a last-ditch effort to try and get him into a school where this will not happen, Abdul Chaacha takes Roshan to get him admitted in yet another school… and who should be there, also getting admitted (and in Roshan’s class, too) but Roshan’s own half-brother, Ramesh, who’s been brought by Roshan’s real father?

Two half-brothers arrive at the same school to be admitted.
Will they find out? [Yes, obviously they will, because otherwise there might not be much point to the story, but still]. How? And what will be the repercussions?

Dhool ka Phool is a film I’d heard of many times before I watched it. I put off watching it mainly because Rajendra Kumar isn’t one of my favourites, and films about illegitimate children—or even children believed to be illegitimate, since their parents got secretly married—are, more often than not, tedious and melodramatic. [Ever wondered, by the way, why illegitimate children in Hindi films tend to be referred to as flowers? Dhool ka Phool, Ek Phool Do Maali, and the like. Considering how people in Hindi cinema tended to look down upon children of unwed parents, I’d have expected ‘weed’ to be a more appropriate appellation. I will admit, though, that ‘Ek Kharpatvaar Do Maali’ does not have much recall value].

But, I digress. This was an interesting enough film. Predictable in some ways, and not in others, especially in the way it laid stress on the fact that a child should not be held responsible for the deeds of its parents. More on that, below.

What I liked about this film:

The music, by N Dutta (with lyrics by my favourite, the inimitable Sahir Ludhianvi). Although the song that perhaps most adequately encapsulates the message of Dhool ka Phool is Tu Hindu banega na Mussulmaan banega (and it’s not a bad song, music-wise, either), my favourite song from this film is the lovely Jhukti ghata gaati hawa, followed by the eventually ironic Tere pyaar ka aasraa chahta hoon, wafaa kar raha hoon, wafaa chahta hoon.

The somewhat unusual treatment, at times, of some tropes. For instance, the fact that Meena’s and Mahesh’s love story is not one of undying love (compare this to similar films like Ek Phool Do Maali or Aradhana or Phoolon ki Sej, all with the unwed mother separated by fate from the father of her child, and all with the mother spending the rest of her life either mourning her lost love, or eventually reunited with him). Dhool ka Phool, in contrast, has the temerity to let Meena and Mahesh go their own ways, and for Meena—refreshingly bold, thank heavens—to eventually find love again.

What I didn’t like:

A fair number of things grated on my nerves while watching Dhool ka Phool, though none of these were by themselves enough to make me dislike the film. Rajendra Kumar isn’t one of my favourite actors, so that was a minus from the beginning. Daisy Irani’s character Ramesh is bratty and needs a swift kick in the pants, and the film does tend towards too much melodrama in places.

However, considering it questions some longstanding social norms (that the woman is to blame for conceiving out of wedlock, and that an illegitimate child must be ostracised)—that is good reason to applaud Dhool ka Phool. It was forward-thinking for its time, a fact also evidenced in the way its characters often behave (Jagdish Chandra takes Meena’s past in his stride, for example; and Abdul Chaacha does not hesitate to bring up an unknown child as his own). If only for that (and the good music, and some good acting from Manmohan Krishna, Mala Sinha, and Ashok Kumar), this is a film worth a watch.

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73 thoughts on “Dhool ka Phool (1959)

  1. Ek kharpatvar do maali … hilarious. And the sassy kid being given a kick in the pants.. haha.

    I have never wanted to see this movie either because of the un-wed mother theme. But I had no idea things turn out this way in this movie. Well well well.

    I think I might give it a watch after all.

    • Thank you! (And thank you, too, for commenting). Coincidentally, your name – Verity – is also my father’s middle name. And it’s the name of a certain animal character in the last book I read, Gerald Durrell’s The Aye-Aye and I.

      Dhool ka Phool is an unusual ‘unwed mother’ film, because it’s not the parents, really, who are the focus of the story. It’s worth at least one viewing, I’d say.

  2. Great review of one of my favorite movies, Madhu! I was laughing at [why do people in Hindi films always pause before taking that big leap? Why not just go racing till the edge and leap off without a second thought?—because that would considerably shorten the story?]— You are right, that would shorten the story, and where would it be without the lead characters? Mercifully, Nanda did not do any crying except when her son dies, and I liked the stand she took on adopting the boy, Roshan, and sent her husband to do the job. That was really an enlightened movie for its time. I saw this movie way back in 1960, and sobbed along with Mala Sinha – my most vivid memory of that movie! But I have seen it a couple of times since then, and understood it a lot more, and applauded the makers for the stand they took regarding illegitimacy and the unwed mother.
    Apparently, it was based on a movie called Blossoms in the Dust, starring Greer Garson, about the Edna Gladney home for unwed mothers in Texas. I saw this movie some years back but unfortunately, I cannot remember much of it – must have been cooking or doing something else and missed large chunks of it. I will watch it again and see how that movie goes.
    Anyway, I have always loved the songs in this movie, especially Daaman mein daag laga baithe … and Jhukti ghata gaati hawa …. Thanks again for the great review!

    • Lalitha, I had no idea this was based on Blossoms in the Dust; I’ve heard of the film but never watched it, even though Greer Garson is a favourite of mine. But Dhool ka Phool, despite the fun I’ve poked at it, is a good film. I really like the fact that in an era when Hindi cinema was still making films like the Geeta Bali Suhaagan (the gist of which was that a married woman, even if her husband is a no-good who can’t earn money for the house, must not work) – in the midst of such films, Yash Chopra had the courage to make a film that was woman-centric, and questioned the very biased social norms of the day.

      Oh, and the songs are lovely. I’ve been listening to Jhukti ghata gaati hawa all over again!

          • If I remember right, what Chopra got from this was the There are no illegitmate children, there are only illegitmate parents line; I think he riffed on that premise.

            The film had a very strong performance by Greer Garson. It is a very Hollywood-ised ‘based on a true story’ film. By that, I mean, real person, a few real incidents, bolstered by *many* other incidents which had nothing to do with either the person (Edna Gladney) or her story. Nevertheless, definitely worth watching.

            • Ah. That actually sounds a wee bit like another film I like a lot, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. Also about a woman in charge of a large crowd of orphaned children; also based on a real life person (Gladys Aylward), also with a very fine performance by the lead (Ingrid Bergman), and aso playing around very freely with the truth – but still worth a watch.

              I shall look out for this one. Thanks, Anu. And thanks, Lalitha, for mentioning it in the first place.

  3. Madhu,
    One enduring surprise in such films is that it takes only one encounter to get pregnant! But on a serious note, the film was far ahead of its times. Now the society is coming to a position that children are never illegitimate. This movie took that position several decades ago.

    AK

    • “One enduring surprise in such films is that it takes only one encounter to get pregnant!

      LOL. Yes, such filmi encounters are always very timely. ;-) Just once, and – boom! Done.

      But, as you say, Dhool ka Phool was far ahead of its times. Even 20 years later, not many film makers would have had the guts to make a film like that.

  4. Madhu, Madhu, Madhu, how I needed this! I don’t even have the energy to laugh, you bad woman, my throat hurts so much! But I couldn’t help it – especially at Leela Chitnis not needing to cough to fall down dead and Rajendra Kumar not dying in a train accident. Conveniently placed huts and single sexual encounters leading to conception are of course grist to the masala mill. Where would we be without that?

    But I honestly liked that Mala Sinha, for all that she is a ‘fallen woman’ not only gets to marry but to not be celibate (at least the assumption is that they have a normal married life). In most films, the new husband will be the chivalrous chap who leaves her ‘untouched’ and chaste so he can die in the last reel and hand her over to the hero/previous lover. Or she has to die – preferably in childbirth, because she must be punished.

    Yeah, until he got into the ‘King of Romance’ territory, Yash Chopra’s women were rather progressive with very scant respect for a patriarchal morality. (Raakhee in Daag, Waheeda in Trishul and Kabhi Kabie and so on.

    Loved your review. I have to go back and read it again when my throat stops hurting. I need to laugh. :)

    • Anu, I’m glad you liked that. :-) And what you mentioned about Mala Sinha’s character – yes, that’s exactly what I liked about her, that she wasn’t left celibate (she certainly does seem to be quite happily married to Ashok Kumar’s character) – not as in that ghastly Ek Phool Do Maali or in the better but in-that-way similar Aradhana. And she doesn’t end up married (as in Phoolon ki Sej or Dharamputra) to the father of her child. Very progressive, I thought. And realistic, too, come to think of it. I mean, does one blighted love story mean the end of one’s love life forever and ever?

      • does one blighted love story mean the end of one’s love life forever and ever?
        Yes. At least in Hindi films it does. All the way into the 90s, where SRK was busy quoting Hum ek baar jeete hain, ek baar marte hain, shaadi bhi ek baar hoti hai, aur pyar…ek hi baar hota hai!”

        • Exactly. But that’s cinema, no? I was talking of real life, not reel life. And Hindi cinema, sadly, has a long history of disconnects between the two.

  5. Sorry about the comment-after-comment-after-comment…

    nd who should be there, also getting admitted (and in Roshan’s class, too) but Roshan’s own half-brother,
    Um, unless Mahesh’s been sowing his oats rather, well, wildly, shouldn’t the half-brother be a year younger than Roshan? I mean, gestation and all that (rather inconvenient, I know, but still…)

    And now I’m laughing again at Ek Kharpatvaar Do Maali

    • Well, maybe the half brother was extra smart and got a double promotion along the way, or Roshan had to repeat a grade! But I also wondered about that and decided it was because Manmohan krishna had to move around with the boy, so his schooling would have been interrupted during the year and so …

    • Oh, you should see the children in the classroom. There are boys there who look as if they’re in their early teens, and there are others who are probably still having problems with potty training. Seriously, it made me think Yash Chopra probably sent out his casting team with instructions to collect boys for the scenes, and forget to mention how old the boys should be. And then said, “Oh, what the hell. Let’s shoot anyway.”

      By the way, when Mahesh gets married, Meena is only a couple of months pregnant. So if he got started on Malti really quick (sorry to sound so blunt!), there actually might be only about three months’ difference between the two children. (I’m reminded of an ex-boss of mine, who – a month after he got married – happily announced that his wife was “in the family way“. Quick work).

  6. By the way, Madhu, thanks for teaching me a new word – kharpatwaar. Never in a million years would I have known that it meant “weed”!

      • LOL! Or Graameen Bhaiyon ke Liye. :-D I remember, back in the 80s, when TV time was so restricted, my sister and I were reduced to watching just about anything that came on TV. Even those multicoloured stripes that would appear a few minutes before the telecast would start.

        • Oh, me as well ! Just shows how starved we were of anything remotely like entertainment! Or perhaps the TV was such a novelty? I don’t know. But I remember the multicoloured stripes and that dirge like music when the DD logo came on. :)

          • My older married cousin had a TV at home. The early Crown one that needed to be ‘warmed’. So she would get me to turn the set on at 5.30 for the 5.45 start. I have often watched the strips too. And then ‘Mole Stories’ and ‘Barba Papa’ before Krishi Darshan came on.

            • If I remember correctly, we had a Crown TV too! But it didn’t need warming. Even then, we’d turn it on a few minutes in advance and sit about waiting for the telecast to begin.

              I don’t remember Mole Stories, but Barpa Papa – oh yes! And, before the Sunday movie, Vikram aur Vetaal. There was a friend of mine who used to find the vetaal “quite scary”.

              • Oh, you’ve got me all nostalgic now! I remembr Vikram aur Vetaal. Funnily enough, long before the serial came out, my father had bought us the book, which had the collected tales in English. Quite fascinating, actually.

                  • I left India before all these shows started coming, but I do remember those stripes and that sonorous music. I know there were shows for the krishis, but didn’t watch them, hence the gaps in ,my knowledge!

          • woh din yaad karo, woh doordarshan ka dekhna, woh antenna ka adjust karna, woh Dhool Ka Phool ko Sunday ko dekhna aur bore hona, woh din yaad karo. Hee! Hee! Do I need to say anything else? Yes I do, your review Madhu was far more entertaining than the film

  7. Just finished watching the movie. At one point I was expecting something Oliver Twist-ish to start. But the film avoids that pitfall and keeps on the track of ‘Bachcha illegitimate ya parents illegitimate’.

    Manmohan Krishan and Mala Sinha own the film. Ashok Kumar gets a great role. Poor Rajender Kumar (chuckle).

    • Hehe. “Poor Rajendra Kumar” is right! He really got the short end of the stick in this film. His character had really nothing to recommend him – Mahesh is such a spineless creature, and he doesn’t even have excuses like misunderstandings or majboori to fall back on.

      Come to think of it, rather brave of Rajendra Kumar to have taken on a role like that.

  8. The success rate of Rajendra kumar is very high but he seems to be not a favorite of many. Mala is a good actor so as nanda . I have’ t watched DKP before simply because of RK. Your review is very good as usual. Thank you

    • Fortunately, Rajendra Kumar isn’t the focus of this film (Mala Sinha and Manmohan Krishna have more screen time, or at least more memorable characters), so even if you don’t like Rajendra Kumar, it may work. And Mala Sinha’s acting is very good here.

      Thank you, by the way, for the appreciation.

  9. Now that was a great pleasure, reading through your review, and chuckling. :-D
    I like this film quite well. It has a story and takes you along while being engrossed.
    And the songs are lovely. All of them. I even like aha uhun lalalalalaaa :-D

    Loved Mala Sinha ….and Rajender Kumar :-/
    and Manmohan Krishan was really really adorable.

    Feel like watching it again now. :-)

    • Thank you, pacifist! :-)

      And yes, I agree – this film certainly has a story and keeps you engrossed. I started off watching it with not-too-high hopes, and ended up being pretty much glued to the screen. Well-scripted, well-acted, well-directed, for most of the time.

      What aha uhun lalalalalaaa? *puzzled* I seem to have forgotten that…

      • You did mention the song in the review DO, but it wasn’t among the songs you found good so I thought you didn’t like it.
        >…..find themselves onstage singing a duet. From there, it’s a short step to singing a duet in a garden.
        :-)

        It’s this garden song which ends with clapping thunder and torrential rain.

        • I’d completely forgotten this song, pacifist; thank you for reminding me. I like it too. (Like Madhu, I had no clue what you meant by aha uhun lalalalalaa… *grin*)

        • Oh, okay. I had completely forgotten this song. It was only when I again began to listen to Dhadakne lage dil ke taaron ki duniya that I caught on to what that aha uhun lalalalalaaa meant.

          Yes, it’s a lovely song, very pleasant.

  10. Your review as usual was quite hilarious. I think you should post a warning quite clearly in the beginning ” Too much Laughter ahead !!!. Do not read this while drinking hot liquids or while doing something that requires finesse or attention. It could be dangerous for you or people around you or your work”

  11. Great review! Your asides make me laugh so hard that it made my tea spill on my keyboard :) ,It indeed is a great film by Yash Chopra. ” Tu Hindu banega na Musalmaan banega”song is the highlight of the film and has quite poignant lyrics which ares till relevant today.Mala Sinha and RK are my favorite actors,and love the way their characters are etched out.It
    was indeed a bold move by RK to essay a character with shades of gray,as he was popular for family movies and melodramas.Ek Kharpatvaar Do Maali’is indeed hilarious.Bring back the memories of watching “Krishi Darshan” on the grand old DD.

    • Thank you, coolone160! I’m glad you liked that review.

      Yes, this was quite a different sort of film for Rajendra Kumar, wasn’t it? He usually played those completely goodie-goodie sort of characters who’d never yield to temptation. And then do something like what Mahesh does here… more the sort of role a non-star actor – perhaps someone like Kamal Kapoor – would have taken on?

  12. Sparkling review, Madhu! You had me at the opening paragraph on the singularity of a movie where trains were mere means of transport :-) and not the sutradhars of fate. And the suspense over Leela Chitnis’ fate (despite the lack of overt signs of impending mortality).

    I saw Dhool ka Phool when in my early teens but even then I remember being struck by how often it could spring a surprise – for one, as many fellow-readers remarked, in unflinchingly painting the male protagonist as quite despicable (and full marks to Yash Chopra and his writer for resisting any temptation to explain away his actions with a dying father or some transgenerational debt): I mean, Mahesh doesn’t even write to Meena, and his reaction to her arrival at his wedding is anything but repentant; and he has no scruples in putting her out of his life. And for its remarkable progressiveness:whether in highlighting Leela Chitnis’ support to Meena or her own ‘second life’. Meena *can* go ahead and have a happy, married life. What I remember most is the dressing down Abdul gives the parents towards the end… wow, there were some double-whammies there!

    And the music, of course. “Tu Hindi banega na Musulman banega” has to be one of Sahir Ludhianvi’s most direct, demotic and vigorous declarations of secularity — of, actually, humanity. And I really liked the way “Tere pyaar ka asraa chahta hoon” in a strange, twisted way foreshadows what is to come, of how all of the girl’s worst suspicions come true, and how ‘wafa’ will be the first thing the man abandons on the wayside. And “Jhukti ghata” has such a delightful melody (and the usual Sahir-ian transformation of nature into an active partner in the proceedings)…. Okay, I should stop gushing. But thank you again!

    • Karthika, thank you so much! I’m glad you liked the review, and I’m glad you share my enthusiasm for this film. I seriously hadn’t had high hopes of it, but I’m glad I watched it. It was so refreshingly different in the way it played out. In almost every other film I can think of, it would turn out that Mahesh had a dying father who made him promise that he would get married, so that Daddy could see his son with a sehra before he copped it. And then, even though he married Malti under such emotional duress, he would have never loved her, and would have done his best to contact Meena to apologise to her… but Meena, coming to meet him while still pregnant, would have been involved in a train crash and been mistaken for someone else’s wife (as in Waaris or Ghoonghat or Kati Patang).

      Oh, dear. I’m getting started again.

      But, the point I’m making: this was such a pleasant surprise.

      And I agree re: Tu Hindu banega…, certainly one of Sahir’s best, and very emotive.

      • OR, post-train accident, Malti, giving more blood than she should (in a spirit of misplaced penitence) – and also endowed with a weak heart, perhaps – would conveniently die, thereby reuniting Mahesh and Malti :-) and joining their hands over her bedside.

        Alas, we should have been born a few decades earlier, we could have minted a fortune writing scripts – then again, maybe not, since writers were paid a pittance back then too!

        • “would conveniently die, thereby reuniting Mahesh and Malti :-) and joining their hands over her bedside.

          Mahesh and Meena, I think. :-)

          Yes, the wife – even if she’s good, and not the evil interloper as in Dil Apna aur Preet Parayi or Dil-e-Naadaan, must give way to the hero’s first love. The worst example I’ve seen of that has been the simply nauseating Chandan ka Palna, in which Meena Kumari’s character (though she does get married to her love, played by Dharmendra) discovers that she is barren. Therefore, so as not to halt the progress of her husband’s line, she pretends she’s turned into a bad woman. He divorces her, gets married to someone else, who promptly and conveniently dies after bearing him a son… so that the original jodi can get back together. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

          • Oooooops and double ooooops, yes, of course, Mahesh and Meena! I am getting to be nearly as bad as Nirupa Roy, misplacing names like she does her children!

            Ouch, Chandan ka Palna does sound awful – especially the “pretending to be a bad woman” bit. Actually, all of it! I do think Dhool ka Phool deserves an award for bucking that first-loves-must-reunite-especially-if-there’s-coition trend, at the very least.

            • Do not watch Chandan ka Palna, whatever you do. It’s a horror. As an example, this is the song through which Meena Kumari’s character (by wearing a sharara and pretending to be tipsy, convinces people that she’s bad.

              • Aaaaaaaaarrrgghhhhhh! MK could have opened a butcher’s shop with just the ham in the performance. By the way, isn’t that modish (and hideous) wig also supposed to indicate her levels of badness?

                • Yes. Bad girls have short hair (or short wigs). I watched this film for both Dharmendra and Meena Kumari, and later wished I’d never even heard of it. Horrible, horrible, horrible.

  13. Oops, “Tu Hindu banega na Musulman banega” not “Hindi” …. ugggh, can’t edit my printers’ devils! Sorry!

  14. Madhuji,
    The thing missing in this film was humour. But you made up for that in your review. Watchable movie. Enjoyed the review much more than the film. You have said it all except the end.
    How can a person, who does not have a consciousness, who passes the entire blame to his partner in this act of indiscretion and without any hesitation absolves himself of any blame and asks her to abandon the child and repeatedly heaps abuses on Roshan for being an “illegitimate” child, shamelessly forgetting that people like him are responsible for the sufferings of such children, sit on the judgement seat and deliver justice? Is it the reflection of the deeper malice prevailing in the society?
    It is simply out of greed to acquire materialistic gain, that he marries Malati. Or how can an educated young man succumb to the goading of his greedy father.
    I was wondering how they are going to deal with the character Abdul chaacha at the end. They conveniently made him remember his duty towards Allah and dispatched him for the Haj, hoping that he will be one with god. But poor Malati had no such luck. It seems she will have to put up with this man and her own woes for the rest of her life. She simply cannot walk out of this relationship, because I am sure the entire wealth and property would be in his name.
    Sorry I am getting serious. After all it is a Bollywood film, which is a bit different! The music and the songs were good.
    My wife wanted to watch a “light” movie since she is in the process of recouping after a surgery and I decided to watch this movie. I could not get her reaction because when I finished watching the film she was blissfully asleep. Fringe benefits.
    Thank for everything

    • Venkataramanji, you needn’t be sorry – I agree completely with you! While my review was written in a light-hearted way, I couldn’t help but be disgusted by Mahesh’s character in the film (and – as you indicate too – the reflection on society and societal norms). The very fact that society holds an ‘illegitimate’ child in derision is, I think, so very hypocritical. After all, the child is the last person to be blamed for how he/she was conceived.

      And what you say about Malti is also very true. She has lost her only child, she knows her husband lied to her from the very start (and I would expect something of this magnitude to be a very serious breach of trust; in Malti’s place, I would find it very hard to forget that Mahesh could have done such despicable things). And, being the ‘good’ pativrata that she is, she will not walk out of this marriage. Cannot, even, because society, instead of questioning her husband, would point fingers at her.

      Anyway! I do hope your wife recovers soon. Very best wishes to her for her recovery. Show her Dekh Kabira Roya or Pyaar Kiye Jaa, if the two of you haven’t seen them before! Both are delightful films.

  15. I wonder why distinguished people like you did not mention Sahir’s first song for unwed mothers..Tu mere pyaar ka phool hei ya meri bhul hei…..and how Sahir’s words change with times in Trishul when he writes Tu mere saath rahega munne…

    Pl. bring these aspects associated with movies you review…we expect it….

    • Sorry to have disappointed you. For me, Tu mere pyaar ka phool hai was okay, not worth really mentioning. But yes, good of you to have mentioned it (and to have shown the contrast with Tu mere saath rahega munne.

  16. i remember a shooting incident that mala ji had to act that she is having labour pain so didn’t know how to perform it ?? so she asked yash ji. he said unhey nahi maloom toh yash ji suggested to call her mother.

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