53 thoughts on “Bahu Begum (1967)

  1. Oh, this is Ava’s favourite film!
    I remember watching this on DD in the second half of the 80s. Can’t say I enjoyed it much, but loved the songs then and still love them, particularly the qawaalis!
    Your asides had me laughing till my tummy ached.
    Ashok Kumar used to say, the films,w here he didn’t get the heroine, fail at the box-office. So did this one, I think!
    Thanks for the entertaining review

    • Haan, its my favorite. Meena, Pradeep Kumar and even Ashok Kumar look decidedly middle aged. But even so, the twists and turns in the plot are very engrossing. Then there is good diction, good dialogue, good music, lovely ambiance, lovely music, awesome dresses (All pure georgette dupattas with thin tille wale kinari), that jewellery. I can watch it any number of times.

      I liked the situation Zeenat finds herself in at the end. On one hand, she can stay with Sikander Mirza. She respects him. On the other hand, she promised Yusuf to follow him up to qayamat. Sigh!

      Meena and Ashok have such a crackling chemistry – they are always on the brink of love – but not able to be a couple for some reason. It happens in many films, Bheegi Raat, Chitralekha, Arti.

      • “But even so, the twists and turns in the plot are very engrossing.

        That was what really impressed me! One couldn’t predict where the film was going. Unfortunately, I began watching it one night, and could only see it halfway before it was time to sleep. Usually I have no problem with that; here, I had a hard time drifting off to sleep, because I kept wondering what would happen next.

        And yes, I loved the rest of it, too – the diction, dialogues, costumes, Johnny Walker’s character.

        When the film ended, I thought the same thing too: how come in all the Meena Kumari-Ashok Kumar-Pradeep Kumar films I’ve seen, Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari never get together? Here, I thought, there was especially good chemistry between them and I was really rooting for them – but I suppose one can’t fight the old Hindi film rule that a woman must end up with the man she first fell in love with. And it wasn’t even Sikandar Mirza’s fault; he didn’t know she loved another man; everything he did was in good faith.

    • The qawwali (there’s actually only one, sung at the dargah, though it’s repeated, with different verses, on two occasions) is nice, isn’t it?

      Glad you liked the review, Harvey – and that’s an interesting tidbit about Ashok Kumar’s films in which he didn’t get the heroine! Interesting observation, and now that I think of it, seems to be quite true, too. :-)

      Hadn’t realised this was Ava’s favourite film, though of course I know that she likes it a lot; she was the one person I specifically remembered as having recommended this to me.

  2. Brilliant review……Your reviews make me curious and eager to watch the film. I also liked the tongue-in-cheek asides that make you smile and giggle a lot. I will definitely watch the film.

  3. Many people you say recommended this film to you, well! well!, I am surprised. Back then Bahu Begum, was quite a flop film. The songs of course were hits, nobody that I know of disliked the songs. The near unanimous verdict was that the trio of Pradeep Kumar, Meena Kumari and Ashok Kumar were just too old. Younger actors and actresses had already begun to make their presence felt and nobody liked to to see actors who were well past their prime in lead roles. I saw it much later in life on television and yes I had to agree with everyone, I definitely did not like seeing the old lead stars. Personally I felt Naaz looked very sweet in this film, someone as young as Naaz (in fact Naaz herself) and some other younger male actors would have given a freshness to the film.

    • I agree, Naaz looked very sweet and lovely. And yes, the three lead actors were a little long in the tooth, but as far as Ashok Kumar’s character was concerned, I thought that fitted him – the impression I got was that this was a man supposed to be middle-aged, long given up even on the thought of marriage (he even refers to Naaz as ‘beti; often, and thinks of her as much as a daughter as a sister). On the other hand, the Pradeep Kumar-Meena Kumari pair was certainly far too old to be believable: it required a suspension of disbelief to swallow their pairing!

      As for recommendations, I am not one of those who think that only films that are hits should be recommended. (In fact, I can think of several top-grossers and critically acclaimed films – like Mother India and Guide – which leave me cold). I think if a friend whose judgment I trust recommends a film, it’s worth checking it out, even if the film was a flop. I am reminded now of that mega discussion about Bahaaron phool barsaao! :-D

      • Naaz is the only one in the film who looks age appropriate. A young girl who should be married off. Yes, Ashok Kumar is supposed to be older, but he does look a bit older than that ;) And the poor fellow was made to wear a soul patch.

        Apart from that, if you consider the deportment and diction, they all score hands down.

      • Yes you are right, it is not about a film being a flop or hit, some of my father’s excellent films have flopped and some of his not so good films have been hits, but personally as far as Bahu Begum is concerned, hit or flop, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. But then as I always say pasand apni apni khayal apna apna.
        BTW this reminds me of something funny, around this time there was another film which was a resounding flop, it was Dil Dya Dard Liya, it was such a poor adaptation of Wuthering Heights that people after seeing the film would say,paisa diya aur sir dard liya or paiysa diya aur saridon liya

        • Hehe! That’s a good parody of Dil Diya Dard Liya (thank goodness, I’ve never seen it). Reminds me of when my sister went to see Khoya-Khoya Chaand (which was really pretty slow-moving and boring, as it turned out) and came back, saying, “It should have been titled Soya-Soya Chaand“!

          But I agree on this: pasand apni-apni. I remember we had similar views about Anokhi Raat.

  4. Madhu, thanks for the smiles. (No, outright giggles!) And you just concretised (wait, is that even a word?!) a rather nebulous idea for a post that came into my head today.

    Honestly? I must confess to liking this film. And the songs. But then, I have a weakness for Muslim socials, and this was a particularly good one, even with its flaws. The lead trio – Ashok Kumar, Meena Kumari and Pradeep Kumar did quite a few films together, didn’t they? Your review makes me want to rewatch this one. :)

    • “And you just concretised (wait, is that even a word?!) a rather nebulous idea for a post that came into my head today.

      What? What?

      I was also thinking the same thing, re: what you say about the Ashok Kumar-Pradeep Kumar-Meena Kumari trio: so many films together. I didn’t much care for Aarti, and Chitralekha I’ve forgotten, but Bheegi Raat and this one are good.

  5. Great review, Madhu! This is the last of the quartet of movies featuring the trio of Ashok-Meena-Pradeep with music by Roshan. Which of course means that all 4 have wonderful music but they were also all “interesting” movies and I liked all four films despite the long-in-the-tooth cast. Poor Ashok, he lost Meena to Pradeep in all four movies. :-)

    • “Poor Ashok, he lost Meena to Pradeep in all four movies. :-)

      Yes, such a pity! I didn’t much like his character in Aarti anyway, so I didn’t weep for him there, but I did so want him to get the girl in Bahu Begum – I thought Nawab Sikandar Mirza was a good character, and what happened wasn’t his fault…

      I should rewatch the other films of the quartet. Have mostly forgotten them, except in bits and pieces.

  6. Like Ava, one of my favourite films too. But my DVD must have been an older one. The colours were not so bright, and might I say garish.
    Meena KUmari was quite light hearted in the beginning, and still looked beautiful. I remember that pulao dialogue where she calls khichdi – dal pulao. LOL.
    Thanks for the review DO along with the humour. And yes, I want to watch it again :-)
    Songs are fabulous especially ‘hum intezar karenge’.

    • Yes, the colours in this particular print are downright gaudy. But never mind, at least I got to see the film!

      Talking of Meena Kumari’s light-hearted dialogues in the beginning, there’s a delightful one where she’s talking to Yusuf and overhears her father return. In a panic, she tells Yusuf to go, and he asks her, “Haan, par ab kahaan milenge?” and she responds, “Agar Abba ne dekh liya, toh jannat mein!”

    • Various channels have it.

      Here is Venus Movies:

      21CenturyProduction:

      Narjis Vintage Movies:

      The Venus Movies one is the full version, since it’s nearly 3 hours long; the other two seem to be an hour and a half long, so have been probably ruthlessly edited – unless this is only part 1 of 2 or something.

  7. Great review! Your asides are an added bonus :) “[They make a somewhat astonishing couple, as far as looks go: Yusuf’s eye shadow is definitely darker than Zeenat’s…” :)
    Always wanted to watch “Bahu Begum” for its fabulous songs……. Agree with you on the point that Ashok Kumar played “Nawab” with finesse(à la Buland Akhtar in “Mere Mehboob”) ,he should have been conferred the title of an honorary Nawab :)
    In my opinion the character of Yusuf would be perfect for other actor rather than Pradeep Kumar.Rajkumar( à laMere Huzoor) or Rajendra Kumar were suitable candidates for it;as they had already acted in lead opposite Meena Kumari.Naaz was an excellent actress.Her performance in “Boot Polish” was outstanding,wonder why she was offered supporting roles rather than the main lead. Johny Walker always amuses me :) He belonged to the breed of comedians who never resorted to cheap humour or double entendre.

    • “he should have been conferred the title of an honorary Nawab :)

      LOL! Not to mention, he also played the Nawab in several other films – Pakeezah and Dharmputra, for instance. His Urdu diction was really good.

      I also agree about Johnny Walker – his comedy always genuinely amused me. In this film, especially, I loved his character – Achhan is very funny (and his antics with his rooster Dilawar are hilarious!), yet never cheap or crass.

      Talking about possible candidates for the role of Yusuf, yes – Rajendra Kumar or Raj Kumar might have been okay opposite Meena Kumari, but I think there was also a problem with her casting. I think she was too old to play Zeenat, too. Perhaps a Sadhana or a Waheeda Rehman? I don’t know…

  8. *Sort-of-spoiler alert*
    I can see that, going by the unspoken rules of Hindi cinema, this was something I should have seen coming,

    Madhu, actually, you shouldn’t have seen it coming, no? Conventionally, shouldn’t she have stayed put where she was? Because, you know, hindustani naari and all that? I thought the ending was rather bold for the time.

    • But then, there’s the old trope about how, if you’ve fallen in love with somebody, you end up with them, no matter what. (I’m thinking Dil Apna Aur Preet Paraayi, Hariyali aur Raasta, Preet na Jaane Reet, Apne Hue Paraaye, etc). On the other hand, now that I look back at these films I’ve listed: in all of them, the hero is the one who ends up married to someone else (who conveniently gets bumped off along the way so that he can then come back to the heroine, who has waited chastely and patiently for him all this while…)

      Then, if you come to think of it, in Bahu Begum, Zeenat is not – in reality – married to Sikandar Mirza. I mean, yes, society thinks she is, but not really, no? Not that that seems to make a difference in Hindi cinema. Look at Saanjh aur Savera, where Meena Kumari gets married to Guru Dutt under someone else’s name, even if she is the one doing the pheras.

      Maybe, maybe not. Hindi cinema seems to have two sometimes contradictory rules for this:

      (a) If you fall in love with someone, the love will be forever
      and (b) If you marry someone (and they’re good, not the nasty or depraved kind), it’s for keeps – as in Dil Ek Mandir or Blackmail.

  9. Great review, with greater asides! Unfortunately, those were the best part of this movie. Okay, the songs were good too, and so were the costumes, and Ashok Kumar was excellent, and I was rooting for him to get the girl. Meena Kumari and Pradeep Kumar looked way too old to be acting like young teenagers in love, and I wanted to shake that Pradeep Kumar in more than one scene. Acting like a lovesick Majnu, and then in that last scene, I really wanted to push him out of the screen. With a younger, more believable lead pair, this would have been a great movie, but with these two, I am not surprised it flopped.
    Thanks for the great review, Madhu!

    • Thank you, Lalitha! Glad you enjoyed my review. Yes, I agree that with a younger lead pair, this film would’ve been great. I still liked it (mainly because I liked the story), but Meena Kumari and Pradeep Kumar should probably have been replaced by a Sadhana and Rajendra Kumar (or a Dharmendra? Manoj Kumar? I don’t know – Manoj Kumar was pretty good in the one Muslim social I’ve seen him in, though I don’t remember Dharmendra ever acting in one of these films).

  10. My irritation with Pradeep Kumar began when he asked Zeenat what he should do, and how they can get together, and she had to tell him that he should ask for her hand in marriage. Such a dumb guy shouldn’t even be thinking of marriage! I also wondered if he made it a habit to wander the streets, singing ‘Hum intezaar karenge …’ and how did he find the right house?

    • “I also wondered if he made it a habit to wander the streets, singing ‘Hum intezaar karenge …’ and how did he find the right house?

      LOL! Well, if Mala Sinha and Co. could wander through most of the Middle East singing De daata ke naam tujhko Allah rakhe in search of Dharmendra in Aankhen – and succeed – then what is a piddling little city like Lucknow to a determined lover? ;-)

      • Lalitha, you do him grave injustice. He has been told by Achchan, no, that Zeenat was married off to Nawab Sikander Mirza? Now the latter is a wealthy man, well-known in the city. How difficult is it to know where he lives? Give the man some credit. (Even if he was a lallu otherwise!)

        p.s. ‘Achchan’ made me grin; that is ‘father’ in Malayalam.

  11. Mdhu,
    I must have seen snatches of the film on DD. Thereafter, I didn’t make any efforts to look for the movie. I always loved its music. Now, with your excellent review my curiosity is piqued enough to watch it.

    I thought the end conforms to the theory. Meena Kumari was not under the veil, when the lady was thought to have said ‘yes’. So the Qaazi would have in any case ruled the presumed marriage void. Therefore, the lovers unite, otherwise the marriage would have prevailed over love – recall countless films from ‘Hindu socials’ to Muslim socials. In earlier era, Munawwar Sultana and Noorjehan, were the Meena Kumari, who had to sacrifice love for marriage in a number of films.

    • “I thought the end conforms to the theory. Meena Kumari was not under the veil, when the lady was thought to have said ‘yes’. So the Qaazi would have in any case ruled the presumed marriage void.

      True, I would have thought so too. But the conversations between Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari (and later, her conversation with Pradeep Kumar, which Ashok Kumar overhears) seem to suggest that whether or not she will stay on with her ‘husband’ is a matter of choice for her. It is, of course, but never does anyone mention that if she does decide to spend the rest of her life with Nawab Sikandar Mirza, she will actually have to marry him legally. (This is somewhat similar to what happens in Saanjh aur Savera: Meena Kumari’s character, who is posing as Guru Dutt’s wife, is very distressed at the thought that he will consummate the ‘marriage’ and keeps putting him off until she is actually able to go through a marriage ceremony with him – still under an assumed name!)

  12. This sounds like a lot more fun than I remember! I watched this back in the DD days and have never revisited it – probably because our B&W TV hid the true colors of the film. With their matching tastes in make-up, Pradeep Kumar and Meena Kumari were bound to end up together. Dada Moni had no right to come between a couple clearly made-up for each other! ;-)

  13. But why o why do you insist calling it a Hindi film when we all know it is in Urdu!
    Good review though, especially your asides. Must admit the end was a shocker!

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