Dil Hi Toh Hai (1963)

Some months back, I watched two relatively new Muslim socials: Daawat-e-Ishq and Bobby Jasoos. Both were an interesting reflection on the way the Muslim social has changed over the years (after close to disappearing during the 90s). The Muslim social of the 1950s was, more often than not, a film that, even when set amongst the wealthy upper class—the nawabs and their kin—came heavily burdened with all the stereotypical trappings of what was perceived as ‘Muslim’: the qawwalis and mushairas, the shararas and sherwanis. (I’ll write about all of those, and more, in a post to follow).

Bobby Jasoos and Daawat-e-Ishq had shed those to quite an extent. But that process had begun in earlier films, even as far back as the 60s. In Neend Hamaari Khwaab Tumhaare, for example, where Nanda’s character—the daughter of a nawab, no less—doesn’t merely have a Western education, but spends most of her time in skirts and dresses. And this film, where Nutan’s Jameela is a firebrand, giving as good as she gets, and by no means the simpering and demure Muslim girl exemplified by her contemporaries in films like Mere Mehboob, Mere Huzoor, and Chandni Chowk.

Nutan as Jameela in Dil Hi Toh Hai

Dil Hi Toh Hai begins in the household of Nawab Jalaluddin (Hari Shivdasani) and his wife (Mumtaz Begum). The Nawab and his begum have been unfortunate when it comes to children: their first three sons all died in childhood, and on the doctor’s advice, the fourth, Yusuf, was taken away to be brought up elsewhere as soon as he was born. [The doctor, obviously, had a poor opinion—borne out by the evidence, of course—of the paternal and maternal skills of these two]. When we are introduced to this couple, they’re excited and delirious with joy: Yusuf, whom they have not even set eyes on these past three years, is finally coming back!

Yusuf's parents rejoice at his imminent homecoming

Nawab Sahib phones his friend Khan Bahadur (Nasir Hussain, looking weird in a bad wig). Yusuf has been brought up pretty much under the aegis of Khan Bahadur (though, as we will soon see, the actual bringing up has been done by another couple). And, in the three years he has been with Yusuf, Khan Sahib has decided that Yusuf will be a good match for his own daughter Jameela. [Eh? How on earth do people manage such decisions with so little to go on? This kid could grow up to be anything. A thug, a terrorist, a traitor, a cross-dresser … the possibilities are endless].

He now shares the news with Nawab Sahib, who is delighted. He concurs: yes, it will be a fine match. And yes, Khan Bahadur is right in not having told Yusuf about it yet; no point getting ideas into the boy’s head right now. [This boy, mind you, is three years old. Three. What ideas he could get intrigues me].

Khan Bahadur informs his friend of an arbtirary decision

Anyhow, Khan Bahadur shares another piece of news: he has found a good maid to look after the boy. The maid will be coming on the next train to Nawab Sahib’s house.

We now meet the maid (Leela Chitnis). She’s at the railway station, and is told by the man at the counter that her train’s delayed by four hours. [A refreshingly realistic element in a film that’s otherwise chockfull of unbelievable coincidences].

The woman sits down at a bench, and finds herself next to a couple (Shiv Raj and Manorama) with two little boys. From a conversation between the two adults, and by their interactions with the two children, we, the audience, already know that:
(a) The man is the brother of Nawab Jalaluddin’s begum
(b) These two are the ones who had been given the task—with a handsome monthly remuneration of Rs 300—of bringing up Yusuf
(c) This money, instead of feeding little Yusuf, has gone towards the welfare of Shekhu, the three year-old son of the couple. Besides this, Yusuf is constantly being threatened, yelled at, and pushed about by his foster mother. His foster father isn’t a bad sort, but is terribly henpecked.

At the railway station

The maid, sitting down with the couple and the two boys, soon realizes that the little one next to her is neglected and frightened. Even when she, of her own accord, tries to buy him some biscuits, he catches his aunt’s eye, and nervously refuses to eat any.

The maid settles down to sleep, and sometime during the following hours, overhears a conversation between the couple. The wife cribs about how this good-for-nothing Yusuf will saunter into his home and become heir to millions, while their poor little Shekhu will—like his own useless father—end up with nothing. She is very bitter about it.

Shekhu's mother throws a hissy fit

When the train finally arrives, both the maid and little Yusuf are fast asleep. The woman—Shekhu’s mother—has a brainwave. Let’s leave Yusuf behind, and pass off Shekhu as Yusuf! After all, nobody there knows what Yusuf looks like. And the two boys are the same age. Her husband balks at this subterfuge, but he balks to no avail. His wife drags him and Shekhu off…

Shekhu's mother decides on a dastardly plan

… and they’re given a very warm welcome at Nawab Sahib’s home.

Shortly after, the maid arrives, bringing with her Yusuf. She meets only Nawab Sahib, Begum Sahiba and the servant who ushers her in, so she never realizes that this was the household for which her railway platform acquaintances, as well as this little boy she’s taken under her wing, were headed.

Begum Sahiba and Nawab Sahib assume that the little boy with the maid is her son; they don’t even give her a chance to speak up and say who he is. [And the maid, being Leela Chitnis, is too timid to say much]. If she has a child of her own, and he’ll stay here with her, how will she be able to lavish the required love and affection on their child [aka Shekhu, strutting about in borrowed plumes, of course]? So the Begum Sahiba hands over Rs 10 to the maid “to pay for the train journey” and another Rs 2 “to get a kurta stitched for the little boy”, and sends them away.

Begum Sahiba sends the maid away

And we move to quite a few years later. [In a surprising slip-up, this film doesn’t specify, at least not right now, whether 20 years have passed, or 25, or whatever]. Yusuf, still living with the maid and still sponging off her (because he’s not getting any assignments singing on the radio these days) is now called Chand. He’s a fantastic singer, we are told, the joblessness notwithstanding.

Chand with his adoptive mother

Chand, on his way to the birthday party of his friend’s sister Pushpa, happens to hear a girl chatting with her friends and telling them how besotted she is with Chand, whose voice she has heard so often on radio. This, though Chand does not know it, is Jameela (Nutan), the very girl he had been promised to when he was three years old [how could she be any other? And what should happen but that Chand should instantly fall in love with her?]

As it happens, Jameela gives this stranger the cold shoulder, since he doesn’t tell her who he is, and since he tries to get a little too familiar with her.

Jameela confronts Chand, unaware that he's her idol
He coincidentally enters the same shop as she does, both of them looking for a birthday present for Pushpa, so Jameela ends up even more convinced that that this man’s a lowly stalker…

…until, at the birthday party, as in any party worth its salt, Chand is called upon to sing. Jameela’s ears prick up: this is what she has been waiting for, this finally getting to see Chand. It’s embarrassing to discover who he is, especially since Chand sings a song that gently raps Jameela on the knuckles for flirting with Yusuf (Pran).

Chand sings at the birthday party...

Which brings us to Yusuf. Or rather, Shekhu. Brought up as Yusuf, the heir to Nawab Sahib’s millions, the faux Yusuf has been trying his best to attract Jameela’s attention (because Jameela is an heiress, herself), but with no success so far. And now, when Jameela  finally meets Chand and falls in love with the man and not just his voice, Yusuf/Shekhu is cut right out of the picture.

... after seeing Jameela flirting with Yusuf/Shekhu

In the meantime, other things have been happening. Chand, because of his penurious circumstances, hasn’t paid his rent in several months, and his landlord’s daughter Razia has been having to come again and again to ask for the dues.

Razia comes to ask for the rent

Razia has a sob story of her own: her father owes Rs 5,000 to Khan Bahadur (Jameela’s father, just in case you’d forgotten), and as a result Khan Bahadur has broken off all relations for the time being between his household and Jameela’s. Not a huge problem otherwise, except for the fact that Razia’s husband is Khan Bahadur’s nephew Bashir (Agha). Poor Bashir and Razia, both very much in love with each other, have—thanks to this mulishness of Khan Bahadur—not even been able to meet once since they got married, and have to now resort to disguises and stolen rendezvous as and when Bashir can pull it off.

Razia and Bashir (in drag), a stolen moment

Bashir, in an attempt to collect enough money to pay off the debt to Khan Bahadur, works for a theatre company. One evening, when the much-reputed venerable old singer who was supposed to perform at the theatre doesn’t turn up, Bashir pleads, bullies and somehow bulldozes Chand—who is a friend of his, and happens to be around—to go up on stage, pretending to be the singer [read: wear a straggly beard and spectacles, use a cane, and adopt quirks and tics]. Chand’s song—the brilliant Laaga chunari mein daag—is a runaway hit.

Chand, as Khan Sahib, sings a song

Yusuf/Shekhu, who happens to have attended the performance (and made eyes at the dancer, Bahaar, all through), has an idea. After the show’s over, he suggests to Khan Bahadur that this singer—Chand has assumed the name Ustad Bade Ali Khan, ‘Khan Sahib’—would be a fine tutor for Jameela, who has been clamouring to learn music all this while. The fact of the matter is that Jameela has been wanting to learn music from her idol Chand, for no reason other than that he’s Chand; and Yusuf/Shekhu knows it.

Yusuf/Shekhu suggests Khan Sahib as an ustad for Jameela

Khan Bahadur is amenable to the idea, and Khan Sahib/Chand is coerced into coming home for tea so that the subject may be broached.
On the side, Yusuf/Shekhu confesses to Khan Sahib/Chand that he hopes the old man will use his offices to convince his pupil that he, Yusuf, will be a suitable match for her. Not that scoundrel Chand, of whom she’s so enamoured. Khan Sahib/Chand, having discovered who his pupil is going to be, happily agrees. Everybody but Jameela [who naturally thinks Khan Sahib a poor substitute for Chand] is happy.

Jameela shows Khan Sahib just what she thinks of him

So we have a complex set-up. Chand and Jameela are in love. But Chand is also pretending to be Khan Sahib, whom Jameela thinks a loony and lascivious old man. Shekhu is actually in love [or lust, or whatever] with Bahaar, but is dangling after Jameela for her wealth. And nobody except the old maid knows that Yusuf/Shekhu is an impostor.

How will it all get sorted out?

I didn’t know what to expect of this film. Raj Kapoor isn’t a favourite of mine. But Nutan? Sahir Ludhianvi and Roshan? Laaga chunari mein daag? A Muslim social? I took the plunge.

And, pleasant surprise: yes, I liked it.

What I liked about this film:

The music, which is pretty good throughout, but with two songs eclipsing all the others. One is the superb Laaga chunari mein daag, in my opinion one of the best classical songs from Hindi film music. The other is Tum agar mujhko na chaaho toh koi baat nahin, also a lovely song (and with fine lyrics by Sahir—he manages a sort of faintly ironic, teasing tone in the poetry which is quite different from most other serenades one comes across in Hindi cinema).

The first three-quarters of the film, which are fairly light and peppy in nature, peppered with some delightful dialogue, especially between Jameela and Chand [Jameela, meeting Chand for the first time on the street, takes him for a stalker, and when he tries to get—as she thinks—fresh, retorts, “Zara moonh chhupaakar chaliye, kisi kalandar ne dekh liya, toh bandar samajhkar utha le jaayega” {“Veil your face when you walk; if a kalandar saw you, he might mistake you for a monkey and carry you off”}]. Even beyond the dialogues, the bulk of the film is fast-paced and fun, what with Chand in disguise, a suspicious Yusuf/Shekhu keeping a constant eye on Jameela, and the shenanigans of the increasingly desperate Bashir.

Interestingly, while watching Dil Hi Toh Hai, I was reminded of Professor (1962), starring Raj Kapoor’s younger brother Shammi Kapoor. Not just because both brothers, their features hidden quite a bit by all that beard and wig and whatnot, look fairly similar, but also because there’s this entire plot premise of a young man pretending to be old, and in that guise, tutoring the girl he’s in love with—and without her realizing that her unwanted tutor is actually the man she loves. It works out differently [Jameela, for one, is much more canny than Neena, and figures it out for herself instead of him having to reveal it], but still. And yes, both men also address their beloveds—when themselves in disguise—by the same term of endearment: azeeza.

Raj Kapoor and Nutan in Dil Hi Toh Hai

Kalpana and Shammi Kapoor in Professor

What I didn’t like:

The last half hour of the film. No, it’s not terrible. But it’s a sudden and unexpected descent into melodrama, totally uncharacteristic self-sacrifice and giving in to emotional blackmail, and other things I hadn’t been expecting, given the relatively frothy nature of the film till then.

Which, of course, gives it one more point of resemblance to Professor, which suffers from the same malaise.

But, ultimately, not a bad film. In fact, pretty entertaining.


36 thoughts on “Dil Hi Toh Hai (1963)

  1. Ah, so this is the one. :) Yes, it was such a wonderful film, wasn’t it? (Until the last reel.) I read a Manna Dey interview where he said that he was awestruck by Raj Kapoor’s rendition (on screen) of Laaga chunri mein daag because he sounded like he was singing.


    • Yes, I did like this film a lot. It was so much fun – until that last reel, as you said, when it did suddenly go haywire.

      When I saw Raj Kapoor’s onscreen rendition of Laaga chunari mein daag, I too thought he did an excellent job of it – he really does look as if he’s actually singing it. I suppose that’s a result of his training in music.


  2. Lagaa chunari mein daag is perhaps the best song rendered by Mannadey and easily one of the best classical songs of all time in HFM.


  3. “Dil hi to hai” is a mighty fun watch thanks to the loopy plot, the sparkling soundtrack and a game lead pair that seems to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. I loved that Nutan got be as mischievous and clever as Raj Kapoor. Jameela’s payback for Chand’s Khan Sahib subterfuge was priceless. As for the songs, I love one and all, with “nighaen milane ko jee” occupying a special place in my heart.


    • “I loved that Nutan got be as mischievous and clever as Raj Kapoor.

      Yes! Such a refreshing change from the usual case of the hero being the one who hogs the limelight with all the witty dialogues and the madcap antics (Professor is like that). Nutan is so deliciously sharp-witted and sharp-tongued in this.


  4. Superb write up on a movie with terrific songs. The bearded ustaad disguise has been used by the hero in many Hindi films. Two favourites in the genre (maybe this calls for a separate post, if not already published) are from Aarzoo

    And Saanjh Aur Savera

    and probably inspired by the success of Dil Hi Toh Hai


    • That’s an interesting idea. :-) Offhand, the only other song in which the hero is the heroine’s old ustad is from the film I’ve already mentioned in this review. Yeh umar hai kya rangeeli, from Professor:


  5. Sounds like a nice film and the songs are good, but I don’t like ‘tum mujhko na chhao’. It sounds too much like a stalker song and the mushkil reminds me very much of the acid attacks by jilted suitors.


  6. i have realised one thing after failing to watch movies of Raj kapoor outside his own production ! i realised i have seen him as a tramp the naive Raju so much. that whenever he smiles or show some naiveness or cry. his image of Raju comes and i completely lost interest . here i liked the laga chunri main daag. its look like he is singing. due to himself being able to play piano , tabla. his understanding of music was great.


    • I can’t bear Raj Kapoor in that tramp avatar either. Fortunately, in this film, that doesn’t show through, so I enjoyed not just the film, but also Raj Kapoor’s acting in it. He isn’t, as I’ve mentioned, one of my favourites, but he was fine in this.


      • I think i cannot watch Raj kapoor flims as a n actor but can watch his directed movies. apart from laga chunri main daag. one more song of mana dey i love in classical base is ek samay par do barsatein from film jhula. raag megh malhaar.


        • With me, it’s the opposite, He’s not a great actor – not bad, but not brilliant, either. Which is why I liked him in this film, in Chori-Chori, Teesri Kasam, etc. In a lot of the films he directed, I find him hard to bear.


          • i can watch chori chori. i loved Raj kapoor in it . it was more of a serious one than the naive one. can watch the second half of sangam when he becomes narcissist also i love first part of Mera naam joker cause it is first of its kind story shown in our Cinema. my heart goes for Raju. its also true that i didn’t understand its some dialogues n scenes in wedding sequence. why david says he has got present from raju his teacher. why marry is shown in veil with a sad face. i will request to watch it that what you understand of it ?? i have watched this movie full only once. but i cannot watch teesri ksam because his character is naive like raju. also waheeda rehman said their most of the scenes have been shot separately caused he used to be busy in either sangam or Mera naam joker. i realised why lyricist shailender was so much concerned for this movie ??


            • I have never got around to watching Mera Naam Joker, simply because the title song irritates me no end. I have read the entire story (it was published in book form a couple of years back by Harper Collins, I think), and that made me no more eager to watch the film, because I could pretty much envision RK being the martyrish sort through much of it.

              Teesri Kasam, on the other hand, I liked, because the naivety of RK’s character is believable. And it’s not the sanctimonious naivety of his other villager characters, such as in Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai. That one really got my goat.


              • according to me the music of MNJ were let down especially in the third part. i wonder a movie is so long and has different subjects that it is remembered in parts. if vijay anand would have written it suppose it for a while he would write in a different way. as i cannot watch the entire movie i will also go for the book. the first part wedding sequence dialogues makes me wonder is it invisible love triangle ?? i can watch teesri ksam till duniya banney wale . cause when they reach the nautanki locals are after them. here Raj kapoor ‘character lacks over the top antics of raju .i liked his expression when he gets to know their is female passenger. i liked the scene in bullock cart when he and waheeda discuss aapka naam kya hai ? ghar mein kaun kaun hai ? aapka ghar kaun sa zilla main padta hai ??then waheeda says kanpur then he exclaims tab toh naagpur bhi hoga ? i used to like his character but after watching raju i became disinterested. his dialogue delivery is natural perfect bihari. it is true that people who have common names in bihar call each other meeta. i liked his story telling of mahua ghatwaran n saudagar. i cannot watch it fully as lyricist shailender sad story starts coming in mind. see the production name image pictures. better name could be there being himself a lyricist. but the tensions and worry led him to death.


    • I have no idea, Yves. I just checked Induna as well – my usual resource for DVDs – but they don’t seem to have it. I’ll keep an eye out when I’m in a movie-and-music store next, to see if I can find a subtitled DVD of this.


  7. You sold the movie to me and how! Especially when the review was followed with the post, ‘Man sings, Woman dances’! So much so that I decided to watch it on YouTube (which I am doing right now as I write but I had to pause and thank you). I never really thought I would enjoy a Raj Kapoor movie so much – the sanctimonious chap that he is. A few things:
    1. Nutan is such a delight to watch! Her acting is effortless and everything she does is beautiful, everything she does is right.
    2. I loved her ‘old lady’ disguise- she was brilliant and not over the top at all. It was also a brave act because it required a complete de- glamorisation even if for a brief moment.
    3. It embarrasses me to admit that til date, or rather till I read the reviews today, I had always thought that it was Shammi Kapoor in ‘Laga chunri mein daag’. Well, it was such a Shammi Kapoor act or maybe I got confused because of ‘Professor’. The resemblance between the two brothers have never been so palpable.
    4. But I am dreading the last reel now- having been pre- warned I am not sure if I would like to watch all the way til the end
    5. Even Pran is a refreshing change- this is not one of his usual suave black and white avtaar.
    Ok, now I return to my movie! :-)


    • I see you did finish watching the film, so I’ll respond to that comment separately, but I do want to respond to this one, too.

      “the sanctimonious chap that he is.

      LOL! That’s just what I think, and why I can’t stand him. There’s this whiny, oily goodie-goodie air about him that really puts me off. Especially in films like Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, which I found thoroughly irritating.

      Nutan was so much fun! I really admire her versatility (I mean, compare this with her roles in films like Bandini and Sujata). And yes, her stint in disguise as an old woman was convincing; she made for a far more believable old woman than did Asha Parekh in Mahal, for instance.

      Incidentally, have you seen Shammi Kapoor in Chham-chham baaje paayaliya from Jaane-Anjaane? He looks a good bit there like Raj Kapoor does in Laaga chunari mein daag.


  8. Hahaha—so I finished watching the movie. Isn’t it fortuitous that I paused just after the song, ‘Nigahen milaane ko jee’, to comment and it is precisely after this that the plot unravels. The last half hour would have been unbearable if it wasn’t for the fact that I kept laughing so hard. Most of it was because of Nasir Hussain who fluctuated between the loving father to the Khan Sahib desperate to hold on to his name in the society to one who delivered dialogues such as, 1) ‘I should have shot you when you were born’ 2) ‘If god wants to punish anybody, he gives them a daughter like you’. Seriously, it will pain the director to know that his audience did not experience the moment he was so desperately trying to create (of a doomed love, and pain between a father and daughter, maybe?) and instead fell on the floor laughing.

    By far, my favourite was,
    ‘Isse toh acha tha ki ammi jaan ke badle meri maut aa jaati.’
    ‘Jab meri kismat mein yeh din dekhne ko likha tha, toh tujhe maut kaise aati.’
    And then suddenly, he makes Leela Chitnis his sister at the end! Wah wah!

    Also, should Bahaar have been dancing like she did if she was with child? I am just saying.

    Oh Madhu- twenty years had elapsed, so said Leela Chitnis in the last five minutes of the film. Our movies might make a number of logical (or illogical) jumps, but they are damn particular about the time frame!

    Despite all of this I had so much fun watching the movie. Never did I feel that it dragged- it was fairly well paced and moved briskly. Thanks again for recommending it! :-)


      • Thanks for the post link- but you know for somebody growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, sometimes listening to songs or watching movies from those growing up years, especially the ’90s, is quite comforting too. There are moments, when one re- watches a movie which had been a childhood delight and realises the immaturity of it all, but still continue to watch it maybe because it brings back some memories. Of course, the predictable plot means one need not bother about the story line much :-)
        Then again, some movies are just so unbearable. Like ‘Lamhe’ which I watched again after ages but sadly, I could not sit through it! And for the life of me I could not remember why I had liked it so much.
        But thanks to my parents, I watched a number of movies from the earlier period too- our family favourites are ‘Waqt’ and ‘Sholay’. Equally, I have this particular memory of watching ‘Bandini’ with my mom, on a lazy day.
        I am not sure if I enjoy watching movies because of the story, the eye candy, the songs or because some of them remind me of some childhood incident related to that movie.


        • “sometimes listening to songs or watching movies from those growing up years, especially the ’90s, is quite comforting too.

          Heh. I grew up in the 80s too (I got out of school in 1991), but I must admit I’ve never felt any sort of nostalgia for the films of those years. Perhaps because, since my father was posted in either really small towns (which had really seedy cinema halls) or a place like Srinagar, where the only halfway decent cinema hall was in the heart of Lal Chowk (which used to erupt in violence every other other), we never went to cinema halls when I was small. All our movies were stuff we watched on TV – and back then, much of what was shown on Doordarshan consisted of old films, not what was current then. So i only watched the ‘newer’ films a few years later, when cable TV arrived.

          But yes, I do have some interesting memories of far-from-good movies, even from the 50s and 60s, which we watched on TV. :-)


  9. I am glad that you like this film (had recommended it along with
    MASHAL (Ashok Kumar) and DO USTAD (for Madhubala)

    It is a delight to watch Raj Kapoor enact ‘Laga Chunri Mein Daag’. His
    performance is much better than what Dilip Kumar enacted in
    KOHINOOR – ‘Madhuban Mein Radhika Naache Re’.

    Both songs are based on ‘raag’ , have dance rhythm and lot
    of visulas are on a dancer, who could not match the dance steps
    with the singer. Leaving every thing aside, just the lyrics alone –
    some type of philosophical one, are one of a kind for HINDI
    litrature (the word ‘babul’ is not a reference to Father, but to
    our Creator aka GOD ji )

    I wanted to, but decided not to talk about Nighahen Milano Ko
    Ji Chahta Hai and Nutan’s excellent performance


    June 27, 2016

    p.s.: What is the mfrer name of DVD, which you have for this film.
    Mine is by: AAKASH’. The video quality is ok, but the Audio
    is awful – it is Over-Recorded and very loud

    plus the VCD is missing one song:

    Chura Le Na Tum Ko Yeh Mausam Suhana / Mukesh + Suman

    The sad version of this song – Yuhin Dil Ne Chaha Tha / Suman
    was deleted by director, prior to it’s release. I saw the film in
    Cinema hall on it’s initial release with my parents and do
    remember these two trivial items


    • I don’t like Raj Kapoor much, though I do like his acting for Laaga chunari mein daag… even then, I don’t think it’s as good as Dilip Kumar in Madhuban mein Radhika naache re. He’s brilliant, especially with the sitar.

      I have no idea which video manufacturer this was. The video was given by a friend on a hard drive. The visual wasn’t great, but the audio was fine.


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