Daaera (1953)

From one birth centenary to another.

Less than a week after Chitalkar Ramachandra was born in Maharashtra, on January 17, 1918, in the town of Amroha (in north-west Uttar Pradesh) was born, into a wealthy family of landowners, Syed Amir Haider Kamal Naqvi. Syed (or Kamal, as it probably more appropriate to refer to him) began writing Urdu stories at a young age and harboured a dream of making them into films—a dream quickly shot down by a father who did not think cinema a worthwhile profession. Faced with the prospect of having to manage the family’s estates, the 16-year old Kamal sold his sister’s gold bangles to finance his clandestine escape to Lahore. Here, he continued to write stories while studying (at Lahore’s Oriental College) and by managing to have some of these published, was able to finally save up money enough to travel to Bombay.

In 1938, when he was just 21 years old, his story Jailor was adapted to the screen by film-maker Sohrab Modi.

And that was how Kamal Amrohi made an entry into the Hindi film industry. This was the man who would write perhaps the most memorable Urdu dialogues of any film in Hindi film history (Mughal-e-Azam). This was the man who made what is arguably the finest and most memorable Muslim social in Hindi cinema (Pakeezah). This was the man, too, who—even though he directed only five films—made a mark for himself with those films, three of them (Mahal, Pakeezah and Razia Sultan) becoming pretty much cult classics.

To commemorate what would have been the 100th birthday of Kamal Amrohi, therefore, a review of one of his lesser-known films. Daaera, starring Amrohi’s wife, Meena Kumari (whom he had married in 1952). Unlike Mahal or Pakeezah, Daaera was not a big hit—it was, perhaps, too far ahead of its time, and too offbeat a film to be easily accepted by audiences.

But, onto what Daaera is all about.

The story begins on a dark night, when an old man (? Every source on the Net seems to tag this actor as Nana Palsikar, but while he looks very familiar, I’m certain this isn’t Nana Palsikar Kumar, as identified by several readers) alights from a tonga and totters to a house, where he asks for the doctor. The doctor isn’t in town, says the man who opens the door. He will be back two days from now. The visitor, now desperate, laments that he is in urgent need of a doctor, and he doesn’t even have any place to stay; he’s an outsider in this town. The other man suggests a place where he might go; there’s a haveli nearby, whose mistress lets out rooms to people in need.

So the old man makes his way to the haveli, and there, though the doorkeeper turns him away, the lady of the house (Pratima Devi) takes pity on the old man and tells her servant to direct him to an upstairs room which is vacant.

As it turns out, this room is right opposite—on the other side of the courtyard—from that of the lady’s son, Sharan (Nasir Khan). As it turns out, too, the old man hasn’t come alone. With him is a young woman, lying quietly on a bed outside the room. Sharan sees her, and is so infatuated (even at this distance, without a clear view of her face) that he can’t get her out of his mind, not even the next day, when he’s giving his exams at his college. He ends up handing in a blank paper.

Sharan locks himself up in his room, not even descending for meals. His worried mother goes up to meet him and find out what’s wrong. Sharan denies that anything is wrong, but just as he’s talking, a song—one that’s been sung every now and then—bursts out again. Sharan, caught offguard, looks involuntarily towards the room opposite the courtyard, at the woman who lies on a charpai there. His mother notices, looks for herself, and draws her own conclusions.

Sharan has, by some judicious questioning of the servant, discovered that the room has been let out to an old man and a young woman, who is probably the old man’s daughter. Both seem to be quite ill, says the servant.

And, the two days being up, the doctor (Janakidas) arrives to see the patient he’s been told about. The old man is in a terrible condition, gasping for breath and coughing fit to burst his lungs. In between his fits of coughing, he tells the doctor that he consumed arsenic. And why? So that he could be young again, young like this wife of his!

The doctor is startled. This young woman is the wife of this decrepit old man? Yes, that is how it is.

The doctor examines the old man, then, as he’s leaving, tells the wife that he will begin the course of treatment from the following day. Meanwhile, as he steps out and sees her charpai outside, under the tree, he asks her if this is where she sleeps. Yes, says the young woman. Don’t, the doctor tells her; the dew isn’t good for the health. As it is, she has a cough and a fever.

Matters proceed, sometimes obliquely, sometimes not. Sharan sings a song for this mysterious woman he’s fallen in love with—he hasn’t even met her yet—and writes it on a page, which falls from his hand and goes twirling about on the breeze, flying right across the courtyard and into the terrace where the woman—her name is Sheetal, we now discover—sleeps. She inadvertently steps on the paper, and does not even notice it.

Sharan’s mother goes upstairs one day, accompanied by a maid, to have a look at this young woman who has enthralled her son. While the old lady is sitting at the door of the room, Sheetal’s husband has a bad fit of coughing, and Sheetal runs to his side to attend to him. The old lady looks on, sending her maid in the meantime to fetch the doctor.

Later, as she’s leaving the room, Sharan’s mother gives her blessings to Sheetal and commiserates with her—how very ill her father is. Sheetal does nothing to correct that misconception.

But Sharan’s mother, talking to her son later, tells him that this will not do. The young woman is all very well, but her father is so ill, and whatever infection he’s got has passed itself onto her as well—she’s ill too. How can Sharan’s mother willingly plunge her son into that same hell, whatever it is, that is making both father and daughter so ill?

While Sheetal’s husband goes off on a brief trip to collect his pension, Sheetal makes the acquaintance of a newcomer to the haveli. Gomti (Roopmala) arrives in the little room next to Sheetal’s, and through the brick lattice separating them, the two women get talking, Gomti doing most of the talking. She tells Sheetal that this haveli is her nanihaal, the home of her maternal grandmother, and she (Gomti) has been sent here by way of punishment—for having loved well but not too wisely, it would appear. This is to be her prison.

Gomti, chatty and far more outgoing than the very quiet Sheetal, goes on to speculate about Sheetal’s husband (whom Gomti has not seen so far). Sheetal is so beautiful, says Gomti, that her parents must have left no stone unturned in finding a splendid bridegroom for their daughter. How handsome he must be, how very perfect the two of them must look together…

When Sheetal’s husband returns from his trip, coughing and barely being able to make his way into his room, Gomti discovers that this is Sheetal’s husband.

Gomti isn’t a tattletale, though, so the rest of her family doesn’t know the truth of the relationship between Sheetal and the old man. Meanwhile, Sharan is pining away for the woman whose face even he has not seen up close. Pining away to the extent that his mother, sister and brother-in-law (this man looks very much like a somewhat young Nana Palsikar) finally decide to give in and talk to the old man. Sharan’s mother invites him to come and dine with them, having persuaded her son-in-law to broach the topic.

What will happen next?

No, I’m not going to break off at this point with an indication that something very suspenseful and interesting is coming up. Daaera isn’t like that; in fact, it isn’t like any other Hindi film I’ve seen before. It is slow-moving, at times almost artificial in the slowness of its pace and the slowness of its characters. And yet, like Neecha Nagar or Mahal (two films that came to my mind for different reasons while I watched this), it’s a film which, once you’ve seen, you will probably never be able to forget.

What I liked about this film, and some general ramblings:

Compared to the two other Kamal Amrohi-directed films that I’ve already seen—Pakeezah and MahalDaaera is arty. There, I’ve said it. Pakeezah is purely commercial (good commercial, well-crafted commercial, just in case you thought I was deriding commercial).  Daaera has the songs, true, but it also has a startling lack of background music. It has long, pregnant pauses. It has moments when people act the way people do in real life.

That, the ‘way people act in real life’ is one of the highlights of Daaera for me. Barring a rather ludicrous plan hatched up by Sharan’s brother-in-law, just about everything and everybody in this film is very real. The melodrama is contained, even—through most of the film—completely missing. The characters don’t blurt out deep secrets at any chance they get. They hide things, they reveal things in a way that is very real.

This shines through especially in the case of the central character, Meena Kumari’s Sheetal. Sheetal, throughout the story, says very little, and it’s hard to guess, at times, what is going through this woman’s mind. On the one hand, she reaches out to the page (covered with Sharan’s love poem) and, having read it, lets it fall from her hand, her face expressionless all the while—indicating what? That she has no use for his love? Or that even though she may appreciate it, it is a love in vain and therefore not to be pursued? Which, given that the doctor realizes Sheetal has deliberately been throwing away her medicines rather than taking them, sounds perfectly logical: a young and lovely woman, married to a man old enough to be her grandfather, finds life so unbearable that she grasps at any way to end it?

On the other hand, there is the Sheetal who presses her photograph into her husband’s hand and places it in his coat pocket, so that she (as she herself says) will always be with him. There is the Sheetal who, when a frustrated Gomti begs for the truth, says that one may worship equally well at a temple with a gilded kalash as at a temple in ruins. There is the Sheetal who, without demur and without any sign of abhorrence, calmly lets down her hair to trail over her husband’s face, just because he asks it of her. (A strangely erotic and bold scene, actually, and one that caught me by surprise).

Then, there are the motifs that stud the film. Like the train and its whistle in Pakeezah, various sounds and objects recur throughout Daaera, making their final and telling impact at the climax. There is the alarm clock, for example, which Sheetal sets to make sure she gives her husband his medicine. There is the bhajanDevta tumho mera sahaara—which is sung at the temple next door, and which makes one wonder: who is the god Sheetal silently calls to? Her husband? Or the young man who has fallen in love with her without ever having met her?

There is a page fluttering about in the breeze. Initially, the page on which Sharan has written his poem for Sheetal, and which goes all around the house, beneath Sheetal’s feet and into the branches of the flowering tree below which she sleeps. Later, there is another piece of paper: an envelope, its damning contents revealing a dark secret, which goes fluttering about a room.

There are the men [oddly enough, working late into the night] who saw a huge beam of wood. On its own (as in the case of the alarm clock) I wondered over the significance of this, but it all comes through very dramatically in the end.

And yes, I really loved Devta tum ho mera sahaara. Jamal Sen (who, I will admit, was not a name I knew) composed the music for Daaera. The songs are good, though not exceptionally memorable—except for this bhajan, which has become one of my favourites.

What I didn’t like:

The slowness of the film becomes occasionally tedious. I found myself wishing for some good old-fashioned melodrama that would catapult the story forward, making it move somewhat faster. One thing I will admit, though: the slowness of the pace makes the bolts out of the blue, when they come, even more effective (the scene where Sheetal’s husband comes to visit Sharan’s family—unaware that they want to fix a match between Sharan and Sheetal—is a fine example of a highly dramatic moment whose impact is enhanced because everything before it has been so slow).

There are those who would say this film is boring; I don’t agree. It’s slow, yes, but in its own way, it’s a memorable film. Tragic, sometimes surreal, complex in a way that isn’t spelled out. Worth a watch, certainly, if you want to see a kind of cinema that didn’t conform to what one expects of Hindi cinema.

Happy 100 years, Amrohi Sahib!


58 thoughts on “Daaera (1953)

  1. oh!
    sounds serious movie!
    I am a huge fan of Devta Tum ho mera sahara.

    Jamal Sen’s first movie was Shokhiyan in 1950-51., by Kidar Sharma.
    It has some wonderful songs by suraiya & lata.
    Let me put the links of the songs, if u want to listen to them at leisure.

    Sapna Ban sajan aaye

    Raaton ki neend chhin lee by suraiya

    it also has lata-suraiya duet, door desh se aaja re


  2. Surreal yes, especially the scene where Meena lies motionless while a song is going on in the haveli. The film is dedicated to wives who sacrifice their lives for their husband. But then, I have seen the film only in bits and cannot judge. I ought to try and see it, I must admit I was put off by the parts I saw.

    Mahal and Pakeezah were wonderful. Razia Sultan was bold but not really up to the mark.


    • Yes, the film is dedicated to women – ‘mothers and sisters’, if I remember correctly. Not necessarily wives sacrificing their lives for husbands… but it’s a very disturbing film even then. Not something I would gladly watch again.

      Would you believe it, I’ve never actually got around to watching Razia Sultan? I should, someday.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this post, and the information about Kamal Amrohi. How talented he must have been!

    I’d never heard of Daera earlier and will watch it soon. Mahal is – as you said – unforgettable and this film seems to have some of that same flavour

    Interesting that the music is by Jamal Sen. He and Khemchand Prakash were both from Rajasthan.


    • Ah, I hadn’t known Jamal Sen was from Rajasthan. The name sounded interesting and a little confusing – Jamal sounded Muslim, and Sen sounded Bengali Hindu.

      Daaera does have some of the same flavour of Mahal, especially that sometimes self-destructive vein in which some of the characters go on. Pakeezah, in comparison, is very much more mainstream.


  4. Your review is so…visual, that it felt like I was watching the film myself.
    I hadn’t heard of this movie before. Will try to find it. It has Meena Kumari, after all. I have always felt that she was a performer ahead of her times (just as Dilip Kumar was, too). I can totally imagine that the interpretation of how to play the character of Sheetal (expressionless, unrevealing) was hers alone.
    Kamal Amrohi looks so dashing – could have been a movie star himself!


    • Thank you so much, Rickie. Glad you liked the review! I agree about Meena Kumari being a performer way ahead of her times – even though she does have some pretty regressive films to her name (Main Chup Rahoongi, Chandan ka Palna, etc), I remember her more for films like Majhli Didi, Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam and so on – she was amazing in those.

      And yes, Kamal Amrohi does look pretty dishy in this particular photo, doesn’t he? As a friend remarked, this was a revelation because the only other photos we’d seen of him had him in his ‘pruney avatar’. :-D


  5. Thanks for the review of this somewhat obscure & offbeat film. You’ve certainly got me interested enough to put it down on my ‘To watch’ list. I hope it’s on YouTube.

    Btw, looking at the photos, the actor playing the old man is Kumar. He had a fairly long & successful career as a character actor in the 40s, 50s, & 60s. Offhand, I remember him in Mahal (Ashok Kumar’s father) , Shree 420 (lame, street-smart beggar), & Mughal-e-Azam (sculptor). He emigrated to Pakistan sometime in the sixties.


    • The name KUMAR stuck after a few films with New Theatres in the beginning of his career . His real name SYED ALI HASAN ZAIDI
      (1903-1982) who belonged to an aristocratic Shia family from Lucknow . He was the second husband of well known film star of yesteryear PRAMILA (real name ESTHER VICTORIA ABRAHAM , a Baghdadi Jew from Calcutta) . PRAMILA was the first Miss India in 1947 . She stayed behind when “Kumar” migrated to Pakistan in 1963 . Her daughter NAQI JAHAN was also crowned Miss India in 1967 .

      Just filling in some trivia .

      With warm regards



    • Yes, this film is on Youtube, and a pretty good print too.

      Thank you for identifying Kumar! I knew he looked familiar, but I just couldn’t put a name to that face. All I knew was that he was definitely not Nana Palsikar. Have corrected that.


    • Wow!! What a find this is. Thank you for sharing this.

      I wonder where these ads were featured. Since TV was not around in India back then, my best guess would be in cinema halls, before the feature film started? Would you know?


  6. Madhu, I watched this some years ago, and like you found it both interesting and tedious – at the same time. I recently watched it again and discovered that while Meena’s character was so passive, there is so much she says without saying anything. However, I remember reading that she hated Daera and wished to forget it. But perhaps I’m remembering it wrong.

    As Mr Chanda said, the actor playing her husband is Kumar.
    (And if anyone is interested, Tom Daniels has a nicely cleaned up version of Daaera on his channel on YouTube. His channel is called tommydan55.)


    • I hadn’t known Meena Kumari hated Daaera – I wonder why. After all, it’s not as if Meena Kumari didn’t act in regressive movies (though I’m not absolutely sure I’d slot this as ‘regressive’, probably more ‘tragic slice of life’). And, whatever one may say, Sheetal’s role is a great showcase for Meena Kumari’s acting ability. As you mention, she says so much without saying anything…


  7. Thanks for this review, Madhu.
    I remember this film all too well for one big reason – it was one of the films I subtitled for Greta. :-)
    Like you say, it is a film that is hard to forget anyway – it is unusual in its storyline, how the story has been treated too. And yes, mostly slow but I didn’t mind that too much –
    I was so much into the story, and Meena’s role in particular.

    “Devta tum ho mera sahara” is just hauntingly brilliant – I’d never heard it before, and it became my favourite song for a long time. Jamal Sen composed music for only a few films – his songs for Daera, especially this one, were much-appreciated.

    Once again, thanks for this review. Brought back some memories.

    Talking of arty, I remember another film (definitely arty) which was slow – Ankur (1974). When I saw it as a young boy, it was too slow for me – but when I saw it more recently,, I could understand it better.


    • And yes, I too have read somewhere that Meena Kumari said she hated Daera(1953). I think it was one of her early “tragedy” roles, and while she was impressive in it, the flip side was she got repeatedly cast in tragedy roles. Something she didn’t like, I think.


    • Thank you, Raja! Glad you liked the review. I hadn’t heard Devta tum ho mera sahaara but, as happened with you, it’s got stuck in my head and still hasn’t managed to dislodge itself. In fact, it entrenched itself so deeply in my brain that it made me wonder if it wasn’t high time I actually did a post on bhajans!

      Ankur is a film I haven’t seen, though I remember hearing of it.


  8. “Daaera” is indeed a work of art. Which is why I dearly wish I liked it. :-) Alas, all the visual beauty couldn’t compenstate for the opressive portentousness and the molasses-slow pace. There was nothing/no-one in the movie that I could connect to – not even Sheetal. In the end, she remained a cipher, just like the movie.


    • Hehe. I agree completely, Shalini, It is a work of art, but not a likeable film. :-) Certainly not one I’ll be revisiting in a hurry. And yes, it was a complete cipher. There was nobody there whom I could really connect to, except possibly Gomti, who seemed the most human of the lot. The doctor, too, but then, he wasn’t really a key player.


  9. Interesting post. Amrohi has generally been regarded as a contentious sort of figure because of the controversies surrounding his relationship with MK. I’m not sure of what to believe or not with regards to that relationship, but i have always respected Amrohi as a writer (Mughal-e Azam) and as the creator of ‘Pakeezah’. IMO, his contribution to these two films establishes him as a highly talented individual. Marathi writer Anita Padhye has written a book on him but I don’t think there’s any English version. I do wish there was a translated version; it could be a valuable resource.

    I haven’t responded to all of Amrohi’s work in the same way though. I struggled with ‘Daera’ when I tried to watch it some years ago and don’t think I was able to sit through it (also found it very slow and the mood pervading it stifling). I also have yet to see ‘Razia Sultan’.


    • I hadn’t known there was a book about Kamal Amrohi. Someone on Facebook did mention that Manto briefly talks about the making of Daaera in one of his essays, but whether there’s more about Amrohi himself, I don’t know.

      I don’t know, either, whether I would’ve been able to sit through Daaera at any time. You know, I always feel there are some movies and some books that need you to be in a particular frame of mind to enjoy or at least to appreciate – and Daaera is one that requires a very specific (very patient!) frame of mind that I don’t have too often. This time, since I did want to review an Amrohi film, I started on this, and it was just luck that I was intrigued enough to go on watching.


  10. Well-chosen film for Kamal Amrohi’s birth anniversary. I have been meaning to see Daaera ever since Greta wrote the review. Just after that I watched Mahal, which fascianted me no end. Greta didn’t like the movie at all, but it intrigued me nonetheless. Thank you for the wonderful review! Your review make sme really want to sit and watch it.
    Thank you, dear madhu for the wonderful review, you have described the plot and the happenings in a visually enthralling manner.


  11. I attempted ‘Daera’ only because it was Kamal Amrohi’s film. I didn’t see all of it, but it was also a bit of a cipher for me, as Shalini describes. I think Manto’s life intersected with Amrohi’s when that latter’s story idea for ‘Mahal’ was chosen by Bombay Talkies over the story Manto pitched. Apparently, that was one of the events that caused Manto to leave the country. They also knew each other professionally as they had both worked for Bombay Talkies around the same time.

    There isn’t actually that much writing in the public domain on Amrohi himself; his early life, his motivations and legacy as a writer film maker etc, which I think is a real pity.
    He is usually largely discussed or written about in the context of his relationship with MK. I also wish Amrohi had made more films, but some of what he created was magical, and as u say, through those works he made an indelible mark of his own.


    • latter’s story idea for ‘Mahal’ was chosen by Bombay Talkies over the story Manto pitched.

      Interesting! I hadn’t known that.

      I agree with your remark about the usual discussions about Amrohi being around his relationship with Meena Kumari (in fact, when I posted a link to this post on Facebook, one person who commented only had this to say: “So this was the man to blame for all the tragedies in Meena Kumari’s life?” ( or something to that effect). I suppose that actually reflects the sad truth that most people are not interested really in anybody other than actors and actresses – those whom they see onscreen. To reduce a man of Amrohi’s obvious talent to merely Meena Kumari’s husband is grossly unfair.


  12. Meena Kumari was stunning. Such a beautiful face and died at such a young age. Tragic. I collect postage stamps as a hobby and on the theme of cinema both India and worldwide/ In 2011 India post issued a postage stamp set to commemorate legendary heroines of India, and one of them was Meena Kumari.


    and a card, made by me



  13. Thank you so much for this enjoyable review! I had never heared of this film before (but then it’s only been two years since I started watching the classics). I absolutely want to watch it – I even have an idea where this story might lead to – let’s see if I’m right. Also going through the comments was so interesting! There is so much to learn here.


    • Thank you, Manuela! Glad you liked this review. And I am very curious about where you think this story would lead, so if and when you watch it, let me know if it turned out the way you thought it might.


      • So, I did watch “Daera”, and it did not disappoint me! Although there was the shadow of a conventional plot twist hovering over it for a while, Kamal Amrohi was courageous enough to stay on his own special track of story telling and I’m really grateful for that.
        I don’t claim to be able to put in words what was “going on” in this film or to explain Sheetal’s motivation. But I refuse to see her as a victim. Everything she does is her choice – no bigger mystery than the human heart!
        Btw, I watched “Mahal” last night and it left me with a similar feeling.
        I think usually we feel a connection with characters that are in one way or the other similar to our own personality, but here, as in “Daera”, it worked the other way round: I watch, I listen, and more than once I feel like asking WHY? But still I’m happy and grateful to have shared their journey.


        • You put it so well, I found myself nodding even as I read your comment. It is a very nuanced movie, and Sheetal is a very hard to understand character – though I do feel that at some point Sheetal has been a victim (why a girl should have had to marry a man old enough to be her grandfather is a reflection of some social ill, surely?) That she seems to have reconciled herself to it goes to show that she is perhaps resilient, but not that she isn’t a victim…


  14. Madhu,
    Your review made me look up the film, and because of your review I made efforts to watch it till the end. The film left me intrigued. One could connect to all characters except the hero Nasir Khan. He has not ‘seen’ Meena Kumari, he has no scenes or dialogues with her. Where does his obsession come from? How does he get to have her picture under his pillow?

    There seems to be no back story to MK’s marriage with the old man. But one can understand her longing on the basis of love poems.

    MK’s acting is absolutely outstanding. I can’t say the same for the script and Kamal Amrohi’s direction. If he wanted to show a young woman’s repressed sexuality, trapped in marriage with an old man, and her inner conflict between her desires and her social conditioning of sanctity of marriage, Kamal Amrohi should have said it in an hour, or fleshed out the missing links and replaced the deadpan Nasir Khan with some actor.


    • I think you’ve managed to put your finger on what it was that’s really missing in the film. Nasir Khan’s acting, and even the logic behind his character’s behaviour. His obsession with someone he’s never even spoken to (though that is nothing new in Hindi cinema) – but to the point that he is desperate to marry her – is weird. More than that, though, this probably needed someone with the acting skills of his brother rather than Nasir Khan.

      While watching this film, I kept waiting for Sheetal’s back story to emerge, and was disappointed to find that there was nothing about it. I suppose Amrohi felt that it was far too common a story to have to explain to his audience…? Who knows? I at least would have liked to know it.


        • How did I miss the smiling wooden dulha? The implication that Sharan is basically a bewafa, who, having discovered that his beloved is married, has now happily gone and got married to someone else? After having mooned so madly about Sheetal?

          Who knows? :-) But yes, after a film like this – no matter how much of a work of art – one does feel the need for something frivolous and light.

          Thank you for the link to the Jamal Sen post. I will check it out.


  15. Do you watch any TV shows? I don’t know if you heard about it, but I have taken to watching Beverly Hills 90210.

    Also, have you heard of the ongoing #MeToo movement? You think a similar kind of revolution can happen in Bollywood?


    • The only English-language TV show I watch is Masterchef Australia, every year when it airs. Other than that, the only TV I watch consists of South Korean dramas.

      Of course I’ve heard of #MeToo. I did it too, posting about it on Facebook. I don’t know if a similar revolution can happen in Bollywood – seeing from the sort of reactions that Kangana Ranaut’s (to take an example of some feminist outspokenness…) elicit, I doubt if Bollywood is in a hurry to move forward. Is Hollywood, either? There are plenty of women speaking out and speaking up, but until something concrete comes of it, until the men in the industry realize that it’s completely unacceptable to treat women as objects (and that includes objectifying them onscreen), I don’t know how much things can change. The women too have to take a stance – the casting couch, after all, does need a woman desperate enough to agree to it. Even if that desperation is born out of nothing more than a desire for wealth and/or fame.


  16. You should take to watching Beverly Hills 90210, atleast the first few seasons. Its available on dailymotion online, and may give you some nostalgia if you love the early 90s.

    By the way, I am confused on the Kangana thing. I do not know whose side to be on. If Hrithik is the main villain, then I will be shocked. He seems like a nice guy, but so does Aziz Ansari. Really confusing.


    • I hated the 90s – so much that when I moved out of my parents’ home, the one thing I did not even bother buying was a TV, because I knew I would much rather read than watch TV.

      I did not mean Kanagana re: the Hrithik affair (whatever it was; I don’t follow celebrity gossip, so I am very vague about that). I mean Kangana in general tends to be quite vocal about feminist issues.


  17. A really well written review, so much so that it makes the movie more alive than it is. Kamal Amrohi does look dashing in the photo. I always learn something new About the film personalities from your blogs. I watched perhaps 3/4th of the film a couple years back because of “devta, tum ho”. Mubarak Begum really did not get her dues in the industry. The print I watched on YouTube was pretty bad, that on top of a depressing storyline, I gave up and never watched the ending. From the comments I gather there is a better print, I will watch it again. I wonder if all the missing links that other readers have pointed out are due to the video being cut up. I recently saw another old movie that was lacking certain scenes which I remember having seen on a vhs copy. Very nice post, also got to see Meena Kumari with a smile in the ad.


    • Thank you, Neeru! I’m glad you enjoyed the review. I can imagine that a bad print would further reduce the ‘durability’ of Daaera – this is not an easy film to sit through, and I think one of the reasons I actually managed to watch it all through was that it happened to be an excellent print. Plus, all said and done, it is a well-made film.

      I don’t think the missing links are really problems with editing: the film flows pretty seamlessly, I thought; it’s just that there are some elements Kamal Amrohi simply does not touch upon, for whatever reason.


  18. The old man is Actor Mr M.Kumar who also played the role of Sangtarash(the sculptor) in Mughal-e-azam, while the Brother in law could be Nana Palshikar.


      • Yes, the actor is Kumar, who not many know was one of our earliest Hindi film stars. His 1933 film ‘Puran Bhagat’, directed by Debaki Bose, was a massive success and the biggest hit of that year.

        It’s a pity that today more people remember Kumar as the sculptor from Mughal-e-Azam, rather than as a huge star from the early Talkie era. Indeed he was one of the 8 biggest stars of the period from 1933-1947; the others being Ashok Kumar, KL Saigal, Motilal, Chandramohan, Prithviraj Kapoor, Pahadi Sanyal & Surendra. More importantly, its the quartet of Ashok Kumar, Motilal, Pahadi Sanyal and Kumar, that brought natural acting into Indian cinema. While the other 3 are still remembered to an extent, its Kumar who has got the worst end of the stick for himself. Sigh! 😢


  19. Forgive me for a possibly basic question but how does the plot reflect Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari’s love story (upon which it is supposed to be based)?


    • I have recently read Vinod Mehta’s biography of Meena Kumari, which has a fairly detailed account of the MK-AK romance, but I see absolutely no similarity between that and this. Unless it’s in the fact that one of the two people in the romance is already married to someone else.


  20. Meena kumari would be in a age of less than 20 years when probably this film would have been shot. The kind of emotions or rather emotion less woman she has projected is out of box. Its only MK who can deliver such things


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