Jagriti (1954), Bedari (1956)

One review suffices for two films, really. Jagriti was an Indian film, Bedari a Pakistani one. Why I say one review suffices is because Bedari was a blatant copy of Jagriti: so blatant that when Pakistanis cottoned onto the fact that it was a copy, there was a furore which resulted in the Federal Board of Film Censor in Pakistan banning Bedari.

I’ll discuss the synopsis by looking at Jagriti, since Bedari used exactly the same plot, down to the scenes.

Jagriti begins by introducing us to the very wild teenager Ajay Mukherjee (Raj Kumar), who spends his after-school time gallivanting around the village with his gang of equally wild friends. They steal mangoes from an orchard and leave the irate gardener with a bump on his head; Ajay slips onto a ferry and deprives a banana-seller of an entire day’s worth of bananas.

By the time Ajay gets home, his uncle (Bipin Gupta) has been besieged by some very upset villagers. He’s had to soothe them, pay up their damages, and promise that the situation will be amended.

Ajay gets thrashed and told to sit down to his studies until 10 o’clock – and he won’t be given any dinner, Uncle instructs Ajay’s widowed mother (Mumtaz Begum). Ajay being who he is, fiddles with the clock, putting it forward an hour so that he gets off studying at 9. His mother, however, refuses to feed him and Ajay goes off to bed in a huff.

Uncle, however, is not quite the tyrant he appears at first glance. On realizing that Ajay’s mother hasn’t fed him, Uncle too sets his plate aside, saying he’s not hungry. And later, Uncle lovingly caresses a sports trophy Ajay has won.

Uncle realizes how bad the situation is, and tells his sister-in-law that he’s decided Ajay should go to the city to study in a good school. Ajay is furious at this news, and throws an unholy tantrum, flinging things around. Eventually however his mother’s distress at his behaviour has its effect: Ajay agrees to go.

Thus Ajay washes up at Brijnath High School, where Uncle accompanies him. The Superintendent (? Who is this actor?) assures Uncle that the boys in the school are very good and Ajay will be warmly welcomed. Unfortunately, though, this proves to be mere wishful thinking: the Superintendent (whom the boys refer to as ‘King Kong’) is still chatting with Uncle—while Ajay has been shown upstairs to his room by a servant—when there’s an uproar.

They go up and discover that Ajay’s welcome has been far from warm: he’s been tripped up, water has been poured on him, and since Ajay is not the sort to take such treatment lying down, he’s let fly with his fists and inflicted some wounds on his tormentor. King Kong yells at all of them and dismisses them, before taking Ajay to the room he’ll be sharing with several other boys.

Ajay’s new roommates, fortunately, are a kinder, friendlier lot. One of them, a saintly little child called Shakti (Ratan Kumar), is especially welcoming and sweet. It takes Ajay some time to realize that Shakti cannot walk and has to use crutches.

What’s more, Shakti is from a very poor household: his widowed mother works as domestic help at some rich people’s home, and every afternoon brings some leftover sweets for Shakti.  Shakti’s relationship with his mother is almost cloyingly sweet: he hides behind a tree when she comes, teasing her to find him. He sings to her, telling her how, when he’s grown up, he’ll look after her.

Ajay, who is quickly befriended by Shakti, also meets Shakti’s mother and likes her a lot.

Several of the other boys rag Ajay, getting him into trouble with teachers in the process (one boy tells Ajay to shout when he talks to a particular teacher, because “he’s hard of hearing”, and Ajay’s loud shouts naturally irk the teacher, who can hear perfectly well). Ajay ends up getting punished by several teachers, and not being a submissive type, is considerably annoyed by the injustice.

Being friends with the studious and ‘very good’ Shakti does not have much of an effect on Ajay. He’s still as unruly as ever, and once he’s made friends with the other boys, he takes the lead when it comes to perpetrating a variety of misdemeanours. King Kong, the Superintendent, is a prime target for most of these petty crimes: he’s a nasty, gluttonous man, who has no qualms about stuffing himself silly on special dishes prepared by the maharaj for him, while the boys get food that’s barely edible…

… and when the boys, led by Ajay, try to protest, they get punished. The boys retaliate: they start by surreptitiously adding huge quantities of salt to King Kong’s food, and then they amp up the pressure.

One night one of the boys, fast asleep, is smuggled out, mattress, bed linen and all, and left outside the school gate, after which the alarm is raised: there’s a corpse lying outside!

King Kong takes a while to discover that this is no corpse but a sleeping student, but already the fear of ghosts has been put into his mind. The boys follow it up with dressing up in a sheet and wearing a skull mask outside King Kong’s window…

… and finally, as the crowning achievement, they smuggle a pair of donkeys into the room where King Kong sleeps along with his servant. King Kong’s waking, to a donkey tugging at his covers, is spectacularly funny as far as the boys are concerned.

It is also the last they see of King Kong. He’s had enough.

A few days later, a new Superintendent turns up at Brijnath High School. Shekhar (Abhi Bhattacharya) meets Ajay and Shakti on the way to the school, and when he asks Ajay the way to the school, Ajay (for a lark, not realizing this is a new teacher) gives him wrong directions. Shekhar wanders about a bit before finding his way to school.

Here, the Headmaster introduces him to the boys, and Shekhar of course recognizes Ajay. Ajay is filled with dread: from long experience with teachers, he can guess what’s coming: public accusation, disgrace, punishment. Surprisingly enough, though, Shekhar says nothing at the time. Later, when they’re alone, he asks Ajay mildly why Ajay pulled such a prank. Ajay somewhat reluctantly confesses, and Shekhar lets it go. No punishment, nothing except an appeal to Ajay’s better sense.

The boys have all been too long used to teachers who shout at them and thrash them for even the most minor of infractions, so they take a perverse pleasure in playing tricks on the teachers. But Shekhar does not let these faze him; he carries on, patiently and with good humour countering all that the boys throw at him. Ajay, however, is unimpressed. He is too cynical and jaded to accept that Shekhar could be different from the other teachers. When Shakti tries to reason with him and tell Ajay to be a better boy, Ajay (to please Shakti) agrees that he’ll try. But it’s all eye wash: the leopard’s not going to change his spots in a hurry.

Jagriti and Bedari:

Jagriti won two Filmfare Awards: a Best Film Award for director Satyen Bose and a Best Actor Award for Abhi Bhattacharya.  It also won a Certificate of Merit for the Best Film at the National Film Awards, 1954. Perhaps an equally resounding proof of Jagriti’s success was the fact that it was shamelessly plagiarized in Pakistan, being remade as Bedari (‘Wakefulness’, 1956).

Ratan Kumar (it was his screen name; his real name was Syed Nazir Ali Rizvi) had worked, as a child artiste, in some very major Hindi films, including Boot Polish, Baiju Bawra, and Do Bigha Zameen—besides, of course, Jagriti. In perhaps around 1955, his family decided to shift to Pakistan, and once there, Ratan Kumar’s elder brother, Wazir Ali Rizvi, cashed in on the success of his little brother’s last big Indian hit, Jagriti. I have heard rumours that Wazir Ali Rizvi held the rights for the film, but I have found nothing to substantiate this claim. What’s more, even if he held the rights to remake the film (that is, the rights for the story/screenplay), it does not automatically imply that he also held the rights for the songs that Kavi Pradeep wrote for Jagriti, or the tunes that Hemant composed for the film.

Because Wazir Ali Rizvi didn’t merely copy the story of Jagriti; he copied everything. Every scene, most dialogues (some words in Urdu were used instead of the occasionally more Sanskritized Hindi words of Jagriti). Similarly, the names were changed (well, obviously, given that the characters here were all Muslims: Shakti became Sabir Ali, Ajay became Zafar, Shekhar was now Salim and so on; King Kong, however, remained King Kong). Interestingly enough, Ratan Kumar didn’t just play Sabir Ali; he also played the role of Zafar, the Pakistani equivalent of Ajay.

The costumes too were more in keeping with Pakistan as opposed to India: saris were replaced with salwar-kameezes, a formal kurta-pajama/dhoti-kurta with an achkan and pajama. The food King Kong gorges on became gosht instead of machhli.

And, importantly, all the songs were lifted, the tunes unchanged, the words changed wherever needed. For instance, the Sabarmati ka Sant became the Qaaid-e-Azam, Jinnah, and “De di humein aazaadi bina khadg bina dhal” became “Yoon di humein aazaadi ke duniya hui hairaan, ae Qaaid-e-Azam, tera ehsaan hai, ehsaan” and the rest of the song too became all about how Pakistan became a refuge for beleaguered Muslims in the Indian subcontinent.

Similarly, Aao bachchon tumhe dikhaayein became Aao bachchon sair karaayein Pakistan ki, and (of course) all the sites en route changed, wandering across Sindh, Punjab, Kashmir, and the frontier areas. Hum laayein hain toofaan se kishti nikaalke, though it retained the signature line, had the rest of the words changed in keeping with its setting in Pakistan.

The only song that pretty much retained the words in addition to the tune was Chalo chalein ma.

What I liked:

Jagriti and Bedari are so alike that it’s easy to club what is good about one with what is good about the other. The comparison (where one film scores over the other) will follow later, but here I’ll discuss what I liked.

First of all, the story. I like the somewhat offbeat story—no romance, and a story focusing on teenagers and their relationship with a teacher instead. The way the story builds up too is plausible, believable; it’s not as if Shekhar is able to convert all the boys immediately. It takes time and effort, and he faces resistance from his jaded fellow teachers as well, who are convinced there’s only one way to teach.

I also like the characterization of one person in particular: Ajay (or, in Bedari, Zafar).  This is a boy who’s wild and unruly, but that doesn’t mean, either, that he’s all bad. There are moments, for example, where he’s more sinned against than sinning (the times when he’s being ragged shortly after joining the school reflect this). And there are moments when you see the softer side of the boy: in his interactions with his mother, with Shakti/Sabir, or with Shakti’s/Sabir’s mother. He may be angry and constantly up to mischief with others, but with these people, he’s still a boy who can appreciate goodness and strive to be good.

Also, I liked the way Ajay’s/Zafar’s resistance to Shekhar is shown. This is not the easily-converted (and unnaturally converted, to my mind) style so common in Hindi cinema. After all, Ajay has been ribbed and ragged and treated badly by teachers a long time; to expect that he will change overnight thanks to one teacher would be a bit excessive.

And, the other element I liked: the music, by Hemant, with lyrics by Kavi Pradeep. The three patriotic songs, De di humein aazaadi, Hum laaye hain toofaan se kishti nikaalke, and Aao bachchon tumhe dikhaayein jhaanki Hindustan ki, are my favourites, with Aao bachchon tumhe dikhaayein counting as one of my top favourite patriotic songs ever.

(Fateh Ali Khan—father of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan—was credited with the music of Bedari, a dubious credit, given that he actually composed only one song for the film: Bhookh se armaan machalkar reh gaye, which the boys sing when they’re tormenting King Kong by doctoring his food).

Note: One more thing I liked about Jagriti was that I finally got to see Brahm Bhardwaj with black hair!

What I didn’t like:

There is little I outright disliked about Jagriti/Bedari. True, both tend to go overboard with the melodrama at times, but if you’re watching Bollywood/Lollywood, you sort of take that in your stride. The melodrama is something I’m used to.

But oh, one thing which I simply hated. Hated with a vengeance, and wished I could unsee. A bare-chested King Kong. I have no idea who played King Kong in either of the two films, but both were morbidly obese. I am not sizeist at all (I can hardly afford to be!) but this struck me as positively grotesque. And sizeist too, because the obesity of the man is equated with his gluttony and his accompanying nastiness to the boys. Fat man = evil man. Not a nice stereotype.

Comparisons, comparisons:

Even though pretty much everything about these two films is the same, the differences between Bedari and Jagriti can be seen in the details. In the little things that make one film marginally better than the other.

First, though, the elements where Bedari is actually different from Jagriti: two scenes (one fairly brief), and one song (Bhookh se armaan machalkar reh gaye).

The ‘brief scene’ which I mention is when the boys pull a prank and carry out a sleeping boy to place him at the school gate. In Bedari, they don’t just put him down and run off to raise the alarm, proclaiming him to be a corpse; they dress up as ghosts and whatnot, complete with flashing eyes, and spend a good bit of (tiresome) time frightening the wits out of him.

The other scene that is in Bedari but not in Jagriti is the end scene. Jagriti ends with Shekhar singing Hum laaye hain toofaan se kishti nikaalke. Bedari has the same song at the same place too, but it’s followed by a scene where Zafar dresses up as Sabir. This was, to me, an action that may have shown him as having his heart in the right place, but it would have been, in the long term, such a troublesome and fraught-with-difficulty action that I would have strongly advised against it. Jagriti, by leaving that particular end loose, was a little bit more realistic.

One interesting way in which I found Bedari subtly different from Jagriti is in its (Bedari’s) undertones of patriotism/nationalism.  While Jagriti is often referred to as a ‘patriotic’ film, to me its patriotism lies primarily in its songs; the lyrics of the three songs other than Chalo chalein ma are definitely patriotic. Other than that, though, Jagriti does not go the patriotic route (unless you extend the exemplary teacher’s attempt to revamp the educational system as being a patriotic gesture).

Bedari, on the other hand, does try, wherever and however it can, to push across the patriotism message. For example, the three patriotic songs (with lyrics by Fayyaz Hashmi) go all-out when it comes to exalting Pakistan and pushing Pakistan’s agenda. In fact, Hum laaye hain toofaan se kashti nikaalke even has a line which goes: Kashmir pe lehraana hai jhandaa uchhaalke, along with other references to how Pakistan has to get Kashmir back from India. (Tum gaad do gagan mein tiranga uchhaalke is the equivalent in the Jagriti song: a song which mostly exhorts the new generation to work hard, to soar, and to uphold peace and development).

What’s more, the picturization of all three patriotic songs in Bedari is full of footage showing Mohammad Ali Jinnah and other Pakistani political leaders. In contrast, while portraits (painted/sculpted) of Gandhi, Nehru, Rana Pratap, Shivaji and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose do appear in the Jagriti songs, they’re restrained, and there’s more of an emphasis on the actors and/or common people.

Also on the theme of über-patriotism in Bedari, there’s the scene where the teacher (in this case Salim, played by Santosh Kumar) gives the boys a lesson out in the open instead of in the class. The lesson consists of a lecture on being good Pakistanis, on loving Pakistan above all else, and so on. In contrast, in Jagriti, when Shekhar lectures his students out in the open, his lesson is on ancient Indian history—specifically on the nomadism of the Aryans versus the settled life of the Dravidians, the original dwellers of the land.

All said and done, I was a little taken aback by how much Rizvi tried to push the nationalism message in Bedari. It made me wonder why: was it a reflection of general trends in Pakistan at the time? A feeling of needing to assert the nation’s identity (that reference to the Kashmir issue in Hum laaye hain toofaan se is really rather forced)?

I have no idea; all I can say is that I preferred the more subdued tone of Jagriti, and the more toned down, less belligerent patriotism of Kavi Pradeep’s songs in that film.

And lastly, one more way in which I liked Jagriti over the Bedari: Raj Kumar’s acting as Ajay in the former is far superior to Ratan Kumar’s as Zafar. Ratan Kumar as the saintly and sweet Shakti/Sabir is fine; Ratan Kumar as the rebellious Zafar comes across as shrill and rather melodramatic. In contrast, Raj Kumar’s Ajay has a quiet defiance about him that I found much more believable.

Jagriti is definitely better. Not just because it’s more original, either.

27 thoughts on “Jagriti (1954), Bedari (1956)

  1. Interesting to note the fate of Bedari!. Begunah, the 1957 Hindi film was reported to be copied frame for frame from the Hollywood movie “Knock on Wood” starring Danny Kaye.(1954.) It so happened that Danny Kaye happened to be in Bombay when the Hindi film was released. A case was filed in court, and the judge promptly pronounced the judgement ordering all the prints to be destroyed. And it seems the producers did not have money to appeal, and promptly complied with the order- so that within one week of release all the prints were destroyed. Fortunately the music has survived, including the iconic song of Mukesh- Ay pyasi dil bezuban- which was filmed on music director Jaikishan playing the piano! ( It seems the producers had no money to pay an extra actor, and so utilised the services of the music director!) It now transpires that just one reel of the film has been salvaged somewhere and that contains this scene!
    What a fate to befall such copied films! What would have happened if Chori Chori had been banned, for that too was copied from a Hollywood movie!

    • Thank you for that note about Begunaah! I hadn’t known about this. Very interesting.

      Chori Chori, yes. Also so many others, like Gumnaam, Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (which is really almost a frame-by-frame copy), Yeh Vaada Raha… Bollywood seems to have no qualms whatsoever about copying.

    • I know. :-( I was really shocked when I heard that line. Very disturbing. Tragic that things were this way so early on, and tragic that not much seems to have changed. If anything, it’s got worse.

    • Thank you, AK. Yes, it does have shades of both of those films. Though obviously not borrowed from To Sir With Love at any rate, given that (as Chris below points out), that novel came out in 1959.

  2. My late father told me that “king kong” was from Calcutta and owned/worked in a sweet shop. Maybe some reader can confirm this.

  3. Your review makes Jagriti seem better than I remember it being… but I do remember it as a rather ‘quietly sweet’ movie. Abhi Bhattacharya did fit the role of a kindly teacher, and Raj Kumar was such a refreshing change from the usual saccharine-sweet precocious brats we found in Hindi films. I wouldn’t have minded drowning Ratan Kumar, though.

    • I think my perception of Ratan Kumar in Jagriti was coloured a bit by him in Bedari – in comparison to how he was in Bedari, he’s tolerable in Jagriti. In Bedari, his role as Sabir is even more saccharine-y, and as Zafar, he’s not half as effective as Raj Kumar was as Ajay.

      Oddly, I don’t remember disliking Ratan Kumar in any of the other films I’ve seen. An actor whose acting depended upon the director, I wonder?

  4. Great reading this review. I saw Jagriti when I was about the same age as Ajay, and it made a deep impression – over 40 years later I still remember several scenes vividly.
    I had no idea about Bedari …

    • I found his acting so good in this film, I did go online to search for other films he acted in, but it doesn’t look as if he worked in any other films apart from this one. Shame; I thought he was really good.

  5. Fine review and agree with the comparisons with ‘Bedari’. The concept of ‘Jagriti’ of a teacher reforming unruly students always sounded like something coming from an English novel. someone mentioned ‘To Sir with love’ , That novel actually came out in 1959.

    • Thank you, I’m glad you liked this review! And thank you for clarifying when To Sir With Love was published. I guess as a trope, this one of the patient and good teacher who reforms unruly student(s) isn’t all that uncommon.

  6. It was not the first instance of remaking songs in Pakistan. I’ll just give a couple of examples of copied songs BEFORE ‘Bedari. Originals are classics in hindi.

    ‘Na Yeh chand ho Ga Na taare rahenge’ – Sassi 1954. The original from ‘Shart’ also came in 1954, so it can be confusing. but its well known that the Pakistani song officially re used Hemant Kumar’s tune and also lyrics from that song.

    not many would know this one. Jeevan Ke Safar Main Rahi , from Anokhi 1956. This came one year after the Munimji. was composed by Timir Baran (who apparently assisted SD Burman). It starred Sheila Ramani. both the Indian artists did this one off work in Pakistan. The song seems a pretty good inspiration though. Didn’t find the tune much similar and the lyrics are modified after the title lift.

    on a different note; Noor Jahan sang a bhajan in a Pakistani film in the late 60s once. ‘Man mandir ke devta’ from ‘Lakhon Mein Eik’ (1967). It was banned in Radio Pakistan. The context of that song in the film is interesting. That film had partition in its backdrop. not a balanced film. It shows nearly all Indian characters in it as ‘bad’. It was written by Zia Sarhadi who had migrated to Pak.
    I see tommydan has uploaded the film on youtube. wonder what his Indian subscribers thought about the film.

    • Thank you, this was a very interesting comment. Na yeh chaand hoga is pretty unadulterated a copy, though Jeevan ke safar mein raahi seemed more like they at least tried to make it a bit different. Until now, I knew Anokhi only for Gaadi ko chalaana babu, a delightful song.

      Thank you also for telling me about Laakhon Mein Ek. I hadn’t known about that – must check it out sometime.

  7. I have not seen this movie or its Pakistani remake but I do have a personal anecdote about the patriotic songs. In the early 80’s my brother and I were on a mission to record every Mohd Rafi and Talat Mehmood song played on Vividh Bharathi’s programs (Man Chahe Geet/ Chaya Geet/ Jaimala etc) into cassettes. At that time ‘blank’ cassettes didnt come cheap, so we were a bit ruthless in recording over pre-recorded cassettes if the songs didnt pass muster.
    My mother was a teacher and she had been asked to do an Gandhi Jayanti program with her 10-13 yr old students. She had decided to get a group together to sing the song from this movie “Sabarmati ke sant”. So she went out and got a double cassette album from HMV called patriotic songs from films which had all 3 songs from this movie along with the usual suspects like ‘Mere Desh ki Dharthi’, ‘Hai preet jahan ki reet’, and so on.
    When my brother and I heard the songs we were immediately struck by how much patriotic songs from movies sucked if you evaluated them on the merit of the songs themselves and were not listening to the fervent desh bakthi of the lyrics (We were only 12 and 14 yrs old and a little fanatic about Rafi, so anyone else was trashed, poor Mahendra Kapoor :) Long story short, one day my mom came back from school and found that her precious songs had all been recorded over. Listening to these songs gave me slight goosebumps – maybe because my subconscious is remembering the chastising that followed :)

    • LOL! That was a delightful anecdote, I can just imagine your mother’s reaction. :-D

      On a side note, I agree about the merit of the songs themselves – a lot of these patriotic songs are really not that great as songs themselves (one of the rare songs which I love also for its lyrics is Ae mere pyaare watan). Hai preet jahaan ki reet and Mere desh ki dharti are pretty syrupy as far as lyrics go, and downright screechy when it comes to rendition. And the music is pretty pedestrian…

      • My favorite desh bakthi song is ‘Jahan daal daal par sone ki” from Sikandar-e-azam. Mohd Rafi simply soars with his voice. Even the picturization was great and not cloying I think.
        You are so right about the Manoj Kumar songs. I love Mahendra kapoor, (especially when he sings for Ravi in soft Sunil Dutt songs) but he is again one of those singers whose ability for high notes was seriously misused. He could be awesome when mellow, like in the song ‘bhool sakta hai bhala kaun’ in Dharmputra.

        • Totally agree. Mahendra Kapoor is one of those singers who can be really wonderful, and really irritating too – and the patriotic songs he sang tended to do him no justice. But yes, Gumraah. :-) And also this lovely, lovely song from Pyaas, Chaand bhi koi deewaana hai. He’s so soft and romantic in this.

          • What a beautiful song! Heard it for the first time, thank you so much!! Completely different side of Mahendra Kapoor. I went on a full Mahendra Kapoor – N Dutta combination songs spree after this.

            • Thank you, glad you liked that! My introduction to this song was serendipitous – it played once on Chitrahaar, many years ago, and we were lucky to have a blank VHS tape in our VCR at the time. We recorded it and loved it so much, we heard it again and again many times over the years. :-)

  8. Loved the review Madhulika. Always rated this film as one of the most underrated and surprising how even to this day it appears so fresh. And To Sir With Love (the movie) which came a good 10-15 years later, still does not hold up as well to Jagriti. Pakistan having plagarised this film was news to me… But then Pakistan after all. For me the relationship between the protagonist and his friend was more the highlight than the relationship between the teacher and him. Easily the most edifying moments in the film are the ones between the two friends and how deeply evolved it was. Man… It was profound! How friendship can be transformative and even with two different people! Its more the horizontality of their relationship that offers a lesson even as the guru-sishya verticality works more as a support structure. Seriously as I key these words, tears well up in my eyes for the rather sublime way relationships between the two was constructed, examined and presented in this film. It’s relationship beyond family or amorous bonding all transpiring in a modern institution of a school that is examined. It was soul stirring and intellectually stimulating. It opened certain possibilities and prospects for new collectives to emerge. India then needed such examples as it transitioned to modernity… Alas…it still needs them!

    • “Pakistan having plagarised this film was news to me… But then Pakistan after all.

      I wouldn’t generalize that way. The number of films and songs and stories India has lifted from Hollywood, for instance, are equally horrifying. Let’s just say that as a subcontinent, we have little respect for intellectual property.

      Agree completely about the bond between the two boys, that relationship is really well depicted.

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