Jaadoo (1951)

There are several reasons why I decided to review this film, even though it’s not a particularly impressive one. For one, it’s one of the rare Indian films set outside India and the Middle East (more on this later). For another, its music by Naushad, who (I would have thought) would not have been the most obvious choice to compose music for a film that’s distinctly Latin in tone. And, because this is a film I’ve long been wanting to see—ever since I first watched Lo pyaar ki ho gayi jeet on Chitrahaar as a pre-teen.

To begin with, though, what it’s all about.

Sundari (Nalini Jaywant) is a ‘Pahadi’ (a girl from the mountains), who’s a very good singer and dancer. When the story begins, she’s performing onstage along with Chand (Krishna Kumar) and Chakori (Sharda). Sundari lives in a rented room, her landlady (Amir Bano) standing in for general factotum, de facto parent/chaperone, as well as local grouch. She cooks for Sundari, scolds her, gets scolded by her: Sundari isn’t one of your placid docile types.

The general view of the Pahadi people in this town isn’t good, as the newly-arrived constable Havildar Pritam (Suresh) discovers. His boss, the subedar, while briefing Pritam, tells him to beware of the Pahadis. They’re a rough, criminal lot, and not to be trusted.

Pritam discovers this for himself later that evening: he’s walking down a street when he meets Sundari (she sings a song to him), and they introduce themselves to each other.

In the course of the conversation that follows, Sundari manages to snag Pritam’s gold watch, and Pritam finds himself infatuated by this feisty, sharp-tongued woman who, as it emerges moments later, has stolen and hidden about a dozen oranges in the folds of her voluminous skirts.

When the rightful owner of the oranges finds out, there’s hell to pay, and Sundari and Pritam run off in opposite directions.

The next day, though, they meet again—thanks to Pritam’s colleague, Moti (?) who call Sundari Phuljhadi and has been wooing her. Sundari seems to be more intent on flirting with Pritam, but Moti isn’t to be deterred: he probably doesn’t think this is anything more than harmless flirting on Sundari’s part.

A few days later, Sundari gets into a quarrel at the local watering-place. Another woman, who’s washing her clothes at the tap, gets angry because Sundari splashed her, and Sundari retaliates by asking why she’s washing her clothes here. The quarrel escalates into fisticuffs, and Sundari picks up a stone and bashes the woman on the head.

As a result, Sundari is arrested, and the constable charged with taking her to the lockup is none other than Pritam, along with two subordinates.

En route to the police station, Sundari manages to get herself walking in front of Pritam, then turns around and pushes him hard enough to send him reeling, making all three men fall in a pile. Sundari races off…

… and Pritam finds himself in trouble. He is accused of having helped Sundari escape, and so he’s punished. Nothing very severe, just that he’s put on boring old guard duty until further orders.

Sundari comes to hear of this, and is remorseful. She had not meant for Pritam to get into trouble. Therefore, when she finds that the subedar is hosting a party for all the well-heeled and influential people of the town, Sundari gatecrashes. She sings and dances and is such a hit that when she, in private, begs the subedar to let Pritam go because he’s innocent, the subedar not only agrees, he also gives Sundari a bag of money as a reward for having entertained his guests so well at the party.

So Pritam is freed, and he sets about courting Sundari. But Sundari’s landlady has been seeking Sundari’s future in the cards, and tells Sundari that death is foretold if she enters into a relationship with Pritam. Sundari, superstitious to start with, recalls that a black cat crossed her path the other day…

Moreover, a bunch of thugs, newly released from jail, come calling and get Sundari’s landlady to feed them. They’re old friends, and in the course of their meal, they tell the landlady that Sundari’s fiancé Rahu is still in jail, but will soon be out too, and he’ll be coming to fetch Sundari. Sundari, who arrives while the men are still there, scoffs at this. Rahu isn’t her fiancé, he may fancy himself betrothed to her, but she doesn’t think so.

The sum total of all this: the superstition, the supposed omens, etc—is that when Pritam tries to hug Sundari, her necklace breaks and all the beads scatter. This is a bad omen, Sundari cries out. It means that they can never be together, that her landlady’s prophecy will come true. She is so upset that she refuses to listen to Pritam and pushes him out of her home, throwing his sword out into the street after him.

The attraction, however, is too strong, and Sundari calls Pritam back.

The Pritam-Sundari romance seems, sadly, to be doomed from the very beginning. Soon after, Moti, Sundari’s unwanted admirer and Pritam’s colleague, comes to visit Sundari while Pritam is with her. Moti is furious when he realizes that Pritam and Sundari are an item, and in his anger, he pulls out his sword and challenges Pritam to a duel right there.

Seeing these two men on the verge of killing each other, Sundari does what she can to help Pritam: she puts out a foot and trips Moti up. Moti goes crashing—straight onto the point of Pritam’s sword. Pritam is too stunned to know what to do, but Sundari is far more level-headed (and more used to a life of criminality): she quickly runs off with Pritam, taking him out of town and into the wilderness.

A price is soon on Pritam’s head: Rs 500. Sundari and Pritam, aware of this, stay well away from town. They may be on the run, but it’s not completely unpleasant: they are together, after all, and it’s not as if anyone’s coming after them.

Not for long. Because Rahu (Shyam), Sundari’s ‘fiancé’ is out of prison, and arrives in the wilderness. And, naturally, is not happy to find Sundari with another man.

According to several sources, Jaadoo is based on French composer Georges Bizet’s famous four-act opera, Carmen, about a feisty and fiery gypsy named Carmen who seduces a soldier, Jose (Note: Richard, in his comment below, quotes someone who mentioned that Jaadoo was actually copied from the 1948 Hollywood film The Loves of Carmen) . I haven’t seen any other versions of Carmen (or read the novella on which it was based), but a brief glimpse of the synopsis is enough to see the points of resemblance: the fortune-telling, the watch, the feistiness of the lead heroine, the killing of the fellow-soldier, and so on.

What I liked about this film:

The somewhat unusual way in which a story originally set in Spain translates into Hindi. AR Kardar, who directed Jaadoo, begins his film with a disclaimer, that this is set in no particular place. But, barring some very fleeting references to India (the most obvious being that the money on Pritam’s head is in rupees), there’s nothing in Jaadoo that points to its setting in India. Instead, everything else, from the architecture, to the clothing (the flamenco dresses, the sombreros, the soldiers’ uniforms, even the folded blankets thrown over the shoulders of several of Rahu’s men), the music: everything very distinctly evokes Spain.

That was one of the elements about this film that I liked: it’s rare to see a Hindi film set in a locale outside India (or, at the most, the Middle East): it’s the rare film (Hamlet was another) which has the courage to do it. Also, it has the courage to veer away from standard Hindi film tropes; neither Sundari nor Pritam, for instance, seems to have any parents or other family.

That said, it’s clear that Kardar couldn’t see his audience identifying completely with the wildness of the original Carmen. She would have been too wild for Indian tastes, so Nalini Jaywant’s Sundari is toned down considerably. She is wild to begin with, flirtatious and difficult, but once she falls in love, all of Sundari’s feistiness goes flying out of the window. Far from tiring of Pritam’s love and straying, she ends up pretty much giving up everything for him. Nalini Jaywant does a good enough job of the allure of Sundari, though the somewhat cheeky nature of the character in the earlier half of the film comes across as more juvenile than anything else.

It’s a fairly predictable story, but I found the Hispanic look and feel of Jaadoo appealing.

And, there’s Naushad’s music, to lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni. Naushad, so solidly classical and folk Indian, would not have been my first choice to compose the score for a film like this: I would have expected C Ramachandra, with his proven passion for Western-inspired tunes. But Naushad, assisted by Ghulam Mohammad, does a good job of marrying Indian tunes with Hispanic elements. Castanets, for instance, play an important part in several of the tunes. My favourite songs from this album are Lo pyaar ki ho gayi jeet, Ulajh gaya jiya mera nainon ke jaal mein, and Naadaan mohabbat waalon ke armaan badalte rehte hain.

What I didn’t like:

I would have liked Sundari to have remained her more wild self, but I can see why Kardar would have changed that part of the story to fit in with what Indian audiences would expect. And Pritam’s behaviour near the end, so mule-headed in a stubbornly patriarchal way, is irritating.

Not a must-see, but not a dreadful film. And definitely unusual.

30 thoughts on “Jaadoo (1951)

  1. Hello,
    Sounds like a watchable film. Should give it a try.
    Naushad tried Western music and he did a good job too.
    Nalini Jaywant is cute too.
    Thanks for the review.
    :-)

  2. I think Naushad was not purely classical in 1951! See his films like Dastan (1950) Andaz (1959) Dulari (1949) Aan (1952) etc He used Western instruments quite liberally and innovatively too! That he was a pure classicist and folk-based was an image later foisted on him by others, probably after the success of Baiju Bawra (1952). It is unfortunate that he succumbed to this image, rather too easily.
    There is no inherent contradiction between Indian Classical and Western tunes. This is proved positively and negatively both. Shankar Jaikishan tuned many songs on clasical ragas and made them sound Western ( eg Awara, Shri 420 songs based on raag Bhairavi) On the other hand composers like Madan Mohan, Salil Chaudhary, even Kishore Kumar took western tunes and made them sound purely Indian! Our old music directors did not just lift western tunes, but really ‘uplifted them!
    Naushad unfortunately got trapped in his own image of upholder of classicism, and his creativity suffered. I have often felt that he lost his musical genius after Uran Khatola (1955) I may be wrong, but this is how I have been feeling.

    • Thank you for that insightful comment. You make a good point, which I hadn’t really thought of before, but which makes perfect sense. It’s a shame that Naushad allowed himself to get slotted in this image of ‘classical and folklore’ composer – he was capable of being so much more versatile.

  3. Haven’t watched Jadoo but will bookmark it on your recommendation. :) Carmen is a wonderful opera.

    Naushad was a brilliant musician who could compose western-style tunes with elan. Remember Ta ra rii, a ra rii from Dastaan? Like Mr Nanjappa, I, too believe that Baiju Bawra trapped him in the image of a ‘classical music’ composer, and that he began to revel in it, constraining his own creativity.

    p.s. Will email you about some stuff.

    • “Carmen is a wonderful opera.

      It turns out (according to a comment Richard quotes from, below) that this wasn’t actually based on Carmen after all – though, given that I read a synopsis of Carmen when I was writing this up, it isn’t completely unrelated, either. It’s not a fabulous movie, but it’s worth watching for the music and for the very unusual setting – I don’t think I’ve seen another Hindi film of that period which was set in Spain.

  4. Madhu, it was nice to see your write-up of Jadoo here. I was curious about this film because of the dance to the song “Lelo Lelo Do Phool…,” which included the legendary dancer/choreographer Krishna Kumar. You listed this song in your “This Is What I Sell” post, and I included it as the last dance in my post “Five Excellent Dances with Krishna Kumar” (https://roughinhere.wordpress.com/2016/02/17/five-excellent-dances-with-krishna-kumar/). When I wrote my post, I was curious about the Latin flavor of this scene and I asked whether it took place in Mexico. :)

    The first comment in response was from MN Sardana, who said that it was based on the 1948 American movie The Loves of Carmen and added, “It was a scene by scene copy.”

    I looked up The Loves of Carmen in Wikipedia, and it says there:

    “The Loves of Carmen is a 1948 American drama romance film directed by Charles Vidor. The film stars Rita Hayworth as the gypsy Carmen and Glenn Ford as her doomed lover Don José.

    “The Loves of Carmen was publicized as a dramatic adaptation of the novella Carmen by Prosper Mérimée and is otherwise unrelated to Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen. It is a remake of the 1927 film of the same name, which was directed by Raoul Walsh and stars Dolores del Río and Victor McLaglen.”

    So, per Wikipedia, it was certainly based on Carmen, but not the opera. :)

    • “The Loves of Carmen was publicized as a dramatic adaptation of the novella Carmen by Prosper Mérimée and is otherwise unrelated to Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen.”

      Thank you for that, Richard. I hadn’t known! I will edit the post to reflect that.

      Interestingly, when I was writing up this post, I went to Wikipedia and read the synopsis of Bizet’s Carmen, and the elements I mention in the review (like the watch) are actually there – so it’s really not otherwise unrelated.

      By the way, I went back to Wikipedia to look up Prosper Mérimée, and realized that Bizet based Carmen on Mérimée’s novella Carmen – so I guess the resemblance isn’t incidental. It seems to be that Hollywood and Bizet both drew from the same source, but changed things to suit themselves.

      • I am glad that you found this extra bit of information useful! :) It’s too bad the Wikipedia entry was phrased in that confusing way. I took the phrase “otherwise unrelated” to mean not related in any way except that both the opera and the American film (which was remade from an earlier American film) were based on Posper Merimee’s novella (if not exactly, then as the entry says, at least “publicized as…”). So, in other words, the films were not directly influenced by the opera in any way (and I guess that’s how the direction of influence would have had to go since the opera was first produced in 1875). Maybe that’s what it should have said?

        • “So, in other words, the films were not directly influenced by the opera in any way (and I guess that’s how the direction of influence would have had to go since the opera was first produced in 1875). Maybe that’s what it should have said?

          Yes, I think so. Given that the film isn’t completely unrelated (I’d call the films and the opera ‘cousins’ – they both draw from the same source), it might have been more accurate to say that the films were not directly influenced by the opera.

  5. Your blog posts are unique in many ways, like the choice of films, the wide aperture of the lens you use for studying them and the detailed scrutiny you attempt.
    Have you ever thought of publishing a collection in the form of an e-book or something along those lines?

  6. Hello Madhuji, Thank you for reviewing this movie. From your review, it is obvious that it is cut from a different cloth and it has made me curious enough to watch it. I have only one small complaint thought and I admit that it is not being fair to the lady, Nalini Jaywant. But we all have our preferences and I feel that casting Madhubala would have been better. Madhubala seems tailor made for these frothy roles whereas Nalini Jaywant looks too serious.

    • Thank you for the appreciation! And while I love Madhubala (she is one of my favourite actresses), I actually don’t think she would have suited this role. I always think of the frothy Madhubala as an essentially light-hearted character, but Sundari isn’t quite that. She is feisty, but not in a frothy way – there is a darker shade to her character (she’s very independent, and somewhat ‘hard’, if you understand what I mean). The character, other than a couple of scenes with Pritam in the beginning, actually is a serious one. So Nalini Jaywant, I thought, was a very good fit here.

      But if you are curious enough to watch the film, I’d like to know if, after seeing it, you still think Madhubala would have worked better.

  7. I love the thieving gypsy trope. But I’m not fond of Nalini Jaywant. Decisions. Decisions. On another topic what do you think of the modern films based on the B & W era like Soha Ali Khan’s ‘Khoya Khoya Chand ‘(2007) and Manisha Koirola’s ‘Chehere: A modern day classic’. If the latter is anything to go by, heroines of the 20s were cut throat. Men think they’re ruling the roost and doing the exploiting. But it’s the other way around.

    • I think if you’re not fond of Nalini Jaywant, you should skip this one; she’s the central character here, so she’s there across the film.

      I have watched Khoya-Khoya Chaand, but have very vague memories of it – all I remember are the songs, which I liked. But from the very random snippets I’ve heard about the 20s and 30s, it seems the women were more daring than most people now give them credit for. There is an essay by Manto about Sitara Devi which portrays her as pretty bold – he even calls her predatory! And there are some films that sound like they must have given women interesting roles: Ruby Myers/Sulochana acted in something called Bambai ki Billi, where she was a Robin Hood-like character, a cat burglar at night (or something of the sort) – the film is lost, I think.

      Can’t tell whether they were the exploiters or not, but perhaps the common perception of 20s’ and 30s’ Hindi cinema might be different from the reality.

      • Well, I have only Chehere to go by and it certainly changed my perceptions about a more ‘coureous’ (for lack of a better word) era. The adas of the graceful women are strictly for show. Manisha, Divya Dutta and Hrishitaa Bhatt are ambitious and don’t let any relationship whether it be friendship or sisterhood stand in their way. Playboy producer/studio owner Jackie Shroff thinks that he’s ruling the roost with the 3 women but each of them ruthlessly manipulate him.

        In the song, Divya Dutta shows her sister Manisha’s boy friend Gulshan Grover how she’s been carrying on with her ex-bf Jackie Shroff behind his back. But Divya’s motives aren’t pure as she covets everything her sister has.But I have to admit Divya gets the looks right.

          • The proper name is Chehere: A Modern Day Classic and its available on Youtube. The B&W flashbacks are definitely interesting. But the traditonal murder in the English Country House is less so. Be warned. There’s plenty of simpering,over acting…to counter balance the interesting characters.

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