Today is the birth centenary of one of a handful of Hindi film actors who managed to cross from one type of role to another—again and again. Like Ajit, Pran, and Premnath (though not in the same league as them, when it came to success and popularity), Sajjan Lal Purohit—better known simply as Sajjan—appeared in leading roles in several of his early films (including, notably, in Saiyyaan, where he acted opposite Madhubala), then drifted into supporting roles (as Dev Anand’s sculptor friend in Paying Guest; as Mini’s father in Kabuliwala; and more), and eventually into villainous roles (in April Fool, Aankhen, Farz, etc).
Born in Jaipur on January 15, 1921, Sajjan—according to what I’ve been able to gather—was inclined to be a lawyer but ended up moving to Calcutta, where he joined films. Appearing as an extra in Maasoom and Chowringhee, he later moved to Bombay during World War II and became assistant to Kidar Sharma. Not just as an assistant, but also as actor, dialogues writer and lyricist; Dhanyavaad (1948, which some cite as his debut film) was one of the films for which he also wrote songs.
But, back to this film. Do Dulhe was a film somewhat on the cusp of Sajjan’s transition from hero to character artiste. Although he is the leading man (or leading men, to be more precise) in this film, the roles he plays in this film are not quite that of the quintessential hero.
To begin at the beginning, though, which is at the home, in a village not too far from Madras. Parvati ‘Paro’ (Shyama) is the elder daughter of Brij Mohan Gupta (BM Vyas). Paro’s mother died in childbirth, and her stepmother (Lalita Pawar, who else?) treats Paro in stereotypical stepmotherly fashion. Paro is pushed around, abused, and basically neglected while her stepsister Dulari (Vanaja) is pampered and spoilt. To Paro’s disappointment, her father, though he loves her, is horribly henpecked and completely spineless.
Dulari’s mother has managed to wangle a match for Dulari, in the form of Kundan, the son of a wealthy family from Madras. The family is expecting Kundan to arrive to ‘see’ Dulari. Why Dulari, her father asks, when the older Paro is still at home? Why not Dulari, shoots back his wife. Why keep Dulari at home if there isn’t a match to be found for Paro?
Unfortunately for Paro, a match for her is closer than she can imagine. On her way to the temple along with the old, mute maid of the household (Suryakantam), Paro is approached by two tearful beggars. The greedy local usurer, Seth Devi Dayal, has nabbed their alms. Paro, furious at this injustice, agrees to plead the beggars’ case with Devi Dayal.
… which she does, and successfully. She confronts Devi Dayal (David), gives him a piece of his mind, and takes a rupee from him, which she passes on to the beggars (it’s a different matter that Devi Dayal, later coming across these beggars on a stretch of road where there’s no Paro to the rescue, takes the rupee back). In the process, Devi Dayal—a widower these past twelve years—decides he wants to marry Paro.
Devi Dayal approaches the local pandit (Kanhaiyalal), who is initially shocked, but then gives in to greed and the pressure of a wealthy man. He goes to Paro’s home and reminds Paro’s stepmother that her husband is in debt—a sum of a whopping 15,000—to Devi Dayal. If Paro is married off to Devi Dayal, that debt will be forgiven. Dulari’s mother is more than willing: if the debt is forgiven and Paro is taken off her hands, that will be perfect. Her distressed husband and Paro try to oppose this, but to no avail. Why, Paro will be rolling in wealth if she marries Devi Dayal, is the answer.
Meanwhile, the awaited dulha Kundan (Sajjan) arrives in town. The household has been expecting him to come by train, so they’re not really prepared—and Paro, washing clothes down at the ghat, doesn’t have the faintest inkling that the man who stops to get water for his car’s overheated radiator is the man picked to be Dulari’s bridegroom.
Kundan, in his hurry to get water, tips over into the pond and has to be fished out by Paro. He ends up asking her for directions to Brij Mohan Gupta’s home, and this results in them discovering who the other is. Kundan, still a little starry-eyed from his meeting with Paro, goes to her home, where Dulari, her parents, and her mother’s brother Banke (Agha), who also lives with them, gives him a warm welcome.
Kundan is all politeness, but he’s already lost his heart to Paro. And, as Dulari and her mother are not particularly discreet, he soon realizes just how badly Paro is treated by her stepmother: obliged to work herself to the bone, scolded and abused, not even allowed a silk sari to wear on festive occasions. Kundan’s sympathy for Paro, combined with their mutual attraction, quickly turns to love.
So, over the next couple of days, while Dulari’s mother contrives to show her daughter off in the most flattering light, Kundan and Paro are able to snatch some clandestine moments of solitude together.
When it’s time for him to leave, Kundan promises Paro that he’ll fetch the Rs 15,000 needed to pay back Devi Dayal. Then Paro will not need to marry the lecherous old usurer, and can marry Kundan instead. With many promises of undying love, the two of them separate for the time being. Kundan goes home and his admission of all that’s happened (plus his asking for Rs 15,000) makes his father blow a fuse and flatly refuse any money. But Kundan’s mother (Achla Sachdev) is more soft-hearted, and manages to smuggle the money to her son, who takes it and gets on to the next train to Paro’s village.
Back in the village, Devi Dayal has been getting restive: so many days are passing by, and Paro is still not married to him. He grumbles to the priest, and the priest takes the message to Paro’s home, where her stepmother readily agrees to a wedding the very next day. Poor Paro gets no time to figure out what to do. Kundan is not yet back, and there’s nobody here who sympathizes with her.
Time races by, Devi Dayal is all prettied up and waiting to go to his bride’s home for the wedding. He drops his glasses, and Panditji, arriving just then, helps him retrieve them (and, in the process, Panditji discovers just how very myopic Devi Dayal is).
Meanwhile, there is pandemonium at Paro’s home. It’s been discovered that Paro has fled, and nobody has the slightest clue where she’s gone—though, given her chumminess with Kundan (obviously this has not gone completely unnoticed), everybody seems to think she might have gone to Madras and to Kundan. What is to be done right now, though? Someone has to let Devi Dayal know. Banke is picked for this job and very reluctantly goes to Devi Dayal’s home, only to be misunderstood at every stage (Banke stammers a bit, and an impatient Devi Dayal cuts him off, misinterprets what Banke’s about to say, and hands him Rs 200).
The priest, when he finds out what has happened, comes to the rescue of Paro’s family. The mute old maid is quickly dressed up in the bridal sari, a veil draped over her head, and a sari hung between bride and groom in the mandap. To make it even more certain that Devi Dayal cannot see his bride’s face, the priest filches his spectacles, insisting that the vedas prohibit grooms from wearing spectacles in the mandap.
And while Devi Dayal is getting married to the maid, Kundan arrives at Paro’s home. He sees all the festivities, and asks a passerby what it’s all about. When he’s told that Paro is marrying Seth Devi Dayal, Kundan immediately brands Paro a bewafa and goes off in a huff, back to Madras.
Paro, in the meantime, has boarded a train to Madras (the same train as Kundan is on; in fact, as you’d probably expect, they’re in adjoining compartments). Of course, to prevent the story speeding to a happy conclusion so early in the proceedings, they go all the way to Madras without discovering each other’s presence… and in Madras, one of the first things that happens to Kundan when he steps off the train is to be hit by a passing vehicle.
At this point, it suddenly became very melodramatic. I was sitting back, tut-tutting to myself and thinking that, like most of AVM Productions’ films (this was not AVM, I should add), this too had gone the route of the high melodrama weepy-waily like Bhabhi or Chhoti Behen.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Here I was thinking the second dulha of the title was Devi Dayal. But no.
Because, in the Mental Hospital at Madras is a man named Kanhaiya. Kanhaiya is nuts as they come. And he is the spitting image of Kundan.
Which sets up the scene for all sorts of confusion.
I must admit I began watching Do Dulhe with no idea of what to expect. I ended up being very surprised, pleasantly so. Because this film, though it has its flaws, is on the whole pretty entertaining.
What I liked about this film:
The plotting in the latter half of the film, which leads to all sorts of misunderstandings. It’s not dreadfully convoluted, but what there is, is funny enough.
And, Sajjan as Kundan/Kanahaiya. They’re two very different men: Kundan is pretty much the standard film hero who takes himself very seriously, while Kanhaiya is an absolute nut, racing about and getting up to all sorts of antics. In his role as Kanhaiya, Sajjan also impressed me with the sheer physicality of his acting. He swings on a rope, he vaults about, he shins up the sides of a well: he’s so energetic.
Lastly, a few of the songs (the music of Do Dulhe was composed by BS Kalla, to lyrics by Pandit Indra). Chanda chamakti raat, Mera dulha shehar se aaya re, and Chadhoongi adaalat karoongi jurmana are my favourite songs from this film.
What I didn’t like:
The somewhat dodgy ‘humour’ at times. I am used to slapstick being equated with humour, so the liberal amounts of slapstick—Banke with a ‘wet paint’ bench stuck to his behind; Kanhaiya retrieving fish and frogs after a dip in a well, and so on—I could live with. What I didn’t like was the way disabilities were made the butt of jokes (yes, this too is common enough in old Hindi cinema, but still). Banke’s stammer, the maid’s muteness, the lunacy of Kanhaiya and his fellow inmates: all of these made disability into a farce.
And, the last fifteen minutes or so of the film took some turns I didn’t like (what happened to Dulari’s mother, for instance, was too convenient and silly). Plus, what happened to the maid who had been ‘married’ to Devi Dayal?
Despite all of that, though, a watchable enough film. Especially for Sajjan, who seems to be having the time of his life as the clownish Kanhaiya.