Lukochuri (1958)

This film has been on my watchlist for a long time—many people, over the years, have recommended it to me as a good Bengali comedy—so when, on my ‘double roles’ post someone mentioned it, I decided it was high time I watched Lukochuri (‘Stealth’). I was a little sceptical; Kishore Kumar tends to go over the top when doing comedy, to the extent that I find him positively irritating in films like Half Ticket, Jhumroo, Naughty Boy, etc. But a Bengali film, I thought, might have a more sophisticated sense of humour? One could only hope.

The story starts in Jabalpur, where Kumar Chaudhury ‘Buddhoo’ (Kishore Kumar) is getting ready to leave for Bombay. Buddhoo works for a company which has transferred him to Bombay, and Buddhoo is bidding farewell to his father (Moni Chatterjee) and his Pishima (?), his father’s sister, who lives with them.

Buddhoo could have stayed with his twin brother Shankar in Bombay, but their father has been so angry at Shankar’s having fallen in love with an ‘artist girl’ whom he’s determined to marry, that Daddy has summarily cut Shankar out of his family and his property. Buddhoo, therefore, will stay at the home of Ramesh (Bipin Gupta), an old and very dear friend of Daddy’s. Ramesh has already been informed that Buddhoo is on the way.

Buddhoo, when he arrives in Bombay, however, has no intention of staying anywhere but with Shankar. He sends his regrets to Ramesh, letting him know that he will not be staying with them. After all, as Buddhoo tells Shankar, it’s not as if they know him or he them; where’s the fun in staying with strangers?

At Ramesh’s home, his family receives the news of their expected house guest’s cancellation with relief. His wife (?), constantly complaining of her aching joints, is glad to not have another person to look after. His younger daughter Rita (Mala Sinha) thanks their fate, that they will not have to play host to someone named Buddhoo, who is bound to be true to his name.

Rita’s elder sister Geeta (Anita Guha) is rather more complacent; it doesn’t seem to matter to her whether Buddhoo came or not. Geeta, it turns out, is an artist: a very accomplished painter. Rita, on the other hand, works in an office.

… and that day, on her way to work, she almost bumps into a rather frantic man, who happens to be racing to catch the same bus as Rita takes to work. She doesn’t know him, of course, but this is Buddhoo, on his way to his first day in office. Rita just manages to get in before the bus conductor stops Buddhoo, telling him there’s no more space. Take the next bus. Rita, sitting at the window, grins cheekily at the stranger she’s managed to outrun, and a miffed Buddhoo watches as the bus moves off.

In office, however, a flustered Buddhoo discovers that among his colleagues is Rita! Instead of being embarrassed about running into Buddhoo again, Rita cannot help a chuckle.

Soon enough, the same incident is repeated: both of them are waiting for the same bus, and when it comes along, Rita climbs in quickly, leaving Buddhoo to be again told by the conductor that there’s no more space. But Buddhoo is no buddhoo; he climbs in anyway, telling the conductor that he and ‘that lady’ (Rita) are together. The conductor, therefore, lest Buddhoo on, and then proceeds to give him two bus tickets—one, naturally, for Rita. Thus, when Rita asks the conductor for a ticket and he tells her that ‘the gentleman’ has already bought hers, Rita is taken aback. And a little embarrassed.

Very soon, Rita has had the chance to buy Buddhoo (whom, of course, she knows as Kumar Chaudhury, not as Buddhoo) his bus ticket. They sit next to each other in office, and when Buddhoo gets late (having overslept) she does his work for him, making sure it’s all ready for when the boss demands it. Similarly, when one day, Rita gets late, Buddhoo covers up for her and completes her work. They are swiftly becoming not just friends, but falling in love.

Meanwhile, Geeta’s romance is also proceeding. And who is her lover? None other than Shankar. Shankar, who is a musician, an aspiring composer and a singer who is trying to get a break in the Hindi film industry. They want to get married, but Geeta doesn’t have the courage to break it to her mother; Ma is a tyrant and will not receive this news kindly.

Rita, somewhat braver and more ready to take the bull by the horns, offers to mediate, even to the extent of informing Ma of Geeta’s wishes. This she does, with predictable results: Ma is furious. She didn’t bring up her daughter to marry a cinema industry wallah! This cannot happen, she will not let it happen. Absolutely not.

What next? Will Geeta-Shankar and Rita-Buddhoo find their happily ever afters? Because there are all sorts of obstacles waiting in the wings, besides the girls’ mother’s objections. For one, there is the fact that neither Rita nor Geeta knows that her sister is in love with a man who is the identical twin of the man she is in love with. And neither Shankar nor Buddhoo has thought to tell their girlfriends that he has a twin.

Confusion awaits.

What I liked about this film:

So much. The story, the acting, the music, the tone of the film itself: all are delightful.

This isn’t one of those whackadoodle comedy that consists of Kishore Kumar making weird faces and acting the buffoon through much of the film; Lukochuri itself is a gentle comedy, only getting somewhat frantic in the last fifteen minutes, when there’s a series of pretty funny scenes in the climax. Otherwise, it takes the form of a light-hearted romance between Buddhoo and Rita, and a somewhat graver, more emotional romance between Geeta and Shankar; and even though there are moments of humour, they’re mostly in the form of situations that you, as the audience, can see the humour in simply because you know (the characters don’t) that what you’re seeing is a result of mistaken identity. Rupak (who wrote the story, screenplay and dialogues) and Kamal Majumdar (who directed the film) did a great job here.

Then, Kishore Kumar. Since I’ve discovered Kishore Kumar in more ‘serious’ roles (Naukri, for one), I regret that he kept getting slotted in the completely manic roles he got. Lukochuri is a refreshing change from the usual: he gets to act as two very different men, only one of whom (Buddhoo) is somewhat like the nutty character Kishore usually played (but only somewhat; Buddhoo is a bit of a clown, but I didn’t find him outright irritating). Shankar, on the other hand, is a relatively quiet, controlled man (though not to the extent of being a pushover).

And, all the familiar faces. Kishore Kumar, Mala Sinha, Anita Guha, Moni Chatterjee and Bipin Gupta are only a handful of the Bengalis from Hindi cinema who feature in Lukochuri; in addition to these, there’s Anoop Kumar, as a timid colleague of Geeta and Buddhoo’s:

Keshto Mukherjee, as the owner of a photographic studio:

And Asit Sen, in a brief cameo as a cinema theatre manager:

I found this interesting. Since Lukochuri is set and filmed mostly in Bombay, did Kishore Kumar (who produced the film) think it made sense to rope in locally available Bengali talent?

Incidentally, it’s worth mentioning that Lukochuri was edited by none other than Hrishikesh Mukherjee. It is, in fact, very much the sort of film I’d associate him with: light-hearted, without any villains, about people like you and me.

Plus, the music, composed by Hemant. Beautiful.

What I didn’t like:

Nothing, really. This was so much fun all the way.

Lukochuri can be watched, with excellent subtitles in English, over at Tom Daniel’s YouTube channel, here.

23 thoughts on “Lukochuri (1958)

  1. I WANT TO WATCH THIS MOVIE NOW!
    I am supposed to be doing my urdu homework, but here I am reading this and chuckling over what I can only imagine as run-ins between different characters, identities cascading over each other, leading to a lot of uproarious fun! But I think I will wait for when I go home and watch it with my parents. This is the kind of Hrishikesh Mukherjee movie we bond over best.
    I like the sound of Mala Sinha’s character here. She either did roles where she was gutsy and had a lot of chutzpah (Aankhen, even Pyaasa where she chooses to place her sense of security over love, Khel) or a very weepy person bound by ‘mera paati, mera sansar, meri maryaada’ (Gumrah, Anpadh). Thank you for this awesome post.

    • Hrishikesh Mukherjee was only the editor (and a slick job he did on the movie too). It was directed by Kamal Majumdar (no relation as far as I know), who also directed Anthony Firinghee, another favourite of mine.

        • @confusedoldbong

          Whoops! You’re right. I was misled by the so many webpages I came across which credited Firingee to Majumdar. It’s a pity there’s not a single reliable KM discography online.

          @madhu

          Anthony Firingee is a must-watch. It could have been yet another fine story reduced to a ghastly schmaltz-fest Bengali audiences used to love back then (and still do) – Sanyasi Raja is a prime example. What saved it was taut direction and a restrained Uttam Kumar (possibly his most sensitive portrayal ever outside of Nayak). And of course Tanuja was brilliant! Even did her own dubbing, reportedly. Which makes her Bangla diction pretty awesome.

      • Ah yes, I wanted to say Hrishikesh Mukherjee- ish; was responding to Madhu’s last line, “light-hearted, without any villains, about people like you and me.”
        Thanks for referring Anthony Firinghee- had never heard of it! :-)

        • To be honest, what Hindi audiences label as Hrishikesh Mukherjee type – the world of the common Indian man laced with wit, humour, sweetness and a dignified poignancy, owes a lot to Bengali cinema. No not the Bengali cinema of Ray, Ghatak or Sen, but the sweet humour that quite a few Bengali comedy films of that time displayed. Films like Jyotish Banerjee’s Manmoyee Girls School (1935- later remade as Missamma down south and in Hindi as Miss Mary in a much more louder dramatic way), Sushil Majumdar’s Abhayer Biye (1942), Ajoy Bhattacharyya’s Chhadmabeshi ( 1944-which Agradoot later remade in the 70s with Uttam Kumar, and Hrishikesh Mukherjee himself remade it as the much loved, somewhat – Overrated Chupke Chupke!!), Bimal Roy’s Mantramughda (1949), Nirmal Dey’s Sharey Chauttor (1953), Chitta Basu ‘s Chheley Kaar (1954), Sadhan Sarkar’s Joy Maa Kali Boarding (1955- which Hrishikesh Mukherjee again remade as the delectable and underrated Biwi Aur Makaan), Tapan Sinha’s Tonsil (1956) and this one- Kamal Majumdar ‘s Lukochuri (1958) are just some pictures which come to mind in this regard. Mind you, these are all films that predate HM’s world of the common man comedy.
          To cut it short, Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s sensibilities are very much Bengali. The same holds true for Basu Chatterjee too. Infact, to be very honest, films of both HM and Basu C are often Bangla films made in the garb of Hindi!

          To be honest again, the films of Bimal Roy, later day Guru Dutt, Basu Bhattacharya & Gulzar fall in the same category, though unlike HM & Basu C, these makers were more into the literary, poetic and serious aspects of Bangla cinema and literature than its light-hearted comic moorings. Among these filmmakers though, Bimal Roy can be kept in a separate category for the simple reason that he was among that group of 3-4 filmmakers, who for all practical reasons, were the progenitors of this entire new cinematic idiom/culture, whose influence was felt across the length and breadth of this country, and not just in Bengal. That Bollywood/Hindustani audience doesn’t acknowledge this has got to do more with its lack of awareness about other cinemas- and its somewhat misplaced arrogance of seeing everything from a pedestal that holds Hindi cinema to be all and end all of Indian moviedom.

          @abhik

          Kamal Majumdar acted in Antony Firingee. Sunil
          Banerjee (who also made that evergreen mood- uplifter Deya Neya) directed it. As an erstwhile assistant to Ritwick Ghatak, Sunil brought artistic sensibilities to his commercial ventures- and the same is best exemplified by Antony Firingee & Deya Neya.

          As far as Kamal Majumdar Is concerned, Afaik, he made atleast 4 films, of which Lukochuri was one. His direction impressed the mercurial genius of Kishore Kumar no less, who roped him again for directing his maiden Hindi production in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi. All was going well, except that at the end moment, Kamal Majumdar developed cold feet at the prospect of handling the antics of the all the three crazy Ganguly brothers together – and decided to withdraw from the project. A hands- tied KK then went to the redoubtable Satyen Bose (who had earlier handled all the 3 Ganguly brothers with aplomb in Bandi), who accepted the directorial duties. Rest is history..

          Coming back to Kamal Majumdar, his next venture was the social drama Abhisarika, starring Supriya Choudhury. A picture in a very different zone and space from Lookochori, Abhisarika was again a good picture, though I doubt how many today have seen it. Unfortunately, Kamal Majumdar’s next after Abhisarika – again a comedy with KK in Ektuku Chaonwa Lagey didn’t do well, especially in comparison to Lookochori which was the biggest hit that Tollywood had in its year of release in 1958. Much later, Kamal Majumdar made a decent Hindi drama – Agnipariksha under the banner of BR Films of BR Chopra. After that what happened to Kamal Majumdar, I don’t know..

          P.S: Sanyasi Raja isn’t that bad brother. Yes it is somewhat schmaltzy as you pointed out. Still compared to the levels that Hindi and South Cinema of that time, this is rather mellow!! And pretty much digestible and enjoyable. And Nachiketa Ghosh’s music is a soundtrack for the ages..

          That said, Sanyasi Raja doesn’t represent its maker Piyush Basu at his best. And it would be unfair to judge his abilities based on this film. That would be kind of like judging Sunil Banerjee on the basis of Baba Taraknath!
          The best of Piyush Basu (an erstwhile assistant to the great- of the – greats in Tapan Sinha) lies in his first 3 films. Shuilibari ( The Town- maker), Annustuper Chhanda and Subhash Chandra Bose, are all extremely well made pictures- whose class lingers on even after all these years. His Dui Prithibi is pretty good too!

          @simrita : The inaugural National Award for Best Actor was won by Uttam Kumar for two of his performances in the same year. One was for Chiriakhana. The other was for Antony Firingee. 🙂

          @Madhudi: Mala Sinha and Anita Guha’s mother in Lookochori was played by Rajlakshmi Devi, a very fine actress, whose comic timing in particular was second to none. She was so good that in this picture, she even bests KK in the comedy department!! And that is no mean feat to do considering that best of the actresses have paled in front of KK when it comes to comedy- be it natural or clownish. Rajlakshmi Devi was also there in Bimal Roy’s epic Do Bigha Zamin as the landlady who runs the colony in Calcutta where Shambhu and his son live. And even in that picture, she had brought her characteristic loud large- heartedness to the fore with dignity and grace.🙂

          • Thank you for identifying that actress for me! She did look familiar – now I know where I’ve seen her. She was a gem, that ‘loud large-heartedness’ is well described. :-)

          • Thank you for this detailed response :-)! I should definitely look up the movies you have mentioned. If I enjoyed HM’s movies, I am sure I will love the Bengali movies you have listed as well. I feel happy I have so much to look forward to!
            What inspired the Bengali cinema to explore the life of the common person, you think?
            “except that at the end moment, Kamal Majumdar developed cold feet at the prospect of handling the antics of the all the three crazy Ganguly brothers together” – This is hilarious. The making of ‘chalti ka naam gaadi’ as a movie would have been such a hoot.

    • It’s a wonderful film, Simrita, as you can guess from my enthusiastic review! And yes, Mala Sinha in a spunky role is always worth a watch, as far as I am concerned. I adore her in Aankhen too – that was one of the first films of her that I ever saw, and it made me want to watch every single film she made with Dharmendra! (I realized, in a while, that they never did make anything else that was as much fun, but still…).

      Glad you enjoyed this post, and as and when you do see it, let me know what you think.

  2. Ah I remember watching this movie as a kid sometime during the 1990s. The songs are what I remember the most. I believe the songs ‘Ek poloke ektu dekha’, ‘Sing nei tobu naam taar singha’, and ‘Muchhe jaoa dinguli’ were/are perennial favorites with the larger Bengali community. I seem to remember a slightly reworked version of ‘Ek poloke ektu dekha’ being used to sell a fruit jelly or jam of some sort! 😄

    • “I seem to remember a slightly reworked version of ‘Ek poloke ektu dekha’ being used to sell a fruit jelly or jam of some sort!

      That’s so cute!

      I did like the songs of this film a lot – they were really good. :-)

  3. Madhu,
    Your excellent review made me look up the movie. It is a very good comedy. The Budhoo Kishore Kumar does get an opportunity for slapstick. The mix-ups and resolution are well done. We have become accustomed to the twin films post-Ram Aur Shyam. So one template was missing – an evil relative oppressing the meek twin to capture his huge inheritance, the other one being exact opposite long lost. In the mix up, their places are swapped. But the film is very good. Two songs I could relate. One seemed to be reprised as ‘Timbuctoo’ in ‘Jhumroo’. ‘Maya ban biharini horini’ is familiar Rabindrasangeet in the dance drama ‘Shyama’. This was sung by Hemant Kumar, and so many other singers.
    AK

    • I am so glad you enjoyed this film, AK. Yes, indeed, it leaves out the evil element of more well-known Hindi films; but then this is par for the course, I think, with most Bengali comedies of that period.

      Incidentally, someone commented on my Facebook timeline that the song Shing nei tobu naam taar singho here is what became the opening song of Biwi aur Makaan, Khul simsim khullam khulla:

  4. Madhoooo… ever since Tom put Lukochuri up, I’ve been meaning to watch it, but honestly, however good the film’s reviews were (and I’d been recommended this film for a long time as well), the thought of watching two Kishore Kumars put me off. But your review makes me want to watch it – now! But like Simrita, I have Urdu homework to take care of (how funny it would be if we were both learning from the same ustad:) ), not to mention work… but soon… (fingers crossed!)

    • You know that our opinion on Kishore pretty much matches, Anu! Yes, he (and a double role, too!) was one reason I kept on putting off watching this one, no matter how much it was recommended to me. But now that I’ve seen it, I can safely recommend it. He’s contained here, even the comedy is not the irritatingly wacky type that makes me see red.

  5. It is considered as one of the classic Tollywood comedies. Besides Mumbai based Bengalis Kishore Kumar had also brought in Rajalakshmi who is Kolkata based and above all, Nripoti Chatterjee the famous Bengali comedian from Kolkata. In fact, Nripoti had a fear for flying, so he couldn’t go to Mumbai. Only for his sake, Kishore Kumar shot his scenes in Kolkata. Nripoti enacted the film director in this movie, and in his presence, the famous song,”sing nei tobu nam tar Singho” was enacted.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.