Bhabhi ki Chudiyaan (1961)

Some days back, a blog reader wrote to me (after having recommended several Hollywood films over the past weeks) to tell me that I was ‘wasting my time’ watching and reviewing ‘silly Indian films’.

I was initially too furious to be able to respond, but I eventually wrote back to say how unjustified and insulting this comment was. This, after all, is my blog. Nobody— not my family, not my friends, not the people who might be considered to have some sort of say—tells me what to watch. Recommendations, requests: more than welcome. Judgemental and rude remarks, no. You do not govern how I spend my time.

Once I simmered down a bit, I decided this called for a tribute to ‘silly Indian films’. So, for the duration of August 2022, I’m only going to be focusing on Indian cinema. Not one film from outside India is going to feature on Dustedoff all through this month.

So, to kick off ‘Silly Indian Film Month’, a review of a film I’ve been meaning to watch for a long time now.

Bhabhi ki Chudiyaan begins by introducing us to Mohan (Master Aziz), who lives with his elder brother Shyam (Balraj Sahni). Shyam and Mohan only have each other for family; their mother died giving birth to Mohan, and their father died a few months later. On his deathbed, he entrusted to Shyam the care and bringing up of Mohan. Shyam works as a clerk, and in order to be able to focus on Mohan’s education and upbringing, hasn’t even married. The two brothers somehow make do, but on days such as this—when Shyam has been too busy to make it to Mohan’s school function, where Mohan is getting various prizes—there is angst. Mohan is annoyed and tearful.

Sometime later, after Mohan goes to attend a wedding in the neighbourhood, he returns with the suggestion that Shyam should get married. Shyam tries to brush it off, but in office, a colleague who’s mentioned the subject before brings it up again. Someone known to him wants a groom for their daughter, Geeta. Shyam tries to fob him off, but finally gives in to pressure and agrees to go meet the people.

Once he’s back, having duly approved and said yes, Shyam tells Mohan. He makes it out as if he’s been looking for a ‘servant’, rather than a wife, because he and Mohan have to do so much housework and they need time to focus on office and school respectively… when Mohan discovers that Shyam has gone and chosen a bride for himself, he throws a minor tantrum. He already hates the woman! She must be ugly and vile, if Shyam refers to her as a servant! And how could Shyam go see her by himself?

So Shyam gives Mohan Geeta’s address and tells him to go see for himself. He solemnly tells Mohan that if Mohan doesn’t approve of her, Shyam will break it off. Just like that.

Mohan, therefore, arrives, and when he introduces himself to Geeta’s father, is made much of. He’s addressed as ‘samdhiji’, he’s made to sit down comfortably, and Geeta is summoned.

This is a pivotal moment in the film, and it’s a scene beautifully done. Almost no dialogue, nothing but the expressions of the two main characters. Geeta (Meena Kumari), her ghoonghat pulled over her face, comes through the curtains and sits down. Mohan looks into her face with trepidation, and she looks up at him, her eyes sparkling with mischief—her fiancé’s little brother has come to see her?—and in that moment, both fall in love, in a beautifully mother-son, brother-sister sort of way.

Geeta marries Shyam and comes to stay with them. Initially, Mohan is a little awkward, as is Geeta; but they soon settle in. They do things together around the house, with Mohan even joining her in the religious rituals around the house (lovely song, this one: Jyoti kalash chhalke). Mohan throws one of his hissy fits, and says “Katti!” to Geeta, but instead of cajoling and wheedling, she tells him that he isn’t the only one in the house who can get angry. So “Katti” back to him. Which serves to bring Mohan back to her side, begging her to forgive him and be friends again.

Then Geeta gets pregnant, and tragically enough, the baby is stillborn. In the hospital, Mohan comes by himself to meet her, and admits that he knows what has happened. From his blazer pocket a tiny rattle falls out, and Geeta cannot help the tears that come to her eyes. But Mohan, bending down and hugging her, assuages, perhaps, some of that pain.

By now, Mohan has put up Geeta’s portrait in the photo frame where he had once hung a page on which he’d written “I have never seen my mother”. In school, he gets a special commendation from his teacher for writing an essay on ‘Ma’, and the teacher is so pleased, he even gives Mohan a rupee. With this, Mohan ends up buying bangles for his bhabhi

And with Mohan placing the bangles on Geeta’s wrist, the story segues into some years later. Mohan (now Sailesh Kumar) works as a professor in a college, and is as devoted as ever to his bhabhi. It is Geeta, in fact, who discovers that Mohan is in love with a girl named Prabha (Seema, later Seema Deo), and she encourages her brother-in-law and husband to arrange the match.

The problem is that Prabha comes from a wealthy family, and her henpecked father (Om Prakash) is too meek to stand up to his bossy wife (Durga Khote, cast rather against type). From the first she hears of this proposed match, Prabha’s mother is against it. Her daughter has been brought up in great comfort; how will she live in such a small, meagre household? They are so poor, and Mohan is a mere professor…

When she and her husband meet Shyam and Geeta along with the pandit to discuss the nuts and bolts of the wedding, Geeta and Shyam are quick to emphasize that they wish for no dowry to be given. Prabha’s mother, interpreting this as a slight to her wealth, passes many snide and cutting remarks.

Eventually, though, since everybody except her mother is amenable to the match, Prabha marries Mohan and they start living with Shyam and Geeta. Prabha, unused to housework, is bad at it, and huffy about the fact that they don’t have a maid. Geeta, seeing her plight, takes on all the work: and Mohan, so devoted to his bhabhi, sees red when that happens.

All the while, Prabha’s mother, egged on by her dear friend, Mrs Manchanda (Sulochana) has been fretting and fuming. Her poor child, caught in that hovel of a house! Slaving away till she’s been reduced to skin-and-bone! When she learns that Prabha is now pregnant, it only serves to make her determined to bring her daughter back home. Geeta, who has miscarried for the third time, is inauspicious, she says: her grandchild will be in danger by being anywhere near that woman.

And thus it is that a happy little home begins to develop a rift.

What I liked about this film:

Bhabhi ki Chudiyaan has a core storyline not very different from one depicted in many other films, from Bhabhi to Chhoti Bahen to Ghar Sansar: a loving family, its members devoted to each other, is torn apart by the coming of a spoilt and wealthy bride who wants her own way in everything and who refuses to be forced to make sacrifices for the happiness of others (oh, how reprehensible that behaviour is). While Bhabhi ki Chudiyaan does go down that path, it manages to be a little less extreme.

For one, the villains aren’t horrendously, over-the-top villainous. Prabha, while she snaps at Mohan and is sullen, is rarely outright disrespectful to Shyam or Geeta. This is a young woman who isn’t bad, really, has let her mother bulldoze and brainwash her into thinking ill of her in-laws and their situation in life.

And yet, one can see the plight of Prabha’s mother, somewhat. This woman isn’t the sort of ruthlessly ambitious shrew that Lalita Pawar (for one) played in countless films. True, she’s not a paragon; she’s too proud of her wealth and she looks down on others to the extent of being rude, but one can (sort of) also see in her a mother who’s very worried about her only child. She does not deliberately set out to ruin Shyam and Geeta; that isn’t her objective. What she wants is for Prabha and her baby to be comfortable and happy.

This somewhat balanced approach helps tide over what was, for me, the rather more mundane part of the film. The rest of it, when Mohan is a boy, was pure gold. The way director Sadashiv J Row Kavi handles this, with sensitivity and a sweetness that doesn’t cloy, is brilliant: the way Mohan and Geeta become friends, and how their relationship develops into that between a mother and a son, is touching without being melodramatic.

Plus, Meena Kumari. What a fine actress, and how well she plays Geeta. Geeta, luminous bride. Geeta, a childless woman aching to have a child, falling apart in private with her grief at yet another dead baby. Geeta, dignified when faced with the unfair prejudices of Prabha and her mother (I love that Geeta does not become all quivery and teary and beg them to be kind; she stands tall and dignified through it all, holding her own).

And her chemistry with Master Aziz is superb. I recalled, while watching this film, what Vinod Mehta wrote about Meena Kumari’s love for children in his biography of the actress: she does seem to have a special equation with children, as can be seen in films like this one, Majhli Didi (with Sachin), Bandish (with Daisy Irani), and more. Several of her scenes with Aziz here brought a lump to my throat.

Lastly, Sudhir Phadke’s music, to Narendra Sharma’s lyrics. There are several lovely songs here, of which my favourites are Jyoti kalash chhalke and Kahaan ud chale hain mann-praan mere.

What I didn’t like:

The occasional melodrama surrounding Prabha and Mohan’s marriage, especially when their baby arrives. One can see why each of the characters involved would behave the way they do, but still, it sometime gets a bit too overwrought.

Other than that, though, a poignant and memorable film. Youtube has several versions across various channels; the ones of about an hour and 50 minutes have the songs lopped off. This one is a reasonably intact version.

34 thoughts on “Bhabhi ki Chudiyaan (1961)

  1. The reason Meena Kumari and child actors had good chemistry in many films,may be she did not have child in real life.
    Your explanation of film is beautiful which reminds me a South Indian lady journalis in Muscat who would write about new Hindi films released in Muscat in Oman Times Sunday Entertainment section.For four years I read about his views on films during my stay in Muscat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • While I was watching this film (and especially two scenes, in both of which Meena Kumari’s character has just had a miscarriage), I was reminded that she never had a child of her own – and that did make me think that it perhaps made this role more personal to her. She does seem to live it very intensely.

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  2. Thank you for ALL your reviews! I imagine many of us came here first, in seeking good information on Indian films and appreciate you very much. A viewer’s personal reaction to a film really should not dismiss it, I think. When you consider all the work it takes in every aspect to create, produce, distribute and preserve a movie, no film should be considered “silly” , all are a part of history..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, that’s so kind of you. I really am deeply grateful to people like you, who are able to appreciate that thing about ‘beauty lying in the eye of the beholder’. I think it’s so unfair to dismiss all Indian films – not just Hindi, mind you – as ‘silly’. And even if silly (many are), why should one judge people for wanting to watch a silly film, anyway? A film like – say – Chalti ka Naam Gaadi of Pyaar Kiye Jaa is to me sheer genius in its silliness.

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  3. Congratulations on your resolution to review only ‘silly’ Indian films during August!
    Very nice that you mentioned Sudhir Phadke, who was a prolific composer for Marathi movies, but sadly did very few Hindi ones. I hope you remember the iconic song ‘Aaj pehli tarikh hai’ from the movie Pehli Tareekh, regularly played on the first of every month on radio Ceylon. He was married to Lalita Deolkar, a very good singer of yore.
    BKC was a remake of ‘Vahinichya Bangdya’ a Marathi film

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    • I hadn’t known Sudhir Phadke was the composer of that song from Pehli Taarikh – truly iconic! I had first read about him on Anupji’s blog, Mehfil Mein Meri, and was impressed by his stature in Marathi film music.

      Thank you also for the information about the original Marathi film; I hadn’t known this one was a remake.

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  4. I am so grateful to that blogger who made that judgemental remark! Sometimes the best things are the result of someone’s insensitivity! Thanks for making August a “Silly Indian Movie” month – a genre I love! It’s always a pleasure to read you. This was no different. Since I only used to watch movies to be able to absorb the songs, that’s where I’ll go. I was surprised that you mentioned “kahaan ud chale hain” and not “lau lagaati” as the 2 songs you liked. Surprised only because “kahaan ud chale hain” is a hidden gem not many talk about. Loving the month of August!! Thanks a lot!

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    • Thank you so much for the appreciation! I will perhaps review at least one film that might be genuinely considered silly (I am quick to admit that that is subjective; my ‘silly’ might be your ‘non-silly’!). But my intention for this month also was to celebrate Indian films (not necessarily Hindi, since this reader lambasted Indian cinema as a whole) that cannot really count as silly.

      Lau lagaati is beautiful, too, but I must admit that I like Kahaan ud chale hain – I had heard the song before, but hadn’t realized it was from this film, so stumbling across it was a pleasant surprise.

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  5. I remember seeing this film with my sisters(6) and mother. At the Liberty Talkies in Nagpur.
    Such films afforded much needed relief to our women-folk who in those days were not too unlike these characters.
    We were pampered and spoilt by these wonderful women who were/are an abiding influence in our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I think back then, this was very much a reflection of what life was like for most women: caught within the four walls of the house, and devoting themselves completely to home and family. Even my mother recalls how, when she was young, going out to watch a film was a big outing back then, the one time when her mother and aunt could be free of the drudgery…

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  6. Isn’t it strange how some people cannot simply move on if they don’t like anything? They have to say something rude. It’s a social media thing, I think.

    I haven’t watched this movie but remember ‘Jyoti Kalash Chhalke…’ quite a popular (and melodious) song. And this Bhabhi and little Devar bonding reminds me of ‘Anokha Bandhan’ (based on Saratchandra’s Ram ki Sumati, starring Shabana Azmi).

    Looking forward to reading your (silly) Hindi movies reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Isn’t it strange how some people cannot simply move on if they don’t like anything? They have to say something rude. It’s a social media thing, I think

      I couldn’t agree more! I mean, nobody is forcing them to read my reviews. Nobody in my family or even among my close friends habitually reads my blog, and I’m fine with that. Different strokes for different folks, but by that same extension, I expect to be allowed to watch and review what I want to. And if it really is a silly film (I beg to differ with this person; not all Indian films are silly; by no means) – well, where is the harm in that? :-)

      Thank you for the comment and the support!

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  7. I love your defiant attitude towards the “silly Indian movies” comment.
    I watched this movie couple of years ago just for the song “jyoti kalash chhalke”. I liked the movie. Not too over the top!
    One of the child actors (may be Daisy Irani ?) mentioned in an interview that Meena Kumar was always nice to the child actors. I think she loved kids.

    Looking forward to more reviews…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, even Vinod Mehta mentions that in his biography of Meena Kumari, that she loved children. It does emerge fairly strongly in films where she has child co-stars, including this one.

      “I love your defiant attitude towards the “silly Indian movies” comment.

      Thank you! I find it hard to stomach this prejudiced attitude! Fine with me if you don’t want to watch what you regard as ‘silly’, but why try to force me to not watch what I want to? Such presumption.

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  8. I guess, there is no dearth of Indians running down Indian films as silly, and going ga-ga over Hollywood films. And this is often, without even watching them.
    Liked your response and look forward to the Indian films reviews this month.

    Regarding BKC, a nice review.
    Jyoti kalash chhalke is an eternal favourite, right from school days when it used to played on DD – Chhaya Geet often, LIke the other two too.
    But never planned to see the movie as I had seen the Marathi original Vahinichya Bangdya (1953) on DD couple of times and didn’t want to watch the same story again.
    Sudhir Phadke gave music to both the versions while Sulochana played the vahini (bhabhi) in Marathi. The producer is the same for both.
    Interestingly, though the Marathi film too had good songs, Sudhir Phadke’s BKC compositions are wonderful and everlasting

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    • Thank you, I’m so glad you liked this review. I can imagine that you wouldn’t feel the need to watch if you’d already seen the original. The Sulochana of the Marathi film would be Sulochana Latkar…?

      “I guess, there is no dearth of Indians running down Indian films as silly, and going ga-ga over Hollywood films.

      Yes! I wonder why. I mean, I enjoy Hollywood films too, but I will be the first to admit that there are plenty of them which are very silly. And, on the other hand, lots of Indian films which are far from being silly.

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      • Yes, it is Sulochana Latkar, who played the role.
        I understand the Sulochana mentioned by you in BKC is Ruby Myers, who had adopted it as her screen name.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, Sulochana aka Ruby Myers is the one who appears in this film as Durga Khote’s friend. I believe she had been a very popular star of the silent films – I wish some of those films were available for viewing!

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  9. The visualization of Jyoti Kalash…continues to be remarkable. Outstanding b/w photography! Indeed one cannot but visualize the song with anything else. It went a long way in making the lilting melody unforgettable.

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    • Very true, the picturization of the song is lovely. There’s a quiet serenity to it that comes through well. And the details – I especially love that bit when, as she’s doing a parikrama around the tulsi, her aanchal gets caught in the little projection of the plant holder and she reaches back to unsnag it – and one time finds that it’s actually Mohan who’s caught hold of it. So touching.

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  10. Hurray! Count me in as a supporter of ‘silly’ Hindi films! Long may they last! And I’m so glad you got around to watching Bhabhi ki Chudiyaan. It is a particular favourite, especially for the relationship between Meena and the child. I also liked the relationship between Meena and Balraj Sahni – it was very unusual to see a relationship of equals. Meena is domesticated alright, but she’s no doormat.

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    • I bookmarked this film after I read your review of it, Anu! Of course I’d known about it earlier, but your review was the final encouragement I needed. I agree with you about the relationship between Meena Kumari’s and Balraj Sahni’s characters in the film – they do seem equals, and the way, at the end, he talks about how she has gone from their lives, leaving nothing behind, and yet… you can see how deeply her death has affected him.

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  11. This film is remake of a very fine Thamizh film starring Padhmini. The Thamizh film , in turn was a remake of the original Marathi film. Though Siivaji Ganesan was there in the film, he was the brother of S.V.Subbiah . There was no romance and duets in the film and Padmini as home-maker was ravishingly lovely without any usual makeup. and she gave a brilliant performance. S.V.Subbiah ,always known for his restrained and superb acting, did a wonderful job. It had some very nice songs too, one in Darbari Kaanada .
    mangaiyar thilakam
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangaiyar_Thilakam
    ——————————

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    • Thank you for telling me about this! I skimmed through the film, and wished it had subtitles. Padmini looks lovely indeed, and I saw a little bit of what I assumed is the equivalent of Jyoti kalash chhalke – a song in which she, along with two other women (maids?) and the little boy are doing pooja at the tulsi plant outside. Beautiful.

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  12. Nice review.
    I had thought of this film as the one with a weeping Meena Kumari. But it seems it’s at least a bit different. I was aware of both वहिनीच्या बांगड्या and this one and knew the latter was remake. But I haven’t watched either.
    I too love the songs from Bhabhi ki chudiyan a lot. In addition to the songs you mentioned, I’m also fond of Chand Tu Yahan Hai by Asha Bhosle.
    And a young Seema Dev looks beautiful.
    Thank you for the review. I would watch it for sure.
    :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you liked the review, Anupji. Thank you.

      Yes, this one is a little different from the usual Meena Kumari weepie. It is touching, but there is much more to it than the crying. And I love that Meena Kumari’s character has a lot of dignity.

      And of course, the songs! Really beautiful.

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  13. Please review ‘Half Ticket’… one of the ‘silliest’ but most enjoyable movies I have seen. The unique two voiced song sung by KK has no parallels anywhere!
    Nitin

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    • We will agree to disagree on Half Ticket! :-) That is one silly film that I find immensely irritating. I watched it once, and that was more than enough for me. But I am seriously considering reviewing another of Kishore Kumar’s films, and one I like a lot… let’s see.

      P.S. I agree about Aake seedhi lagi, though. Kishore is absolutely hilarious there. Both in the audio and onscreen.

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  14. Hi Madhuji,
    Really enjoyed the review. Speaking of Meena Kumari, she could slip into these characters with ease. Just a few months, I saw “Mere Apne” once again and even in this movie, she meets a hungry street kid and her sympathy for the kid and subsequent incident is the trigger for what happens to be the main theme of the movie. Wonder which movie you will be writing about next.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah. You’ve reminded me that I still haven’t watched Mere Apne. I need to watch that sometime soon!

      And I’ve reviewed the next film. Satyajit Ray’s Devi. Do check out the review. Thank you.

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