Aandhiyaan (1951)

In 1951, fresh from the success of the Dev Anand-Geeta Bali-Kalpana Karthik starrer Baazi, Chetan Anand decided to make a film that would highlight the very interesting aspects of film-making he had been learning from studying the works of various European directors. ‘Based on a true incident that took place in Amritsar’, as the film’s credits read, the story of Aandhiyaan was written by Chetan Anand himself, along with Hameed Butt.

The film’s credits roll to an unusual sequence of shots: in each frame, one actor or the other is shown, battling the eponymous ‘aandhi’ or storm, though in this case literal rather than metaphorical.

The story is centred round a young and zealous lawyer named Ram Mohan Kapoor (Dev Anand). Ram lives upstairs from his munshi (Ratan Gaurang), whose daughter Rani (Nimmi) has long been in love with Ram, though she’s too shy to let him know that. When the story begins, Ram’s mother (Durga Khote) is due to arrive, and Ram is getting ready to go to fetch her from the station. Rani makes tea for him, and an excited Ram confides in her: he’s asked his mother to come because he wants her to fix a match for him. With a girl he likes a lot.

When Ram is gone, Rani wonders dreamily if it could be possible that the girl he’s talking of is herself? There’s a long soliloquy, Rani wandering through Ram’s home, thinking and hoping to the point that she’s pretty much convinced herself that it is her Ram loves.

In fact, when Ram’s mother arrives, the joy with which she hugs Rani on meeting her after so long allows Rani to read even more into that simple scene.

Rani is therefore shattered when she overhears a conversation later that day between Ram and his mother. Ram tells his mother that he is in love with Janaki (Kalpana Karthik), the daughter of Lala Deen Dayal (MA Latif), one of Ram’s clients.

Ram talks eloquently of Janaki and how much he loves her.

Rani is heartbroken, of course, but rallies around and keeps her love secret.

Meanwhile, Ram has to accompany Janaki’s father to the home of a prosperous man, Seth Kuber Das (KN Singh). Deen Dayal had borrowed money from Kuber Das, which he has not been able to repay yet. On top of that, Deen Dayal is owed money by some artisans whom he’s been helping. As if that’s not enough (Deen Dayal doesn’t seem to be familiar with that old adage about utne pair phailaao jitni chaadar ho; living within his means isn’t his thing), Deen Dayal is now building homes for refugees, and he’s run out of money.

The long and the short of it is that he is in dire need of money. Kuber Das promises to lend him the money, but he has certain terms and conditions: Deen Dayal will pass the debts of the artisans over to him, and will also give him the ownership of Deen Dayal’s haveli. Before Deen Dayal can commit anything, Ram interrupts and cautions his client: this isn’t something that can be decided so quickly.

Eventually, Deen Dayal tells Kuber Das he’ll think about it. Kuber Das agrees, though as Ram is walking out of his house, Kuber Das gives him some very dirty looks.

Later, Kuber Das talks privately to Lala Deen Dayal and confesses that he is lonely, dispirited: all this wealth, for whom is it? He is a widower, and childless; with his death, his money will be of naught. Deen Dayal, utterly unsuspecting (and very naïve) comforts Kuber Das, suggesting he remarry. When Kuber Das protests that he’s too old, Deen Dayal says no; and who would not be happy to have his daughter marry a man like Kuber Das? (this is the height of sycophancy). Kuber Das’s eyes light up at this. Is that true? Deen Dayal assures him it is.

Soon after, Ram’s mother, cajoled by her son to hurry up and fix the match between him and Janaki, comes to Deen Dayal’s home. The marriage is quickly decided upon; it’s to happen a month from now. In the meantime, Ram and Janaki can get engaged. The engagement party will be held the following week. Everybody is delirious with happiness; Rani, who has accompanied Ram’s mother to Janaki’s home and has seen Janaki for herself, blinks back her tears and runs out to announce to the neighbourhood the good news.

Deen Dayal and his wife (Leela Misra) get busy in making arrangements for the wedding. In the midst of all this, Kuber Das arrives, bearing a box of sweets and decked up in fine clothes. Deen Dayal thinks he’s come to offer congratulations on Janaki’s betrothal, but this misunderstanding gets cleared up very soon: it turns out that Kuber Das has come to ask for Janaki’s hand in marriage. All of Deen Dayal’s fawning assurances that any man would be happy to have Kuber Das as a son-in-law have had their effect.

Deen Dayal is horrified and tells Kuber Das that Janaki is engaged to Ram. Kuber Das, fuming, goes away without saying much.

Ram and Janaki’s engagement party takes place, with the entire mohallah coming together to dance, sing, and generally have a good time. In the midst of all the festivities, Janaki’s mother suddenly collapses in a dead faint.

The doctor who is brought in to examine her diagnoses TB; also, one of her kidneys has failed. She’s in a bad way, and the treatment is going to be expensive.

Deen Dayal, already heavily in debt (and he’s expended pretty much all the ready cash he had in having jewellery made for Janaki’s trousseau), is in a bind. Seeing no other alternative, he goes to Kuber Das and begs him for a loan.

Kuber Das is brutal. Deen Dayal owes him a total of fifteen thousand rupees, and he wants it now. When a shocked Deen Dayal says that he will be ruined—Janaki’s wedding has to happen, and now her mother’s illness needs expensive treatment—Kuber Das simply says that Deen Dayal can give him (Kuber Das) Janaki in marriage.

Kuber Das and Deen Dayal are unaware that Janaki has overheard this conversation, and realizes just what a predicament her father (and therefore the family) is in. Sometime later, she turns up at Kuber Das’s home and tells him that she will marry him. Kuber Das, almost salivating, is more than happy to agree.

All hell breaks loose when Ram comes to know. He is so angry and upset, he lets fly at Janaki’s father, who, having by now discovered how Janaki has sacrificed herself, is already at rock bottom. Nothing comes of it, of course, because there is no way Deen Dayal can repay Kuber Das and get out of this mess. However, Janaki has suggested that they keep the truth hidden from her now-bedridden mother: she will not be able to bear it. As for her, Janaki, she will somehow manage.

Ram, though, has friends. Rani mobilizes the entire mohalla, gets them together and tells them that it’s up to them to help Ram. Ram, after all, had helped each of them as a lawyer: they owe him this. Surely between them they can collect fifteen thousand. Ram, overhearing this and touched by their generosity, says he has six thousand saved up, so the mohalla need collect only nine thousand, not fifteen.

Hectic activity now ensues: everybody, excited and energized by the zeal to help, does what they can. Raj’s special friends, Mast Ram (Johnny Walker) and Pehelwan (Habib) are in the forefront with Rani when it comes to collecting donations, organizing a dance (by the dancer/choreographer Gopi) and counting the money. There are some tense moments, but finally they have the money ready, just in time on the day Janaki is to marry Kuber Das.

Jubilant and triumphant, Ram and his friends arrive at Deen Dayal’s home, which is teeming with guests, the home all lit up and decorated. Ram goes to the mandap and flings the money in Kuber Das’s face… but Kuber Das turns around and tells him that the pheras are already done. Janaki is his wife now.

What I liked about this film:

The aesthetics of it. Chetan Anand proves just what an eye for beauty he had: there are many lovely frames here, some memorable play of lighting. And, as in Arpan, the women look astoundingly lovely (neither Kalpana Karthik nor Nimmi have ever been my favourites when it comes to beauty, but both are very striking here).

And, two dances. One is performed by Gopi, and it struck me as one of the rare classical Indian dances performed onscreen by a solo male dancer. There are several where a man dances with a woman, but I don’t think I’ve come across any others which feature only a man.

The second dance needs mentioning not because it’s exceptionally graceful, but because of who’s performing: Lalita Kumari, who, from the 60s onward, acted the shrew or the comic (often a comical shrew) in many, many films. I don’t recall seeing her this young in any other film.

What I didn’t like:

Pretty much everything else. The songs (written by Narendra Sharma, the music composed by Ustad Ali Akbar) are not bad, but I didn’t find them especially good either.

Sidharth Bhatia, in his book Cinema Modern: The Navketan Story, writes about Aandhiyaan: “…Uma Anand has called it a film of ‘epic treatment’ but to the lay viewer, it comes across as a dull, even plodding cinematic experience, unrelieved by any lightness.”

The ‘dull’ and ‘plodding’ bit I completely agree with; this is one of the most boringly slow Chetan Anand films I’ve seen. Slow not even in the sense of lingering and showing, perhaps through different expressions, what’s going through a character’s mind. Just plain old slow, often rambling to the extent that it becomes oddly surreal at times.

Arpan was similarly surreal in the way its characters spoke and interacted, but at least that was the flavour of the film throughout. One thing which worsens Aandhiyaan, for me, is that there is some attempt to make the film more attractive to a general audience: for instance, the presence of Johnny Walker as the perpetually drunk Mast Ram. Mast Ram might have been a happy inclusion in a more deftly styled and edited angsty story (I’m thinking of Pyaasa), but here, his comic interludes are painful because they just don’t fit into the film and its tone. And the way Mast Ram sheds all his funniness (whatever funniness he has, that is) near the end is dreadful.

Not one of Chetan Anand’s best. I can see why this film was such a flop.


11 thoughts on “Aandhiyaan (1951)

  1. I’ve always liked Kalpana Kartik. There is something about her which I can’t pinpoint.
    Nimmi was always guaranteed to give cinegoers an acute depression.
    But these are passing comments.
    The movie flopped because it fails in delivering a musical score to match the 50s. We’ve so got used to melodious songs from that era that this movies is a disappointment.
    Also Gopi Krishan was a great dancer but effeminate.
    Any day a dance by Sanjay Dutt. Two left feet and all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Nimmi was always guaranteed to give cinegoers an acute depression.

      Hehee. I so completely agree! Why did she always end up playing this sort of character? Also, there’s something about her acting that doesn’t appeal to me – somewhat forced, I find, and when she’s behaving chulbuli, she can be really irritating.

      I agree with you about the poor musical score. It was terribly lacklustre, in an era where even if the average film was very so-so, it might be redeemed because of a good bunch of songs.


  2. Oh. I was actually thinking of watching, as I read the review. Even jumped to YouTube (without reading what you liked/didn’t like) to check if it was available. I love black & white Dev Anand.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love black and white Dev Anand too (lots of films reviewed on this blog – in fact, the very first Hindi film I reviewed here was CID. :-) But this one, no. Not recommended at all.


  3. Dear Madhu,

    This is not actually a reply from me, to your review of Chetan Anand’s “Aandhiyan”,
    a film that I have not seen.

    I would like to give an excerpt from a discussion that KK Mahajan had with director Sudhir Mishra, on the demands made on the cinematographer in “commercial cinema”. In this context, KK spoke about the work of a cinematographer he admired – Jal Mistry. ( He photographed “Aandhiyan”).
    (As quoted by Rudradeep Bhattacharjee in his article on KK Mahajan for SCROLL in July 2017)

    He told Sudhir Mishra, “[It] is the requirement of commercial cinema. All the actors should be well lit irrespective of the effect, and the time of the action…So we have to meet their requirement, if you try to do something else, they will say no – we want light on the actor. So we put light on the actor…

    Jal Mistry did ‘Aandhiyan’ [Chetan Anand, 1952], which was one of the finest black and white films ever done and was mostly low key. I am told that the theatre returned the prints saying that they could not see anything on the screen. Next time he was careful and prints did not come back from the theatre!”.

    best wishes,

    Praba Mahajan

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for that very interesting anecdote, Praba! Even Sidharth Bhatia, in his book about Navketan, mentions that bit about people saying they couldn’t see anything on the screen. The cinematography was one of the rare things about this film that I did like – it was really beautiful.

      (Incidentally, when I was rewatching Khatta Meetha a few weeks back, I was amused to see the name of one of the characters in it: Devendra Khandelwal’s character, Ashok Kumar’s son, is named Jal Mistry. I wondered if that was a subtle tribute by Basu Chatterji!)


  4. Hmm. When you reference Anand intending to “highlight the very interesting aspects of film-making he had been learning from studying the works of various European directors,” is that regarding the visual or editorial style (such as the abstract passages you mention early on, with the storm), or the scripting/narrative? As you have the plot laid out here, it sounds very typical for a Hindi film of this era with the mixture of social and romantic melodrama, and not what I would expect to see in (my admittedly lesser exposure to) a contemporaneous European film.

    I am, unfortunately, a sucker for weird-looking films, but I have a lot more Chetan Anand to work through before resorting to this one ( ;

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, the story is very firmly Indian, and of the highly melodramatic Bollywood style (though there are occasional non-Indian touches, which I found interesting: like Nimmi’s long soliloquy in the beginning, when she’s wondering what he thinks of her; or a slightly later bit when Kalpana Karthik is introduced and is seen completely through Dev Anand’s eyes, conversing with him, though the camera stays firmly on her). The visual treatment, I think, is more where that European element comes in… I’m guessing.

      There are far better Chetan Anand films out there, so yes, this one can wait!

      Liked by 1 person

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