Nov 30, 2023
Nov 30, 2023
Films of 1952
Aan was India's first Technicolor film, shot in 16mm Gevacolour and blown up in Technicolor. It was the most expensive Indian film ever at the time, subsequently becoming the highest grossing Indian film ever, a record it held for several years. Dilip Kumar, Nimmi and Prem Nath, then at the height of their popularity and success, were signed on for starring roles. Nargis and Madhubala were considered for the second female lead. Nargis, Mehboob’s first choice, accepted the role but was too involved with Raj Kapoor and RK films to spare time for Aan and had to be dropped from the film. At this time Madhubala’s romance with Dilip Kumar was at its peak and the hero of Aan was keen for her to act with him. But Madhubala’s father Ataullah Khan was opposed to the romance as she was the sole bread earner of the family. It was reported that he would even beat up his daughter to prevent her from meeting her lover. It is quite likely that Ataullah Khan stopped Madhubala from acting opposite Dilip Kumar in Aan. Finally, Mehboob Khan decided to launch Nadira, a newcomer, and promoted her as his new star discovery. I have always wondered how Nargis or Madhubala would have suited the role of the haughty princess played by Nadira. I would have loved to see Madhubala, rather than Nadira or Nargis, in the role.
At the instance of the film's financiers and distributors, a lavish and extended dream sequence was filmed and inserted to give Nimmi, who had gained vast popularity by then, more prominence and screen time in the film. Nimmi made a big impact on audiences, and her character, Mangala, became so popular that the film was retitled Mangala, fille des Indes (Mangala, the Girl of India) for French viewers.
The English version of the film titled Savage Princess had a lavish London premiere, attended by many Western film personalities, including Errol Flynn, as well as Indian and British elites including British prime minister Clement Attlee. The press raved about Nimmi as the “un-kissed girl of India” when she refused to allow Flynn to kiss her hand exclaiming, "You cannot do that, I am an Indian girl!"
Aan received critical acclaim in the British press, which compared it favourably with Hollywood productions at the time and praising handsome Dilip Kumar and seductive Nadira. One critic likened Dilip Kumar to Douglas Fairbanks Jr, swashbuckling hero of Hollywood films including The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), Gunga Din (1939), and The Corsican Brothers (1941). Cecil B. DeMille, known for making spectacle films like Samson and Delilah (1949), The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) and Ten Commandments (1956), praised the film and the performances of Nimmi, Dilip Kumar, and Nadira. He was among four Hollywood producers who offered roles to Nimmi.
A major highlight of Aan is Naushad's music - both music of film songs and the background score. Naushad used an unprecedented 100-piece orchestra while recording the music of this film. The film songs were mixed in London, with Naushad working long hours for three months to complete the film's music. The symphony with the 100 musicians was much praised and even played on the BBC Radio.
In India, viewers flocked theatres to watch the film mainly to see an Indian film in colour. Dilip Kumar surprised everyone with his performance in a role far removed from his current image of a tragedy king. Naushad reached new heights with his chorus songs, including my all-time favourite, Aaj mere man me sakhi, that many rate to be Naushad’s best chorus-accompanied composition ever.
Aan was not a great film by a long shot. Nevertheless, it was a milestone in the development of Indian films.
Baiju Bawra, produced by Vijay Bhatt for Prakash Pictures, was also a milestone in Indian cinema history for a totally different reason. It was the first Indian film with all its songs based on ragas of classical Hindustani music. Vijay Bhatt decided to make a film, based on the legend of a singer called Baijnath (Baiju) Mishra from Gujarat trained in dhrupad by Tansen’s guru Swami Haridas. Baiju became a singer at the Chanderi court and later, following a personal loss, became a bawra (mad) roaming across the country in grief. It was said that Tansen announced a musical combat to lure him back into the world of music and, when Baiju returned, he defeated Tansen in the contest.
Bhatt's announcement to produce the film, with songs based on Hindustani classical ragas, was greeted with apprehension about the success of the film. In common understanding, classical music was too heavy for mass appeal. Naushad, however, was confident of producing music that the masses would relate to. The film and music turned out be overwhelmingly successful. Naushad’s music in Baiju Bawra was completely different in style from everything he had done before. Every situation had a raga and the purity of every raga was preserved. Naushad raised even ordinary melodies to thrilling and inspiring songs, through his mastery of orchestration and arrangement.
Vijay Bhatt's original choice for the cast were Dilip Kumar as Baiju and Nargis as Gauri. It is quite likely that they and other stars of the day hesitated to be associated with a project that most people felt was doomed to failure. Bhatt finally opted for the less known Bharat Bhushan and newcomer Meena Kumari for the main roles. Bharat Bhushan had been around for almost as long as Dilip Kumar but was far less successful till then. Meena Kumari had started as a child artiste and had just begun to act in adult roles, attracting viewers with her looks in Bachchon Ka Khel (1946) and Alladdin Aur Jadui Chirag (1952). Filmindia called her a “charming heroine”. Singing star Surendra, remembered by viewers for the Awaaz de kahan hai duet with Noorjehan in Anmol Ghadi (1946) made a comeback in the role of Tansen but Naushad picked Ustad Amir Khan for his vocals.
A highlight of the film was the singing competition jugalbandi between Tansen and Baiju. Naushad got DV Paluskar, the leading Hindustani classical singer of the day to sing for Baiju. When Naushad approached him, Paluskar refused point blank, saying that he doesn’t sing for the cinema. Naushad convinced him by telling him that his voice would reach millions through cinema compared to a few thousand he was able to reach through Sangeet Sammelans. As predicted by Naushad, Paluskar and Amir Khan became household names after the success of the film. Unfortunately, Paluskar did not live long to enjoy the benefits of this exposure. He died in 1955 at the young age of 34 from an attack of encephalitis.
Baiju Bawra made stars of Bharat Bhushan and Meena Kumari and opened the gates for more extensive use of classical music in films. The first Filmfare awards instituted in 1953 had awards for best song but not for music of a film. Tu Ganga ki mauj from Baiju Bawra bagged the first award. Meena Kumari won the award for best actress.
Dilip Kumar had a great year with three of his films, Aan, Daag and Sangdil listed among the ten highest-grossing films of the year. Back to his image of the brooding, suffering hero in the other two films, and an alcoholic to boot in Daag, he won the first Filmfare Award for best actor, beginning a series of eight such awards, three of them in succession.
Bharat Bhushan too had three films in the first ten, Baiju Bawra, Anand Math and Maa, but he had a secondary role in Anand Math. Until 1952, we knew Bharat Bhushan as an actor who delivered his dialogues sans expression, as in Kidar Sharma’s Suhag Raat (1948) and Devendra Goel’s Aankhen (1950). With Bombay Talkies in financial difficulties, Ashok Kumar, who had acquired the Studio in 1948, invited Bimal Roy, a Bengali director who had made waves with Udayer Pathe (1944) and its Hindi version, Hamrahi (1945) and more recently Pehla Aadmi (1950) honouring Netaji’s INA, to direct Maa, a low budget film for Bombay Talkies. The story was about a self-sacrificing son and his mother. The sentimental melodrama was handled with intelligence and finesse by Roy, saving it from becoming a mushy tear-jerker. We were pleasantly surprised to see a different, more emotive Bharat Bhushan in this film and attributed the change to the director. We were right. Bharat Bhushan revealed in an interview that Bimal Roy had told him that he had good eyes that he should make use of to give expression to his dialogues. Not surprisingly, the change was noticed by Vijay Bhatt, who made him a star with Baiju Bawra.
Dev Anand had two films in the top ten Jaal and Aandhiyaan. The latter, Navketan’s follow up of its highly successful and trendsetting Baazi, directed by Chetan Anand was an average film with moderate success, but Jaal directed by Guru Dutt, one of the first Indian films that portrayed an anti-hero character in the lead, is considered a noir classic for its grey shade characters. It ranked third in gross earnings after Aan and Baiju Bawra. Tamasha was the last film produced by Ashok Kumar and Savak Vacha for Bombay Talkies. It was a comedy in which Meena Kumari appeared with a sparkle in her eyes and an impish smile and Kishore Kumar essayed a role suited to his brand of tomfoolery including a song Khali peeli that is extremely difficult to sing.
Raj Kapoor had two films in the top ten, Bewafa and Anhonee. Bewafa was the third of the series of love triangles involving Nargis and the three top heroes of the time, Andaz (1948) with Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor, Deedar (1951) with Dilip Kumar and Ashok Kumar and Bewafa (1952) with Ashok Kumar and Raj Kapoor. Khwaja Ahmed Abbas’s Anhonee was also a love triangle between Raj Kapoor and Nargis playing twin sisters, the first time an Indian actress played a double role. Nargis gave the best performance of her career, matching what she had done in Jogan earlier, but it did not fetch her the Filmfare award, then based on popular vote, due to the hype surrounding Baiju Bawra. Raj Kapoor had another release with Ashiana, which was a flop despite good music scored by Madan Mohan.
Ashok Kumar had only one film in the top ten, Bewafa. At this time, he was engrossed in the affairs of Bombay Talkies, which continued to sink into debt despite a series of films from Majboor to Maa running to packed houses. Ashok detected corruption and dishonesty in the studio’s financial management. Among other discrepancies, it was found that handsome allowances were remitted to someone’s mistress! He sold off his shares at throwaway prices and bid adieu to his love, Bombay Talkies, in 1953.
Apart from Bewafa and Tamasha, Ashok Kumar had two more releases Naubahar and Kafila both with Nalini Jaywant, his favourite co-star at the time. In Naubahar, he displayed his prowess in the role of a blind man. Kafila was touted as a multi starrer, featuring, apart from Ashok Kumar and Nalini Jaywant, Motilal (in a negative role) and Ranjan of Chandralekha fame. For some unexplained reason Ashok Kumar wore a beard in the film. Audiences did not warm up to the film and it bombed inexorably. With Shin Shinaki Boobla Boo, the other film in which he starred (with Rehana), also turning to dust, Ranjan’s ambition of making good in Hindi films came to nought. For me the most memorable part of the film is a song Kishore Kumar rendered on his brother Woh meri taraf yun chale aa rahe hain.
Motilal vowed viewers with his performance as a fast talking conman in Gemini’s Mr Sampath, based on RK Narayan’s novel Mr Sampath – the printer of Malgudi, and the Tamil film Miss Malini (1947), from which the novel developed. Motilal gave his own interpretation of the character Sampat as someone who just wants to live life as he wants. The film lampoons politicians, former princes, journalists, film stars, religious zealots and bogus philanthropists. Padmini first came to notice as one of the Travancore sisters that well known dancer Uday Shankar had called to Chennai to act in his film Kalpana (1946). Mr. Sampat marked her first appearance in a Hindi film.
Filmistan’s Anand Math based on Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s famous Bengali novel of the same name saw the entry of another star in the making, Pradeep Kumar, as well as a new music director in Hemant Kumar Mukhopadhyay, better known to us as Hemant Kumar. Born Sital Batabyal, Pradeep Kumar was an amateur actor employed on Bengal Nagpur Railway as dining car manager when Sasadhar Mukherjee spotted him.
Hemant Kumar’s version of Vande Mataram sung by Lata Mangeshkar was voted second in the "World's Top Ten" songs of all-time in a poll conducted by BBC World Service.
Another music director who made his debut in 1952 was Om Prakash Nayyar in Dalsukh M Pancholi’s Aasman. Unfortunately, the film failed at the box office. Nayyar's music in this film was quite different from what he was known for in later years as exemplified by this song,
V Shantaram’s Rajkamal Kalamandir released two films in 1952Dahej and Parchhain. Shantaram’s performance as a blind man drew praise from Filmindia. Prithviraj Kapoor gave a moving performance as the hapless father of the bride in Dahej.
Two significant films came from Kolkata. New Theatres film Yatrik, Hindi version of Bengali film Mahaprasthaner Pathey, based on the book of the same name by Prabodh Kumar Sanyal, was marked by beautiful photography covering Hindu pilgrimage centres in the Himalayas with appropriate music by veteran music director Pankaj Mullick. Debaki Bose’s Ratnadeep tells the story of a man caught in a struggle with his conscience. Hindi film viewers had the first glimpse of the acting talents of Abhi Bhattacharya in both the films.
More on music of 1952 in my next post.
More by : Ramarao Annavarapu
|Thank you for your comments, Rakesh, SB Roy, V Anand, Alok Johri, JL Kaul and Subodh. Your encouraging comments inspire me to write more and write better. Alok, I am thrilled to find, in the IR family, someone equally interested in the subject and with an eye for detail. You are right about tumhare bulane ko. It is from Ladli and not Doli. I always knew it was from Ladli, but I wrote Doli due to a slight mental aberration. Thanks for pointing it out.|
|Ramarao Sir,Compliments for a wonderful compilation.Most Indians have cinema in their lives,and you have created a masterful narration.|
Congratulations and prayers for good health.
|Graphic retelling of 70+ year old movies, related anecdotes and your perceptive comments bring thos movie situations alive in our mind! Excellent recall and writing Sir!|
S.B.Roy IRTS 1977 Joining Batch
|Rama Rao Gaaru, You are awesome!|
The songs in Baiju Bawra in praise of Hari, were penned by a Muslim (Shakeel Badayuni) set to music by a Muslim(Naushad) and sung by Rafi, a muslim.
Will we ever see this sort of unity?
However, if I may take the liberty of commenting on the work of a master in this rather rude manner, I'd like to humbly submit that I noticed a minor peccadillo in Blog 3 on a very cursory reading. To my mind, "Tumhare bulane ko jee chahta hai" was in movie Ladli (1949) and not Doli. Doli was released in 1947 and not 1949.
Alok Johri, Retd. Member (Mechl), Rly Bd
|Sir, I must compliment you on your depth & width of knowledge, your flair for research and your fluid style of writing. It's marvelous how you have so beautifully woven the content into an autobiographical piece. It's a masterpiece of research with such a sublime style of chronicling.|
I have as yet done only a vertical reading, but I'll have to find the time to go through all your blogs at length.
|Well researched & very interesting = especially for the people of my generation. Many thanks.|
|Excellent,as always.i salute you sir.|