Feb 26, 2024
Feb 26, 2024
Debacles and debutants
Raj Kapoor had a big setback in 1953 when RK Films Aah came a cropper at the box office. It was released in March 1953 with the usual fanfare expecting another superhit like Barsaat and Awara. In Nagpur, it was released simultaneously in three halls, Liberty, Regent and Narsing, with the hope of enjoying a combined silver jubilee in under four weeks but it was withdrawn from the halls three days later for want of viewers!! It was the same all over the country. The songs caught up, however, and, seeing a ray of hope, Raj Kapoor got the film dubbed as Avan (him) in Tamil and Prema Lekhalu (love letters) in Telugu. They made moderate business. The movie did well in re-runs post the success of Raj Kapoor's subsequent films. The songs continue to remain unforgettable.
My friend Mahesh Chandra Sharma and I had planned to see the movie together but before we could find time to see Aah, it had disappeared from cinema halls. We could not believe that an RK film could be so poor and watched it later when it played briefly in Mahalakshmi, a B grade theatre playing stunt, mythological and outdated films. Direction was credited to Raja Nawathe but Raj Kapoor's hand was unmistakable. We didn't think it deserved to be rejected summarily. The theme of a sister/cousin/friend writing love letters on behalf of a fiancée and falling in love with the fiancée was successfully used in the Bengali movie Sagarika (1956), remade in Telugu as Aradhana (1962) and later by Bimal Roy in Hindi as Prem Patra (1962). We thought the failure of Aah had something to do with typecasting of the artistes. Dilip Kumar was then the acknowledged tragic hero. Raj Kapoor was the bubbling, lively and playful romantic hero and Pran was the arch villain. It seemed to us that viewers disliked Raj Kapoor in a tragic role with a Devdas like ending and Pran in a friendly role.
Raj Kapoor gave up direction and launched two low budget films, Boot Polish (1954), directed by Prakash Aurora and Ab Dilli Door Nahin (1957), directed by Amar Kumar, both one-film celebrities. Raj Kapoor returned to direction with Shri 420 (1955). Nargis gave one of her best performances particularly in the song Raja ki aayegi baraat. All the songs were good, but my favourite is Ye sham ki tanhaiyan, one of S-J’s best songs in this genre, followed by the fast-paced party song, Suntethe naam hum. Mukesh made a guest appearance as a cart driver singing Chhoti si ye zindagani re.
Another major debacle was Minerva Movietone’s Jhansi ki Rani produced by Sohrab Modi. Sohrab Modi was known for his historical films, Sikandar, Pukar, Ek din ka sultan and Prithvi Vallabh. High expectations were raised when Sohrab Modi announced that he would make the film in Technicolor using Hollywood technicians, in Hindi and English. There was great speculation about the choice of the actress to play the main role and surprise and disappointment when, after considering several candidates, Sohrab Modi decided to cast his wife Mehtab in the role of the heroic Rani of Jhansi. Starting her career in the late 1920s with small roles in films, Mehtab acted in the lead in Veer Kunal (1932). She came into prominence with Chitralekha (1941) directed by Kidar Sharma. She married Sohrab Modi in 1946 and stopped acting, until Sohrab Modi recalled the fortyish actress to act in Jhansi ki Rani.The film was made for a whopping six million rupees and released in India and USA, the English version being titled The Tiger and the Flame. Despite recreating the atmosphere of the period using historical details correctly, good use of colour and competent direction, the film was a box office failure. Mehtab completely failed to recreate the character of the much younger, courageous queen and the battle scenes in which she appeared looked artificial and comical rather than heroic.
Following Baazi, Chetan Anand took over as the director of Navketan’s next film Aandhiyan. Guru Dutt started a production company in partnership with Geeta Bali’s sister Haridarshan Kaur to produce Baaz, a maritime, historical action film. Guru Dutt made his acting debut in the lead role opposite Geeta Bali and the music was entrusted to OP Nayyar, whose first film in Mumbai Aasman had failed to take off. Geeta Roy, whom Guru Dutt had married in the meantime sang all the songs on Geeta Bali as Geeta Dutt. The film was not accepted by viewers and flopped miserably. OP Nayyar decided to leave Mumbai, but Guru Dutt persuaded him to stay on to provide music for his next film. OP Nayyar composed some good tunes including Geeta Dutt’s Ae dil ae deewane and Talat Mehmood’s Mujhe dekho hasrat ki tasveer hoon main.
Apart from Guru Dutt the other important debutant of the year was Shammi Kapoor. He first appeared in Mahesh Kaul’s Jeevan Jyoti, giving a performance that strongly resembled that of his brother Raj Kapoor in his early film Gopinath (1948), also directed by Mahesh Kaul. Acting opposite him was another debutant, Chand Osmani, who had qualified for a break in films by being placed second in an acting talent contest called Kardar, Kolynos, Teresa (KKT) contest. The film was not successful despite good direction and good acting by the leading pair as well as by Leela Misra. Music Director SD Burman was not at his best but we liked lag gayee ankhiyan and Tasweeren banti hain.
Shammi Kapoor also acted in PN Arora’s Rail ka dibba opposite Madhubala, Basant Pictures Gul Sanobar and Lekhraj Bhakri’s Thokar opposite Shyama, and K Amarnath’s Laila Majnu opposite Nutan. His acting style was very similar to that of his father Prithviraj Kapoor and brother Raj Kapoor. None of the films did well and the press wasn’t kind to him either. One reviewer of Laila Majnu wrote that Shammi Kapoor was an unromantic actor in a romantic role!! Laila Majnu had some soulful music by Ghulam Mohammed and Sardar Malik. While we enjoyed listening to Aasman wale teri duniya, dekh li aye ishk teri mehrbani and Baharon ki duniya pukare, we found the pathos in Talat Mehmood’s rendition of Chal diya karwan palpable. Sardar Malik tuned Tere dar pe aaya hoon for Laila Majnu but repeated it later in Chor bazaar (1954). We noticed a different, more active Shammi Kapoor in Lekhraj Bhakri’s Thokar but the film is mostly remembered for the ghazal Ae gham-e-dil kya karoon. Penned my Javed Akhtar’s maternal uncle Majaz Lucknowi and tuned by Sardar Malik, it was beautifully rendered by Talat Mehmood.
Wannabe singing stars, Mukesh and Talat Mehmood also made their acting debuts in 1953. Mukesh made a guest appearance in Aah but played leading man in Mashuqa, opposite Suraiya. Roshan was the music director of the film. The film was a box office failure and the songs too failed to make an impact. Only one song by Mukesh O o o dil na lagaana caught our fancy but we were fascinated by the yodelling of Kishore Kumar in ye sama hum tum jawan his duet with Meena Kapoor. Talat Mehmood made his acting debut in AR Kardar’s Dil-e-Nadan opposite another newcomer called Peace Kanwal, who was the winner of the KKT Contest in which Chand Usmani, the heroine of Jeevan Jyothi was runner up. Ghulam Mahommed created some very good tunes including Talat Mehmood’s unforgettable Zindagi denewale sun. I became very fond of Jo khushi se chot khaye and Ye raat Suhani raat nahin. Group song Mohabbat ki dhun sung by Talat Mehmood with Sudha Malhotra and Jagjit Kaur was also a nice number.
V Shantaram released two films in 1953 Teen batti char Rasta and Surang. The former was a film on national integration with an interesting plot while the latter was about the plight of quarry workers. Kamal Amrohi's Daaera is a poetic love story acclaimed by critics, with haunting music by Jamal Sen. It was a box office failure but is remembered for Meena Kumari’s acting and Lata Mangeshkar’s Devta tum ho Mera sahara. MP Productions Kolkata’s Babla was tear-jerker Bengali film about an orphan, dubbed in Hindi. We loved its song Raat ke rahi thak mat jana sung by Manna Dey. Mahatma, a Marathi film, with Gajanan Jagirdar in the title role, dubbed in Hindi was well received by critics but not by the public.
Some films had an average run, but their songs became popular, like Talat Mehmood’s Mere naghmon me and khada hoon der se ummidwar from Aalif Laila, Pyar ho ke rahega and Mukesh-Lata Mangeshkar duet Dekhoji dekho from Aas, Unhe tu bhool ja ae dil, Ja ja ja re ja re ja and Lo aye hain from Naya Ghar, and Rut aye rut jaye sakhiri from Hamdard. Bhagwan tujhe main khat likhta from Manchala, sung by music director Chitragupta for Agha became a runaway hit.
To be Continued
More by : Ramarao Annavarapu
|Great endeavour.sir. Recording history of hindi films and music is a precious gift for all. I was a kid then.Thank you very much sir.
Your knowledge is mind blowing. I was delighted to read the article.
Thank you for the great piece of writing.
|Well researched article
|Excellent as always.kudos to you.keep it up.