In this penultimate post of old Hindi film story-telling, we look at four films starting with the letter S: including two films of the young not-yet-angry Amitabh Bachchan with a moustache.
Sadhu Aur Shaitaan
The sadhu is Om Prakash (OP), the shaitaan is Pran (P). OP annoys you with his goodness and naivety, P troubles you with his evil and cunning. Eventually the brew that you are served is insipid and tiresome.
I picked Sadhu aur Shaitaan (1968) hoping for at least a fraction of the Padosan magic. Sadly, I found practically nothing.
The film has its moments, most of them involving Mehmood (M), but you eventually groan because there’s too much of M. Four rosogollas can be great fun, but eight of them cause an excessively sweet belch.
OP is a bank clerk, and a widower with two kids. His life’s joy is in singing interminably long bhajans, and working long hours in the bank. Often, he’s too late to pick up his kids from school, but thankfully there’s the kind-hearted taxi driver M who drops them home. M has another reason to be the Good Samaritan: the kids’ tutor at home is Bharati … and M finds her to be cute, friendly and a good dancer. In short, good future life patniji material.
Everything’s so syrupy sweet that you yearn for some discord and evil. Thankfully P steps in to provide the spice. It turns out that P is a chaddi dost of OP from school. OP invites him to stay with him, not realizing the P is now evil. P first hoodwinks OP to arrange a loan of Rs 5000 for him, and then manages to get a wax replica of the key of OP’s bank tijori.
Meanwhile M continues to be endearingly paagal. There’s an excellent dream sequence in which he goes to heaven, has long chats with the Gods, and concludes that heaven isn’t really very different, and the Gods up there aren’t really as powerful. That was 50 years ago. Today he’d have to be more careful before committing such sacrilege.
The film’s plot is wafer-thin. Using the key replica, P loots the bank. OP catches him in the act, even as he’s escaping in a taxi, and implores P to return the booty. P is suitably apologetic, says he’s can’t undo what he’s done, tells OP to be more worldly-wise, and, just for effect, brandishes a revolver. In the skirmish that follows, P gets shot and drops dead in the back seat of the taxi, and a frightened OP with the loot bag starts running helter-skelter all over town.
Of course the taxi belongs to M, and, the next day, there are hilarious scenes of passengers who take the taxi, spot the body, go bonkers, and run out in abject fright. M’s customers include Ashok Kumar, Sunil Dutt and Kishore Kumar. Dilip Kumar and Mumtaz also briefly join the party, taking a break from the ongoing shooting of Ram Aur Shyam.
It is good fun for a while, but the film drags endlessly. Also, unlike the magic of Padosan’s music, LP have practically nothing to offer. There was only one Rafi song that I could recollect, and that too because it was so blatantly modelled along hum kaale hain to kya hua.
Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam
The mood engulfs you. It is dark, there is a dimly-lit haveli and there is a hauntingly troubled voice calling out: koi door se awaaz de.
Turns out it is Meena Kumari (MK) calling out to her love Rehman (R) who doesn’t give a damn. He’s a feudal landlord in Bengal at the end of the 19th century and feels completely entitled to the carnal pleasures that are his birth right. The extravaganza of song and dance must go on night after night. As for his wife, she’s welcome to the wealth, the jewels, the maids and the solitude.
Enter Guru Dutt (GD), a naive gaonwala who’s brought to the big city by his brother-in-law. Everything about city life amazes him: the lantern that illuminates the night, the plentiful food to feed his hungry stomach, and the mystery and the aura of the ornate haveli. He’s working with a Brahmo Samaji who stays with his effervescent daughter Waheeda Rehman (WR). “Bhootnath? Is that really your name?” WR asks GD and then chortles in mirth.
That’s perhaps the only joyful moment in a film that’s enveloped in abject darkness. MK wants to be loved by R, and, even more importantly, she wants company. She wants a kindred soul to share her sorrow, to empathize with her troubled self. GD goes on to become that source of succour. There’s tenderness between the two, but is there also physical love? Probably not. We’ll never know. But the decadent R’s elder brother, Sapru, is sufficiently suspicious and sends his henchmen to kill MK and erase the scar. By then she’s far too gone anyway. She’s now hopelessly addicted to alcohol – that she embraced in the fond hope that it may bring her closer to the perennially intoxicated R.
Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam (1962) has more MK than you want, and not enough of WR; even though she’s more earthy, playful and prettier too.
GD looks sufficiently naive, caring and concerned, and essays the role that was to go to Shashi Kapoor. He does a fine enough job – he was simply too talented.
Hemant Kumar’s songs are from the top drawer. You struggle to decide who sang better: Asha Bhosle or Geeta Dutt. Amazingly enough, Lata Mangeshkar is not missed. Hemant himself sang a song, that got cut because it featured MK sleeping on GD’s lap. Given the turbulence and decadence of the times, that was a complete no-no.
I can’t believe I survived Sanjog (1972). I needed grit, courage and a generous dose of paagalpan.
Amitabh Bachchan (AB), aged 30, is studying in a college. Mala Sinha (MS), aged 35, is his classmate. For a Hindi film, that’s already a poor start.
For now, AB is rich and MS is poor – in fact her baap Madan Puri is a peon in the same college. AB’s baap is Keshto Mukherjee (how can that happen?), and, more unbelievably, Keshto is wealthy, isn’t a bevda, and wears a suit.
After AB sings a love song to MS, they decide to marry. In a mandir with Madan Puri grinning widely. AB’s family refuses to accept the wedding, and take AB away for higher studies to Delhi (he’s supposed to become a collector), leaving bechari MS distraught and also pregnant.
Shift to a few years later. AB has failed to become a collector, is now poor, and a humble head clerk in a govt office. An evil mamaji gambled away the family wealth, his baap Keshto died of grief or drink or whatever, and mother also died chalte chalte. AB is now married to Aruna Irani (AI) and she’s a pretty wife with two kids and a sharp brain.
So what happened to MS? They told AB that she got drowned, but she is fully zinda, a single mother to a boy, and rich because she is now a collector!
Now the twist that everyone can guess. MS is posted in the same office where AB is head clerk. So what if she’s a collector with a big house, a car, and her baap Madan Puri now wears a safari suit? She’s still an adarsh ardhangi devoted to her swami AB.
It is badi mushkil for AB: Two patnijis in the same city! To make it worse, there’s gossip about his relationship with MS, and a charge of receiving a bribe of Rs 5000 (Madan Puri finally gets evil; this is his badla for giving dhoka to his daughter).
One of the two patnijis has to die. It turns out to be MS, but only after she saves AI’s life and also leaves behind her eyes for her.
The film is painful and lacklustre; so terrible that R D Burman composed only one decent song. That too in 1972 when Pancham had the complete Midas touch.
Padma Khanna (PK) first sent Premnath in a tizzy in Johny Mera Naam stripping to show off the many colors of husn. In Saudagar (1973), PK plays her charm on Amitabh Bachchan (AB) and does an even better job.
AB plays a chhoto manush who’s immoral enough to do whatever it takes to get a haseen cheez. His means of livelihood is to gather the ras from palm trees and get the skilful widow Nutan (N) to convert it into delicious gud.
Things are going well till AB sets his eyes on PK. He wants to possess her at any cost, but her price is Rs 500 (meher; this is a film with only Muslim characters). That kind of money is impossible to earn in the brief ras season, especially after paying N her share. So why not marry N and get her to prepare the gud for free? This is devious – almost evil – but that’s exactly how AB plans it all. Bechari N doesn’t see through the game at all, and even naively hopes for lifelong togetherness.
It turns out to be a great season, and AB actually manages to earn his Rs 500. So he promptly talaq-talaq-talaq‘s N. N is aghast, appalled, angry and annoyed; the film is worth seeing just for N essaying such a range of emotion. But she returns quietly to her hut where her loyal kutta greets her with his tail wagging.
AB, with lust in his eyes, sets off on a boat to pay Rs 500 and marry PK. N, meanwhile, agrees to marry another good man with the clear understanding that she’s there to replace his wife who died unexpectedly. She has no choice, and the boatman agrees that her kinara is far away.
AB and PK then enter a period of intense love-making and romance. It is passion at its best; you only have to look at PK’s wonderful expectant eyes and lustrous long hair to see what I mean.
But nothing’s forever and the next ras season spells gloom and doom. Pretty though she is, PK simply can’t make decent gud and AB’s clientele vanishes to leave him poor and in penury. The last scene has AB approaching N with the plea to help. N is all set to throw the scum out, but then sees PK and hugs her. The assumption is that N won’t let AB destroy another woman’s life.
It is quite a remarkable film, and I enjoyed it. Ravindra Jain’s music in rather good. AB is restrained, PK is ravishing and N is resplendent as she shows off her magnificent acting prowess.