There were quite few reasons for me to want to watch this movie. After watching Kismet, I was a bit impressed by the cute and pretty heroine Mumtaj Shanti. Though a bit theatrical, she wasn’t as loud as other heroines of her time. Within that system (over acting) she was just that tiny bit restrained.
In addition to this, this was a movie after the death of Himanshu Rai, the Bombay talkies were under tremendous power struggle between two factions, both called themselves as the rightful heir to his legacy. One side was the wife, whose claim any one, except the law, would dispute, the other side were the Mukherjees. For some time they maintained cordial working agreement, and the alternate movies were produced by the factions. But obviously the enmity had reached to, I will call almost petty level, sabotaging the productions of the other group was common and not too secret.
Devika Rani’s group had the director I was interested in and who instigated me to get and watch the movie. Amiya Chakrabarty. The other faction were the G Mukherjee and S Mukherjee, and their brother-in-law Ashok.
It is interesting to ponder on this faction. When Devika had eloped with her costar, Hassan, it was S Mukherjee who traced her and was the person who was instrumental of her, whatever was possible, honorable return. Of course not against her wishes, since she was by then aware that her partner couldn’t or wouldn’t marry her. This elopement had its own effects, some negative and some positive.
It destroyed both the men, Himanshu (who died of break down in 1940, at the age of 48) and her accomplice, Najm-Ul-Hassan, who too did return. But the person who was considered one of the persons in demand, after that scandal was almost jobless. No studio would recruit him with this reputation, he did a few movies with New Theater. Only a few, Nartaki of 1940 and Daasi of 1944, I am aware of to be mentionable. My next program some time will be to watch Daasi (or Dassi as on the cover) to see why he was called the most handsome man of his era.
The silver-line was that due to this escapade, Himanshu did the proverbial “Whomever is the first person I see in the morning will marry the princess” and that person came out to be Kumudlal Ganguli, (Ashok Kumar), S Mukherjee’s brother in law (wife Sati Devi’s brother). A most reluctant person was forced to be a hero in the movie which had stalled due to elopement, “Jeevan Naiyya” and the rest we know is history.
This factionism broke up the golden couple of thirties, Ashok and Devika. It ultimately resulted in the closure of the studio, starting with Devika. She came out in mid-forties mentioning that she preferred to retire than to compromise artistic freedom, which may be true, but doesn’t look to be, and married the artist Roerich. The other group had a distinct edge over her group, which is more likely the actual cause. This edge might be because it was better, or maybe it had the superstar, Ashok Kumar in its rolls. This too didn’t sustain for long, I think Mahal was be last hit movie of the house.
Basant may be one of the last of her big hits, most of the others, Kismet etc were by the Mukherjee/ Ganguli faction. Devika quit the house somewhere around 1945s and the Mukherjees themselves went out and formed the Filmistan and later Filmalaya. In absence of Ashok, Devika had to make do with other actors. Hassan of course was ruled out and he was already a flop by then. Dilip was one who was introduced in her faction (Jwar Bhata) but like most, this too didn’t succeed and sunk without trace.
On closure of Bombay talkies, Amiya Chakraborty formed his own production house, Mars and Movies, and produced/ directed a few movies, commonly known till date of which are Daag, Patita, Seema, Kathputli and Dekh Kabira Roya. Interestingly his personal life wasn’t too different from Himanshu, except that he died 4 years younger (at 44). May be these were the incidences due to which the people didn’t want any association, whether of sons or daughters, with the film industry? Today no one bothers but it wasn’t so in those days, for either gender. It wasn’t only the girlfriend Nalini Jaywant where the family was against joining movies, but there was a strong opposition against Ashok Kumar too to enter the disrepute industry, even though the son-in-law of the family, S Mukherjee, was in it.
Basant is a movie based on the show business, theaters. The lead actor was Ulhas whom I have seen doing quite a bit of fatherly roles later, the heroine was Mumtaj Shanti, her Bollywood debut.Ulhas had a towering figure and personality, almost matching K N Singh. His actual name seems to be M N Kaul and was a Kashmiri (Pandit), though by figure one would have thought him to be a Pathan. Is he the same Ulhas ,the villain in Heer, who had send the shiver down the spine as the pure evil personified? In this movie he looks quite chocolaty. IMDb says so, and there is no mention of any other Ulhas in that era.
I couldn’t trace the actual name of Mumtaj Shanti. Only that she was born in Pakistan side of Punjab (then undivided of course) in 1926, and in mid-fifties she migrated to Pakistan with her film-maker husband (Wali-Saheb) and retired into a housewife, eventually taking the ultimate retirement some times in mid-nineties, unheralded and unsung. Ulhas too I don’t find much information, in fact even lesser than Mumtaz, except his last movie is Sawal (1982) as per IMDb. He might have dies somewhere then. No mention of his obituary anywhere on web. Anyway by then like Mumtaj Shanti, he was a forgotten person, working as extra.
There is a third reason after Amiya and Mumtaz, this was the debut movie of another person Madhubala, as Child Actor. Though she had a major role, but her name in either form do not appear in credits, unless her screen name then was “Pramila” or “Kamala” the wiki says “Credited as Baby Mumtaz” but that isn’t there on the credit line of the copy I have.
Photography- R D Mathur who would go on to direct Aagosh. The dance director was the top of the pack, Mumtaz Ali (father of actor comedian Mehmood). It also has Kanu Roy,
brother of Geeta Dutt, who would be later a reputed music director, but here on supporting staff as well as an actor (He was in Kismet too, in Mohan, younger brother of Ashok’s role). (correction credits to Mr Deshmukh)
Amiya seems to have been quite fascinated by poor orphans. Here too we have our orphan Mumtaj (Uma) who is staying with, not very clearly defined, may be a relative’ place. She calls him Babuji, which one uses for father, but then it is informed that for two years, since their parent’s death, he had been taking care of the orphans. Of course not for free, she has to do the entire household works for just food, cloth and shelter.
The boy finds a “situation vacant“ in a theater and goes in. The interview committee consists of the Manager, his daughter (who is the star attraction of the theater). And the way one of the applicant’s walk out it seems they are not too sympathetic or considerate.
When he goes for the interview, obviously they find him under age, and may be to avoid the ‘Child Labour’ they advise him to go home and ask the parents to put him in a school.
The information that there are none (parents) doesn’t help to make them change decision. He offers his sister, who isn’t under age. But the moment they hear that her current occupation is of maid-servant, they are not interested. In response to his pleading the girl (star) tosses a coin at him. Obviously our upright young man (though too young) has to refuse the money tossed. They are not moved by his uprightness, but a man on a sofa, listening to the happening from behind a news paper is.
Who is he? He plays a major supporting role in the movie. He is the lead actor of the theater. Though the theater is shown to be the female star based, but she also needs a ‘love interest’ on stage, and he is that. He has quite a similarity with the director. However as per the credit, he might be Suresh. Assuming the names are in the sequence of the roles, the first Mumtaz Ali must be the elder brother. However he has a similarity with Amiya too, someone related? The role taken by Kanu Roy too I couldn’t make out.
Normally when this type of Newspaper covered person is shown, it would be the owner/ boss incognito, trying to weigh the candidates, but here, it isn’t. He tells the boy that he too was a struggling actor (like him) and only after he went to the ‘Boss’ and he heard his singing, his times changed. He gives the address and tells him to go to his home and try there. If he has talent the boss would definitely take him. However he is sick, taking rest at home, so the manager and daughter are having a field day to themselves. He also warns of the fragile temper of the boss.
Exhilarated our boy hero goes home (where the sister is a live-in maid servant), where, it looks, he isn’t welcome. He comes with the good news, but his sis pushes him out of the home. The commotion however is heard and the man of the house steps, suspecting the presence of another man/boy.
No, he isn’t husband nor jealous. We should realise before making assumptions that she is heroine and this old man isn’t hero. So she is neither his wife, nor mistress, and it isn’t Anokhi Raat. He just wants to ensure that this bad apple, who happens to be her brother, doesn’t step in, except for his food and sleep, to disturb his calm life. And this is the scheduled time of neither. Obviously he, as well as we, knows that our heroine is lying when she says “Nobody is here babuji”
When he threatens with physical violence, our boy steps in and as a result both of them are unceremoniously thrown out. Here she of course doesn’t much protest as much as in Seema, except a relatively mute “Where we will go” and the obvious reply (with gender reversed) is “Go to hell”. The boy is ready, provided his sister’s accumulated, never paid, salary is paid and refused, he goes for armed robbery. After robbing the poor defenseless old man, the robber pair leaves home and goes in search of the wonderland (theater’s owner’s home).
The boy till then quite confident, suddenly loses courage (not unnatural, it does happen) and after goading by the sister he manages to gather the courage to knock, but at the moment a man rushes out of the door (clearly thrown out with a proverbial kick on behind). The kicked out man finds a pretty girl looking at his discomfort and obviously now indignant (kicked in private is OK , but in front of a girl isn’t) goes back to confront. We understand he is the brother of the owner. Non-earning but not non-spending, after all there should be some use of the money his brother is earning?
But the brother doesn’t like that one way traffic and is clear “Either you get a job or join my theater from tomorrow. You have to learn to earn” and isn’t impressed with “I hate theater and acting” and it in fact creates a worse impression on the person, on whom he wanted the idea to be impressed upon. However he quickly recovers as another idea makes home in his brain, “Bro wants an actor, if not me, I will get him someone else, after all one actor is same as other”
He almost pulls the two, though not confident, with him, may be they agreed since he is the brother of the boss. The elder brother obviously has a lot of confidence on the capability of the younger one. He looks up and down the two proxies, and asks for their experience. Which of course they have and the girl proudly declares, two years as maid servant.
In presence of women (or even a singular number), the elder brother didn’t repeat the earlier performance, and only asks them to leave, exactly the way they came in.
The younger brother (Nirmal) isn’t going to give up at this small reversal. He rushes out of the rejected and dejected duo and pulls them for an impromptu road rehearsal.
Why he does it, I don’t know. He has never heard them singing, he himself told so, so that confidence would be misplaced. Secondly he asks them to sing so that his brother’s eardrums are burst and that too without help of loudspeakers. It looks to be more of vengeance towards his brother than the confidence what he should have had, after all he was the hero (Ulhas) and this was the heroine (Mumjaz). But whatever may be the conspiracy theory, he pulls them outside his brother’s bedroom and makes them sing. To which they oblige without much coercing.
The brother is impressed, but isn’t going to accept defeat in public. He first calls them in and then asks them to sit, and calls his manager (and his daughter, the superstar) to come and inspect his latest acquisition, with an instruction that her first show would be in the same evening. May be a good singer, but what about rehearsal? Or stage fright which one who had been a maid servant till morning would have?
Interestingly both the men/boy escapes from the audience before the manager and daughter arrives, both seem to be scared of them. The boy we understand after the treatment at employment exchange, but hero?
In the evening the hero arrives, for a rare visit, to the theater and pointed to, goes in the heroine’s greenroom. That is empty till from the bathroom Heroine comes in and then seeing him naturally rushes back. At the commotion the hero is alerted and watching the door slowly closing tries to barge in to watch the heroine’s dress (as he says) or lack of it, which he should be aware of, it is only common sense. However our heroine being the heroine and hence modest, though fully clothed but since the dress isn’t tucked in properly, doesn’t permit all these peeping and almost makes the brainless hero literally so, crushing his head as she forces the door on it. And the poor and disappointed fellow is forced to withdraw and from Disappointment is now exposed to Danger.
The star (Meera) walks in, and she is clearly interested in our man, which the other one, or for that matter looks no one else is. We now know why he is so much afraid of the manager, it is the daughter he is scared of, not him. However he hints of his interest in the new girl and creates an enemy for her.
At the time of the show, at least thankfully the stage fright is shown, and she does run away to the boos (later I have seen it depicted in Soney Ki Chidia too, but here the expression of fright isn’t so well covered. I know it is wrong to compare two actors of different genre and that too with one who is the ONE of acting. But just couldn’t help this.
The circumstances were similar, there we had the friend helping and here it is boyfriend trying to encourage her.
It really didn’t help here till the brother went into the baton (music direction). However the fright and the stress that remained in the later film wasn’t there in this (Stage fright gone the moment started singing?)
The manager chucks her off, using the owner as front. But the brother (hero) comes to rescue and manages his brother. “This is the first time and stage fright is natural, you should have trained her before putting on stage” and wins the battle.
As per plan she is brought home and put in the Star (Meera)’s room, who too lodges there. The brother is placed in the Hero’s room till things are settled. In the night she gets a nightmare of being thrown out on street, which was really not much of a nightmare but a real probability. But she needs comfort and searches for brother, who is in deep sleep, but hero is unable to, so he gives her company, but there is a thorn Meera to put a brake on romance. The brother too seems to have some affection towards her and brings some clothes etc, “you would be moving in society so should be presentably well dressed”. The hero now scores second win and convinces his brother that she should be trained at home by him (the brother of course), and since his health isn’t OK, he (the Hero) would help him. Bro is happy at his taking interest in theater (even if it is for some nefarious purpose, which he doesn’t seem to guess). The training starts the Hero on piano and the girl on floor. What is the job of trainer (elder brother) I couldn’t get, except that of audience.
The elder brother has a soft spot on heroine, whereas Meera has more than that on hero. However her proposal is rejected and our hero suddenly realizes her taunt “You are rejecting me since you love that road side girl and want to marry her” is true and proposes within minutes.
However things can’t go well, while they are frolicking in the park, manager and her daughter manages the elder brother. But matter doesn’t turn serious and the brother accepts her apology and forgives, provided she stops this (Park Business). She in turn stops him (the hero) from opening his heart to the brother (he would throw you out of home) and also “When you brought me, you wanted me to be a big star, now why do you want me not to be?” however she promises to leave it the moment he wishes. He has his reservation of his wife working in theater, but he is forced to compromise (being unemployed).
Meanwhile the star of the theater in posters is now Uma (Mumtaz) to obvious anger of the ex-star. She tries some underground plans (throw eggs and shoes on stage on the new star etc so that her reputation is spoiled), but fails in execution of it. Meanwhile the brother finds the superstar not too happy of her success either and in fact weeping. In the consoling and talks, the elder brother proposes to her, at least almost. Considering there were signs of a soft corner it wasn’t too surprising.
This proposal is overheard by Meera and used to poison our hero. However our heroine is able to convince him of her sincerity and he makes a spot decision and tells his brother of his wish. Of course his brother had by then changed his mind too since then he had said “Had you arrived earlier” signifying he is too old for her now, and then also “Forget of what I told to you” much earlier than all this, just to keep us informed of his honorable intentions. We know that the age is not something that comes in the way when it is matter of heart, but that’s not the case here.
Brother is obviously surprised (and disappointed?) but can’t do anything. The problems start from wedding date. And that is something surprising, since the bride goes on stage show and keeps the groom waiting with flower bedecked bed (Suhag sej). Meera takes the advantage in poisoning his mind, however unfortunately for her, heroine arrives and the ensuing slap, at least temporarily avoid the crisis.
Our husband now wants his wife’s activity to stop and goes to his brother informing (a) they are leaving the home and (b) His wife is retiring.
However bro is firm, “You are no one to decide when she comes and goes. After all I have spent money on her. First get a job, start earning, get a home to put her and only then I will allow her to go” He interestingly doesn’t want the return for money spent, though he mentions the expenditures, only that once she goes out she should have an earning husband and a shelter.
Obviously the person who didn’t get a job in so many attempts won’t get one still. When he comes back home his wife is pregnant. I assume that his walking out wasn’t the next day after wedding, or this coming back dejected wasn’t the first day, but after a few months. Normally in movies they show it through calendar pages, the concept might not have been thought still. There is however a possibility of that, since the Lady Doctor had been told that she had been already working for six months then, on which she orders immediate cessation. So the walk-out had been after some time of staying together (with brother that is).
What he should have done earlier and shouldn’t now, our hero does. He walks out with pregnant and weak wife. He remains jobless, even after the child is born. The wife keeps on selling her jewelry and other things to make the end meet. The husband realizes but is impotent. The elder brother wants her to come back but she doesn’t want to leave the husband and go (naturally) but he does send money, through the friend (the lead actor) but with her ‘ego’ or pride she refuses, even while the infant is starving.
For the rent the last piece of jewelry is sold. The rent collector was considerate but helpless, not the abusive kind that we normally see in real life or movies. But our heroine doesn’t want to be in debt and sells her last piece of jewelry. The money, after paying the debt she thought at least will be used to feed the infant. But alas, the husband comes in. He has been promised a job in Lahore and wants some (the) money for fare. Whatever the money left of the sale of the jewelry after paying the debtors, she thought for feeding the infant, is gone and the infant is back on milked water feed, till that also slowly starts coming down.
Without permission from husband she doesn’t wasn’t to go on stage and she won’t take money from brother in law. But finally she yield, to save the life of the infant, keeping the child in brother’s care (with an empty bottle to keep her from crying) she finally makes up her mind and goes out for work, the only one she knows now, on stage. The husband who doesn’t even write a letter has to come back on that day, successful finally at getting a job and find the child left alone, with the brother of course, but the mother, he assumes, unable to severe the love of stage is back there.
Meanwhile the stage program, which the brother arranged to help the heroine is interpreted as an insult to the star of the theater, Meera and she along with her father resign and go away, despite the pleading of Uma (Mumtaz). Janaki Babu (the elder brother) however is inflexible “If it’s your final decision, then I don’t have anything to say”
On the way they bump into our hero Nirmal, “I am going for ever, please forgive me, I have been bothering you I know, but…” etc etc with a hint of the going ons between his wife and brother in his absence.
Our Nirmal eaves drop to the romantic exchange between his wife and his brother “I will never allow you to leave me again, you would stay with me, whether you work in theater or not” which can have only one interpretation and he obviously can’t have more. Without bothering to listen further he goes away in a huff, “When that Nirmal comes, bring him to me, I will set him right as always, and take this money as from an elder brother to his sister”
Strangely the director missed the “Bhaiyaa…” and falling on his feet episode.
When she comes back home, all are missing (the husband she doesn’t know has comeback) with her brother and the child. Finally the brother comes to her “Nirmal has gone with the child, I don’t know where, and left a letter for you”
“I don’t want the dirt to touch my child, you don’t exist (i.e. dead) for me and the child, and vice-versa”
He goes off to Calcutta (the ticket that he took to). Our heroine though in shock goes to stage “That’s the bell and first program is mine” for a sad song “Ummeed unse kya thii”—“What I expected from him, and against that what it is that he is doing to me”
While she pines away for husband (not so sure) and child (definitely), and keeping all the family hold (including younger and newly christened elder brother) and friends worried, her worry is working in office and horsing with the major worry (daughter),
In search of them, the brother and wife keeps on moving with the troupe to various cities. Did they suppose if they land up in his, he would come forward and surrender? Or that he is in a major city?
Though our hero hates stage artists/shows but he had brought up the child to be a radio singer. Of all she sings her mother’s song. But unfortunately at that moment her mother who had been listening to radio had turned it off.
Now first, if her father hated her mother then why was she taught this song and then this song, and that too on radio, would have been a dead giveaway. But all is not lost, surprisingly someone switches on the radio and calls up mother and other(s). This is rare in movies. It always happen that at the critical juncture things are switched off (or switched on). But first switching off and then some one of the troupe listening, recognizing and then making it public, it does happen in real life but I have never seen it happening in movies.
Rest is predictable, address from radio station, normally they shouldn’t give, but then he is a big shot, and a show man, asking address of an artist, may not be unnatural, and of course the AIR will oblige, to promote one of their artists.
Obviously she would want to go alone, but the elder brother won’t let, so the sympathetic hero (stage) accompanies her. The husband is predictably inflexible. He had told the daughter that her mother is dead (they always say that) and now he is a reputed businessman, how can he tell his society that his wife is a stage dancer? It would spoil his daughter’s standing in society (but he didn’t mind marrying one?)
She somehow is convinced to keep the relation secret. The old logic, the daughter’s future, marriage prospects etc .. after all isn’t that the duty of the parents to sacrifice to see the children happy? She had to bow to logic, provided “Just let me see her once..”
She obviously has to promise that she will never ever try to meet her again and won’t tell she is her mother. The mother daughter meets, and the tete-a-tete brings out that the father still loves her. Not only we, but she too realizes and looks up at him, to which he averts the glance.
In fact he had retained her photograph too, which the daughter brings. It brings one of the rare discordant notes in the movie, how the daughter couldn’t recognize her despite having the photograph?
Finally all dusts settle, for a group photo. The method of dust settling is not what I would call too filmy, though a bit maudlin, and is evenly paced.
This is (as per IMDb) only the second movie of Amiya, and in that case it is quite an exceptional feat. The movie moves well with story. That isn’t surprising since story screenplay and direction is by same person. And the story is very well paced, neither too fast not too slow. It had given all the time for the actors to emote to the situation.
Not too many ‘filmy’ twists. More or less people behave the way they should in normal life. For example when the heroine is in the end is thrown out unceremoniously, the fellow actor goes in defence, asking her to wait. One is expected to do that isn’t it? While he is at that, the heroine in a daze moves out and comes below a vehicle. Not too unnatural. The hero with the shock of actually losing her, comes to his sense.
Even the climax, very often hurried, had been paced well. It has the mark of one of Amiya’s greater movies but the difference is in Acting styles.
filmy twists (interesting re-twist)
The way the doll was thrown out of her hand during accident, in a movie it means only one thing. But it wasn’t. Then when she is asked to get up and “Can you stand up” means the danseuse has lost at least one leg. But again negative. She walks unaided. The poison scene is predictable, but isn’t that one would? She had promised the daughter she would meet the next day and the husband that she will never meet her again.
Some very fine points are addressed, there is a photograph of the couple at their home (when they were together), most natural, but it isn’t stressed, just happened to be there. I too just found in casual glance, (the scene where she gives the jewelry to brother for selling top right corner it is visible). In the poison scene, she hears the bell outside for the call, and realizes the door isn’t bolted and goes to bolt it. There are these type of small details spread through the movie, happening naturally without stressing the fact.
Substandard (may be) – The actings of the actors. But that was more or less the style of the day, a bit loud than natural. The natural person (Ashok) was on the other camp. May be he would have helped a bit. In Kismet she had been a bit even more subdued. But that could be due to experience too.
However the acting wasn’t too loud in my opinion, compared to a few other movies of the time. Mumtaj Shanti was only 16 then so I will make concessions, and her acting wasn’t that bad, by those day’s standard.
The songs, may be hit those days, but not catchy, to my ears, attuned to later dates.
If one doesn’t mind a bit of Theatrical acting, and songs, the movie is worth it.
Amiya had remade the movie, even frame by frame later with Her, some time in ’56 or ’57. This would have been quite opposite of Sone Ki Chidia in concept. May be it was one of those that “I and Amiyada had so many plans, but unfortunately…” ?
The pace was exactly what she would have wished. The songs (lyrics) are in tune with the movie mood, and don’t disturb the pace. In some movies they were diversionary, even in those days, or even Golden Age.
Of course in the fifties the songs would have to be put to new music.