Shapmochan (1955)

A below standard movie with a hackneyed dialogues and highly predictable sequences and a confused story message. The moment the a particular scene rolls in the movie you can predict at least next five to ten minutes and also the dialogues each one would be mouthing, almost exact to words. Despite a high ranking on IMDb (7.8), my personal advice to those who have missed it, is to keep on missing it.

The stars of the movie around whom the movie revolves are Uttam and Suchitra. But can they make a bad movie good? At least in this case they proved they don’t have that capacity.Nothing at all exceptional in the movie, not even what I would say would hold interest, that even poor story, well executed and acted, can hold.

When I think of most of the movie stories are not too unpredictable except for some twists and turns. In these simple stories, simply told (say Sujata), I will call a movie to be good if it is gripping. There is something that grips the audience to the present, and the bored audience do not start predicting the future, what would be the next scene, and then the prediction too follows with a Deja-vu feeling. This movie is exactly that and the topped with the common place dialogues.

In this case too, I don’t blame it so much on the story. The story could have been not that bad, had it been properly handled. The mishandling of the story – the script and worst part were the dialogues that had successfully (in my opinion) mutilated and then murdered the movie.

The only saving grace of the movie are some excellent tracks, especially those sung by Hemanta, with minimal musical instrument accompaniment.

In the start of the movie we have a royal court and a singer par excellence. As the song comes to an end, an old man almost barges in and asks the person to give him the credit as his Guru. I don’t know why anyone would do that, except for that he needs a share of the largesse that the King would be giving his Shishya. Of course in public he does refuse it. But if that was the intention then obviously not a Guru but a teacher/ trainer/ coach. A Guru is supposed to be selfless. Obviously (I assume) considering these aspects the singer refuses to acknowledge him as Guru. Angry, the supposed to be, Guru curses him that in his lineage if anyone ever takes to music, he/ she would become handicapped if not die. We know immediately that the hero or the heroine, would be in the lineage and not only that would be a musician in talent, but forced to keep in suppressed.

After he storms out the singer is a bit contemplative and then on prodding of the King starts another Alaap. The curse was not with any grace period and we know that the moment he starts the Alaap, he would die. Within minutes he starts clutching his chest and then falls down on his Tanpura vomiting blood.

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Unfortunately the music was in his blood/ genes. The way it is said later in the movie, may be even his forefathers were in the field and hence the Guru’s contribution is a bit even less. But that isn’t expressed in words and the dialogue writer might have mis-dialogued which gave this impression.
Anyway the man is dead but not his tanpura which is taken to his home and daily it is worshipped and prayed to take the curse off. His son too falls prey to the curse.

However the curse is in perpetuity so his elder son Devendra (Pahadi Sanyal) too falls prey to second part. He too was a great singer like his father and grandfather. While singing in a Jalsa he suddenly becomes blind. The second son is forbidden from doing anything with music. This blind man, the elder brother, has a son, also of course a wife. This son too is forbidden to touch any musical instrument.

In the condition the family is in penury, the only thing they seemed to know is to sing, which they are forbidden/ cursed against doing. The second son has to look for employment, away from music field. We don’t know his educational qualification but it isn’t much that we are sure of. However he is sent to Calcutta in search of livelihood, only after promising that he would never practice music.

In Calcutta, he goes to an address given by his brother. It is a grand house of some industrialist (Kamal Mitra). He is almost treated like a long lost son in the house by the old man. We obviously can guess that it has to be his father’s very close friend, and the treatment shows it was something more. He was indebted to his father for something. It comes out that before being a victim of the curse, the hero’s father had managed to save the life of his friend, afflicted by the dreaded small-pox, by selfless nursing.

Though the friend was poor, even poorer than him, should we hazard a guess, he is now a multi-millionaire rolling in money and the family of the musician is rolling in soil? Also it should be obvious that he would have a daughter, and the moment she comes by and we see it is Suchitra the die is cast. (The young man Mahendra Mukherjee being Uttam).

Now for obvious reasons Madhuri (Suchitra) takes it on her shoulders to make a man of this bumpkin. Which becomes more and more strengthened as he is insulted first by her elder brother (who doesn’t have the gratitude, but luckily no further curses by our Mahendra- remember he too is a Brahmin, poor, honest and artist so he too could curse) and then the person, a full blue Prince, who is trying to become more than a friend of Madhuri.

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Our Madhuri immediately rushes off, with him in toe, to dress shop and gets him several three-pieces. Which he gladly accepts. In between she finds out about his home and family members and then sends some money there. Which is promptly send back “We don’t live on alms, when Mahendra earns, let him send money”. Our Mahendra luckily is not weighed down by these old fashioned ethics and gladly accepts whatever is thrown in his way. Not money of course, but the dress, free five star boarding and lodging too are part of unearned largesse.

Our kind hearted hero finds a man sick man on road, while Madhuri is shopping. Without telling her, he disappears with this sick man, to his slum. There we see a young woman, relation unknown but mistreated and cursed by this old-sick man. On first look it could be a mistress or wife, the way he was treating her, but later we are told it is his grand-daughter. To clarify the relationship, and that it isn’t a love triangle, from beginning she starts calling Uttam as brother (Dada).

Our unkind old man was about to be evicted even from this slum, and to sake the roof to remain on his, and his new found sister’s head, the rent, Re 10, has to be paid. It would be easy to ask Madhuri or her father for it. But for at least for this, Mahendra’s conscience forbids. To be fair, he has been given, he has never asked for, so this time too he doesn’t.

At last at night he comes home, tired and then on the way he sees a violin and tries to vent his sorrow in it. Obviously he has forgotten the curse and also the promise he has given to his brother. The music makes Suchitra identify the exceptional talent of the person and how no one identified that and it lay hidden. She comes close to him and like the King/ Princesses asks him to wish for anything and it would be granted.

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Only Re 10” like  Kishore Kumar’s “5 Rupiya 12 Annas” is what we expected then and now. But the heroine didn’t then or now, and unlike “Chalti ka naam gaadi” where Madhubala tries to convince, Suchitra doesn’t and storms out. 

Next morning she does come with the Tips, but by then our hero has gone out in search of it elsewhere, since his lady won’t oblige. Getting a job for a person without qualification is obviously ruled out, so after few rejections, our Uttam stands at a street corner, and lip syncs to Hemanta song. The earning, more than the promised Re 10, he gives all to the old man. Now their shelter is saved but he himself don’t have one. His new-found sister didn’t offer to share her home with him. So he has to get another one, preferably free, like previous one.

He gets one in a ‘cheap boarding and lodging’ house where one of the persons had heard him singing at the street, and liked it so much that he offered to share the expenses of stay, if he sings a song every evening, at least one, another one of hemanta, he sings for us too, all this while the heroine frets, even more when the father hazards a guess, “He is new in Calcutta what if he had an accident?

But it is till, may not be very odd, the man writes a letter to his benefactor, telling not only he was alive but his address too. Obviously hoping that they would come crawling to him and take him back. Otherwise I don’t see any reason of telling the address. Elated heroine doesn’t crawl but rushes in the impoverished neighborhood in her Luxury sedan and walks in confidently through the all-male boarding house, naturally all eyes following her every move. She asks the room number and barges in without knocking.

Our man refuses to come back to her home, and she too doesn’t insist much, but the next day she comes with all the necessary furniture and furnishing to make the room presentable. She takes him to a park and convinces him to become rich and famous, by staring to sing. He tells her of the curse but is easily convinced that it is all superstition.

She is a regular visitor to his bachelor room. Obviously it isn’t liked by the man (the prince) who tried to be sweet on him. He takes it to her brother but she was the bossy person around so she isn’t cowed by him “What is wrong if a woman goes to meet her husband?”. A bit strange, since when and where they married isn’t shown in my version. But the way it is repeated several times and even she lives with him much later, with blessing of all and in home of her in-laws, it looks they had gone to some temple and that part had been censored.

The level rises and now the father’s meet. The Royal Highness himself visits Madhuri’s house with the proposal of his son with Madhuri. Unfortunately Madhuri walks in in the midst of it, and expresses the impossibility of it “With husband alive, how I can marry again?

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In case we have forgotten there is still a complication, the young woman, who is the granddaughter of the poor sick old man. The way Suchitra is a regular visitor to Uttam, Uttam too is a regular visitor of that young woman (Banani Choudhury?). It is platonic though, we must remember she calls him ‘brother’. But there is some big trouble. The old man, her grandfather, is not only poor but crooked too. He was planning to sell her to a Madam. She escapes and lands up in Uttam’s room into his arms, and just then Suchitra too lands up there and peeps at the romantic scene, through the partially ajar door.

Meanwhile one of Uttam’s songs, he is the heartthrob of mass then, was heard by his brother Devendra in the village Radio. At the shock that his obedient brother has broken his promise, and would now die of the curse, he decides to be ahead of him, being older, and changes the realm.

By the time Suchitra is convinced to have a face-off with Uttam and get the things clarified, the telegram “Devendra dead” had come and Uttam has left with the girl, eloped for all practical purposes. When Suchitra comes in search not only he is told that he left with the girl but also her grandfather was there telling how he lavished money on them for the girl, who was one of the street. Now she, the only source of his livelihood, is gone. The gem was shattered and Suchitra goes back to her room to weep.

Meanwhile the curse was in play and Uttam arrives in the village, with the girl of course, sick and soon is on deathbed. Since he keeps on muttering Madhuri’s name, the only fit male of the house, though a small child, his nephew is sent to bring the aunt. He manages to seek her out, just before she was going for a long outing, to forge new alliance, with the Prince, who was again active. The letter in his hand from his mother, “I don’t know whether you would be able to reach while he is still alive” seals the matter.

She rushes to her beloved, with approval of her father “At the time of Devendra’s wedding I had promised Ksetra, his father, that I would marry my daughter to his younger son. I didn’t tell anyone, but it seems God helped me in keeping my promise”. With parental blessing there was nothing that could stop her and she land up there, bravely facing the derogatory comments of villagers “You are responsible for his brother’s death and also his imminent one, by forcing him to sing despite being aware of the curse on the family”. Thankfully the most affected by it, the widow of Devendra, doesn’t join the chorus.

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Unfazed of who supported or opposed her, she take the charge on her hand and immediately sends the car back, without allowing the engine to cool down, to get the best doctor available within practical radius. It would be upgraded later of course. Money of course was immaterial, for the only husband of the only daughter, that too favorite one, of a multimillionaire industrialist that isn’t a consideration.

The doctor comes in the treatment starts and the things do not improve much till the curse is broken – “Shapmochan”.

It was such a simple technique, I wonder why it wasn’t done earlier.

By then she knew that the ‘Other woman’ is actually a god-sister, paving the way for ‘and they lived happily ever after’. That is of course after the sulking heroine, with the last stereotyped dialogue “Why didn’t you bother to inform me that you are so sick, am I nobody to you?” had been mollified.

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The trouble with these movies and theses hackneyed dialogues are, I suppose, the actors too are affected by the quality, and even the good actors mouth them as if by rote. Not with the expressions really associated with the situation.

3 thoughts on “Shapmochan (1955)”

  1. At the starting of the film,during the time when the classical song is going on….you will notice that,at the middle of the song,the old man is potrayed for the first time …saying-“yes…,it’s my music,my own music” which lays an emphasis to the fact that he might be the real guru …not the fraud one….
    Secondly ,I would like to mention about the film -that during that era …people were more fascinated about the mythological stories and contradictions ..on that part of view,I would like to say that it’s a typical cinematographed low-budget cinema which dared to show the love affairs inbetween the scenes…but not at all a bad cinema during that period of time ….thirdly,I would like to mention about the story line .as you know,it’s a typical family drama,therefore to lengthen it’s durations,the director resolves the mystery at the last ..by breaking the tanpura which was being cursed for years…thus it is to be known by you that during that era ..people had more time to spend in cinemas and in theatres…thus only for that reason,the director had done this….and by the way ..can you send me the analysis of female characters in this cinema…?

    1. There is no controversy on the fact that he was the teacher/ trainer, but not Guru. The Guru is supposed to be selfless. He didn’t behave like one. He should rather have basked in the glory. However I won’t go into the semantics. In the end it becomes personal preference, and it really scores low on mine.
      When I watch the movie and put them on scale, I try to put myself in that era. I won’t call Griffith below standard, unless I get a Sjostrom who in that era and was much above, even by today’s standard (in fact his movies could be dubbed and converted into sound and released even today). Similarly for these I have the other reference points, the movies of Asit Sen, Agradoot, Ajay Kar, Bikash Roy etc, of the era.
      The character analysis of women, and my opinion on/of them, would need another watch. I have seen it long back and the memory is erased (since I didn’t consider it to be much of watchable). IMDb might give it a score of 8, but for me, it is somewhere around 4 to 5. Anyway I might watch it sometime in future and post as I decipher them.
      I am at the moment on some ancient non-Indian domain (few hollywoods, but mostly European, silent era or talkies, pre 1950). And there are beauties, especially almost all the Silents of Sjostrom, Pabst etc as well as those of Garbo. After those I have to really force myself to watch these.

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