Feminist (good) turned misandrist (not good) Sita Devi (Lalita Pawar) guides Mr. and Mrs. 55 through its initial phases in which we are also introduced to a number of excellent characters and legendary actors who are my favorites from the era. But before moving forward, how about a more recent mention of the other side of the argument to the second bit of Devi's sentence above? This, from Rang De Basanti (2006):
Sue has a point!
Of course they're not serious :o)
Preetam Kumar (Guru Dutt) the cartoonist, suffers from what a doctor calls the 'sickness of hunger and unemployment'. Anita (Madhubala), an orphan, belongs to a wealthy family and lives with her aunt Sita Devi. Anita's father's will is revealed on her twenty-first birthday, and leaves the women in a fix: she must marry within a month or lose her dad's fortune. Sita Devi devises a plan involving Preetam that would help the women inherit the fortune. What follows is hilarious and often enlightening in many ways, complete with some excellent music (O. P. Nayyar) and lyrics (Majrooh Sultanpuri), and a fantastic supporting cast including Johnny Walker, Yasmin, Kum Kum, Tun Tun.
Produced and directed by Guru Dutt, there's much to like about it. The narrative arc is splendid. There's a natural flow to the character development, and the comedy and the performances that deliver it so convincingly make it delightfully entertaining and engaging. But it's not merely a romantic comedy. Complete with some sequences high on the drama quotient, it even carries a valid social message -- seek and ye shall discover, likely through Madhubala, who strikes a balance between modernity, femininity, and traditionalism. Of course, she is magnificent!
This doesn't sound too bossy at all, does it?
Okay, I really need one of these in my little Bollywood shrine.
Honorable mention to Yasmin, who plays the role of Johnny Walker's girlfriend. She really is the surprise element, and makes the most of her presence.
Which brings us to what I think is the biggest strength of the film -- the antics of Guru Dutt and Johnny Walker. The most effective comedy is presented by them, and the situations they give rise to are hilarious.
Most of you know this already, but there probably aren't many who can say a lot without saying much while relying on their facial expressions. Dutt and Walker are two of the finest at that. You might recall their performance in Pyaasa (1957) was phenomenal too. Here, at least initially, their standing in the social hierarchy is inverted to some extent. But it really doesn't take much to appreciate how well they work together,...
...as is the case with Dutt and Madhubala, who are brilliant.
The music is a definite complement, with a decent assortment of very familiar tracks. As was the case with the other Madhubala film I saw recently -- Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958 -- discussed here) -- I did not know these songs belonged to this film, and shame on me for not paying attention to album artwork in greatest hits compilations. Sample my favorites from the soundtrack, each featuring some combination of Mohammad Rafi and Geeta Dutt:
- Dil Par Hua Aisa Jadoo
- Thandi Hawa Kaali Ghata
- Jaane Kahaan Mera
- Chal Diye Banda Nawaaz
- Meri Duniya Lut Rahi Thi
- Preetam Aan Milo (watch only if you've seen the film)
The most popular from this list are likely #s 3 and 6. I had to listen to #5 more than once before moving forward, it's a beautifully written qawwali. And #6 is interesting, I think I'd come across it in the C. H. Atma Golden Collection discussed in this post. Here is the original song by Atma (fantastic stuff). The song in the film is Geeta Dutt's rendition.
All in all, a wonderful cinematic treat that is, after only one viewing, in my list of favorite comedies!
Movie rating: 4.25/5 (Excellent!)
If you are aware of any films in which Guru Dutt has starred opposite Madhubala, please let me know!
Music rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent!)
My classification: PG (for theme)
I've been on quite a Madhubala-centric run recently, and she's made my all-time favorites list in record time. Know why?
She definitely keeps it real ;)