Mr. and Mrs. 55 (1955)

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,... 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:

  1. Dil Par Hua Aisa Jadoo
  2. Thandi Hawa Kaali Ghata
  3. Jaane Kahaan Mera
  4. Chal Diye Banda Nawaaz
  5. Meri Duniya Lut Rahi Thi
  6. 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)

And finally...
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 ;)


Anonymous said...

One of my favorite Guru Dutt films, and favorite Madhubala films, and that's saying something for both :) Should watch it again...

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

What brilliant songs! What brilliant acting- oh I love this movie to bits :)

I specially liked the way Guru Dutt optimized Johnny in this movie- he is more than the comic parallel, and has a lot of screen time, as does his girlfriend. But I missed the Guru-Dutt-standby Rehman- he should have bene included somehow :D

NidaMarie said...

I'll have to get this one! I loved Madhubala in "Mughal-e-Azam" but I'm sure that was just the tip of the iceberg! Thanks for the review and recommendation!

theBollywoodFan said...

Memsaab: It certainly belongs in a favorites/'best of' list. Surprised at how engaging it was. I'd planned to split the viewing into two sessions, couldn't get to do that! Guru Dutt and Madhubala are just fantastic, with so much to offer.

Shweta: That's true about Johnny Walker and screen time. I remember thinking when I saw the video to 'Jaane Kahaan Mera' independent of and before seeing the film, that in a film with Guru Dutt and Madhubala, you give the song to Johnny and some other actress? It worked really well in the film, though, wasn't an issue at all.

Next on my Guru Dutt viewing list are 'Kaagaz Ke Phool' and 'Chaudvin ka Chaand'. Any more you'd recommend? I have a feeling I'll like his films for the same reasons I like Aamir films :) The two I've seen certainly validate that. Oh, and I don't believe I know of the Rehman you're reffering to, maybe the recommendations could include him too?

Speaking of a Rehman, how about Waheeda Rehman and Guru Dutt?! It's only fair she be included (that Rang De Basanti screen 3) in a post on a Guru Dutt film!

Nida: 'Mughal-e-Azam' was a thing of beauty (just realized you've reviewed it at your blog)! It was my first Madhubala film as well, and it sure seems there's a long, long way to go to truly appreciate her contributions to cinema. I've really enjoyed her other works -- Howrah Bridge, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, and this. All well, well worth checking out, but Mr. and Mrs. 55 is my favorite of the three!

Thank you all for your comments. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

She rocked, didn't she? :-D And I LOVE Thandi Hawa Kaali Ghata :-)

Nicki said...

I have to admit that I'm not big into watching B&W films (I'm just ignorant and dumb like that!) but you made me curious to watch this. Thanks!

theBollywoodFan said...

Pitu: Madhubala totally rocked, seriously! Thandi Hawa Kaali Ghata is a beautiful song, yes. There's so much to like about it overall.

Nicki: I'd be hesitant to watch older films too if I didn't speak the language and knew the quality of subtitles were not the best (and often non-existent for songs). Give this one a shot, though. I think you'll enjoy it, especially given the cast. As Johnny Walker says, it's all "very fine. Really very fine"! :)

Anonymous said...

I loved this film and your post reminds me that its time for a re-watch. :-) I had completely forgotten that Preetam aan milo was in this movie! The song is used as a plot element in Gulzar's Angoor which I was re-watching recently - and the way it was sung there, I was convinced the origial must have been a Saigal song (deeply nasal voice! lol).

Anonymous said...

BWFan, if you haven't seen Pyaasa you should move that up to next on your list. Besides being a fabulous movie with great songs, it's about a poet, something I am sure you would really enjoy :)

theBollywoodFan said...

Bollyviewer: Thank you again for the recommendation! This was a lot of fun, and I know I'll be watching it again. You almost got it with Saigal, LOL! That's great. 'Preetam Aan Milo' is such a classic, and I have very fond memories associated with it (go figure, they're from childhood :).

Saigal and Atma have some brilliant songs to their credit, and they certainly add credibility to the lyrical dementia argument of contemporary Bollywood. Haven't seen Angoor, but the cast is interesting, and given you saw it again recently, I should add it to the procurement list. =)

Memsaab: Pyaasa is the only other Guru Dutt movie I have seen. You're absolutely right, I thoroughly enjoyed it! It is a fantastic movie (discussed here), and in the top-most tier of my all-time favorites! The lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi are something else.

Anonymous said...

I've added it to my list hai!
All the best!

theBollywoodFan said...

Adab Sita-ji: That's great, would love to hear your take on it! Your use of the word 'hai' is always so very interesting (and I know, intentional) :) Talk to you soon. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Hi theBollywoodFan

Greetings of the day.
I happened to see your blog dedicated to the film Mr and Mrs 55.

It is an excellent piece of article and many thanks for posting it. I am proud to let you know that I am involved with the first ever website dedicated to this singer Geeta Dutt ji. The website is and was launched on 23rd November 2008. Kindly visit the site and do let us know your feedback on the same.

I will be highly grateful if you can provide a link to on your blog.

Many thanks and warmest Regards
(On the behalf of Geeta Dutt fans)

Unknown said...

I *ADORED* so much about this film, especially the first half, that it pained me when it turned morally repellent. It started off as a light, fun, movie, something I assumed Guru Dutt was incapable of, and the music is simply phenomenal. I laughed and smiled and was having a great time, UNTIL the scenes with his bhabhi - her dialogue was unforgivable. HOW could the man who gave us the scathing social commentary of Pyaasa, one of the best movies from anywhere ever, have a character DEFENDING spousal abuse and the domestic enslavement of women? The fact that Madhubala's character ended up repeating some of the bhabhi's words to her feminazi aunt at the end shows that the disgusting sentiments mouthed by the babhi were the ones that were being promoted.

A jarring note that was right out of character with the rest of the film, especially with the truly delightful romance of equals between Johnny Walker and Yasmin - "Jaane Kahaan Mera" is one of the most fun picturisitions I've ever seen. I would happily rewatch all the songs, Madhubala's facial acting in "hal Diye Banda Nawaaz" is a reminder of what the world lost when she went, and Johnny was superb.

I'm just VERY disappointed that Dutt offered only misandry and misogyny as options, and ended up stating that the latter was the better of the two. Given how criminally he treated the angel that sang for him in this film, it fits with his character as an actual person, but it's still disturbing and disappointing. I would give this movie 6.8 out of 10 - that 9.5/10 for everything "before bhabhi" and for the songs, 3/10 for the rest.

Of rainy days said...

i didnt like the film much for the kind of content. but loved yasmin in the film. she was a total surprise package. i would love to steal the photo of yasmine you have put up here with credit ofcourse.

jane kaha mera remains my favouritest song to watch till date.