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Monday, June 30, 2008

Neend Hamari Khwaab Tumhare (1966)

Based on the short story Saanch Ko Aanch (Truth in Trouble!) by famous Pakistani satirist Shaukat Thanvi, Neend Hamari Khwaab Tumhare (My Sleep and Your Dreams) tells the tale of an ambitious social climber with gentle humor and tons of masala.
Ajjoo Hajjaam (Ajjoo the barber - Om Prakash) strikes it lucky with a lottery win and installs himself as Nawab Ajmatullah Khan Farooqui in Delhi. His rags-to-riches story however, doesnt quite go according to plans. He manages to worm his way into Delhi's nawabi society presided over by the extremely-high-in-the-instep Khan Bahadur (a very dashing looking Balraj Sahni) and his cultured, pious Begum (Nirupa Roy). Ajjoo's position in high society however, is under constant threat from his delightfully uncouth wife Begum Ajmatullah Farooqui (Manorama). He hires Miss Pal (Shashikala) to teach his wife the ways of fashionable society, but the lady remains unrepentantly pedestrian in her language and manners. He finally gives up on her education and lets it out that she suffers from mental problems.

On the other side, Begum Khan Bahadur has problems of her own. Her husband, though very good looking, insists on smoking smelly pipes and commending their daughter Nishad's (Nanda) poor taste in clothes. She is worried that such a sartorially-retarded girl will never find a "good match"! Fikar not, Begum Khan Bahadur - the maker of Nishad's fashion sense has also made the ideal mate for her. Ajjoo's educated son Anwar (Shashi Kapoor) takes one look at her playing badminton (very, very badly, in a terrible costume) and is struck by Cupid's arrow (do you need any more proof that love is blind?). Nishad however, is unimpressed and needs to be wooed. Our doughty hero manages this in 5 minutes flat (the guy is smooth), and the romance is ON. There is much singing and dancing before the inevitable trouble kicks in.
Anwar's mom wants him to marry her niece and not the girl of his dreams (she doesnt like Nanda's fugly costumes either?). She threatens to reveal their plebeian origins to the blue-blooded Khan Bahadur and wreck Anwar's romance. The Khan Bahadur is very particular in associating only with aristocrats and naturally wants his daughter to wed the scion of a noble family. Poor Anwar's family is as far removed from nobility as is humanly possible. His conscience troubles him about deceiving his beloved and her family, and he longs to tell her the truth. Nawab Ajmatullah however, sees no need for such honesty and prevents Anwar's confession. This leads to a lot of angst, some lovely songs and an opportunity for the villain to do his evil deeds.
The nawabi context of the story allowed the script-writer to use Urdu extensively in the dialogues and the result is delightful. Unlike the theatrical nawabi dramas of 60's or period pieces like Mughal-e-Azam where Urdu dialogues are declaimed in high dramatic style, here we have beautiful Urdu spoken as it should be, and can savor its awesomeness!
Performance-wise the two sets of nawabs are splendid and hold their own against their gutsy wives! Balraj Sahni is sauve and smooth even as he plays the exaggeratedly snooty Khan Bahadur. Have I mentioned that he looks super handsome? Nirupa Roy is in her element as the pious and somewhat preachy Begum Khan Bahadur. Om Prakash, as the determined social climber is great as usual and manages to imbue Ajjoo Hajjaam's social ambitions with a touch of pathos that invites the viewer's complete sympathy. My favorite in this movie though, is Manorama who gets into the skin of the gutsy, determined and unashamedly uncouth, Begum Ajmatullah. I cant imagine any other actress playing the part half as well - she invites you to laugh at the idiosyncrasies of high society even as she keeps pricking her husband's pretensions to aristocracy.
Shashi Kapoor reprises his usual 60s tall-dark-and-handsome-hero persona which is very watchable and makes for some great moments in the movie (Hey its Shashi - dont expect a more objective appraisal from me!). Nanda reprises her Jab Jab Phool Khile avatar and pouts and whines a bit too much, but does come through as more interesting in the dramatic scenes. Her dress sense also improves half-way through the movie! Anwar and Nishad's romance - the dramatic focal point of the plot - is very well done. There are some melt-into-a-puddle-from-the-romance moments and they are both such fun in a cute, 60s kind of way.
Of the other important characters, Anwar Hussain is great as Doctor Rana - the friendly neighbourhood physician who moonlights as Cupid and Agony Uncle in his free time. Lotan is satisfyingly cunning as the greedy, conniving, matchmaker Mir Sahib. Shashikala is okay as the westernised governess, Miss Pal. Manmohan isnt particularly villainous as the villain-in-chief, Nawab Shaukat. The comedic subplot - an essential feature of all 60s films - is provided by Rajendra Nath who plays the indefatigable romeo, Shibbu. His comedy, though quite routine, is also fun.
The music for the movie is composed by the great Madan Mohan (his tunes were used for the songs in Veer Zara). Here he has composed some great numbers sung by Asha Bhonsle and Mohd. Rafi. From the peppy Yun rootho na haseena, Kabhi tera daaman na and Husn jab jab ishq se, to the sultry Bheegi hui is raat ka aanchal and the lovely ghazal Koi shikwa bhi nahin every one of them is hummable and fun to watch.
The movie is pure 60s masala in format with over the top costumes and sets, yet it takes such delicious pot-shots at high society and class difference that it cant be dismissed as totally frivolous. It is above all, a fun movie and a great watch. If you like Bollywood's 60s romantic comedies, you are going to love this one.


  1. This is going on my list of films to look for! It looks sublime :-) I'd love to see Manorama in a bigger role than she usually gets.

  2. This movie sounds like a lot of fun! What does nawab mean? This is one of those times when my lack of Indian-ness is working against me. ;-)

  3. This does look like great fun! Manorama is a huge selling point for me, as well. What a comedienne that lady was!!

  4. BV, I am LOVIN' that you've seen so much Shashi and always share these unknown-to-me treats! It's fab!

    Alas, however, many many alases I cry (not for the first time) that I cannot understand Urdu and so what I imagine to be a beautiful language remains completely indecipherable. Woe unto me. Indulge me: does Shashi have a cute accent when he speaks Urdu?

    Definitely interested in seeing this. Om Prakash is DA BOMBZ, however I don't know if I'll tolerate a preachy Nirupa Roy or a whiny Nanda very well.

  5. @memsaab: It isnt often that Manorama gets to play an interesting character and her over-the-top-expressions work so well here!

    @ajnabi: Nawab is the title used by Muslim rulers of small kingdoms, but the term is also used to refer to hereditary rich Muslim landlords. For example Saif Khan's father is the Nawab of Pataudi and Saif is therefore, frequently referred to as Chhote Nawab (Nawab junior). Re the non-Indian-ness - worry not. You can have so much fun discovering!

    @filmigirl: Agree that Manorama was a great comedienne who sadly got typecast as the evil woman. Her *evil* gestures work so well in comedy, as she shows here.

    @ppcc: Someone at Doordarshan (Indian state TV) loved Shashi as much as all of us and consequently I have seen tons of his movies growing up. Now that they have started coming out on DVD, I have done my bit to increase the market for them! ;-) Still have several more of them to review and my DVD collection isnt even complete!

    And yes, Shashi's Urdu accent is everything it ought to be. Though you dont need to appreciate that to enjoy the movie. :-) Whiny Nanda and preachy Nirupa Roy dont exactly hog the lime-light - every character gets a fair share of screen-time. The best thing about the movie is that the females are not only the opposite of doormatty, they also get to do things.

  6. I must have this. I was sold even before you got to Shashi. It sounds utterly Jane Austen - that is, social comedy - which I always love. However, your note about the music gave me pause, because I hate the music from Veer-Zaara for a variety of reasons that do not need to be discussed here :) So then I scampered over to youtube and watched 40 seconds of "Youn Rutho Na" and was sold once again. It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine. 60s romantic comedies, or 60s masala, or whatever you want to call them might just prove to be my favorite sub-category. I guess that shouldn't surprise me, given how much I adore the mod, fab Beatles and things like The Avengers and Hard Day's Night>

  7. Beth, I know what you mean about Madan Mohan. He really did compose good music - back in the days when the musical instruments were NOT digital, the lyrics were more poetic than rhythmic, when Lata was in her prime and not in her-voice-is-about-to-break mode!

    And yes, 60s is really a fab period. I love Beatles too but am sad to say that I havent seen either Hard Day's Night or The Avengers and have just realised what I missed there!

  8. I don't believe it! A Shashi movie that I've not only never seen but haven't even heard of. With a DVD that looks like it's worth it! BV - you're awesome! Thank you so much.

  9. You are welcome, Amrita! I had the same reaction when I discovered Prem Patra - another of his *unknown* movies. Hope you enjoy watching this one. :-)

  10. Oooh girls, I just got both of those in the mail! Shashi party at my house (and everyone's invited)!

  11. By both do you mean Neend Hamari Khwaab Tumhare and Prem Patra? Gosh, I cant wait to hear what you think of them. Make it faaast! :-D

  12. So much for fast. Yes, I got NHKT and PP (in fact, I got two copies of PP somehow, so I'll be looking for a home for one of them...). I hope to get to one of them this weekend! (Stupid travel, getting in the way of watching Shashi...I mean, movies.)

  13. lol - I landed up with two copies of PP too. Though in my case it was intentional since the first copy was a bad print and I was hoping for a better one which I did not get. All the prints seem to be made from the same master copy that has the video dragging the images at some points.

    Hmm... travel shouldnt be allowed to come between you and Shashi ... err.. movies. Employers seem to have such odd priorities - work before movies!!!

  14. Yay! I just finished watching this movie based on your recommendation, and I really enjoyed it.

    I have to say, I was quite impressed by how quickly Anwar was able to win Nishad over. Of course, as he himself says, many have fallen for his face, and he certainly shows some smooth moves at the sports club.

    I was a little worried about where they were going with the whole England-educated daughter thing (I've seen Purab Aur Paschim and Jab Jab Phool Khile, after all) so I was glad that the only apparently deleterious effect her Western education had on her was her rather lamentable taste in clothes at the beginning of the movie.

  15. Cindy, I am so glad you liked it. I was quite surprised by this movie's neutral take on gender issues, too, especially after Jab Jab Phool Khile. A 60s movie that did not trash modernity or modern women is worth its weight in gold! Plus, a movie about Muslim families that didnt turn into a Muslim Social (weep-fests about ultra conservative rich Muslim families usually from Lucknow/Aligarh and exemplified by movies like Mere Mehboob) is a rarity in Bollywood.

    As to Anwar's smoothness, I must confess that I didnt really understand Nishad's reservations about him at all! Seriously though, you must have discovered by now that in Bollywood all it takes for the hero to woo the girl is one good song.