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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Seema (1955) - Redemption should be this good…

seema00047I cant remember a time when I havent loved this film. As a child I shed buckets of tears over the heroine’s tale of woe, blissfully wallowed in her happily-ever-after, and of course, followed her lead to fall in love with Balraj Sahni’s sensitive, compassionate and oh-so-empathetic social worker. My grown up self sheds no more tears, but the rest of my reactions remain the same!
Gauri (Nutan) is an orphan brought up by her boozing-gambling Uncle Kashinath (Shivraj) and his shrewish wife (Praveen Paul). Like Cinderella, Gauri does all the housework while her Aunt verbally and physically abuses her. Gauri also earns money for the family by working in a rich household where the mistress abuses her.

In between bearing all this abuse uncomplainingly, Gauri manages to find time to amuse and feed the neighborhood kids. Yes, she is the quintessential “good-girl”, but she isnt completely spiritless, as fellow servant Bankelal (C. S. Dubey) finds when he tries to flirt with her. The lady will have none of him, and in revenge, Banke frames her for a domestic theft.
As a juvenile first offender, Gauri is released into her Uncle’s custody. The evil Aunt though, wont stand for a “thief” at home and poor Gauri is thrown out. She spends a tiring day looking for jobs and when she is unceremoniously shown the door everywhere, makes her way to Banke’s home to beat him up! Banke, slimy snake that he is, gets the police to save his skin and embroils Gauri in yet another police case.
Since Gauri’s Uncle refuses to take responsibility for her this time, Gauri is sent to a woman’s remand home run by the compassionate and understanding warden Ashok aka Babuji (Balraj Sahni). Unfortunately for Ashok, the patient, uncomplaining Gauri has had enough of the world’s injustices and has turned rebellious. She is rude and abusive to everybody – including the matron (Pratima Devi) - and doesnt even spare the furniture and windows! Yay! Wish I could get away with attacking window panes like Gauri…
Ashok’s calm reception of her outburst and his praise for her tuneful singing (Nutan was very musical – check out Memsaab’s post on it!) completely disarms her, and before she knows it – she’s on her way to a new life. This new life includes useful work at the home and a great friendship with fellow inmate Putli (a spunky and absolutely deeeelightful Shubha Khote in her debut role) - yay for gal pals.
Between Ashok’s uncritical mentoring, her work in the home and her blossoming friendship with Putli, Gauri finally finds her place in life. She doesnt forget to settle old scores though, and with Putli’s help, manages to escape and get even with Banke. She thrashes Banke (yesss!!!!) and I heave a sigh of blissful contentment.
Putli has her own tale – she’s a small time thief and big-time trouble-maker. She makes up for it all though, by helping to catch a thief after a thrilling cycle chase!
While all this is happening, Gauri is moving from hero-worshipping Ashok to being sincerely attached to him. His path to loving her though, isnt so clear to me. But what the heck, I’m not complaining. As long as I get my dose of romance, I’m happy. Upperstall’s thoughtful review notes that the romance was rather forced and probably added on to appease audience’s need for a romantic, side-plot. Dont know about others, but this audience would have been seriously displeased if Ashok and Gauri hadnt fallen for each other! There is trouble though, because Ashok is ill and wants her to marry his second-in-command, Murli (Sunder). Will she?
Nutan is lovely as the sweet, put-upon, but ultimately spunky Gauri. She bagged her first Filmfare Award for this role. Balraj Sahni does his usual best and is very charismatic as the earnest and caring Ashok. The big surprise though, is Shubha Khote. I dont think I’ve ever liked her so much. Her Putli is an engaging scamp and very, very memorable for her spunk and her saucy lines. C. S. Dubey’s Banke is appropriately sleazy and villainous – and he seems to have made a career out of similar roles, hereafter! I mustn't forget to mention the songs that set the tone of the movie – Shankar-Jaikishan’s music, Hasrat Jaipuri’s and Shailendra’s lyrics come together into some lovely songs: Suno chhoti si gudiya, Tu pyaar ka sagar hai, Kahan ja raha hai, Baat baat mein rootho na, Humen bhi de do sahara, and Manmohana bade jhoothe.
For a rather sentimental, oft-told tale, heavily laden with social messages, its a delightfully sweet and engaging movie and well worth a watch (several watches, in my case!).
Fun fact: According to the Upperstall review, Shubha Khote was a cycling champion before her foray into movies and writer-director Amiya Chakraborty incorporated the cycle-chase scene to showcase that!


  1. Funny image captions :D
    What artists Nutan and Balraj Sahni! Thanks for the review.

  2. Haha, I love your captions! This looks like the sort of Cinderella story I can get behind. I'm gonna add it to my queue.

  3. Shubha is one of my favorites, I always love to see her. She's beautiful and funny and that plus Nutan=must watch! :-)

  4. Kanan, Nutan and Balraj Sahni were so good together, here and in Sone Ki Chidiya.

    ajnabi, this Cinderella had a lot of spunk, and once she's done shedding tears in the first 30 min, its fun all the way!

    memsaab, Shubha was awesome here. I liked her even better than Nutan, who was really very good, too. I wonder why she (Shubha) never made it big as a leading lady.

  5. I saw this movie when I was 14 at a local open air (free to watch) event one summer day. I will never forget the experience!

    To this day this remains one of the best movies I have seen. Nutan and Balraj Sahani were awesome.

    I have liked Balraj Sahani movies since then - what ever the role

  6. Wonderful review - and I like this film a lot (it was the first film I saw with Balraj Sahni as the hero rather than a character actor, and I've liked him ever since). I thought Nutan went a bit OTT with her wildness when she first comes to the ashram, but she is fabulous anyway... and the songs are beautiful. I read somewhere that Balraj Sahni liked Manna Dey's rendition of Tu pyaar ka saagar hai so much, that he insisted Manna Dey sing for him in Waqt (O meri zohrajabeen) too.

  7. Anonymous, sounds like a great way to watch a lovely movie! And me too, to always liking Balraj Sahni after this movie. :-)

    dustedoff, I love his hero roles best, though they werent always good - he was such a jerk in Lajwanti. Excellent trivia re: his Manna Dey playback. I think Manna Da's voice suited him to a T and I cant imagine any other singer doing O meri zohrajabeen.

    Nutan's acting was certainly a bit uneven - she overdid the anger and despair in places. But overall, I think it was a way more restrained performance than that of her contemporary actresses!

  8. Yes, he was horrid in Lajwanti - couldn't imagine why Nargis would have wanted to come back to a jerk like that.
    And you're so right about Nutan managing a more restrained performance than some of her contemporaries...I can't imagine what someone like Mala Sinha or Meena Kumari would've done.

  9. Nargis had probably seen Seema, too, and was willing to forgive him anything! ;-) Speaking of Nargis, I thought she was always fairly OTT, too. Nutan gets my vote for the most natural-seeming acting among her contemporaries, with the only competition coming perhaps from Waheeda Rehman.

  10. This was the first Balraj Sahni movie I ever saw and I immediately fell in love with him and have been ever since. You know all those movies where the dumb heroine decides that he's too old and she'd rather have some brawny idiot with face like a tub of butter? Made me so angry! At least in this one Nutan has the sense to see what's being waved under her nose. Sigh.

    Also I love your masala captions!

  11. I know! Remember Sadhana in Ek Phool Do Maali? She actually preferred Sanjay Khan to him!!! Nutan was certainly a very intelligent heroine. Guess she takes after you and me! ;-D

  12. Sorry for the really long comment (and a year too late, as well), but I was searching the internet for Balraj Sahni's movies.

    I first saw him a couple months ago in Talash, and in between enjoying the masala goodness, I kept wondering who the heroine's handsome father was! Last I night I watched Do Raaste. While the family drama wasn't exactly my cup of tea, it confirmed that I adore Balraj.

    Thank you for this review of Seema, it looks like the kind of film I like and I plan to watch as soon as possible.

  13. Balraj Sahni is adorable - especially in this film. He managed to outshine most heroes he played father/elder brother to! :-)

    Do watch Seema. I'd love to hear what you say about it.

  14. Wow i would have to watch this now, not surprised about Shobha being a professional bike rider she looks totally on it in your screen cap, I absolutely love your write up of this

  15. Thanks, bollywooddeewana. Its a lovely film - do watch it...

  16. Hello Bollyviewer,
    Well, it's late at night here in France, and I'm not sleeping, so I'm going through some friendly blogs, as you can see! And coming upon some friends' thoughts too on some friendly subjects! Mmm... I wish I could still not have seen Seema! I love your way of captioning the scenes! Nutan really does wonders doesn't she? Even today!

  17. Such fond memories of this movie. My greatest crush has always been Balraj Sahni. Sigh! Tripped on his movies then and continue to do so even now. Your write up is spot on.