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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ek Saal (1957) – the romantic year.

Ashok Kumar and Madhubala in Ek Saal The spate of Madhubala dedications* on her birthday (which falls on Valentine’s day), reminded me of my favorite Madhubala romance that I just had to re-watch This one has her paired with Ashok Kumar in my favorite kind of romance – the bad guy reformed by TRUE LOVE!!!! Now, who wouldnt be reformed by love of Madhubala? Certainly not our revered Dada Mani.

The movie opens with a grim scene - a doctor (Mahmood in an uncharacteristically serious avatar) telling a stunned father (Nazir Kashmiri?) that his daughter has only a year (ek saal) to live.

Cut to the happy daughter - Usha (Madhubala) - celebrating her birthday at her grandmother (Pratima Devi)’s place in Lucknow. The irony of the wishes - tu jiye hazaaron saal (may you live a thousand years) - is completely lost on the suave society burglar Suresh (Ashok Kumar). He is intent on stealing grandma’s 10 grand necklace and succeeds admirably.

Unfortunately for Suresh, the robbery is complicated by the appearance of the Wodehousian detective J. B. Pinto (Johnny Walker). Suresh is forced to hide the necklace in Usha’s purse and lands up flirting with her to get it back. Usha is not at all taken with Dada Mani’s charming smile (excuse her please, the woman has a tumor on her mind!) but he still manages to get back his spoils. Suresh’s flirting hasnt escaped the eagle eye of his partner Rajni (Kuldip Kaur) who is more alive to Usha’s loveliness than Suresh is. He assures her however, that he is a businessman and unlikely to fall in love. (Geez dude, have you looked, I mean LOOKED at her?!!!)

Her birthday celebrations over, Usha returns home to her father’s estates near Bombay. Unbeknownst to her, her father - Colonel Sinha - has engaged a new estate manager who is none other than Suresh (with some forged qualifications). Suresh’s plan is to win Colonel Sinha’s confidence and lay his hands on the estate’s liquid assets. A plan that receives unwitting aid from Usha who finally wakes up to Suresh’s charms and falls head-over-heels for him (Dada Mani triumphs over brain tumor’s sense-deadening effects. Yay!).

Suresh isnt too keen to play along until Col. Sinha offers to pay him a monthly retainer to keep his dying daughter happy. Usha is deliriously and heartbreakingly, happy in Suresh’s love and her father’s consent for their union. Suresh’s note-counting dil (and equally mercenary brain) is very alive to the advantages of prolonging her life – the longer she lives the more money he earns. So, he begins to look for a cure or at least a way to prolong her life. Of course, he doesnt realise that he is in a movie and the only fail-proof cure for everything in movieland is LOVE.

Suresh’s partner, the evil Rajni, isnt convinced that the Suresh-Usha romance is all playacting on his part and is scared of losing him. She employs detective Pinto and his assistant (Minu Mumtaz) - to find out about Suresh’s real feelings! Even Holmes would be puzzled at how to read a lover’s mind and Pinto is definitely not in the same league. As it turns out, this is just the pointless comic diversion and we may safely fast-forward to the more interesting bits.

The more time Suresh spends with her, the more he is impressed by Usha’s goodness and the strength of her love for him (umm, being Madhubala has nothing to do with it, huh?) and his conscience smites him for deceiving her. But just when Suresh is beginning to realise that his feelings for Usha go a lot deeper than his monthly retainer, Rajni reveals ALL to Usha. Poor, heartbroken Usha collapses, and her ek saal looks like its coming to a premature end! And poor, poor, Suresh who’s about to lose his new found love in more ways than one. How does it all end? Hint: this isnt a Dilip Kumar film, so watch without fear! ;-)

Madhubala is at her beautiful best. She teases, she laughs, she cries, she loves, and shines through it all. Ashok Kumar is great as usual and oh so charismatic… sigh! When I read Manto’s anecdotes (memsaab, thanks a lot for recommending the book) about how women fans used to mob him in public, I found it hard to imagine (hey, I grew up watching him play benign grandfather!). But after this movie, I doubt no more! Here he is Ashok Kumar the hero and charismatic star. Kuldip Kaur (according to Manto she was very much the-lady-behind-the-man for Pran) was absolutely made for the role of evil vamp - heaven help the man who stands in her way!

This is a perfect movie for those snowy days (or rainy days if you are lucky enough to live in warmer climes) when you want to curl up on the couch with a good movie complete with great actors and lovely songs.

*Madhubala Day was celebrated by Dustedoff, theBollywoodFan and Richard!


  1. Thanks for this one, I know some of the songs but it is one Madhubala film that I had never seen!

  2. Must see this one. It's corny to write a story with anyone resisting Madhubala's charms even for a single minute! Impossible.

  3. I'm sad that I missed Madhubala's birthday. I just missed Pran's, too! But at least I'm as neglectful with people I actually know.

    I did just watch Howrah Bridge, almost on her birthday, and while I still think Ashok is a goofy-looking hero, he is a good actor, and they really do click as a couple. I'm looking forward to seeing this!

  4. I would love to see this; she looks so beautiful and the plot is cheezilicious.

  5. Oh.My.God.

    I have to see this NOW. Dadamoni and Madhubala! A villainESS! (and Kuldip Kaur yet! she is great at being evil) much goodness, my heart is about to explode! Glad you liked Manto's book, I have re-read it about fifty times and it still makes me laugh.

    (my verification word is bracaper, heh)...

  6. I love everything about this post: the screen caps (Madhubala, of course, is out of this world, but that last one of Kuldip Kaur had me in splits!), the brilliant captions, and your inimitable style. And oh, how I want to see this movie. I've just been seeing an awful one (Marine Drive); I need something to take my mind off it.

  7. What a great post. A great V-day and birthday post for Madhubala. She is so beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I just found out Netflix has this available for instant viewing. Yaaaayyyy!

  9. I'm w/ Banno on this one- Madhubala falls for Ashok and he doesnt instantly?????? :) I dont find Kuldip cute at all- must be something, to keep Pran hooked... must watch this one to understand better- thanks!

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  11. bawa, this one would be worth watching even without Madhubala. Her presence and her great chemistry with Ashok Kumar just adds that extra dimension that lifts a movie from nice to great (I know, I am a certified Madhubala fan!).

    Banno, its not just anyone, its Dada Mani - the iron man, and he could do ANYTHING. But even he couldnt stand out against Madhubala for long! ;-)

    Anarchivist, welcome to OiG. Ashok Kumar isnt exactly film-star good looking but he's a great actor and has a certain charisma that makes him way better looking than any of his contemporary heroes (to me). And he did click very well with Madhubala. Hope you like this when you get to watch it.

    ajnabi, the plot reminds of my favorite cheesy romances. :-D And netflix has it! Wow! Hope you enjoy it.

    memsaab, Kuldip Kaur looks sooooo evil I cant believe she was anything else in real life! Manto's gossipy tid-bits were such fun and so well written. I just wish I could get hold of his writings in their original Urdu version (transliterated in Devanagiri) but havent found anything so far.

    Hmm... "bra caper" might very well be another word for chick-flicks!

    dustedoff, thanks. This will certainly take your mind off a number of things! And Marine Drive was awful? Isnt it a thriller with Ajit in the lead? I was hoping it would be another of his really cute-but-unknown movies like Dholak.

    Nicki, thanks! Madhubala was awesome. Have you seen any of her films?

    Shweta, Ashok Kumar is one heck of a hard-hearted, mercenary-minded, blind man, here! To resist her charms for half a film - tis unbelievable. But he makes amends very nicely. As to Kuldip's attractions, according to Manto she was a rich lady who pretty much "kept" Pran!

    theBollywoodFan, they are one of my favorite onscreen couples and I think this is their best outing. Johnny Walker's involvement though is quite redundant. His part could easily have been edited out without affecting the story one whit - not one of his better roles and not particularly funny either.

  12. I ordered a copy of this immediately :) I think Ashok Kumar is SO HANDSOME, and I can't wait to see him in a romantic story where he actually gets the girl. They seem few and far between :)

  13. lol memsaab, Filmi Girl expressed the same sentiments! He was leading man for more than 2 decades and must have got the girl at least once a year (only Dilip Kumar specialised in losing everytime) - I just have to find the DVDs. Sometimes when he did get the girl though, I wasnt applauding (like when poor Sunil Dutt lost out to him in Gumraah!).

  14. Gumrah should have been called plain Gah! IMO. The culture and time gap was too wide for me to jump over for that one!

    I would kill to see Achhut Kanya with Devika Rani. Kill.

  15. "Gah" is absolutely right. Cant believe they actually REMADE it (as Bewafaa with Anil Kapoor+Akshay Kumar+Kareena) in 2005, too!

    I did see Achhut Kanya on TV long ago and it wasnt a pleasant experience - I'd rather watch Mother India twice! Dada Mani apparently had musical training but as far as I am concerned, it was a CRIME to let him sing. And the dialogues and action - I think third graders put up better plays for their school functions.

  16. Hey, I followed the link to your site. It is wonderful. Didn't you think Dadamoni was a tad old for Madhu aunty? I mean you actually found him dashing? I saw this film years ago, all I remember now is the beautiful Talat solo 'Sab kuch luta ke'. This was a great trip down memory lane.

    Btw I read your profile as well, and hey even I have a great fascination for how people lived in the past. You must like Dalryample then.


  17. Ritu, thanks for stopping by. Glad to meet another closet historian! I tend to gobble up History Channel programs and read every kind of period book I can lay my hands on. :-D Not familiar with Dalryample though - who/what is it?

    You're clearly not a fan of Ashok Kumar! I thought Madhubala and he looked pretty equal age-wise, and his "dashing"-ness was more due to good acting and charisma than actual good looks. The Sab kuch luta ke number was lovely and is one of my favorite Talat songs.

  18. Nice interesting story.Hope to see it soon.

  19. Crazy on Bollywood, I am sure you will like it.

  20. like the title say "old is gold" all this movies are really classic of the movie scene, with all these list of star is not strange that this movies was a really hit.

  21. Old really is Gold, at least in this case! :D

  22. Your posts are slowly making me want to watch B&W movies. This one sounds good. I think i will make a list of movies from your blog to be bought on my next visit to homeland ! BTW, on my last trip i got Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, Mr & Mrs 55, Howrah Bridge and a set of 4 other movies including Albela. They are in my TBW pile.

  23. Namasteji!
    You know when a film is in your Netflix queue but you don't know why? I think I ordered this a long while back after reading your write up and finally got around to seeing it this past weekend. I enjoyed the film a lot, and I now want to see more of Kuldip Kaur. I have no trouble imaging Ashok Kumar as a chick magnet back in the day. He's got a fantastic face, and I could look at it for hours. I've also enjoyed listening you on Masala Zindabad!
    All the best!

  24. Filmbuff, shopping for DVDs is such fun. My shopping sprees always bring me way more DVDs than I can watch. There is still a huge pile of to-be-watched DVDs on my shelf that I hope to get to, one day... :D I hope you enjoy your oldies!

    Sita-ji, if you've grown up watching Dada Mani play the benign grandfather, to see him playing the romantic lead takes some getting used to! Even now, when I see him flirting with his heroines, it strikes me as cute and strange at the same time - like seeing your grandpa romance. :D

  25. well before Ashok Madhubala pair Ashok did paired with Nalini Jaywant and they sizzled on screen. Watch Sangram (1950) Samadhi(1950)and Nau Bahar (1952) are a few I have seen and are available on Youtube