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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Let’s make Pride and Prejudice in Hindi!

Pride and PrejudiceIt all started when my sister and I were watching Biswajit and Rajshree cavorting in Do Dil (1965). They both played such vanilla-smelling dumb sweet and simple characters, with nary a bright spot between them, that I couldn’t help but compare them to Mr. Bingley and Jane Bennett (if you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice yet, what are you waiting for?). Once Jane and Bingley were cast, it was absolutely essential that we cast the rest of the leads too! Naturally, that meant we had to pause the film while we debated the relative merits and demerits of our choices. Here’s how it went…
Sis: But who will be Darcy? Dharamendra is the best romantic leading man in the 60s, but he wouldn’t do arrogance very well. And he was kind of thin in '65.
Me (hesitantly): Rajendra Kumar?
Sis (dubiously): Yeah. Maybe. Who else? If it were the 50s, Ashok Kumar would be the best. He was so charismatic and such a good actor. But Dadamani was too old for Darcy in the 60s.
Dadamani as Darcy was a completely new idea for me, and one I liked instantly! So naturally we had to have two P&Ps – one where he played Darcy and one where someone else told Biswajit/Bingley whether or not he could marry Rajshree/Jane. That decided, the search was on for the 60s Darcy.
We spent several happy hours debating, casting and rejecting names before we settled on our list.
Pride and Prejudice, the 1965 version
Darcy Sunil Dutt! He was handsome; tall enough to be "such a great tall fellow, in comparison with myself" that Bingley/Biswajit would pay him all the deference Austen thought was Darcy’s due; and he was quite capable of projecting both intelligence and aristocratic arrogance.
Elizabeth Sadhana. Her only serious rival was Tanuja who would make a lovely, vivacious Lizzy, but she looked very young in 1965 - too young to be courted by Sunil Dutt! Sadhana, on the other hand, would know just how to refuse Mr. Darcy and let him know that "You could not have made the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it.
Jane Rajshree. She is lovely, dances beautifully, and usually projects a personality that is sweet, but not overly intelligent – perfect for Jane who has never struck me as being over-endowed with intellect. 
Bingley For me, Biswajit has always had the onscreen personality of a wet-noodle. He never comes over as a very forceful personality. Even in Do Dil, where he was quite sweet, he looked rather simple and dense. I have no trouble imagining him being talked out of loving Jane by a more forceful Mr. Darcy!
Wickham Shashi Kapoor. With that dimpled, crooked smile, the charm oozing from every pore, he would certainly make a "valuable son-in-law" for Mr. Bennett. When Mr. Bennett tells people that Wickham "is as fine a fellow as ever I saw. He simpers, and smirks, and makes love to us all", don’t you just know that he is speaking of Shashi?
Lydia Saira Banu. Lydia is pretty, loud, silly and absolutely convinced that she is cute as a button. Plus, you know she will grow up to be even more shrill and annoying. Ergo, a role tailor-made for Saira Banu. You disagree? Check out Shagird, and you won’t disagree for long!
Mr. Bennett David. We debated the rival merits of Om Prakash, but he tends be a bit too loud and Mr. Bennett was anything but. David had been channelling Mr. Bennett’s sarcastic humour and keen intelligence for so long by 1965, that I can’t help but feel that he is the one for this role. I can just see him obstinately refusing to leave his study, and telling Mrs. Bennett how well acquainted he is with her nerves.
Mrs. Bennett This was the hardest choice of all. The 60s had so many good looking Moms knocking around, and all of them were excellent actresses. In the end, the choice fell on Achla Sachdev, 'coz in 1965 she was a zohrajabeen (Venus?) and abhi tak hai haseen (still beautiful). Mr. Bennett was right to think that his daughters’ would-be beaus may take one look at her and forget all about the young ladies!
Mr. Collins My first choice was Rajendranath since looks-wise, he is exactly like my mental picture of Collins. Unlike Collins, he is always a buffoon who never takes himself seriously, and always has a heart of gold. So I thought of Kishore Kumar, who was quite capable of being both annoying and serious though usually not at the same time. And Mr. Collins is the most seriously annoying man you’re ever likely to come across in a romance! After a lot of serious discussion between sis and yours truly, Rajendranath finally won out. He had the looks, and surely a good director and a great script can take care of the rest?
Miss Bingley Simi Garewal. Miss Bingley is beautiful, stylish, very well aware of her own worth, and supercilious to boot. Look at Ms Garewal – she is beautiful, stylish, very well aware of her own worth, and has been known to carry off haughty and disdainful, with ease, too. Need we look any further for our favourite vamp?
Miss Darcy Mumtaz. I have this mental image of Georgiana Darcy – she is tall, graceful, shy and hasn’t yet outgrown her puppy fat. Now look at Mumtaz in the mid-60s. She is a tall, graceful, adolescent young lady who can do bashful or cheeky with equal ease. Do we want anybody else playing Georgiana? Not me!
Pride and Prejudice, the 1955 version
Elizabeth Madhubala. Do I even need to justify my choice? She was vivacious, she was charming, she could be flirty and, best of all - she could pull a man’s leg and he’d be grateful for it! I can just imagine her twinkling up at Darcy, telling him that it is now his turn to come up with some conversation since she’s said her piece already!
Darcy Ashok Kumar. So he isn’t tall and he isn’t handsome. But he has truckloads of charisma, he is a superb actor and can do supercilious, sinister, obsessed, avuncular – the works. So Darcy should be a breeze for him and clever camera work can take care of the height issues. Besides, I am darned if I will even consider any one of the three greats of the 50s (Dev, Raj and Dilip) – Dev is the only one I like, and though he is handsome enough, I doubt if he can be sober, serious, snobbish and not give in to the temptation of breaking into a romantic number.
Jane Nalini Jaywant. She has all the qualities of a good Jane. Beautiful? Check. Syrupy sweet? Check. Dumb? Check (she made a career out of playing mentally deficient!). And she looks older than Madhubala – so a perfect Jane. Of course, the 50s were chockful of actresses that would do very well for Jane – Nimmi is the first one that comes to mind. Her propensity for having melodramatic meltdowns onscreen, and always seeming to be on the wrong side of the insanity divide, rules her out, though.
Bingley Bharat Bhushan. As in the case of Jane, 50s could throw up a ton of actors who could and did do a good Bingley, but nobody with as much success as Bharat Bhushan. He was always silently falling in love with a girl he either could not or would not marry, and dissolving in tuneful tears as a consequence. So he has all the necessary training to be a good Bingley, already!
Lydia Meena Kumari. While she specialised in earnest roles, even at the start of her career, the tragedy queen did do silly rather well. And she wasn’t averse to being flirtatious onscreen, either. So I think she could carry off Lydia with relative ease. The only other actress I could think of was Shyama – she could do beautiful and wilful very well, but she looked too confident and grown up for the immature 16 year old Lydia.
Wickham Rehman. He may have already started to put on weight, but he was still very handsome and rakish in the early 50s - the perfect person to oust Darcy from a girl’s thoughts. I thought about Shammi Kapoor, but he was just too thin and earnest in the early 50s for something like this. So Rehman it is…
Mr Bennett Nasir Hussain. The early 50s may have had other patriarchal figures, but Nasir Hussain is the one who played the benevolent pater familias for so long (well into the 1970s!) that I cannot readily think of anybody else. He’s practically played Mr. Bennett countless number of times, so the guy gets the job on experience alone!
Miss Bingley Kuldip Kaur. The vamp we all love to hate, she is beautiful, she dislikes our heroine and wants the hero all to herself. Reminds you of someone? Let me jog your memory… It’s Kuldip Kaur from Ek Saal - there she wanted Dadamani to forget all about Madhubala and fall for her! Need I say more? She’s clearly been practising to play Miss Bingley.
Mr. Collins Gope. One of the few comedians in Hindi films who could successfully combine the comical and the sinister and often played comical villains. He may be a trifle large for Mr. Collins, but I cannot think of a better actor in the 50s to do the comical, annoying and potentially villainous (I can so see Mr. Collins refusing to let the Bennett women stay on at Longbourn after Mr. Bennett’s death) character we (and Elizabeth) love to hate.
Miss Darcy Nutan. Georgiana Darcy is young, tall, bashful, and intelligent. Look at Nutan. Isn’t it a part tailor-made for Nutan? She  even practised running away from home. Can you see anybody else play Miss Darcy?
It looks like Bollywood had several actors playing characters from Pride and Prejudice in one form or the other, over the years. Why oh WHY did they not make the film? O well, their loss is our gain – we can spend hours making our own versions! So who would you cast in your P&P?


  1. Wow - I just realized I really don't know a bit about pre-90s Hindi cinema. But this was still fun reading.

  2. Heeheeeee! I was laughing all the way through, though I haven't read Pride and Prejudice. But if you're saying Sunil Dutt is gonna be in your version, it's all good. :D Anyway, hi, my name is Bombaynoir. :3 Actually, it's Sasha. I'm 13 years old, and I just love your blog, it's so funny! The captions make me laugh so hard! :D But where have you been?

    And Anu says that you, she, Lalitha and I should get together for a movie fest! :D

  3. Ha! You delivered, and how! :) Welcome back.

    My 1950s choices would be:
    Darcy - Dilip Kumar
    Elizabeth - Nargis
    Madhubala is too beautiful to be Lizzie. Besides, she can't do 'uppity' very well.

    Jane - Shama
    You took the words out of my mouth - I was also going to say 'Nimmi' and then rejected her for much the same reasons as yours.

    Bingley - Nooooo! Not Bharat Bhushan! Perhaps a young Rajendra Kumar? *Doubtfully*

    Wickham - Dev Anand
    He specialised in 'grey' roles, so I can absolutely see him as a seducer.

    Miss Bingley - Who else but Nadira?
    Miss Darcy - Waheeeda, though Nutan will also fit well into the role.

    Lydia - Geeta Bali
    Mr Collins - Bhagwan?
    Mr Bennet - Nasir Hussain, it is!
    Mrs Bennet - Hmm, no idea really,.

    The 60s choices for:

    Darcy -
    Bingley - Joy Mukherjee
    Elizabeth - Sadhana (perfect choice there)
    Lydia - Saira (you nailed that one!)
    Jane - Sharmila Tagore
    Miss Darcy - Nanda
    Miss Bingley - Babita (She looks suitably ugly)
    Mrs Bennet - Nadira!
    Your Mr Bennet and Mr Collins were spot on!

    Now, when others put in their choices, maybe you should tally them and post the final list! :)

  4. Welcome back bollyviewer!

    Agree with all your choices for the 60s. Perfect, except for Simi as Miss Bingley. I think I would take Shashikala as Miss Bingley instead.

    For the 50s
    Dilip Kumar or Guru Dutt as Mr. D'Arcy!
    Meena Kumari or Nargis as Elizabeth
    Nalini Jaywant as Jane - agree!
    Nasir Khan as Mr. Bingley
    Geeta Bali as Lydia
    Shammi Kapoor as Mr. Wickham
    Nasir Husain as Mr. Bennett is okay
    Durga Khote as Mrs. Bennett
    Agha as Mr. Collins but Gope would do as well
    Nutan as Georgina ? NO! take Shakila

    For the 70s
    Amitabh Bachchan as Mr. D'Arcy!
    Jaya Bhaduri as Elizabeth
    Hema Malini as Jane - agree!
    Jeetendra (like in Khushboo) as Mr. Bingley
    Parveen Babi as Lydia
    Kiran Kumar as Mr. Wickham
    Ashok Kumar as Mr. Bennett is okay
    Urmila Bhatt as Mrs. Bennett
    Asrani as Mr. Collins
    Zaheera as Georgina

  5. Thanks, Mette. You should probably cast a post 90s Pride and Prejudice!

  6. Hi Sasha, thank you so much for the kind words. Do keep reading!

    You do need to read P&P, and I hope you'll like it. I was 13 when I read it first and it was an instant favorite. There are just a couple of things - you must like romances and rich, tall-dark-n-handsome heroes. :D

  7. Hey, Elizabeth is NOT "uppity". And no matter what the novel says, onscreen adaptations always have an Elizabeth who is prettier than Jane! So Madhubala stays!!!! :-P

    And why not Bharat Bhushan as Bingley? You don't, by any chance, like either of the guys, do you?

    Dev A as Wickham is an excellent idea. He does like to "simper and smirk, and make love" to every pretty female.

    Nadira as Ms Bingley? Awesome! I should've thought of that!

    Geeta Bali as Lydia? Do you find her as annoying as I do?!

    I thought of Waheeda for Miss Darcy too, but she is too poised and self-assured for that!

    Who's your 60s Darcy?

    Joy Mukherjee as Bingley? You do realise that he is as tall as Sunil Dutt? Besides Joy is too cute to be Bingley - Wickham perhaps?

    Sharmila would make a lovely Jane, but she looked a lot younger than Sadhana in 1965 - check out Waqt.

    Nanda as Miss Darcy?! A decade earlier perhaps, but not in '65!

    Babita would make an excellent Miss Bingley.

  8. Hee Shashikala would be purrfect as 60s Miss Bingley. And Agha as the 50s Collins - also a great idea. *Why did I not think of that?*

    Interestingly enough, sis and I did talk about 70s P&P and we both agreed that Big B is the one to do Darcy in that decade. I would go with Rekha or Mumtaz as Lizzy, though. Jaya tends to be too chirpy for words - she'd do for the leading lady of Northanger Abby. Hema as Jane would be ideal. :D For Wickham, I'd go with Vinod Khanna or Dharmendra - Kiran K looked rather mousy in the 70s.

  9. PS: Yes to a movie fest. Just tell me when! :D

  10. A couple of years back, I had a long conversation - back and forth on e-mail - with pacifist, regarding a Hindi P&P. Pretty much along these lines, but a more ambitious project I had in mind! (And, someday, hopefully, I will get around to doing it).

    So I won't disclose whom I finally picked (with loads of suggestions from pacifist) as my dream cast, but yes - Sunil Dutt was Darcy. :-) I love the casts you've picked too, though Ashok Kumar - despite everything - just doesn't strike me as Darcy. Darcy has to be handsome. An early Dilip Kumar would be good, I think.

  11. You caught me! No, I do not like either Bharat Bhushan or Bingley. I like my men to have a spine, not an earthworm in place of it.

    I don't find Geeta Bali annoying - quite the contrary - but she can do annoying very well!

    You are right about Sharmila looking younger than Sadhana, and about Nanda as well. Scratch Nanda, and put Sharmila as Miss Darcy. Then Jane could be either a young Asha or wait, wait, wait, Mala Sinha. (She annoys me, as does Jane!)

    Ok, Joy as Wickam ( I would have cast a young Shammi as Wickham - he can do that role very well!); then Bingley? Hmm, what about Anil Dhawan?

    Darcy? I missed him, didn't I? Hmm, looks like Sunil Dutt is the only candidate, but somehow I cannot see him in that role! In a later incarnation, it is a role that would fit AB to a tee. We didn't have any dark, smouldering heroes in the sixties, unfortunately.

  12. Oh, my grandma tried to make me read it when I was seven (she put it in my schoolbag), but I saw everyone's colorful books and didn't end up reading it. I couldn't even understand most of it! Though my teachers were impressed.

    Who are your favorite heroes? I like everyone actually. Dev, Shammi, Rajendra, Joy Mukherjee, well, everyone. And Raj Kapoor too. :B Also, they need to find some better names for the characters. Wickham? Yuck, yuck, yuck!

  13. Well, I just broke my arm after falling down the stairs, so, we'll see. :P

  14. EH. Who is this Wickham? -goes off to read P & P NOW- But Dev being a seducer? O_O"

    -cough- When you say seduce, Helen comes to mind. Kay. And seductress = girls seducing boys. Not. Not Dev. Uh. Sigh.

    Let me just read the book. But why the heckles will Joy be Bingley? D: He's gonna be saddled with Babita! And Bingley is another terrible name!

  15. Hiding sheepishly behind a big shield, before admitting that I have not read Pride & Prejudice. Your extremely detailed and interesting post makes me want to read it, just to understand the choices. And seeing the high interest & suggestions it has generated, I should not delay.
    Glad to see you back, and in full form :)

  16. That was an entertaining read. I wonder though if the vivacious Nalini Jaywant (read Jadoo-1951 or Naujawan-1951) would be convincing as the rather sedate Jane. (I am a huge Nalini Jaywant fan and it is quite possible that I am biased in favor of her infectious sprightliness!) The coy Bina Rai might fit the bill. Another choice for Miss Bingley could be Sheela Ramani.

  17. Bollyviewer, it's great to have you back! As both an avid Austen and Bollywood fan I loved this post. I also agreed with your choices...except Ashok Kumar as the 1955 Darcy.

    Darcy has to be dashing as well as arrogant, and somehow I don't think of Ashok Kumar as dashing. I thought Harvey's suggestion of Guru Dutt was more like my conception of Darcy.

    For those who haven't read Austen, her novels have many parallels to classic Bollywood story lines (or, rather, vice versa). I can think of Indian adaptations of at least three of them (I'm still waiting for Persuasion--do I hear another vote for Vidya Balan as Anne Elliot?). If you've never had the pleasure of reading Pride & Prejudice, don't deny yourself any longer.

  18. Wonderful casting. I would suggest a change-if Ashok Kumar (who along with Balraj Sahni I agree was one of the most charismatic actors ever) is Mr. Darcy, then Lizzy must be played by Meena Kumari. She was much more capable in the dramatic department than the lovely Madhubala. Besides she shares such crackling chemistry with Ashok Kumar (e.g. in the movie with Pradeep Kumar as the main lead).

  19. Sorry to hear that you broke your arm, Sasha. Hope it will heal soon and you aren't in any pain, in the meantime.

    My favorites actors? Depends a lot on the film, and my mood, but I like most of them, too - Dev Anand, Ashok Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Joy Mukherjee, Rajendra Kumar... The only ones I really cannot like are Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar!

    "they need to find some better names for the characters. Wickham? Yuck, yuck, yuck!"

    Clearly it is time for some P&P indoctrination. I suggest you read the book and proceed to watch the TV series and not stop till you love it all! ;-)

  20. Sasha, you really do need to read the book! :D

  21. If you like neither Bingley nor Bharat Bhushan, whats the problem with the latter playing the former?

    I did think of Shammi Kapoor for Wickham, but he was too earnest looking in the mid 50s and rather big by mid 60s!

    Mala Sinha! What a stroke of genius. She would be perfect for Jane. :D

    Anil Dhawan could be a good 70s Bingley, As far as I know, he wasn't around in the 60s, though.

    In the 70s, I agree, AB would make the perfect Darcy.

    What do you mean by "dark and smouldering heroes" here? We're talking Pride and Prejudice here, not Wuthering Heights!

  22. Come on Dustedoff! If you won't satisfy my curiosity here, at least do your post ASAP.

    Dilip Kumar was certainly good looking, and when he wasn't conscious of being the face of Indian ACTING (rarely happened) he could even be quite charming onscreen. But try as I might, I just cannot warm up to him, and I must have a likable Darcy...

  23. If only Bollywood had made the films we're fantasizing about, you would've have had no need to hide behind your shield! :-D You could try Bride and Prejudice for starters, but it isn't the greatest intro to Austen.

  24. Nalini Jaywant did play sedate and Jane-like silly characters too, and I think she did them better than her vivacious roles (the vivacity rather grated on me!) - the one that immediately comes to mind is Sangram with Ashok Kumar. And wasn't she pretty sedate (not silly, though) in Kala Pani?

    Bina Roy would be a great Jane, too. And Sheela Ramani fits the bill for Miss Bingley rather well.

  25. Et tu? Poor Dadamani has very few takers! He was really dashing in his hero days. Have you seen any of his 40s films? And I am not talking about Mahal.

    Guru Dutt, I am rather prejudiced against, ever since I watched Chaudhvin Ka Chand - if he's made even one feminist/proto-femisnist film, I will forgive him the misogynism of CKC!

    Which films are you referring to as Austen adaptations? I can only remember Kandukondain Kandukondain (adaptation of Sense and Sensibility) and Aisha (adaptation of Emma). What's the third one?

    And you do hear an enthusiastic yes for Vidya Balan as Anne Elliott. :D

  26. Yay! Another Dadamani fan. :D

    And I love Balraj Sahni too. He'd make a wonderful Mr. Knightley for Emma.
    I agree that Meena Kumari was better in the dramatic department than Madhubala, but in the early 50s she looked much younger than Ashok Kumar! And Madhubala had some great chemistry with Dadamani in the 50s - in films like Ek Saal and Howrah Bridge.

  27. I was thinking of Gurinder Chadha's Bride and Prejudice, with Aishwarya Rai as Elizabeth Bennet, Anupam Kher as Mr. Bennet, and a miscast Martin Henderson as Darcy. The producers were primarily European and the film is mainly in English, so it's not strictly a Bollywood film. But it does feature many Indian and Anglo-Indian actors, has several musical numbers, and is clearly aiming to be a "Bollywood-style" movie.

    I don't know about feminist, but Guru Dutt's Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam can be read as a powerful critique of women's lack of freedom. Meena Kumari portrays the trapped wife Chhoti Bahu with great sympathy, and the tragedy of her situation is contrasted with the more equal, companionate relationship between Dutt's Bhoothnath and Waheeda Rehman's Jaba. If you're interested, Philip Lutgendorf has a typically thoughtful and articulate piece on this film at Philip's Fil-ums: if you haven't yet seen the film, the essay does contain some spoilers.

  28. Sorry--that link is

  29. BV--you're back! I only vaguely remember my Austen but I immediately thought of Raaj Kumar for Darcy. I wouldn't have ever imagined Rajendra Kumar but you're right, he'd make a good Darcy too.

  30. hahahaha lot of imagination I must say. I agree with Ashok kumar as Darcy though after Matthew Macfadyen can't imagine anybody as Darcy.

    BTW Trishna on Doordarshan was also very good.

    Enjoyed ..


  31. Why not RK or Dilip? I think they're cool. Especially a young Dilip, very handsome! :D And I loved Shree 420.

    Okay, I have one question before I read the book. If there was a 70's version of P & P, well, early 70's, would Rajesh be a good Darcy? -giggles- :D I could picture him as being arrogant!

    Buuuut if somebody says that Rajendra could be Darcy, THEN HECK. -goes off to read book RIGHT NOW-

  32. i loved trishna but i cant find it anywhere any idea where can i revisit it.... i would be eternally gr8full

  33. SIGH! I don't have a sister with whom I could rig lists of Bollywood characters for all the English classical novels I love... I can see many though: who would I cast for A portrait of Dorian Gray, or Frankenstein, or Wuthering Heights...

  34. Hi! Stumbled upon your blog as I was googling old hindi movies stuff, which I do when I get homesick! found this an excellent read, not only because of your mazedar content, but also because my sister and I used to play 'casting-casting' when we were kids!! ended up being more homesick and family-sick! but luurved your casting, and all the images! you had me at Sunil Dutt, haha!

    Spl shoutouts for: Mumtaz, Sairabano, Rajendranath and Biswajeet!

  35. Good choices except Achala Sachdev. Mrs Bennet is silly and loud, but AS is one of my favourites. I can't think of any other pick in the 60's but I think Dina Pathak might have enjoyed playing the role later (maybe in the 80's?)