An unusual casting choice

Meenakumari was always cast as a tragedienne in Bollywood. Despite being much younger in reality she had to essay a number of roles as older women who were shown suffering no end in rather painful circumstances which they had no part in creating. Only occasionally did she get respite from having to shed tears by the bucketful. Azaad was a happy role for her as it was for Dilip Kumar, who actually had been told by his psychiatrist to act in lighter, non tragic roles to help him emerge from the deep depression that he found himself in.

Meenakumari actually was very good in comic, light-hearted roles as well, one just needs to see her movies with Kishore Kumar. She did a number of them actually and these were very well received by the audience and critics as well.

This one, MemSahib had Kishore Kumar, Meena Kumari and Shammi Kapoor.

Meena Kumari is the rich, somewhat spoilt, “modern” young girl in this movie produced and directed by R C Talwar. The lady’s parents have decided on a prospective groom for her (in keeping with the norm of the times) but the guy has landed in a Brahmachari Ashram when it’s time to get married. As a further twist in the tale, she flips for a gold-digger playboy, Shammi Kapoor in an unusual role with lots of shades of grey that, frankly, would have been right up Pran Krishan Sikand’s street. When things are going right on the Meena Kumari- Shammi Kapoor front, Kishore Kumar pops up in a dhoti clad avatar. Because he is “the chosen one” (by her parents), she is obliged to consider him. But she only decides to use him as a ruse to get to her choice (Shammi Kapoor). Meena Kumari looks really cute in a role more suited for her age (she was 22/23 when the movie was made)

The story meanders along expected lines and the outcome is (two thirds of a century later with countless movies having used a similar ploy) predictable. A rare film with a star cast Shammi Kapoor, Meena Kumari, Kishore Kumar, and Mehmood in one film is an attractive proposition to watch. At the time of its release, none of the lot except Meena Kumari was a big star. Shammi Kapoor’s first hit film was Tumsa Nahin Dekha which was released one year later in 1957. What is more, he is not the hero, he does not get to walk away with the heroine, and he plays a negative character. Mehmood had a small and insignificant role. Kishore Kumar was also not a big name at the time. Meena  Kumari was the only one when the movie was made who was successful of the four.

I loved the music by Madan Mohan with his trusted lyricist Rajinder Krishan in cahoots. This song was made in two versions: a male version sung by Kishore Kumar, and another filmed on Meena Kumari, sung by Asha Bhosle. Check this one out, despite the two all time greats singing it, I loved the Kishore da version more. It was more carefree and joyous, even flippant. Kishore da looks really smart in a light coloured suit, debonair even.

The Asha Bhosle version shows something of a role reversal with Kishore da in an atrocious outfit that would be a better costume for a member of a musical band playing tunes in a marriage procession or a member of fire brigade . I loved his incredulous look and response when the top of the convertible comes off.

Unusually for Madan Mohan, the song was “creatively inspired” by a rather well known, famous song, The Isle of Capri. It dates back almost a quarter of century before the movie was made and has been rendered by many artistes. Take a listen:

That is a bit of a dampener on my enjoying the lovely KK/AB song. Unusual for Madan Mohan too , to look afar for inspiration when he had truckloads of talent.

C’est la vie…

Have a wonderful day ahead, folks. I will suggest you hydrate yourself adequately with the early onset of the summer. Stay healthy and happy.

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

8 replies on “An unusual casting choice”

I thought Madan Mohan and Ilaiyaraja were among the rare people who never lifted western tunes. Stunning and sad to know this, though I love the Indian versions better than the western.

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I remember Madanmohan’s तुझे क्या सुनाऊँ मैं दिलरुबा is a direct copy of Sajjad’s ये हवा ये रात यें चाँदनी. He admitted it and also apologised to Sajjad for it.

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What a song you chose today… wow!!! So refreshing and full of surprises 👍👌👌👌
Yesss KK version is very good!! Asha is too sharp in her notes… rarely she gets a happy song that too for Meenaji!!! My favourite star who looks so very jovial and full of life!!!
No body would believe she can pull this type of fun n frolic with no less than KK🤔🤔🤔
She matched his mood so well in both the songs…
The inspiration part is shocking 🤔🤔🤔to say the least!! Isle of capri appears little slow?
God knows how you find out such an information 🤔🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾

Liked by 2 people

It takes a lot of effort not to be “inspired” by songs. Think about it – you’ve surely experienced a situation where a song embeds itself in your mind and refuses to go away. An entire day goes by and the song remains with you…

Perhaps it happens to musicians also and gets in the way of their creative juices!!

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