Saturday, December 24, 2011

Madhumati (1958)

So when one of the biggest superstars of our country is reliving a cult character from the much loved Amitabh Bachchan classic Don in cinemas this week, me recalling one of the most popular Dilip Kumar classic from the 1950s- instead of the usual lesser known stuff.

  • A rainy night with the hero finding it tough to navigate his car through the sloppy slippery roads. CHECK
  • The car breaking down and no help in sight. CHECK 
  • A ‘purani’ desolate ‘haveli’ where the hero decides to take shelter for the night. CHECK 
  • An old and rickety caretaker with a ‘lalten’ in his hand. CHECK 
  • A huge photograph of the haveli’s one time owner. CHECK 
  • The hero finding many things familiar about the haveli and the setting which evidently he is visiting for the first time. CHECK 
  • The hero remembering his past life. CHECK 
  • The hero falling in love with a village belle. CHECK 
  • The hero singing songs with the village belle. CHECK 
  • The hero not getting along well with his boss and the owner of the estate he manages. CHECK 
  • The owner being a lecherous fellow starts lusting for the hero’s love interest. CHECK 
  • The disapproving father of the girl. CHECK 
  • The disapproving father of the girl giving his approval after the hero’s show of honesty and integrity. CHECK 
  • The village celebration song with the hero’s girl joining in. CHECK 
  • The hero’s lecherous boss setting a trap for the hero to go away from the scene. CHECK 
  • The hero’s imbecile girl falling in the villain’s trap. CHECK 
  • The villain going after the girl like a mad animal. The girl escaping his claws and jumping of the terrace. CHECK 
  • The hero unable to forget his love. CHECK 
  • The hero laying a trap for the villain to confess to his crime (being helped by his girl’s look alike). The look-alike girl entering and scaring the daylights out of the villain. The villain shouting for penitence. The police coming forward and grabbing him by his neck. The look-alike standing there smiling after getting ‘her’ revenge.  The hero suddenly realizing that there is something weird going on. The actual look-alike bursting late on the scene. The spirit of the hero’s dead love luring him to salvation. OM SHANTI OM
All of the above points may sound familiar. In fact take any Hindi mystery/reincarnation movie; chances are that one or more of the above points will be a part of that enterprise too. Bimal Roy’s 1958 Dilip Kumar starrer MADHUMATI is a movie that had all of these points together for the first time in a Hindi movie.

Despite the familiarity born out of watching many rehashes of this movie over the years (some good some tacky), Madhumati is an extremely fresh watch owing to it’s well crafted scenes and some sparkling performances by Dilip Kumar, Pran, and Vyjayanthimala (the last especially for her ebullience in the songs and dance sequences). Moreover each and every song by Salil Chaudhary is a classic, and it was a pleasant surprise to see so many memorable songs back to back in a movie. Though it must be said that having eight songs in a two hour movie is like an overdose, and considerably hampers the otherwise fast paced narrative. Without the songs the story could have been said in an hour flat. But then, it wouldn’t have been this charming.

Parting Note: Madhumati is a highly enjoyable affair and people who love old Bollywood musicals should certainly watch this one. For them it would be an absolute treat.


  1. Not one of my favourite Bimal Roy movies - somehow I tend to expect something different of him - but the songs are enough to compensate. They're in a class apart! (And, of course, as you imply, the movie's plot itself has been popular enough to be copied again and again. And again). Interestingly, some of those opening scenes are very similar to the opening scenes of Mahal (1949) starring Ashok Kumar and Madhubala.

  2. Read your take on Madhumati and Mahal. I see your point- when you compare it to films like DO bhiga Zamin and Bandini (and others but these are the ones I have seen), Madhumati seems uncharacteristic of him. But isn't it great that a film-maker like him could make a film like this too :)

    I will definitely try to see Mahal soon- haven't seen most Madhubala movies!!

  3. the original always retains its charm... no matter how many times it has been copied! and so does Madhumati! :)

    And i must compliment your writing style too... every time there is something new and different to look forward to.. :)

    1. The originals deserve all the kudos. But there are many inspired movies that have outdone all their originals. Sholay for instance!

      And thank you for the compliments. It is indeed encouraging :)