I am very romantic by nature. But I like decent romance which strikes a chord somewhere in the heart quite silently (i.e. without being loud). I believe, that’s the real love which lives with a person throughout his / her life. Being a movie buff, I am always interested in watching romantic scenes which tenderly caress my heart. The scene of Mughal-E-Aazam in which Dilip Kumar caresses Madhubala’s cheek with a feather, is considered the most romantic scene of Indian cinema. Mere Mehboob (1963) is also remembered for a romantic scene in which the college student hero is able to see only the eyes and the fingers of the heroine (because she is clad in a Burqa) when her books have fallen from her hands and he helps her in picking them up (and gets the touch of her fingers). That look and touch of her fair and tender fingers remain with him and he restlessly longs to meet her because love has sprouted in his heart. Such kind of love may sound unusual and impractical to today’s generation but I believe, such love could (and still can) take place which is the true love in which the lover has not even seen the face of his sweetheart. Today, I am reviewing this romantic movie of the sixties which is still remembered for the romantic encounters of the lead pair and its songs.
The story starts with the abovementioned highly romantic encounter of Anwar (Rajendra Kumar) and Husna (Saadhana) in the college campus. Now Anwar is in search of his sweetheart whose fingers (or hand) only were seen by him and left their imprint on his heart. He sings a song expressing his restlessness to see her – Mere Mehboob Tujhe Meri Mohabbat Ki Kasam, Phir Mujhe Nargisi Aankhon Ka Sahaara De De – in the auditorium of the college (in a poetry contest) and wins the heart of his lost sweetheart who is seeing and listening to him while sitting there as a part of the audience. She at once comes to understand that the dashing youth singing on the mike is addressing to none else but herself only.
Fate and the efforts of Anwar’s Hindu friend, Ghaayal (Johnny Walker), bring Anwar and Husna together. Anwar who is the younger brother of an ordinary stage dancer, Najma (Nimmi) gets the job to tutor poetry to Husna who is the younger sister of an erstwhile Nawaab (king), Akhtar (Ashok Kumar). Despite their communication during the tutoring is without eye-contact (because as per the Muslim tradition, Husna remains in Parda or behind the veil), they recognize each other but some mistaken identities lead to Husna’s friend, Naseem (Ameeta) falling in love with Anwar. The female friends tell about their respective Mehboobs (sweethearts) to each other without knowing that the same male is actually the sweetheart of both of them. One more angle of the story is that Akhtar himself is in love with Najma and had saved her from getting spoiled due to lack of family and monetary support. But since she is a stage-dancer which is not considered a respectable profession by him, he is mentally not prepared to marry her because of the repute of his royal family.
Nawaab Akhtar is impressed by the personality of Anwar and he engages Husna to him but upon knowing that he is Najma’s younger brother, he breaks the engagement because of his (hollow) family honour. There is also a villain (Pran) in the movie who wants to take the advantage of the deteriorating financial condition of Nawaab Akhtar and compel him to marry Husna to him. However the climax of the movie ensures that both the loving couples (Anwar and Husna as well as Akhtar and Najma) unite.The decade of sixties was inarguably Saadhana’s decade. Her Choodidaar Paayjaamas (tight-fitting trousers containing crinkles) were perfect for her hourglass figure and they, alongwith her famous hairdo, had made her the icon of fashion in those days. Being a Sindhi (full name Saadhana Shivadaasani), she was very fair and her sharp features ensured that she was a treat to watch and any guy would fall for her. Her proficient acting was the icing on the cake. Despite being a Sindhi, she portrayed a Muslim girl with such a finesse in this movie that you can’t imagine any other actress in the role of Husna which was a perfect screen-name for her (Husna means full of beauty).
In addition to Saadhana, all the principal characters, viz. Rajendra Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Nimmi, Ameeta, Johnny Walker, Pran etc. have done complete justice to their respective roles. Raj Kapoor’s discovery – Nimmi (through Barsaat – 1949) was near the sunset of her career and she has played the perfect affectionate elder sister to Rajendra Kumar the same way Ashok Kumar has played the perfect elder brother to Saadhana. During the sixties, nobody could beat Rajendra Kumar in romantic roles and he had a great on-screen chemistry with Saadhana. Mere Mehboob is considered as one of his memorable movies. Ameeta has played second fiddle to Saadhana in this movie but she is not only pretty but also very impressive in her performance.
Mere Mehboob is not a great movie as per my assessment because despite many twists and turns in the story, the script could not rise above the ordinary. Though the songs are great, they (except the first one) virtually interrupt the flow of the narrative. The comedy track of Johnny Walker, his parents and his sweetheart has added boring length to the movie and should have been done away with. The direction of H.S. Rawail is also not great. Though portrayal of the Lakhnavi culture of the sixties is beautiful but the narrative does not appear to be very realistic and convincing. The brother-sister love has emerged emphatically on the screen, however it’s not because of the script but because of the performers.
Still, the movie scores because of the songs. Though most of the songs interrupt the flow of the story, because of them only, watching this movie is turned into a musical journey for the viewer. The best song is definitely the one in the title of this review and which forms the premise of the original romantic sequence of the movie. In addition to that, Rafi has delivered two more gems in this movie – Aye Husn Zara Jaag Tujhe Ishq Jagaaye and Tumse Izhaar-E-Haal Kar Baithe. Yaad Mein Teri Jaag Jaag Ke Hum is a great Rafi-Lata duet. Mangeshkar sisters – Lata and Asha have sung two beautiful songs jointly – Mere Mehboob Mein Kya Nahin and Jaaneman Ek Nazar Dekh Le. It also contains Lata’s beautiful romantic song – Tere Pyar Mein Dildaar Jo Hai Mera Haal-E-Jaar. Allah Bachaye Naujawaano Se sung by Lata and chorus is also no less. The great music has been composed by Naushad whereas the touching lyrics have come from the pen of Shakeel Badayuni. The picturization of the songs is also admirable. We can feel the romance when the song – Aye Husn Zara Jaag Tujhe Ishq Jagaaye – runs on the screen.
The movie has a high production value and except the length which could have been reduced, the technical aspects are topnotch. The movie provides a glimpse into the life of Lucknow – the City of Tehzeeb (culture) as it might have been those days.
And finally, the movie is memorable because of the mesmerizing romance. Today again, I watched the song – Mere Mehboob Tujhe Meri Mohabbat Ki Kasam on internet and found myself lost in the deep love of the singing hero (frankly speaking, I was identifying with him) who is passionately searching for the girl who has conquered over him, reliving their first encounter through his memories. And that girl is nowhere else, she is sitting just in front of him (but he cannot identify her because he had not seen her face), feeling his passion for her, his sentiments for her and experiencing something similar within herself. Aah ! That’s true love. Meant for sentimental romantics like me. It’s this love only which makes this movie a very very special one.
If you are interested in the nostalgia of old-fashioned romance, Mere Mehboob is just for you. Just experience how much can be said through the eyes, the heartbeats and the silence prevailing between the lovers.
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