India got political independence on 15.08.1947 and emerged as a sovereign nation-state. However we, the Indians, could not absorb the concept of a nation-state and a feeling of belongingness for our brethren and sisters spread all over the country for decades after that and that feeling, quite unfortunately, is still not there in the desired form. We are North Indians, we are South Indians, we are Gujaratis, we are Bengalis, we are Punjabis, we are Marathis, we are UP Waalas, we are Biharis, we are Tamils, we are Telugus and so on and so forth. However do we take pride in calling ourselves purely as Indians, rising above these provincial identities? The answer applicable to a major chunk of the citizens of this great nation is ‘NO’. Unfortunate, very unfortunate.
The British cleverly and successfully divided us on several grounds and thus ensured that we continued with our slavery to them for a sufficiently long period. Those divisions are still there even when they have left us with a right to govern ourselves. Regionalism, i.e., identifying more with our respective regions and less with our nation as a whole is one of them. And when it comes to matrimonial ties with the people of a different region, there’s a big NO-NO for most of the Indian parents. Chetan Bhagat wrote a popular novel on this theme (terming it as his own life story) – Two States which has recently been presented on celluloid also and got appreciation. Today I am reviewing a very old black and white Hindi movie whose theme is the same though the story is quite different from that of ‘Two States’. This admirable movie is – New Delhi (1956) starring Kishore Kumar and Vyjayantimala in lead roles.The story of New Delhi starts with the arrival of a Punjabi youth – Anand (Kishore Kumar) at the capital of India who is shocked to see that it’s quite difficult to find a rental accommodation in Delhi because of his coming from Punjab because Maarwaris are allowing only Maarwaris as tenants, Gujaratis are allowing Gujaratis only, Bengalis are allowing Bengalis only and so on. He comes across an open-minded and noble Bengali youth of his age-group – Ashok (Prabhu Dayal) who is a painter and they become good friends despite Anand’s not being able to become a tenant in Ashok’s home due to Ashok’s father’s bias against non-Bengalis. Finally, Anand approaches a Tamil landlord but to gain tenancy, he presents himself before him as a Tamil only. Shortly, things take such a turn that Anand falls in love with a Tamil girl – Jaanaki (Vyjayantimala) who is a music teacher. Within no time, she also falls in love with him. She is the daughter of Mr. Subrahmanyam (Nana Palsikar) who is as staunch a Tami as Anand’s father Mr. Daulatraam Khanna (Nazir Hussain) is a staunch Punjabi.Anand’s parents and younger sister also arrive at Delhi after some days and since Anand’s father’s employers have arranged an accommodation for him, Anand shifts to the new residence with his family, leaving his fake Tamil identity behind. However he continues to meet Jaanaki and puts up his marriage proposal to her father, i.e., Mr. Subrahmanyam who is a colleague and subordinate of Mr. Daulatraam Khanna in the same company. Anand’s younger sister – Nirmala (Jabeen Jalil) is fond of painting. She comes across Ashok and both fall in each other’s love.One day the truth of Anand’s maintaining dual identity and his love with Jaanaki is exposed to the parents of both the sides. Mr. Subrahmanyam reproaches his daughter so much that motherless Jaanaki decides to commit suicide. On the other hand, when Mr. Khanna comes to know that his daughter Nirmala is in love with Ashok, a Bengali boy; then he curses both his son and daughter like anything for choosing non-Punjabis to make their life-partners. He humiliates Ashok and fixes Nirmala’s matrimonial alliance with a Punjabi boy. How the loving couples finally unite with the help of a friend of both the families – Saadhuraam (Radhakishan) forms the remaining part of the movie.The title of this movie is New Delhi because the story is set in the capital of India and the viewer also visits different places of the city alongwith the characters of the story. Actually the cities like Delhi and Mumbai should reflect their original cosmopolitan character only but gradually they have changed for the worse.The movie was made within the first decade of the independence of India and the subject matter was quite relevant at that time because the patriots and the fervent leaders of that period wanted the whole nation to feel united, rising above all kinds of differences and variances prevailing in the different parts of it. Six decades later, this theme is still relevant because instead of losing their significance, the regional and cultural differences have strengthened their roots in the psyche of the Indian folks.
The theme is brilliant but the screenplay is a bit scattered. Ashok’s father is showed in the beginning part of the movie as a staunch Bengali, disliking non-Bengalis. However he is never shown in the movie again, not even in the climax when Ashok and Nirmala are able to tie the sacred knot. Similarly, the climax which proves to be the eye-opener for Anand and Nirmala’s father – Daulatraam Khanna appears to be over the top and devised by the script-writer as an easy way out to solve the problem of the love-birds.
The movie is thoroughly entertaining all the same. It starts very impressively, underscoring the problem of regional and cultural discrimination, making life hell for the innocents. Several comic moments have been arranged in the first half to amuse the audience and the performance of the lead pair has made the director’s job easier. The first half is full of comedy whereas the second half contains drama. Both are equally good.
Kishore Kumar does not appear to be a Punjabi boy from any angle, nor does Vyjayantimala spread any Tamil flavour from her personality (though she is actually Tamil). However I attribute it to the cosmopolitanism prevailing in our film industry. This cannot be considered a case of miscasting because Kishore and Vyjayanti have done very well. The way Kishore Kumar was not only a great singer but a great actor also, the same way Vyjayantimala was not only a great classical dancer but a great actress also. Their on-screen chemistry is admirable. Prabhu Dayal as Ashok and Jabeen Jalil as Nirmala have got less scope but they are also well in place. The character actors playing the parents of the children have done better than them. However I will choose Radhakishan as the best actor in this movie. Today’s generation must not have even heard the name of this brilliant actor with a peculiar dialog-delivery style who was a prominent comedian of his time (he used to do negative roles also). Another comedian of that era – Mirza Musharraf has also tickled the funny bone of the audience through his unique style of speaking and acting.
The milieu of this black and white movie is simple with no lavishness anywhere. Certain tourist attractions of Delhi have been touched but for the most part of it, it’s an in-house drama. The art director and the cinematographer have done their respective jobs well. The movie is more than two and a half hours long but the length is not felt because the movie does not bore at any place. In fact, I feel that some more footage should have been added to the movie to make the presentation of the story as perfect and completely symmetrical. The editor has done his part well. Dialogs are impressive. Choreography is also good.
Shankar-Jaikishan’s music is good. Kishore Kumar’s hilarious songs – Nakhrewaali and Arre Bhai Nikal Ke Aa Ghar Se are the best in the album but the other songs are also quite good.
Since ‘Two States‘ has been seen and appreciated by the movie buffs, I advise my friends to watch this gem from the black and white era of Indian cinema also. It’s not just a hilarious comedy but also provides enough food for thought. It’s up to us to decide whether we want to imprison ourselves in cages of region, culture, religion, caste, creed, class etc. or become Indians in the true sense.
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