Guru Dutt is mainly known for his thought-provoking, profound classic movies like Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool and Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam. However he had directed one hilarious comedy also prior to them. Since the movie had been made in the year 1955, it was titled as Mr. & Mrs. 55. It’s a classic comedy, in fact, a satire on the pseudo-woman-lib movement gaining momentum in India in the post-independence era and represents the hurt (Indian) male-psyche wrapped in comedy.It’s based on a play – ‘Modern Marriage‘ penned by Guru Dutt’s close associate, Abrar Alvi. The plot is based on a male-hater stern lady, Seeta Devi (Lalita Pawar) who leads her niece – Anita (Madhubala) to enter a marriage of convenience with an unemployed and impoverished cartoonist – Preetam (Guru Dutt) so that she can legally occupy the inherited estate left by her father under a condition in the will that she will have to marry. A staunch feminist, Seeta Devi is strictly against the institution of marriage and makes a deal with Preetam to divorce Anita after the purpose of hers becoming the legal heiress of the estate is served and never try to behave like a husband with her during the intermittent period. However the simplicity and ideals of Preetam alongwith a view of the happy wedded life of his sister (Kum Kum) who is a housewife, make Anita fall in love with him. But when Seeta Devi tells her that Preetam has married her only for money (to be paid to him under the contract), she gets distanced from him. Finally, the story reaches its happy ending with the union of the married couple on the airport when disheartened Preetam is about to leave Mumbai (then Bombay) forever.The script of Abrar Alvi is full of laughter-generating sequences and Guru Dutt has directed them so ably that it is hard to believe that the same director later directed movies like Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool. Guru Dutt’s sense of humour proves to be just amazing. There is not a single boring moment in the movie and this comedy-cum-satire keeps the audience hooked throughout. The viewer just keeps on flowing with the twists and turns of the story, quite like a rudderless vessel going alongwith the drifting tides. And when the story reaches its happy climax, the viewer gets the feeling of the vessel’s touching the shore.
The story and its treatment subtly caters to the Indian male-chauvinism which was dominant those days (no less even today). However the brighter side is that it exposes the hollowness of the so-called woman-lib movement. Woman’s liberation does not mean dilution of the importance of man in her life. After all, the world runs through the eternal love of male and female only. Who of these two is complete without the other one ? None, definitely. And the taunting at the half-baked woman-lib philosophy is not at all a direct hit. It is enveloped in a laugh-riot. Guru Dutt has directed the story with so much finesse that nowhere it is felt that it’s an (indirect) attempt to establish the superiority of man over woman. The cartoon made by Preetam showing Seeta Devi clad in a Roman toga and riding a Roman chariot with a whip in her hand, is an example of the height of Guru Dutt’s creativity.O.P. Nayyar’s music is a treat to listen for the music lovers. The songs include melodies like Thandi Hawa Kaali Ghata, Jaane Kahaan Mera Jigar Gaya Jee, Preetam Aan Milo, Chal Diye Banda Nawaaz, Udhar Tum Haseen Ho Idhar Ham Jawaan Hain, Aye Ji Dil Pe Hua Aisa Jadoo etc. sung by Geeta Dutt, Shamshaad Begum and Mohammed Rafi. My favourite song is a Qawwaali sung by Manna Dey and others – Meri Duniya Lut Rahi Thi Aur Main Khamosh Tha whose lyric is able to move any sensitive heart. The beautiful words of the songs have been written by Majrooh Sultaanpuri. The picturization of the songs is also imaginative.V.K. Moorthy’s cinematography is great as always. This black and white movie is a visual treat also, showing the life of Bombay of the fifties in a realistic, yet aesthetic way. Editing is also quite good and the production value is definitely according to the prestige of Guru Dutt’s banner.Guru Dutt proves once again that he’s not only a director and narrator par excellence but also an outstanding actor. He has infused life into the role of the poor cartoonist who has been in love with the rich heiress without any greed for her wealth. Lalita Pawar’s role is definitely tailor-made for her. Johnny Walker was an integral part of Guru Dutt’s movies and he has generated sufficient laughs for the audience in collaboration with Yasmen, starring opposite him. However, this is Madhubala’s movie by all means. Her transformation from an ultra-modern girl to a traditional Indian girl is heart-warming and she has underscored the fact that other than being one of the most beautiful women of India (in fact, the world), she’s a brilliant actress too.
I recommend this movie to one and all because it provides wholesome entertainment. However Guru Dutt’s mocking of the woman-lib movement may be felt as offensive by the educated ladies in the contemporary context. This movie had been made (as the name clarifies) more than six decades back. Since then enough water has flown in the river of time. Now we cannot mock woman-lib philosophy in that way (and it’s not desirable too). However, despite being a die-hard supporter of equality of sexes (and of all other kinds as well), I don’t support any home-breaking propaganda in the name of women’s liberation. The readers (especially females) are hereby invited to present their views in this regard in addition to their feedback on this movie review. I only assert in the end that while it’s joyful to see the females getting education and breaking the millenniums old shackles of males’ slavery, is it possible (and desirable) to get out of the shackles of love ?
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