In my reviews of old Bollywood movies like Dooj Ka Chand (1964), Duniya (1968), Aya Sawan Jhoom Ke (1969) etc.; I have underscored this fact related to the Hindi movies made during the sixties that the script-writers used to insert a suspense element (with or without a courtroom drama) in the final part of the screenplay for the story which was based on romance or social drama. This act of them added spice to the narrative flowing on the screen before the audience and enhanced the entertainment value of the movie. Sometimes, that suspense was an intriguing one and it was pretty difficult to guess the culprit (the murderer as in almost all such cases, the twist in the tale came due to happening of some murder only) and sometimes, it was quite an easy one and the audience could guess the identity of the real culprit very easily (which had to be somebody other than the hero or the heroine). The movies mentioned by me in the beginning line of this review fall into the first category whereas Hamrahi (1963) falls into the second one, i.e., it’s anybody’s guess as to who might be the murderer. Nonetheless, it’s a pretty good movie whose premise is not that murder but the emotional bond between the lead pair which took a long time (a sizable part of the movie) in developing.
Hamrahi (fellow-traveller) is the story of Shekhar (Rajendra Kumar) who is the son of the much respected public prosecutor Dharamdaas (Nazir Hussain) but being a playboy by nature, instead of doing any meaningful work, he keeps on philandering with many girls. Now our casanova hero stumbles upon two entirely different girls. One is a gold-digger – Hemlata (Shashikala) who considers herself as very clever and quite proficient in befooling men. The other one is a school teacher – Shaarada (Jamuna) who comes from a modest family but maintains and is proud of her high moral character. Shekhar, as usual, ditches Hemlata (after spending some good time with her) and despite her well thought-out and well executed machination, Hemlata is not able to stick to him. The way, a sensible traveller settles for a passenger train after missing a mail train, she catches Hanuman (Rajendra Nath) after losing Shekhar.
Shekhar, on the other hand, is smitten by the charms of Shaarada and genuinely falls in love with that simple girl. It does not prove to be difficult for him to get married to Shaarada who is motherless and lives with her father (Agha) and step-mother (Indira) and after losing her school teacher’s job due to her name having been associated with that of Shekhar, has few options left with her. However just like Shekhar’s father, she has also developed a very bad image of Shekhar in her heart and she does not mince words in conveying it to him on their first conjugal night itself. Shekhar, who has by now a change of heart and wants to win Shaarada’s love, shows better sense and does not force himself upon her as her husband. They continue to live under one roof without behaving with each other like a couple but don’t allow this fact to be known to the other members of that joint family consisting of Shekhar’s mother (Lalita Pawar), his elder brother Mahesh (Mehmood), Mahesh’s wife Shanti (Shubha Khote) and the children.
Days and months pass. Shekhar is not able to win Shaarada’s heart due to one reason or another and Shaarada keeps on loathing him. The emotional tension between them keeps on intensifying. However, finally the day arrives when Shaarada realizes that Shekhar has really mended his ways and truly loves her. Now with the evaporation of the tension and misunderstanding between the two, our hero and heroine have become a couple in the true sense and are about to start a happy life hereafter but the twist in the tale comes with the murder of Hemlata for which Shekhar is booked and tried in the court. Who will fight for Shekhar since his father himself is the public prosecutor and firmly believes that he only is the guilty ?
The murder, its investigation and the ensuing courtroom drama has been given very less footage in the movie which is the correct thing as the audience can very well guess (correctly) as to who is the murderer of Hemlata. The obvious suspect only turns out to be the murderer. The script-writer and the director could have handled this part of the movie in a better way and made it a little longer and more interesting. Perhaps they thought (like myself) that the other, major, part of the story only is really important and this twist serves merely as a tool to generate a (small) unhappy phase in the narrative before it is carried to its desired happy ending.
There is a very well-known and popular Hindi maxim – Subah Ka Bhoola Shaam Ko Ghar Aa Jaaye To Use Bhoola Nahin Kehte (if someone loses his way in the morning but is able to reach his home in the evening, he is not to be termed as a strayed one). I could not find any proper equivalent for it in English but in simple words, it means that if an errant person has mended or shows inclination to mend his ways, he should not be treated too harshly and should be given a chance in this regard because it is never too late to make amends. This is the message which the movie tries to convey to the audience. The undertrial hero asserts the same thing in the court too, asking the society, the court and his father – Can an aberrant not mend his ways and become a better person ? I appreciate this thought but in a patriarchal society, this liberty could be given to the males only. Women were supposed to forgive their husbands for their earlier sins once they were back on the right path. They were not supposed to expect the same kind of consideration for themselves if they happened to be in a similar position.
All things said and done, Hamrahi is a fairly good movie which entertains throughout its duration without any yawning moment for the audience. It starts off well, moves on nicely and reaches its denouement properly. Despite using stereotypes for many characters, the story does not seem to be out of place at any point though the track of gold-digger Hemlata and her husband Hanuman which attaches their landlord Gopi Nath (O.P. Ralhan) also later on is not a convincing one and mostly over the top.
The comedy side track of Agha, his wife Indira and his father-in-law Dhumal is entertaining but I praise the director for linking it to the murder and its investigation also. In fact, the comedy side track is pleasant only when it is not totally independent from the main plot but interwoven with it. The same cannot be said for the comedy presented by Mehmood and his wife Shubha Khote but their chemistry was always admirable and they entertain the audience very well.
Rajendra Kumar was not fit for the role of a playboy but he was natural like always in the role of a sincere lover in later reels. Jamuna could not completely hide her South Indian accent while speaking in Hindi but her looks and acting, both are pretty admirable. Shashikala is over the top as it was the demand of her role but her performance is flawless. It’s always a pleasure for me to see Lalita Pawar in a positive role. Others are routine. However Mehmood has startled by his impressive performance in the ending reels while playing the defense lawyer for his younger brother Shekhar (in real life, he was younger to Rajendra Kumar) and proved that he was not just a comedian, his talent was versatile. While seeing him and Rajendra Kumar in those courtroom scenes, I could not help recalling Kanoon (1960) in which Rajendra Kumar played the efficient and impressive defense lawyer and Mehmood played the playboy who generated laughs for the audience in the tense courtroom drama.
Certain scenes of the movie appear to be predecessors for similar scenes in later movies. The scene in which Shekhar has to face more than one girl at the same time and then has to hide both of them (from his uncle who approaches him all of a sudden) reminisces similar scene(s) in Boeing Boeing (1965) and Hanuman’s pretending to go out of the town but staying in the city only by renting a hotel room in order to spy on his wife reminisces of Sunil Dutt’s doing the same in Hamraaz (1967).
Technically this black and white movie is okay. Dialogues, art direction, cinematography, background score etc. are satisfactory. In addition to the dialogue of Shekhar in the courtroom (mentioned supra), the dialogue of Shaarada to the principal of her school while submitting her resignation from service is also praiseworthy when she underscores the significance of her character.
Shankar Jaikishan have done an excellent job in composing the music of Hamrahi using the beautiful lyrics of Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri. My personal favourite from the album of Hamrahi is Mohammed Rafi’s Ye Aansoo Mere Dil Ki Zubaan Hain. However Lata Mangeshkar’s classic solo – Mann Re Tu Hi Bata Kya Gaaoon, Lata-Rafi duet – Karke Jiska Intezaar and above all, the title track by Mubarak Begum and Rafi – Mujhko Apne Gale Laga Lo Aye Mere Hamrahi have also been heart-conquerors for the music lovers for the past six decades. Other songs Wo Din Yaad Karo, Wo Chale Jhatak Ke Daaman, Main Albela and Dil Tu Bhi Gaa are also melodious and ear-soothing.
Summing up, director T. Prakasa Rao has done a fair job in directing Hamrahi which is a decent movie for sure. The lovers of golden oldies will definitely like it.
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