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BANNER

18 July 2015

Jhoola (1962)

Directed by: K Shankar
Music: Salil Choudhary
Lyrics: Rajendra Krishen
Starring: Sunil Dutt, Vyjayanthimala, Pran,
Manmohan Krishna, Sulochana,  Raj Mehra, 
Achala Sachdev, Rajendranath
I’d just dragged myself out of bed one weekend, and was sitting with a cup of tea, thoughtfully provided by my husband, when he came downstairs, cackling. Having gone upstairs ostensibly to set up our bill payments, he had been watching Sajna tere bin from Jhoola on YouTube, when the song ended and the video segued into a scene from the movie where Pran, (apparently) nattily dressed, cap and all, says ‘A thief is a self-made man.’ And sundry other dialogues, all of which seemed to have tickled my husband’s funny bone enormously. He insisted he wanted to watch the film just for Pran (and Salilda’s music of course!). 

We were supposed to be clearing out our attic that day, having tackled our sons’ rooms the previous day. I hadn’t slept the previous night, which was why I was up at the unearthly (for me) hour of 6.45 on a Sunday morning. What I had seen of Jhoola, back when I was writing my post on rain songs, didn’t make the film seem very appealing. But hey, lovely Salilda compositions! Pran! 

In any case, I wasn’t in that great a hurry to go cleaning – I was aching in places I didn’t know could ache! So when my husband decided to put it on just then, I didn’t protest. (As long as I didn’t have to move, I was fine.) And since I had no expectations at all, I curled up and watched. 

Jhoola  begins with an idyllic 'happy family' scene. Head constable Sunderlal (Manmohan Krishna) is getting ready to leave for the police station. His wife, Lakshmi (Sulochana Latkar) is getting his lunch ready, and their little son, Arun, is busy studying.
Sunderlal is a very honest policeman and is the bane of the local criminals since he doesn't give up a case once it's handed to him, nor will he accept bribes to close a case. He teaches his son that there is no greater sin than thieving. Whereas, in another part of the town, a man (Pran) is declaiming how there's no greater art than thieving.
He's lecturing his gang on how this 'art' cannot be taught by a teacher in a school or university; it has to be learnt through hard work and discipline. Which means what? he asks his men? That a thief is a self-made man! (I can see why this tickled my husband's funny bone - the scene is hilarious. Then follows some more homilies including one throwaway line about living like the devil if you can't live like God - awesome!)  

In the meantime, Lakshmi has gone shopping with Arun, when he is picked up and carried away. Luckily, a woman (Kusum Thakur) in the market spots the man carrying him away, and raises a hue and cry. Lakshmi is grateful to the woman for saving Arun; they exchange names (the unknown woman's name is Sushila) and part friends.
It turns out that the man who enquired solicitously of Sushila what the matter was, had absconded with her necklace, and that he is part of a gang headed by Sushila's husband (whose name, incidentally, is Dharamraj).

We also establish what a 'good' wife Sushila is. As her own husband says, he insults her, ignores her, treats her badly and she still takes care of him? Of course, says Sushila, and why not? How to be a good wife: Lesson 1: It doesn't matter how badly your husband treats you. You have to serve him because that is what you were born to do. Even her husband seems to find it difficult to understand her point of view.
Later that night, Dharamraj frames Sunderlal for a robbery that he commits, disguising himself in the latter's police uniform, making sure that he drops enough clues that point to Sunderlal. A disgraced Sunderlal is sent to prison for 5 years. 

Lakshmi is left to fend for herself and Arun. When a colleague of Sunderlal's brings food for Arun and gives Lakshmi some money to tide them over for some time, the neighbourhood gossips make it impossible for her to continue to live there. But while Lakshmi can withstand taunts against her character (and gives as good as she gets, too), she cannot bear that her little son is taunted as the son of a thief, and accused of theft himself. 
Forced to pick up and leave in order to protect her little boy, Lakshmi wanders bereft, until hunger and tiredness force her to rest awhile outside an orphanage. There, a wealthy childless couple routinely feed the children. When Arun wanders in, the lady is thrilled by his innocence. (No, he is not as precocious as Hindi film children usually are. He's quite adorable.) The woman is already disposed kindly towards the child; when she hears Lakshmi's story, she quickly asks them to come home with her - they can talk more freely there. Her husband, too, has no objections. 
 
There, Kamala (Achala Sachdev) busies herself bathing and feeding the child. Her husband, Judge Ramkrishan (Raj Mehra) offers a bit of sage advice (and a warning): one doesn't love another's kid so much; when he leaves, as he surely will, she will be even more bereft. But Kamala is insouciant - Lakshmi has given Arun to her. The level-headed judge tries to reason with her - no mother can give away her child. But he defers to her love for Arun.

Life goes on, and soon Kamala is pregnant. In due time, she gives birth to a son. Her primary focus is still Arun, though, and his place in her affections can never be taken away by her 'real' son. Lakshmi happily takes on the care of the baby, who is named Madhu. 

Meanwhile, what about Dharamraj? A gang member comes to warn him that his henchman has been caught selling a stolen necklace and the police have surrounded their hideout. The 'boss' should run. Dharamraj tells him to make himself scarce, and hurries to escape with all his wealth. His wife, overhearing, realises the truth (How she lived with him for so long without realising the source of his wealth, I wonder!) and tries to stop him. She wants him to give himself up to the police, for the sake of her, and their newly-born daughter, Sumati.
Dharamraj is in no mood to listen. Give himself up to the police? When he can live his life far away in freedom? She must be mad! Sushila throws herself at his feet, invokes his affection for their daughter, all to no avail. The police are at the door now, and Dharmraj has not time for this emotional blackmail. He escapes over the wall at the back of the house. (And why didn't the police think of surrounding the house?) But not before exhorting his weeping wife to strangle their daughter if she felt like it. (Nice man - he won't be getting a 'Father of the year' award any time soon, I don't think.)
Back at Kamala's house, Lakshmi is feeding Madhu when Arun comes to her complaining he's hungry. She tells him to wait; once she finishes feeding the baby, she will give him food. Like all little kids, Arun is stubborn - give him food first, then feed Madhu! Kamala soothes a crying Arun. She will feed him.

For the first time, Arun balks at being fed by Kamala. Child-like, he wants his mother to feed him. It cuts Kamala to the quick to realise that to Arun, Lakshmi is still his real mother. The judge, having foreseen this happening at some point, offers some sage counsel - Arun is Lakshmi's son, and as long as Lakshmi is around, it is obvious that he will go to her first. Lakshmi, overhearing this, decides she will leave their house so Arun can integrate better into a loving household that can give him all the advantages that she cannot. (Wonder of wonders, she actually tells Kamala she is leaving, and why. Kamala, to her credit, is concerned about where Lakshmi will go, and what she will do. Yes, there are a few tears, but they seem in keeping with the scene.)
However, they all seemed to have jumped the gun a little bit. The thieves have been caught and the police also know that the leader was Dharamraj. Sunderlal is not only being released without a stain on his character, he's being recommended for a promotion to sub-inspector as well. Around this time, Lakshmi has left the judge's residence, and she runs into Sushila who, after her husband absconded, is in the same state that Lakshmi once was in. Bitten by a (a very conveniently appearing) cobra as she rests under a tree (talk about reptilian cameos, this snake sure had a very important one), Sushila hands over her little daughter to Lakshmi just before dying.
Lakshmi promises to take care of Sumati just as if she were her own daughter, but she can't help wonder at the irony of it all - she's given up her son to another woman, so he wouldn't have to struggle, now she has another's daughter to look after. Later, sitting in a temple, as she decides on her further course of action, Sunderlal passes by and overhears her speaking of Sumati as 'kisi ki aakhri nishaani'. He's quick to jump to the conclusion that she's been unfaithful to him and goes away without even meeting her. (But he has a letter delivered to her outlining all her faults. Lesson 2: Do not marry idiot husbands who are willing to suspect the worst of you.)

Luckily for Lakshmi, she soon gets employment at a local nursing home, owned and operated by Dr Shankar, and is even allowed to stay in the staff quarters behind, where she brings up Sumati as her daughter. Years pass, and Arun (Sunil Dutt) is studying to be a doctor. His younger brother, Madhu (Rajendranath) is the local do-gooder, much to his father's amusement and their mother's chagrin. In that, he has his father's and brother's support as well; it is clear that it's a very close-knit family.
Sumati (Vyjayanthimala) is now a nurse at the hospital where her mother still works. (I like that Lakshmi tells her that if she could have afforded it, she would have made Sumati a doctor.)
And Sunderlal is now an Inspector, who's still on the tracks of Dharamraj. He gets information that Dharamraj is now in Singapore. And indeed he is; he is now Mirza Singapori, a respectable muslim businessman.
 
Back in India, Sumati and her friends have a watery run in with Arun and his friends. While the battle of the sexes ends in a friendly (and flirty) draw, Arun returns to good news - his MBBS results have come out and he's passed. (First class, of course! Since he wasn't studying for his B.A., he couldn't say 'Ma, main first class first aaya hoon.' And Kamala sacrifices an opportunity to be the ideal filmi maa - she doesn't offer him gajar ka halwa, apne haath se banaya hua, or even bought from the local halwai - bad mother!) Arun is as idealistic as Madhu; he wants to practice in a village where they have most need of doctors. His father is proud of him, but practical as he is, suggests that Arun gets some practice interning with a doctor in the city first before he begins his own practice. His best friend Dr Shankar owns a nursing home; he will talk to him about getting Arun to work there. 

Lakshmi hasn't forgotten her son, or the circumstances under which she left him under Kamala's care. Just as old memories come surging, Sumati comes running to inform her that a new doctor is joining the nursing home - a Dr Arun, he is the local judge's son. Lakshmi is overjoyed. But even then, she's not prepared for the actual sight of him, though she doesn't let on about their relationship.
And while Arun, meeting Sumati in the nursing home, manages to squabble (and flirt) with her, it is obvious that he's a very hardworking and sincere doctor. For Lakshmi, his presence is a mixed blessing. For Arun, it is obvious that he is attracted to Sumati, though he cannot define what he feels.
Luckily for him, Sumati feels the same way, and has no compunction in letting him know that she suffers from the same 'illness'. When he asks her if there isn't a cure to this ailment, she laughs, 'Doctor toh aap hain, main nahin!' (What a refreshing heroine!) Their romance proceeds quite quickly. Even being sent to an epidemic-ravaged village to provide succour to the villagers doesn't quench their arduour (though they have a bit of a fright before that). They even manage to squeeze in a romantic song while they are there.

While all this is happening, you haven't forgotten Dharamraj, have you? He's beginning to find evidence of how important family is, and it makes him decide to return home to look for the wife and daughter he had abandoned so many years ago.

But when he finally returns (he is now Rai Bahadur Shyam Bihari Lal), it is to find the city changed, and his old house no longer extant. Sadly, he makes his way to a restaurant, where he sees Madhu up to his usual do-good ways. Impressed, he follows Madhu to his office and hands over a roll of notes. It is Madhu who sends him to Arun for the recurring pain in his left arm. Dharamraj takes his advice and meets Arun, who asks him to admit himself in the nursing home.

As he leaves, he almost runs into Inspector Sunderlal (who's apparently been following him around). Dharamraj leaves and the inspector asks Arun to let him know when the man returns. 

He needs Arun to get some information about the man, whom he suspects to be an absconding criminal. Arun, intrigued, promises to help. Back home, a proposal has come for Arun; when the topic is mooted to Arun, he promptly tells his mother that if it is a question of his marriage, then he's already chosen the girl. (And I mutter, how refreshing! once again.) Not only that, when his mother balks at his marrying a 'mere nurse', his father promptly takes his side and asks him to send for the girl's mother.

A reluctant Lakshmi gives in to Sumati's pleadings and goes to the house she had left behind so many years ago. While Kamala receives her with such happiness, that doesn't last when she realises that Lakshmi is Sumati's mother. Even though Lakshmi tries to explain, Kamala is no mood to listen; her insults drive Lakshmi away.
 
What will happen when Arun is told he cannot marry Sumati? Will Sumati be able to forget Arun as her mother asks her to do? (When she runs into Arun again, her self-respect gives her the strength to withstand him, even though Arun is hurting as much as she is.) How will they continue to work together? And Dharamraj - will he meet his daughter eventually? Will Sunderlal catch the criminal he's been trailing for 16 years? How does this all sort out?

I must confess that I liked the film a lot more than I expected to, given the plot.  For one, it wasn't as melodramatic as I'd feared it would be given Ek samay par do barsatein. Two, the heroine is rather spunky and actually admits that she loves the hero as much as he does her - no simpering miss, there. 
 
Vyjayanthi's Sumati also doesn't take things lying down. When she's asked to give up her foster mother so her future will be secure, she balks at the thought. Her affection for the only mother she has known is strong enough to be willing to cast her new-found father aside. Strong-willed, she also gives the hero a piece of her mind for being all self-sacrificing and sacrificing her life (though he doesn't actually know the truth). I also like that they talk to each other, bidding good-bye due to circumstances (that they don't know the truth about), and not due to misunderstanding. It was also nice to see them working together after their relationship ends, still caring for each other, even if they know it is better they do not meet. 
 
Arun knows throughout that he is adopted; so does his brother, the biological son of the family that adopts him. They regard each other with affection and look out for each other. The adoptive parents love them both, and are very proud of their adopted son. The mother is persistently worrying about her sons, the father is very laid back. Quite a few family scenes made me smile - it was all so natural. I like that he is willing to fight for his love, and when he is emotionally blackmailed into giving her up, is strong enough to tell his parents that he would sacrifice his love for them, but he would never marry another.
Of the two mothers, Sulochana comes off a tad bit better, but that is more because Achala Sachdev's character is written that way. One can easily see her in many women of our acquaintance even today. Kind at heart, generous, loving, yet with a strong fear of log kya kahenge? Sulochana, on the other hand, is the wronged woman, but not a lachrymose creature who will cause a dent in the producer's stock of glycerine, all doormat-ish and silently suffering. She is strong, and while she does shed a tear or two, it is pretty understandable within the context. Otherwise, she gives up her son for his sake, brings up her daughter on her own, educates her and puts her through nursing school, stands up to people who impugn her character, roundly scolds her daughter for her humiliation, ticks off the hero for making her daughter's life a misery, and doesn't beg her husband's forgiveness for anything, including his mutton-headed misunderstanding. (She is also very pretty in the earlier scenes.)

I liked the father as well - Raj Mehra is not having his usual heart attack in this film. He is the voice of sanity in their household, though he defers to his wife in most matters. He is firmly on his children's side (both sons) and is very mature in his handling of most crises. It is a rather unusual characterisation because he is not afraid of his wife. (I mean, he is not the usual 'henpecked husband' of a termagant wife character.)

The 'comedy' is not nauseating as it usually is; in fact, there is no 'comic side plot' as such, and therefore Rajendranath gets to be sweet and amusing instead of obnoxious and decidedly unfunny. (No, he does not dress in drag.) Nobody, not even the villain, is completely black, nor is anyone, including Manmohan Krishna, completely doodh se dhula hua. (In fact, he is the only character I wanted to strangle. It was very hard to feel any sympathy for him.)

Pran was fantastic in the beginning as the thoroughly unrepentant villain; his metamorphosis into a caring father seemed a bit sudden, but hey, who was complaining? Besides, he actually listens to his daughter when she balks at his plans for her. And he is truly repentant, not just pretend-sorry, and his redemption at the end has consequences that he is willing to bear. 

Of course, the music - how can one not like Sajna tere bin, Ek samay par do barsatein, Aag paani mein lagi, Aankhon se kaajal ki, etc.  Or the background score that was just there, just enough? 

Is Jhoola  a great film? A classic? No, not at all. But for a couple of hours, the story makes you invest in the characters' lives and keeps you interested enough in knowing their fate. Considering my low level of tolerance in wasting two hours of my time watching melodramatic tripe (well-made masala, I can still endure), that I didn't want to stop watching the film makes it one that I would  recommend for some time when you don't want to watch a serious film, but you are not in the mood for tripe. This is a somewhere-in-between film. 

4 comments:

  1. Aaah, thanks for this review, Anu. Haven't watched it - mostly because I feared that it would be too painful. But this doesn't sound too bad. Plus I like Sunil Dutt, Vyjayanthimala and Pran - so yes, will give it a try...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, this sounds not bad. And when I got to the part where Arun grows up to be Sunil Dutt! - well, that made it for me. I mean, I can watch pretty much anything with a young Sunil Dutt in it. And Vyjyanthimala. :-) I will definitely look out for this. Thanks, Anu.

    (By the way, when I first read the name of the film, I was reminded of another Jhoola, which had this song in it):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtthfgNa7YY

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Available on YouTube"


    Oh, goodie! :-)

    ReplyDelete

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