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17 August 2011

Junglee (1961)

Directed by: Subodh Mukherjee
Music: Shankar-Jaikishen
Starring: Shammi Kapoor, Saira Banu, 
Lalita Pawar, Azra
Shashikala, Anoop Kumar
This is the film that introduced me to Shammi Kapoor; I must have been five or six at the time. It was the beginning of a long relationship. Junglee is also the Shammi Kapoor film that I have revisited the most. On the face of it, it is a simple story, like most of Shammi Kapoor's movies - it is the story of a stern, unbending, almost-unlikeable man who finds himself transformed by love. What made this oft-told tale rivetting was the performance of the leads (and the supporting characters), the wonderful songs that moved the story along, and the deft direction. More about that later.  
Shekhar (Chandra-Shekhar! when his mother is really  displeased) is recently returned from abroad where he has succeeded in expanding his father's business. He is rude, aggressive and has no people skills. His mother has never known how to love her children - she has brought them up with the rules and principles of her late husband. 
And so love and laughter are unknown emotions; atleast, for Shekhar. He spends most of his time pouting and flaring his nostrils, when he is not being a terrible pest to his subordinates. 
His sister, Mala, on the other hand is a hop-out-o'-the-kin. She not only loves to laugh, she (gasp!) loves - a clerk (Anoop Kumar) in her brother's office. She is forced to hide both her love and her laughter from her mother and brother. And, much though her mother may constrain her, she is intrepid enough to climb out through her balcony and meet her lover, and sing songs with him even though both of them know that her mother and brother will not approve.
Meanwhile, Maataji has a visitor. The upshot of that visit is that she tells Shekhar that his father had fixed Shekhar's alliance with the princess of Ramgarh while they were still children. 
 The marriage will take place as soon as Shekhar returns from a business trip to Kashmir. What neither Maataji or Shekhar know is that the princess and her family are neck-deep in debt. 
They are staving off their creditors based on their expectations of wealth once the marriage takes place.
Mala and Jeevan are spotted by the manager, who considers it his duty to let his employers know that...
When they ask him to find a solution, he advises Shekhar to take Mala to Kashmir with him. A few days away and she will soon repent. Mala is furious but helpless. Brother and sister are soon on their way to Kashmir. On their first morning in Kashmir, Shekhar asks Mala to accompany him outside. An angry Mala not only refuses, but hopes that Kashmir will burn. Shekhar ventures out alone, only to be hit by a snowball; he is infuriated by the laughter that follows  - but his anger, or lack of humour does not affect the carefree spirit of Rajkumari, the daughter of the local doctor.
She tells him that she was throwing snowballs at the monkeys and he got in the way; of course, it could be that it was difficult to see the difference. When he demands furiously whether she is calling him a monkey, she demurs. Of course not; he might think she was flattering him! If Shekhar thinks Raj ill-mannered, Raj is not very impressed with Shekhar either - she thinks him a humourless, misogynistic piece of stone.

Later, she tells her father that she met an ape. Her father tells her that it is time he got her an ape instead of dolls because his little monkey is growing up. Embarrassed, Rajkumari goes away - to entertain us with a song bidding adieu to childhood. 

Mala, in the meantime is feeling sick and goes to the local doctor; she is not prepared for what he has to tell her.
She is aghast at the news, and tries to commit suicide. Raj stops her, and takes her back home. She promises to help Mala by tackling her brother. It is not easy since neither of them are impressed by the other. 
She wins the day however, and he is forced to wait until the morrow to visit Mala - Raj insists that the hospital's visiting hours are only after 4pm.  She even blackmails him into buying flowers for his sister.
Her father and she keep Mala's condition a secret from Shekhar, the doctor merely telling him that Mala will be fine in about three month's time. She just needs to rest. He also adds his bit of advice for Mala's future well-being.
Mala is awed at Raj's handling of her brother; she insists that if Raj would only set her mind to it, her love would transform Shekhar. Raj is not impressed - What? Love that stone? She has no such intentions but she will change him, or her name is not Rajkumari! And so begins Operation Shekhar...
Shekhar is bemused. Raj teases him without mercy, flirts with him in gay abandon, and totally ignores his anger. Weeks pass, and Mala's due date draws near. How is she going to keep her brother from knowing now? Raj is not fazed. She has a few other tricks up her sleeve. She tricks Shekhar into going on a pilgrimage to Sheshnag to pray for his sister's health.
Repentant, she goes after Shekhar; furious with her continued mischief, he not only continues on his journey, but forces her to go along too. But the storm that has hit Sheshnag hits them too, forcing them to find shelter in a mountain cabin. 
Raj soon goes back to her teasing ways when she realises that Shekhar will not eat with his hands even when he is so obviously hungry!
The storm rages on, and Shekhar's feelings are undergoing a gradual change. Raj is different from every woman he has ever met. Her warmth, her tenderness, her innocence, her beauty, even her teasing - he is caught in a storm of conflicting emotions. 
The realisation hits Raj as well. He is not quite the junglee she had thought him to be. 
Days pass by, but finally, the storm subsides. Shekhar cannot stop letting out a shout of relief - Yaaa- hoooo!
After much teasing (Raj continues to pelt him with snowballs) and romancing, they return home tired and happy.  Back at the guesthouse, Mala has given birth to a baby boy, a fact that she still hides from her brother. But she is surprised and thrilled at the change in Shekhar! 
Not quite Raj's father, who is astonished that they can be so insouciant after staying out together for so many nights! What about his daughter's reputation, if you please? Shekhar assures the good doctor that his intentions are the purest of the pure - he loves Raj and she loves him. And how does that make a difference, snaps back the father. Well, he wants to get married to her. The doctor is reassured. 
But soon brother and sister are summoned back to Bombay. Mala is sad at having to leave her baby behind, but the doctor and Raj console her - he is their responsibility, and they will take care of him.  

Shekhar books his tickets a day later; he wants to spend as much time with Raj as he possibly can. She is scared of losing him, but puts a good face on it. And we have the wonderful Mere yaar Shabba Khair.
Back home, Maataji is furious! How dare they, especially Shekhar, forget his responsibilities? He is supposed to travel to Ramgarh to meet his prospective bride. Shekhar, softened by his love for Raj, hugs his mother - how could he stay away from her like this?
Maataji is taken aback though she finds that she doesn't dislike it quite as much either. However, she steels herself. This is not what she had been taught by her husband. What would her husband think of her?
And even though Shekhar tries his best to get out of the proposed trip, even going to the extent of pretending to be sick, she prevails upon him to keep the promise she has made to the prospective in-laws. The in-laws are having a party in his honour, and have invited all their creditors; they have also organised a performance by Miss Suku (Helen).
Shekhar feigns madness in an attempt to extricate himself from a marriage in which he has no interest. He also enjoys himself immensely by joining Miss Suku on stage.
The princess (Azra), however, is not amused. Neither are her father and brother. She refuses to marry a madman, but her father is practical - crazy or not, Shekhar is wealthy. And the Raja devoutly hopes that every poor girl is blessed with such a crazy but wealthy husband! Shekhar returns home happy - that is one less thing to worry about.

Mala is pining for her baby and even meets Jeevan to talk it through. She is all for ending the charade, but now it is Jeevan's turn to tell her to be patient.
Raj and her father have come to Bombay to finalise the wedding; Maataji mistakes Rajkumari for the princess, even though the doctor questions her addressing him as 'Raja Saheb'. And Shekhar is hopeful that everything will go off smoothly. However, he has not reckoned with the real princess and her family who have also come to finalise the marriage...
...and will stop at nothing to ensure that the alliance goes through. 

Will they succeed in their plans? Will Shekhar give in to his mother's emotional blackmail? Or will he find the strength to stand by Raj? And what about Mala? And Jeevan? And the baby? 

This was Saira Banu's debut, and she made a wonderful Rajkumari. She is no simpering miss, not she; she is independent and self-respecting, playful, yet dignified. She is not beyond flirting shamelessly with Shekhar in order to teach him a lesson; however, when a joke goes too far, she is also prepared to make reparations. 

When he saves her life during the storm and she wakes up to find herself undressed and under the bedclothes, there are no screams of outraged modesty; the scene is characterised by a matter-of-factness that is part of Raj's character. There is no hanky-panky during their enforced imprisonment, and it is to the director's credit that the nascent emotions that are aroused by their proximity do not find the stereotypical physical outlet. If the actions are restrained, so are the emotions - the doctor, for instance, does not demand that Shekhar marry his daughter to protect her izzat.   

When she is insulted by her mother-in-law-to-be, Raj is quick to defend herself; however, there are no melodramatic declarations. Saira's Raj is self-respecting; yet, her upbringing will not allow her to retort in kind. She is quick to tell her father that he had better not interfere  - it is one of the nicest scenes in the movie, when Shekhar comes to find her, and the father, sensitive to the atmosphere and sympathetic to Shekhar's compulsions, quickly leaves it to his daughter to handle the situation. And she is angry, as she has right to be; Shekhar did not defend her to his mother. He is a coward! His reaction is also restrained.
Her anger fades; how can it not?

And it is equally Shammi Kapoor's film - he is the junglee  who is transformed by his love. And he makes his transformation believable. And even though he is willing to shout out his new-found love for Raj, there is a restraint in his wooing of her. There is respect and caring. He is also strong enough to counter his mother's emotional blackmail, even if he is forced to give in to it.
If he cannot marry Raj with her blessings, so be it, but he will not marry another girl. And nothing and nobody can change his views. Shekhar is the one person who believes implicitly in Raj's innocence. His faith does not falter for one second; not even when Raj herself lies to him under compulsion. There can be no chance of misunderstanding between them.

It is these little touches that make Junglee such compulsive viewing. If I were to have to choose my favourite Shammi Kapoor film (and that is a hard task), I would waver between Professor and Junglee.
Time for some eye-candy (lots and lots of eye-candy):


  1. So, sooooo true, Anu: if I had to pick my favourite Shammi Kapoor movie, I wouldn't know which one to choose - Professor or Junglee. I adore both of them (in fact, just yesterday, after I'd finished my day's work, I treated myself by watching a couple of scenes from Professor!) And last night, I was thinking of one reason that I like Junglee so much: instead of Shammi Kapoor's usual chasing-the-heroine and teasing-her-mercilessly roles, here's it's the opposite.

  2. Anuradha Warrier18 August 2011 at 12:15

    Madhu, I do that sometimes - pick a few scenes from his movies to watch, if I do not have the time to see the whole thing. They boost my spirits. You are right about the reversal of roles in Junglee - Saira was really good. I mean, she really is the sort of heroine I like - no rona dhona, no false modesty, lots of self-respect...

  3. Eeeeek! My favourite Shammi Kapoor movie of all time! I am going off to see it right now. I loved Saira in this. She looked like a Dresden China doll; and I liked the way she flirted shamelessly with Shammi - he, she, we all knew she wasn't in love with him even when she was saying she was.

  4. :) I know. It's a perfect pick-me-up; and I *willed* her to get up and forgive him when he was singing Ehsaan tera hoga mujh par... in my mind, the best romantic song after Isharon isharon me dil lene wale bar none!

  5. Eeeeek! My favourite Shammi Kapoor movie of all time! I am going off to see it right now. I loved Saira in this. She looked like a Dresden China doll; and I liked the way she flirted shamelessly with Shammi - he, she, we all knew she wasn't in love with him even when she was saying she was.

  6. Eeeeek! My favourite Shammi Kapoor movie of all time! I am going off to see it right now. I loved Saira in this. She looked like a Dresden China doll; and I liked the way she flirted shamelessly with Shammi - he, she, we all knew she wasn't in love with him even when she was saying she was.

  7. Tina, I do not know why your comment appeared and then was deleted - it wasn't by me!

    And I replied saying:
    :) I know. It's a perfect pick-me-up; and I *willed* her to get up and forgive him when he was singing Ehsaan tera hoga mujh par... in my mind, the best romantic song after Isharon isharon me dil lene wale bar none!

  8. I waver between Professor and Junglee too, though I must be one of the few who actually liked the mustachioed Shammi Kapoor in Shama Parwana :) Especially when he sang Tune mera yaar na milaya :)

  9. Count me in as one of the few, Ruhi. The movie sucked, big time, but he was so cute. :) But he did look much better without the mooch.


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