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29 August 2011

Barsaat ki Raat (1960)

Directed by: PL Santoshi
Music: Roshan
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
Starring: Madhubala, Shyama, Bharat Bhushan, 
KN Singh, Chandrashekhar, Mumtaz Begum, 
Ratna, Peace Kanwal, Khurshid Bawra, Rashid Khan
I picked up Barsaat Ki Raat on this trip. Muslim Social? Yes. Starring Madhubala? Yes. A wonderful music score with three qawaalis? Perfect. And when the film begins with Garjat barsat sawan aayo re, a melodious rain song based on Raag Goud Malhar, things can only get better. 

Shabab (Ratna) and Shama (Shyama), the singers,  are the two beautiful daughters of qawwal Mubarak Ali.  A famous but impecunious poet (are there any other kind?), Amaan Hyderabadi (Bharat Bhushan), lives with them as paying guest. He is a published poet, but obviously, his collection of nazms aren’t enough to eke out a living. Shabab (youth) is mischievous, but it is Shama (flame), older and quieter, who loves Amaan deeply. She is too shy to talk of her feelings, and spends her time sighing deeply and looking yearningly at him.
Mubarak Ali is in distress – a loss to the legendary Daulat Khan (Balam?) in a qawwali competition has led to a career setback. He begs Amaan to help him win back his musical acclaim. Amaan promises to help, but his own straitened circumstances force him to travel to Hyderabad where he has been called to recite his poetry. Shama is unhappy at his going away, but makes him promise that he will write to tell them of his safe arrival. 

Amaan lands up at his friend, Shekhar’s (Chandrashekhar) house; Shekhar is now a police officer, and has no great appreciation of poetry. However, he has great admiration for Amaan, and his ability to write poetry. The director of All India Radio requests Amaan to recite something new; seeking inspiration, Amaan wanders the streets of Hyderabad, until inclement weather forces him to take refuge in a blacksmith’s shop. He bumps (literally) into a very beautiful and very wet girl (Madhubala) who has the same idea. A sudden flash of lightning makes her cower against him, their eyes meet, she is aghast, he is enraptured, he lights a cigarette, she leaves in a hurry… but not before inspiration strikes the poet.

We soon learn that the beautiful maiden is Shabnam (dew), the daughter of the local police commissioner, Khan Bahadur (KN Singh). She is a fan of Amaan Hyderabadi’s, and keeps his book of poetry with her all the time. When she hears her beloved poet’s name on the radio, she sits up and takes notice.

Amaan is singing an ode in praise of the girl he met for but a few moments that stormy night. As he describes their meeting in verse, she gradually realises that the man she met was the poet whom she loves.

Shabnam goes to meet her friend, Shanti (a very pretty Peace Kanwal) not only to talk to her about Amaan, but also to convince her to take on the job of tutoring her younger sister Razia. (Idle comment No.1: I loved Peace Kanwal in her very brief role. The scenes between her and Shabnam are very natural.)

Soon Amaan runs into Shabnam again at a function; the resourceful Shanti finds a way of letting Amaan know Shabnam’s name, and that her father is the police commissioner. Just so she is in no doubt of his feelings, he sings Maine shaayad tumhe; Shabnam is beside herself with joy. Soon Amaan has another stroke of luck – Shekhar informs him that the police commissioner is looking for a tutor for his younger girl. Amaan grabs at any chance he can get to meet Shabnam, and goes over to Khan Bahadur’s house with Shekhar.

Shabnam is thrilled to see him there, but upset when she realises that Shanti has also come to take up the job. The latter, realising that her friend is obsessed with her poet, moves gracefully out of the way.

And amidst tuitions, Amaan and Shabnam find their own romance. Lekin ishq chhupaake nahin chhupte. And when Shabnam’s father finds out, all hell breaks loose. He invites Amaan to dinner, and then threatens to break his legs if he is ever seen anywhere near Shabnam again. He has received a proposal for Shabnam from  an old friend in Lucknow, Justice Ahmed. The latter's son Aaftab (sun) is a lawyer who has been educated abroad, and is now back home. But his daughter shows her mettle – she meets Amaan at their usual meeting place, the smithy, and insists hat she will not go back to a house that has insulted him so.
In this, she shows more gumption than her weak-kneed poet. He talks about izzat  and ‘what will people say’ until she is pushed to retort that she would rather die than go back home. 

Finding that the bird has flown, Khan Bahadur enlists Shekhar’s help in tracking the two lovers down. Shekhar leads him to the smithy where the blacksmith, atoning for a previous lapse in his daughter’s case, deliberately misleads them. Amaan and Shabnam leave for Indore where he has had an offer from the radio to recite his poetry.  
But Amaan is worried. He can neither write poetry under his own name, or take up a job for fear of her father. How are they going to live? He tells Shabnam that she can still go home without being dishonoured. Shabnam tries to convince him but finding that he is still wavering, throws his verses back at him – Zindagi bhar nahi bhoolegi woh barsaat ki raat; ek anjaan musafir se mulaaqaat ki raat.* Amaan is upset at seeing her cry and reassures her saying that he will recite under a different name. He is now Kamal Lucknawi. 

However, Shekhar, who hears him recite his poetry over the radio, recognises his voice. He has been making enquiries about Amaan among their mutual friends, especially Sudhakar, who he knows is very close to Amaan, but has turned up nothing. Khan Bahadur is not as easily hoodwinked. (One can see how he rose to be police commissioner!) He tells Shekhar that Sudhakar must have lied for love of Amaan and asks him to go to Jabalpur to see for himself. And of course, Khan Bahadur is right. Amaan has indeed taken Shabnam to Sudhakar’s house. Sudhakar, a lawyer, insists that the only way out for the eloping couple is for them to get married at once. Shabnam is legally an adult and once they are wed, nothing can be done. They go off to fetch the qazi.

Shekhar arrives just then, and emotionally blackmails Shabnam into leaving with him – he holds Amaan’s arrest over her head. Shabnam returns home to face an infuriated father and a helpless mother. The mother, in fact, begs her husband to reconsider. After all, Shabnam’s happiness is at stake. Khan Bahadur is adamant – the disgrace that Shabnam has brought upon the family can only be washed away if the marriage that has been fixed takes place. And the farther they go from Hyderabad, the less chance of gossip spreading. 

And so, Shabnam and her parents board a train to Lucknow, little knowing that Amaan is on the same train, escaping from the threat of imprisonment. While travelling, Amaan runs into a party of qawwals, and a poet who is claiming to be Amaan Hyderabadi. Amaan is miffed. He surreptitiously informs the imposter that he is Amaan Hyderabadi, thank you very much! But he is fully aware that  he cannot write or recite poetry under his own name, in case the police are still looking for him. Talk about spineless dolts! The imposter is street smart – he offers to pay Amaan to write poetry which he will then pass off as his own. Amaan gets the money, he gets the fame. Amaan agrees but refuses  to stay with the poet. He is going to stay at his friend’s – Aftaab, who, coincidentally is the same Aftaab that Shabnam is affianced to. And guess where Shabnam and her family are going to be staying? (Idle comment No.2: Where would we be without all these coincidences? Idle comment No.3: Without a film to watch, that's where we would be.)

At Aftaab’s home, his father is naturally curious why Khan Bahadur wants the marriage to be held in Lucknow instead of in Hyderabad, and in such a hurry. Shabnam leaves hurriedly, not wanting to be any part of the marriage discussion. In a bid to defuse what she sees as a dangerous situation, Shabnam’s mother informs Aftaab (and his parents) that Shabnam was very  happy at marrying Aftaab. Angry and grieved, Amaan leaves the house, only to run into Shabnam.

He offers his congratulations, but Shabnam, afraid of what would happen if anyone saw him there, begs him to leave. Amaan misunderstands her feelings, and leaves, a broken-hearted man, leaving behind an equally distraught Shabnam.

At the same time, Mubarak Ali and his daughters are also on their way to Lucknow. They have the chance of taking part in a qawwali competition, where they will be competing against a young qawwal Chand Khan (Khurshid Bawra). Guess who Amaan has been writing poetry for? This gives us the first of three beautiful qawaalis – Nigaah-e-naaz ke in which Shabab and Shama boast of their beauty; they sing beautifully but lose to Amaan’s poetry.

A challenge is thrown down by their patron (who does not seem too unhappy at having lost a factory) – 'Let's have a re-match', but Chand Khan has a condition – if he wins, Shabab will be his mistress. Having lost her heart to the young qawwal,  Shabab is nothing loth.

She issues a counter condition – if she  wins, then Chand Khan will be her servant. 

Mubarak Ali is so desperate that he begs the poet who wrote the lyrics for Chand Khan to help him out too, not knowing that it was in fact, Amaan’s pen that defeated them. The imposter agrees and sells Amaan’s new poem to both parties. But when the sisters, who are flustered at hearing Chand Khan sing their verses, are in dire straits, they are helped by Amaan who writes some impromptu verses for them – and we are treated to Pehchaanta hoon khoob. Chand Khan is defeated, and led, not unhappily to his fate.

Mubarak Ali now needs to defeat Daulat Khan. And so he, his daughters and Amaan make their way to Ajmer Sharif where the decisive qawwali competition is to be held. Mubarak Ali’s morale (and that of his eldest daughter) is lifted now that Amaan is back with them.
Back in Lucknow, Shabnam is grievously ill, and her mother despairs of her life. She begs Khan Bahadur to take them all to the dargah at Ajmer Sharif so her daughter can be well again. 

And Shama soon finds out that her Amaan is in love with another. 

The fates of all these people are soon enmeshed. How will this all end? Will Khan Bahadur unbend? And will true love triumph? 

Amaan is the most wishy-washy of lovers – ever! He honestly does not deserve Shabnam. Or Shama, for that matter! It is left to the women to take charge of their own destinies. Both Shabnam and Shabab are proactive in furthering their romances. Shabab has lost her heart to the young qawwal, and is not too bothered about the conditions of the new challenge – both ways, she stands to win. And even when she is practically under house arrest, you know Shabnam is not going to give in without a fight. And Shama, she of the unrequited love, she shows strength under attack, and grace in defeat.

In a movie about love, it is the men who fall short.

* In my opinion, Lata's version of Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi  fell far short of Mohammed Rafi's version. It was technically perfect, but the soul was missing. My theory is that Rafisaab knew he was singing of Madhubala, and the emotion came unbidden. Lata, on the other hand, knew she was singing of Bharat Bhushan and was hard put to summon any enthusiasm! (My two cents.)

A word about the music: Roshan composed a fantastic score for this movie. And if you listen carefully, you can hear the tunes of Dil jo na keh saka  and Rahe na rahe hum in the background. Roshan used them later in Bheegi Raat (1965) and Mamta (1966) respectively.

However, neither Nigaah-e-naaz ke  nor Na to kaarvan ki talaash hai (and Yeh ishq ishq) were Roshan's compositions. My husband mentioned that they were both composed by the late Ustad Fateh Ali Khan (Nusrat Ali Khan’s father), and were used by Roshan with the latter's permission. Sahir Ludhianvi adapted some of the lyrics of the original, and Roshan arranged them differently from the traditional qawwali. Both Roshan and Ustad Fateh Ali Khan have confirmed this in different interviews. 

The original qawwalis were Sahar kareeb hai taaron ka haal kya hoga and Na to butkade ki talab mujhe na to haram ke dar ki talaash hai, jahaan lut gayaa ho sukoon-e-dil us rah guzar ki talaash hai. 

For trivia lovers: The script for Barsaat ki Raat was co-written by Bharat Bhushan. He married Ratna (the actress who played Shabab) after the film's release.

1. Garjat barsat sawan aayo re (Suman Kalyanpur, Kamal Barot)
2. Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolenge (Mohammed Rafi)
3. Maine shaayad tumhe (Mohammed Rafi)
4. Mayoos to hoon (Mohammed Rafi)
5. Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi (Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi)
6. Nigaah-e-naaz ke (Sudha Malhotra, Asha Bhonsle, Shankar-Shambhu)
7. Pehchaanta hoon khoob (Sudha Malhotra, Asha Bhonsle, Balbir and Bande Hassan)
8. Mujhe mil gaya bahaana tere deedh ka (Lata Mangeshkar)
9a. Na toh kaarvan ki talaash hai (Sudha Malhotra, Asha Bhonsle, Manna Dey, SD Batish)
9b. Yeh ishq ishq yeh ishq ishq (Mohammed Rafi, Manna Dey, SD Batish, Sudha Malhotra)

And my vote for the best eye-candy goes to:


  1. Thank you for that bit of trivia on Ustad Fateh Ali Khan having originally composed the tune of Na toh karvaan ki talaash hai - I didn't know that, and it happens to be my favourite qawwali, ever! Actually, come to think of it, the gorgeousness of the ladies and the absolutely mind-blowing music are what make (for me, at least) Barsaat ki Raat worth watching. Otherwise, it's really not much of a story, and Bharat Bhushan is one actor I find it almost impossible to summon any sort of feeling for.:-( (P.S. Love your comment about why Lata's version of Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi... doesn't have the heart and the emotion that Rafi manages to infuse in his rendition!! Hehe :-))

  2. Madhu, thank my husband for that bit - he is the walking encyclopaedia on music (and most other things, for that matter). Only, he didn't remember what the original qawaalis were - that needed a bit of research.

    I totally agree about it being the women and the music (in reverse order, for me) that made Barsaat ki Raat worth watching. I have never been able to like Bharat Bhushan; he had the sort of face that looked like it was going to cry any moment, even when he was laughing!

  3. I loved this film! I even liked Bharat Bhushan in it. Though you are right, I did want to smack him a few times. (The shareef ladki scene, for instance.) And the songs were so beautiful, though again, I do not quite like .

  4. Sorry about the html going haywire :( I swear I put them in properly!

  5. You like Bharat Bhushan? Gasp! LOL.

    And yes, Mayoos hoon main is my least favourite of the songs, I think, because it sounded so whiny.

  6. I have not watched this movie, but I have heard the Zindagi bhar nahi bhoole song, and really liked it. And since you say it is worth watching, I shall put it on my to-watch list. :) Thanks for the recommendation.


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