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30 September 2014

Bhabhi ki Chudiyan (1961)

Directed by: Sadashiv J. Row Kavi
Music: Sudhir Phadke
Lyrics: Pandit Narendra Sharma
Starring: Meena Kumari, Balraj Sahni, 
Master Aziz, Seema Deo,  
 Durga Khote, Om Prakash, 
Sailesh Kumar
I watched Bhabhi ki Chudiyan a long time ago, when a friend of mine recommended it as 'another film in which Meena Kumari doesn't cry'. Since that recommendation came just after I had watched Miss Mary and Kohinoor, I was more than willing to watch anything with Meena Kumari in it. It wasn't a comedy or a raja-rani romance like the others, but the film didn't disappoint at all. And when I watched it again, recently, I found that I still liked it very much. 

Mohan (Master Aziz) lives with his elder brother, Shyam (Balraj Sahni). They are very fond of each other, but the younger brother exhorts his older brother to get married soon - he's tired of staying alone. And if his elder brother doesn't want to get married, then perhaps he should get him married off! Their parents had died when Mohan was a baby - their mother immediately after his birth and their father a few days later. Shyam, much older, has brought up Mohan by himself. Shyam is being pressured to marry by everyone around him, but he cannot bring himself to think about it. What if the woman he marries is not kind to Mohan? But his superior officer at work has a woman in mind for him - the daughter of Darshan Lal, a retired officer. Before he knows it, his marriage is fixed. (Neither his boss nor the girl's father seem to take his reservations seriously.)
Mohan decides he needs to 'see' his prospective sister-in-law before he can 'approve' her. So Shyam sends him off with the address. He promptly proceeds to tell Darshan Lal that Shyam will get married to his daughter only if he, Mohan, approves of the alliance. Darshan Lal is amused. He treats Mohan with great deference, all the while trying to hide his laughter.  (He doesn't quite succeed.) The first sight of Geeta (Meena Kumari), the daughter, is enough for Mohan.
Shyam and Geeta are soon married and their little house is filled with happiness. Geeta loves Mohan just as much as if he were her own, and their home soon acquires the little touches that only a woman can bring. Mohan follows Geeta around like a little puppy, her willing slave as she goes about her chores.  The motherless boy becomes so attached to Geeta that he begins to think of her as his mother. Geeta returns his affection.
But when Geeta becomes pregnant and goes home for the delivery, Mohan is bereft. He can no longer bear to stay without her. He insists on going with her, but she manages to convince him to stay back to 'look after his brother'. Unfortunately, she loses the baby. All her maternal affections are now concentrated on her little brother-in-law. One day, Mohan writes an essay in school for which his teacher rewards him - with a rupee. In his eagerness to show his bhabhi the reward, he breaks her glass bangles. Seeing her distress (the breaking of bangles is considered an ill-omen), he promptly replaces them, using that one rupee.
Soon, Mohan has grown up, enough to begin his first job teaching at a university. With his first salary, he buys his bhabhi a pair of gold bangles. Shyam and Geeta are very happy; now if only Mohan would also get married. Mohan has his own ideas about that. 
But, caught red handed by his bhabhi, he is pleased to discover that both his brother and sister-in-law do not have any objections. So the proposal is sent to the Prabha's (Seema) house where her father (Om Prakash) finds it perfectly acceptable. Not so the mother (Durga Khote) who was hoping to get Prabha married off to a man who had no  close relatives so they could insist he stay with them. Here, she's heard that the professor has a sister-in-law, and that he obeys her every word!
There's nothing to worry about, says the father. Prabha is her mother's daughter after all, and just like she had separated him from his brother and family, Prabha will do the same. His sarcasm doesn't go down well with his wife, though his daughter is amused. Prabha is sensible though her mother tries to convince her that separating her husband from his family is the best course of action. 
Matters deteriorate from before the wedding itself. Prabha's mother insists that instead of giving money as dowry (which Shyam and Geeta do not want anyway), they will use that money to make ornaments for Prabha. If not, how are they to know that the money will not be misused? Mohan is furious at this insult to his beloved brother and sister-in-law.
He insists that they refuse the proposal, but Geeta and Shyam persuade him to agree - his brother had already given his word, and if Prabha's parents make ornaments for her, how does it matter anyway? After all, they don't want the money. Despite Mohan's reservations (what if she turns out to be like her mother?), the marriage takes place, and Prabha is welcomed home by Geeta. 
The young couple are gloriously happy at first. But the first hint of trouble comes when Prabha, who is not used to doing any work in her own home, finds out that her in-laws do not even have a maidservant. That is smoothed over but Geeta is worried at the continued bickering between the couple. Shyam thinks it will all blow over, but Geeta is not so sure. 
Besides, Prabha's mother's overactive imagination is also at work. Coupled with some advice from a 'well-wisher', the mother decides that she will 'advise' her son-in-law to stay separately - after all, it is a question of her daughter's well-being.  She invites Mohan home, and insists on her husband leaving them alone when he comes. 

Mohan arrives and she tries her best - perhaps he could come to their house for tea everyday after college? And if he wants to renovate his 'share' of the house...? Mohan is not dumb. He cuts her off right at the beginning - no house will be a home if his brother and sister-in-law are not living with him. 
He storms off in a rage at her continued insistence, while she considers herself insulted. (The father, overhearing their conversation, finds much in this son-in-law to recommend him, especially his spine, which he himself lacks.) Back home, Mohan is even more upset when he finds that his bhabhi is still doing all the chores. Geeta warns him against making a mountain out of a molehill - after all, she is not complaining. Prabha, watching their interaction from above, resents their closeness. 

Matters are exacerbated by Mrs Manchanda, the mother's 'well-wisher'. Meeting Prabha and Mohan shopping, she comes back to fill Prabha's mother's ears with how weak her daughter is, and how pitiful she looks. This is all Prabha's mother needs to hear - she will bring her daughter home, she vows, and thereafter, will not allow her to go back at all! Her poor husband, spineless as he is, has no opinion on the matter.

The next day, Prabha's mother and Mrs Manchanda proceed to Prabha's home. While waiting for her in her room, the two ladies mock and disparage everything in the house; Prabha's mother, especially, has only scorn to heap on Geeta's head. Their conversation is overheard by Geeta, who, withdraws quietly, hurt.  Mohan, who has had his mother-in-law's measure by then, is as sarcastic as he was a couple of days earlier. His remarks provoke his mother-in-law to throw down the gauntlet - if her daughter has the courage, she will teach them all a lesson. 

She storms off, leaving Prabha, who has overheard their confrontation, seething with anger at the 'insult' to her mother. Coupled with her jealousy of her husband's close relationship with his sister-in-law, she too insists that they live separately. Mohan's refusal spurs her decision to leave the house.  Geeta and Shyam try to stop her; failing that, they agree to the separation - Geeta insisting that it is better to live separately and amicably rather than together, with strife. 
Hurt, Mohan lashes out. If that is what his sister-in-law desires, then so be it. But he wants the house, the crockery, the jewellery, his brother, his sister-in-law... all of Shyam's and Geeta's loving ways to calm the younger couple fail, and Mohan, beyond angry now, takes his wife and drops her at her mother's place without much ado. 

A couple of months later, Prabha gives birth to a baby boy. Her father sets out to give the good news to her in-laws, but is stopped by his wife. If he goes over there, they will forever be seen as having bowed their heads before their in-laws. But the poor man has had enough. His wife succeeded in separating him from his family. Now she is bent on ruining her daughter's life. It is up to him to go apologise to his son-in-law and his family, and see that Prabha and her baby are reunited with them. For the first time in his life, he refuses to bow down to his wife's orders. 
In his enthusiasm to share the news, it takes him a little while to realise that Shyam and Mohan are not as overjoyed as he expected. Geeta had just suffered another miscarriage. The good man, repentant at having burst out with his news just when Shyam was suffering a tragic loss, tries to hide the sweets he brought to give them.  But Shyam congratulates him on the new arrival - after all, joy and sorrow co-exist in this world. 

Geeta, miserable at having lost her baby, is upset at Mohan's continued recalcitrance, but back at Prabha's, her mother continues to fan the flames of Prabha's anger. Nothing that her husband says, and he advises much good sense, makes any difference to the mother or daughter. When Geeta, unable to bear it any longer goes to visit them, they make excuses not to let her see the baby. Unhappily, Geeta returns home. Mohan's stubbornness on one side, and Prabha's adamance on the other pain her; seeing her anguish, Mohan finally gives in and goes to his in-laws' house to bring his wife and son back. 
Prabha's mother cannot prevent her leaving. But as they step out, she instigates her further - Geeta is 'unlucky'. She is sure to be envious of Prabha, and her envy will cast an evil eye on Prabha's child. Be careful, she warns, and her words fall on fertile soil. For a while, though, happiness fills the little household. Geeta is thrilled to have Prabha and the baby there, and she takes great pleasure in looking after the little one - much to Prabha's resentment. (Though she is perfectly happy to let Geeta do all the work of looking after the baby.) However, Mohan stops her from giving vent. Until one day, everything boils over. Her mother's words come readily to Prabha's lips, and she utters them, regardless of consequences. 

Bhabi ki Chudiyan, the remake of a Marathi film called Vahininchya Bangdya (Sulochana Latkar played the bhabhi), is an unusually restrained film. Soaked as it is in the flavour of a middle-class family, with an emphasis on the ties that bind one family member to another, there was enough scope for the movie to degenerate into a melodramatic mess. It is to the director's and actors' credit that the emotions are brought out so subtly. 
The film obviously revolves around Meena Kumari, the eponymous bhabhi, and Master Aziz and Sailesh Kumar as Mohan, the young devar. Meena Kumari does a wonderful job as Geeta, a strong, self-respecting woman, who is the lynch pin of her little household. She is a loving, supportive wife, and a loving sister-in-law/mother to her motherless brother-in-law. She is not a self-sacrificing martyr, or a cloying, syrupy sweet 'mother'. The relationship between her and Mohan is lovingly etched out, and her affection towards her devar and her anguish at not being a mother herself are brought out beautifully. Yet, she doesn't spend her time crying through the movie because she is 'barren'. Yes, there are tears, as would be natural, but most of the time, she is busy - living. There is a quiet strength in the way she goes about the trajectory of her life, and yes, happiness as well. 
Master Aziz, similarly, is very natural as the young lad who desperately seeks the mother he has never known. His interactions with both his brother and his sister-in-law are that of a slightly spoilt yet inherently decent child, who demands their love as his right. In return, he gives them a devotion that is endearing (and certainly not diabetic). Their daily interactions are natural, and there is no emphasising just how much they all love each other. It just comes through organically; you know they love each other because it is evident in the little things they say and do. As the older Mohan, Sailesh Kumar does a reasonably decent job. He is hot-tempered, principled, and blunt. 
Balraj Sahni plays a supporting (and supportive) role as Shyam. I should think the role of benign elder brother is something he could play in his sleep. Both Om Prakash and Durga Khote are their usual competent selves - their roles similarly are both restrained and nuanced. 

Seema (not yet Seema Deo) is young and pretty and her Prabha, while not being a big role, is yet crucial to the plot. She is quite a good actress, and her change from the reasonably sensible girl at the beginning to someone who is influenced by her mother is believable. So also her change of heart at the end. 

The music, by Sudhir Phadke, who also composed the music for the original film, has some beautiful songs. Jyoti kalash chalke is of course, very famous, but I loved Lau lagate geet gaati and the plaintive Meri laaj raakho giridhari, all Lata solos. Asha Bhosle came in for a duet, Kahan ud chale with Mukesh. 

What I liked about the film is that they kept the drama very, very low-key. Yes, I could have done without a couple of the dialogues - Geeta's father trying to persuade a reluctant Shyam to marry his daughter saying 'She will be your daasi' or Shyam informing Mohan that he is bringing home a 'naukrani' - meh! But at least with the 'naukrani' dialogue, Mohan snaps at his brother - 'Don't call my bhabi a naukrani!' The last couple of reels, similarly, went on far too long (they weren't overdone or melodramatic, by the way, just unnecessary), and I did wish they had changed the ending because an alternate ending surely would not have been implausible.  On the whole, though, this is a film that is worth a watch. 


  1. Hi,

    The last beautiful touching song of the movie, "Tum Se Hi Ghar Ghar Kahlaya...." describes what the whole
    movie is all about. There are glimpse of the scenes from the time Meena Kumari enters into the life of Sailesh Kumar and he gives her the greatest tributes that she rightly deserves.

    Thank you



  2. You are welcome, Anvar. And yes, that last song does summarise the whole film.

  3. When I was reading your synopsis (and hadn't reached the 'review' part of the post), I was thinking, "This sounds rather like one of those AVM-waale family melodramas. You know the type I mean? Bhabhi, Chhoti Bahen, etc. But so glad to hear it's restrained. Several people have already recommended this one to me, so I really should get around and watch it sometime. Thanks for giving such a detailed review, Anu - that was what I needed to spur me on. :-)

  4. Madhu, if I hadn't already seen Miss Mary and Kohinoor, I woudn't have touched this with a barge pole. My previous outings with Meena Kumari had been Dil Ek Mandir and Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam. :)

    This was a serious role, definitely, but it wasn't a dark, depressing film. What I liked about the movie was that she is not shown to be this doormat, martyred woman who slaves for her home. Or some sort of a saint who decides she is not going to have a kid of her own because she has to look after husband's sibling. Then, the brother's role. This is not one of the 'changed-by-evil-rich-woman-whom-I-fell-in-love-with' roles. Nor is he particularly 'heroic'. That they managed to get the characters a little more layered than black and white was a definite plus. I did wish they would shorten the ending, though. But on the whole, a far better movie than the title and the cast lead you to believe. :) Yes, do watch it.

  5. Yes, it was a revelation. And yet, she is not cast in the Lalita Pawar stereotype either.

  6. Oh dear, this sounds like the kind of film I have a love-hate relationship with - a story that I cannot like, but so well-made and presented that it is hard to dislike. Family dramas of yore usually fell into two categories story-wise - there were the evil saas ones and then the evil (or misguided) bahu ones. And no matter what the story, I always find myself sympathising with the evil one of the saas-bahu pair! It's the bad "Western" influence on me, no doubt! ;-)

  7. Neeru, I checked both Blogger and Disqus - nothing has gone into Spam or been deleted. I don't have any moderation either. So I don't know where your comment disappeared. :(

    This is the only comment of yours that I can spot, and this was published on the post.

    I'm sorry your earlier comment didn't get published. :( :(

  8. I figured it out. I started writing the comment, THEN it asked me a user name....... and wiped out my writing.
    Same thing just happened, thankfully I was just testing.

    So this is what I wanted to say: :
    I landed here because I have been reading Bollyviewer's and Dustedoff's blogs and you
    were mentioned as the third musketter :). The title of this blog caught my attention and what a tribute it is to your father. You do have a way with words. He must be so proud of you ! In your post I can almost see myself and myfather. " “He taught me to work with my hands and like it; to take apart almost anything, and to put it back together again. So, today, if I can change a spare tyre, or replace electric outlets……” You could be describing me. I smiled when I read “He taught me to be fiercely independent…… and then promptly yelled at me when my ‘independence’ got in the way of his plans for me” Yes, that is me and my father, from a different region and an older age group. I also have a picture of my parents exactly like yours ( the same pose and style ). It was perhaps popular for the studio pictures in those days. As others have mentioned, your mom is very pretty and dad so handsome. It pains to see them grow old and frail but their minds are still sharp as ever.. Their physique may become weaker, but inside they are still very strong.

    A very happy birthday wishes to your father and many reunions with him for you.

  9. Neeru, thank you so much for persisting despite the vagaries of Disqus' commenting system. Welcome to my blog. Bollyviewer, Dustedoff and I are definitely the three masala musketeers, so I'm glad to see one of their readers become mine as well. :)

    Thank you for your wishes for my father. It is bitter-sweet because I just received an email from my sister saying he was ill. And I have to wait until much later tonight to even call and speak to my mother. (Time difference.)

    Do stay and read my other posts. :)

  10. Actually, what I liked about this is that the bahu is also not evil, per se. She is young and immature, and easily influenced by her mother. And the bhabhi is also not doodh se dhuli hui. It was a decent-ish watch and I liked it.

    I always find myself sympathising with the evil one of the saas-bahu pair! It's the bad "Western" influence on me..

    *grinning* I can well empathise! Especially if it is one of those syrupy sweet bhabhi, I can well imagine turning into a shrew just so I don't get diabetes myself. :) (Perhaps it is also my western influence speaking! Bad Anu, bad, bad Anu!)

  11. Oh ! My best wishes for his speedy recovery. Thought I just read about him today, I feel I already know him, that is how good your writing is. It is difficult to be so far from him. Good luck
    and I wish your family well.

  12. I remember liking this movie for the simple scenes showing pleasant relationships. ( my copy is on VHS and the player is defunct ! ) The ending spoilt it for me. How I wish it was different. There were quite a few nice moments, the scene where Mohan checks out his would be bhabhi, the subtle sweet smile exchange between them. Similarly the two brothers just going over to the neighbor's wedding depicts such a simple world,The seldom heard 'ghoda nachave mera ladla samdhi ke dware' is quite catchy. Meena Kumari singing 'Lau lahati, geet gaati' as she goes about her daily chores and Balraj Sahni appreciating her singing, the effort Meena Kumari puts into a party for Mohan's friends - they were all so endearing.

    Though here is always a question that comes to mind when watching these Devar Bhabhi movies, that why in the world of Hindi cinema, they have such a BIG gap between the ages of the elder and younger brother / sister ? It was quite prevalent in the B/W era.

  13. This reminds me that I still need to see Kohinoor. Semi-cheerful Meena Kumari is growing on me, despite the fact that Yahudi was as problematic as you hinted at. [self-eye gouging is almost never necessary, come on ...]

  14. As I have been busy travelling, I saw this post but was unable to comment. I have seen both the versions and as usually happens in such cases I liked the Marathi version more than the Hindi one. I saw both the films a long time ago on Doordarshan so I have a faint memory of both the films, but I do remember I liked Sulochana and over all the Marathi film was very nice.

  15. Sorry for the late reply, Miranda. Unavoidable circumstances. I hope you have already watched Kohinoor. It is one of my favourite Meena Kumari movies. She is absolutely adorable in that and Azaad.

    I grinned at your caveat in the statement that self-eye gouging is 'almost' never necessary - there are films that make me want to gouge my eyes out! :)

  16. Hi, Shilpi, sorry about the late reply. I wasn't in town. Yes, I'd the vague idea that the original might have been better. (I know they are when Malayalam films are remade.)

  17. Nalini Ikkandath14 March 2015 at 12:02

    I missed this one too and just stumbled over it today. A great collection here with Dev looking every bit the heart throb he was in the beginning. Actually we grew up seeing Dev Anand's later movies and discovered and fell in love with the earlier Dev Anand much later. All are my favourites and specially the Tere Ghar ke Saamne song, Dev looking swooningly handsome, Nutan in a whisky glass and Rafi singing, how much better can life get!

  18. Nalini, if you go through the page lists on the top of my homepage, you can see which posts you haven't read yet. (Of course, stumbling over posts is so much more fun. *grin*)

  19. Nalini Ikkandath16 March 2015 at 04:33

    I do go through the lists but every once in a while I come across one which I have overlooked. I enjoy that too, like getting a "no particular reason gift".

  20. What a nice way to put it. :) Enjoy!


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