24 February 2016

Do Ustad (1959)

Directed by: Tara Harish
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: Qamar Jalalabadi
Starring: Raj Kapoor, Madhubala, 
Sheikh Mukhtar,  Uma Dutt,
Sulochana Latkar, Daisy Irani
I first came across this film when I was randomly flipping through YouTube channels. I ignored it all the while, until I was researching songs for my 'Raj Kapoor - Musically' post. Then, I came across another lovely tripping number when I was looking for the 'I am.. You are...' songs. Since I liked both numbers, I decided I had to watch the film. Besides, it had Raj Kapoor and Madhubala, both of whom I like very much indeed. And how bad could it be, anyway?

Jagannath (Sheikh Mukhtar) is being tried for the crime of having escaped from jail, and while on the run, having murdered a Seth Roshanlal Sharma. He has consistently refused to say a word in court, and the judge exhorts him to speak before the court is compelled to accept his silence as guilt, and sentence him for the crime. (It's a strange court for a Hindi film - no one's shouting.)
As he continues to remain silent, the judge begins to pronounce the sentence when there's an interruption - it is Rajkumar/Rajan/Raju (Raj Kapoor), the younger brother of the accused. He requests the court's permission to talk to his brother - perhaps his pleas may do what the court couldn't. The judge agrees, and Rajan pleads with his brother to break his oath of silence, if not for himself, for the sake of those who love him. He, Rajan, had been the one to lie and steal. His brother had consistently tried to turn him away from the path of crime. It is he, Rajan, who was capable of taking a man's life; how could his brother, who had always shown him the right way to live, kill someone?
Finally, Rajan declares that he will break his oath. It prompts Jagannath to speak. It is true that Jagannath had been a dacoit, and that he had been imprisoned for ten years. It is also true that he broke out of jail - he desperately wanted to see his son. It is also true that a man died at his hands. He does not deny any of these charges. But how did he reach here? He was not born a criminal. The journey from a self-respecting man to a prisoner standing at the dock did not happen overnight. (Tan ta-tan! Flashback time!)

His brother and he (Master Randhir; no, not Randhir Kapoor as IMDB has it) had been orphaned while still very young. To make ends meet, the brothers work for a Seth; one day, Jagan breaks a plate, and the Seth throws them both out without paying them, claiming that their month's wages wouldn't cover the cost.
While Jagan is wondering where their next meal is coming from, Raju is insouciant. They could sell the Seth's watch. Jagan is furious. Raju is stealing again! How many times should he tell his brother that thieving is wrong? Raju is unrepentant.  He doesn't have any time for moral lessons. One day, he will be the king of thieves. In their scuffle, the watch falls down, and hearing the Seth's outcry, the boys run away. It's Rajan's turn to be furious - without money, and without the watch to sell, they have no way of getting a meal. And he's hungry! (I sympathise; I'm hungry too.) Perhaps they could sell their mother's mangalsutra?

But Jagan is unwilling to do that either - it's all they have left to remember their mother. He breaks the mangalsutra in half, and gives one to his brother, after making him promise that he will never sell it, come what may. (How that's going to help them get food, I don't know. Neither does Jagan.)

While the boys are talking, a man (a baaad man!) overhears their conversation. He promises to give the boys Rs10 if they would do a chore for him. All they have to do is to go to the railway godown and bring back a small parcel.
Jagan is reluctant, but Raju is so enthusiastic that he goes along. Unfortunately, the police are watching over the goods, and in the mêlée, Rajan is separated from his brother. (At this point, I'm muttering, 'But they have the mangalsutra!')

Broken-hearted at being separated from his brother as well, Jagan swears an oath - from now on, he will be the master of his own destiny. (This scene of angst-against-God predates the famous 'Maine kabhi tumse kuch nahin maanga' scene from Deewar. Must say I prefer Amitabh Bachchan. Seems like Shiva shares my opinion.) From then on, Jagan sets his feet firmly on the path of crime; from picking pockets, he graduates to a notorious jewellery thief heading a gang of his own. And now, he's stolen a necklace worth Rs12 lakh.

The police have their own suspicions - there's a seasoned thief who has previously been on their books. He appears under different names, but it is the same person. The jailor scoffs; the person they suspect is in jail at the moment; in fact, he's just being released that day. 
Rajan is glad he met the inspector inside the jail; if he were outside, the inspector would have lost no time in putting him back in for a crime he didn't commit. The inspector is sure he will catch the thief anyway; the man whose necklace it was, has offered a reward of Rs10,000 for its recovery. Rajan wishes he could claim that reward. 

Once outside the jail, Rajan is met by his friends, and is soon back to his old tricks. Only, he's chosen the wrong man this time.
It is Jagan who, in the cold light of dawn, is a respectable citizen, with a loving wife (a young and pretty Sulochana Latkar), who's expecting their first child. She is completely unaware of her husband's dual life, and wishes that he wouldn't tire himself out running to attain all his dreams. 
Meanwhile, Rajan has just caught his first sight of paradise. His friend informs him that the young woman also happens to be rich.  Rajan scoffs. His friend persists - she had filled her car at the Santa Cruz petrol station and changed two 1000-rupee notes. Rajan and his gang of friends have to figure out a way to relieve her of that money.
Suddenly, a man passes them, advertising Shree 420 on a microphone. One of his friends has an idea. As Rajan begins to run, they run after him, shouting 'Raj Kapoor! Raj Kapoor!' The young woman and her friends mistake him for the actor as well; Rajan is clever - he tells them he's not Raj Kapoor but that people don't believe him when he tells them the truth. Of course, the girls don't, either, and Rajan is invited to a party at the club that night. 

Still taking on the persona of Raj Kapoor, he thoroughly fools the girls, even though he slips up a couple of times. He learns that Madhu (Madhubala) is an heiress, whose inheritance is guarded very jealously by her uncle. For some reason (the film keeps jumping scenes), he gives her Rs420 (of her own money) when he leaves, and promises he will reclaim it sometime in the future. 
He also reiterates that he is not Raj Kapoor. She laughs disbelievingly. 

Soon, he is dancing his way out of her life, and she is driving back to Pune with her friends. It is very clear from their conversation that there's no love lost between her and her uncle, who is also the trustee of her vast fortune. 

When Madhu reaches home, it is to find that her uncle, Roshanlal (Uma Dutt) has fixed her marriage to a man of his choice. He doesn't want her wealth 'wasted' on a gold digger, he claims. Madhu is furious. She does not scruple to inform her uncle that she will not marry to suit him; her father's will stated that her fortune will belong to her upon her marriage. The only reason her uncle is getting her married to a donkey, she says, is so he can continue to make use of her wealth. 
Her uncle is equally direct; this wedding will take place, with or without her consent. 

Her uncle has not quite got his niece's measure - Madhu runs away from the wedding mandap. (Of course, we don't see that - the DVD makers attack again!) He has an advertisement published in the newspapers claiming Madhu has run away with Rs1 lakh. Anyone giving news of her will be rewarded Rs10,000/-. 

Back in Bombay, Jagan's wife is amused at the advertisment - she cannot believe that such an innocent-looking girl would have swindled anyone to the tune of a lakh of rupees. Jagan agrees, and expresses regret that this beautiful girl will now be the target of all the rogues in the city - especially that jewel thief who's absconding from the police.

Jagan is not the only man whose attention is attracted by the advertisement. 
Rajan is also sure that the girl will be targeted by every criminal worth his name. Well, the two of them are in the forefront, anyway, though Rajan recognises Jagan through his disguise. Almost as easily as Jagan (and Rajan) recognise Madhu through hers.
Jagan manages to bundle 'Abdul Rehman' into a cab by pretending to be his chacha, but is cleverly followed by Rajan, who disguises himself as 'Abdul Rehman's' begum. Rajan's friends pretend to be bystanders and help to bundle him into the cab as well - which then takes off leaving Jagan with a note that says 'Ustadon se ustaadi nahin chalegi!' As can be imagined, Jagan is furious. 

In the cab, 'Abdul Rehman' is also furious - who is this woman, and why does she claim to be married to 'him'? But the presence of the cab driver prevents her from escaping - at that moment. Rajan directs the cab to a hotel. Once in the room, 'Abdul Rehman' is forced to have a bath; while she's in there thinking up a plan to escape, the 'begum' is searching her belongings. 
But all this is momentary - a quick trick has Madhu running out of the bathroom, straight into 'Raj Kapoor's' arms. Only, he is not Raj Kapoor, and she finally believes him when he says so. But he's in love with her, he says in all sincerity, and Madhu, already half in love with him the first time she met him, melts.
That night, as she sleeps, Rajan searches through her belongings once more. Much to his chagrin, he fails to find a single penny. But someone else finds him.
While Madhu is heartbroken, Rajan does strike a deal - he will take Rs10,000 now, which is what he would have got from Madhu's uncle; the 'big brother' can have the girl and the one lakh that she's carrying.

Back in his den, Jagan discovers that Madhu does not have any significant money with her. When he questions her, Madhu tells him the truth - her uncle wants her wealth; he's willing to kill her to get it.

Meanwhile, Rajan is having a crisis of conscience.
But Madhu is not sitting around waiting for him to come and rescue her. The intrepid young woman is also not the sort to weep over her fate; she is more than capable of taking care of herself. And while the men are busy elsewhere, she manages to escape. (Nope, no idea how.)

Chased by the men, the beleaguered young woman seeks refuge in a house; the mistress of the house is sympathetic to her distress until...
But of course, she refuses to believe Madhu's story. And hatches a plan to prove her wrong. Unfortunately for the poor woman, she sees proof of her husband's perfidy with her own eyes. She's not the only person who gets a shock. Jagan has no answers to his wife's accusations. Distraught at learning the truth, Jagan's wife decides to leave him. She has no wish to be married to a man who has destroyed so many innocents' lives. In fact, she has no wish to live.
She is saved by Rajan, who takes her to his house, calls a doctor, and even donates his blood to save her. Repenting over his actions which put Madhu in harm's way, Rajan decides to turn over a new leaf. He promises his new house guest that he will not only take care of her as a sister, but ensure that her son will never want for anything.  But it is not as easy as all that. 

Meanwhile, Madhu has gone to a broker's to pawn a ring. But the man recognises Madhu and informs Jagan of her presence. While Jagan asks him to keep Madhu there until he arrives, Rajan arrives at the shop to pawn his watch. Madhu wants nothing to do with him - she'd trusted him, loved him, and he had sold her to a criminal for Rs10,000. She'd rather go with Jagan; at least, she knew what to expect from him. 
While Rajan pleads with her to believe him, Jagan arrives and Madhu is taken away. But not before Rajan has a close encounter with Jagan's shoes.

He promptly makes his way to the police station to inform the inspector of Jagan's whereabouts. Imspector Choubey doesn't believe him - does the police department need thieves to catch a thief? But Rajan is both insistent, and persistent. Finally, Choubey listens.

Meanwhile, Jagan's man has found a buyer for the stolen necklace - the buyer will deal in hard cash. Jagan is cautious - what if there is a hitch? His man is sure the buyer, a Prince, is legitimate. The man has immense wealth, but is also an aficionado of women and wine. And so, they set up a meeting with the potential buyer at Jagan's hotel.
And of course, Jagan and his men, the supposed 'Prince' and Madhu, as well as every other person there, are rounded up and carted off to jail. One of the guests present is Madhu's uncle. Both he and Madhu are set free, while Jagan is imprisoned for the theft. When Madhu realises that the 'Prince' is Rajan, she is ecstatic, but her happiness is cut short by the appearance of her uncle, who promises her that if she truly loves Rajan, he will surely get them married. Madhu is under no delusions about her uncle and very rudely tells him to mind his own business. But their tête-à-tête is destined to be cut short - one of Rajan's friends comes there to tell him that 'sister's' health has taken a turn for the worse. Rajan rushes off, leaving a bewildered Madhu behind. Madhu follows him home, only to hear Rajan's friends discuss the imminent birth of the child, and what Rajan would do if something happened to either mother or child. Poor Madhu! It seems like she's betrayed - again!
Heartbroken, Madhu leaves the place. 

Meanwhile, Jagan has been sentenced to ten years in prison, and Rajan has collected the reward announced for his capture. When he goes back home and gives the money to the woman he deems a sister, she is aghast - has he? Once again? Rajan explains. 

But there's a problem - Rajan discovers that Madhu, who joined a theatre company, has left the country. He has no clue what went wrong between them, and is grieved that she left without meeting him.

The overseas contract is for four years. The theatre owner is a kindly man, and promises her that she will soon become a big star. Then, when she returns to Bombay... 'I'll never return here,' avows Madhu passionately. But so it comes to pass. Years go by, and as the theatre company winds its way around the world - Burma, Japan, Spain, France - Madhu goes from strength to strength. And finally, like the boats returning to harbour, she returns to Bombay - a big star, as prophesied by the theatre owner.

Rajan sees the advertisement and takes Raja (Daisy Irani) along to see the play. At the theatre, he attempts to meet Madhu in the green room, and is taken aback when, giving his name to the manager, he's told that 'Rajan' is definitely not allowed to meet her. But Rajan is loath to give up without making an attempt to meet his love.
Madhu is furious that he even dares to meet her, especially when Rajan is offered the role of the hero by the theatre manager. And even more so, when Raja comes along and calls Rajan 'Baba'. 

That is not the end of her troubles. Her uncle, having seen the same advertisment no doubt, has come in search of his missing niece. This time, he's taking no chances - he asks his henchman to kill her. But as Madhu's car speeds along, she has a mishap, and Raja is knocked down. Madhu decides to take the child with her, and asks the bystanders to let Raja's family know that he is with her. 

By the time Raja's mother comes on the scene, she has driven away; Roshanlal's henchman recognises her, however, as Jagan's wife, but his boss has no time to waste on such nonsense. 

Jagan's wife rushes home to Rajan - she has no clue who Madhu Sharma is; all she knows is that Raja's had an accident, and though bystanders told her he only has a minor wound, she's worried. 

At Madhu's house, Raja is just making matters worse - he informs Madhu that his 'baba' loves him very much, and he loves Raja's mother as well; it's only Madhu who keeps quarreling with him. 
However, the confusion is soon cleared up when Raja lets out that his mother is his 'baba's' sister. Before Madhu can express her happiness, her uncle's henchman arrives to fulfil his boss's orders - only to find Raja a hindrance. (Thanks to the DVD/VCD makers, I have no idea how Madhu escapes..) Even as Madhu's attendants capture him, Rajan arrives there to take Raja home. Refreshingly enough, they clear matters up without much melodrama, and things are sunny once again
What happens to Rajan and Madhu - does their love triumph over Madhu's uncle's greed? (Need you ask?) Does Jagan even know that he has a son? Or that his wife is alive? How does he discover that Rajan is his long lost brother? (Their mother's mangalsutra, of course! Duh!) What, indeed, is to become of Jagan's wife and Raja?  Where is the uncle by the way? Will he let Madhu and Raja live in peace? (Fat chance!) Will Jagan find his missing son? (This is a Hindi movie!
So many questions...

But... as they say, picture ab bhi baaki hai doston... 

To answer my own question, Do Ustad wasn't bad at all. Despite the fact that I think Sheikh Mukhtar is one of the most wooden actors around (he produced the film, so I guess he gets to act in it), and I could have done without him trying to emote in the last 15 minutes or so, the film moved remarkably quickly. Raj Kapoor and Madhubala make a really good pair, and along with OP Nayyar's rollicking tunes, and Kapoor letting his hair down and having fun, the songs-and-dances were fabulous. (Apart from the ones I linked in the post, is Hum pe dil aaya toh bolo kya karoge (picturised on Bimla Kumari and Sadiq, apart from Raj Kapoor and Madhubala). 

Despite what is now a hackneyed plot, I liked that both women - Jagan's wife and Madhu - have agency, and that they think and act for themselves. I found it refreshing to see the lead pair behave like adults and actually talk to each other, and solve their misunderstandings - not once, but twice. Both Raj Kapoor and Madhubala were remarkably natural - their comfort with each other was very evident in their scenes together. The film works mainly because of the two of them, and their sense of timing.
And Madhubala looked incredibly gorgeous as well. (When did she not?)    

All in all, a perfectly madcap comedy, with melodrama, lovely songs, dances, many disguises, a couple of murders, conspiracy, romance... you name it, everything but the kitchen sink is in here ... for an evening when you don't want anything very serious to focus on.

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