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11 December 2022

Milan (1947)

Directed by: Nitin Bose
Music: Anil Biswas
Lyrics: PL Santoshi, Aarzoo Lakhnavi
Starring: Dilip Kumar, Mira Misra,
Ranjana, Pahari Sanyal,
Shyam Laha, Moni Chatterjee,
Today is the birth centenary of one of Hindi cinema’s finest actors. I have reviewed many of his 'lighter' films - Madhumati, Naya Daur, Kohinoor, Azaad, Paigham, Tarana, as well as Andaz, Mughal-e-Azam, Jogan, Musafir and Shakti. While I was casting about to see what would make a good tribute to Dilip Kumar on his 100th birth anniversary, I had three choices in mind. One of which, Shalini and I even revisited.  However, once we did, I changed my mind. (More on that film later.) Shalini suggested Milan – one of Dilip Kumar’s earliest films and his first film with Bombay Talkies. Since I had never watched this before, I jumped at the chance.
Ramesh (Dilip Kumar) is a law student in Calcutta. Having just appeared for his final exams, he visits his friend, Jogen (Shyam Laha) to return his books. 
Jogen lives next door, with his father Annada (Moni Chatterjee) and sister, Hemnalini (Ranjana). Ramesh is in love with Hem, and she reciprocates his regard. Ramesh has come to bid good-bye to Hem and Annada Babu; his father has requested him to return to the village for the holidays. When Hem demurs, Ramesh stays back. 
Back in the village, Ramesh’s father, Braj Mohan (KP Mukherjee) receives an anonymous letter from a ‘well-wisher’ who claims that Ramesh is in love with the daughter of a tradesman (a lower caste). Braj Mohan rushes off to the city, and insists that Ramesh return with him. When he arrives in the village, Ramesh is told that his father has arranged his wedding with Sushila, the daughter of a friend. 
Despite Ramesh telling him of his feelings for Hem, his father refuses to listen, and Ramesh is forced to marry the girl.
Me: Poor DK. Trying to tell his father that he cares for someone else.
S: His father is motivated by good impulses, but he’s sacrificing his son to secure someone else’s future.

That night, while returning to the village, the wedding party’s boat capsizes in a storm. Ramesh and an unconscious young woman (Mira Misra) in a bridal sari are the only survivors. Assuming that the young woman is Sushila, Ramesh brings her back to his village. Very soon, he realises that the young woman is not his wife. She tells him that her name is Kamala and no, she hadn’t looked at her bridegroom’s face, and no, she didn’t know his name. She assumes, of course, that Ramesh is her husband. 
Me: Now he’s stuck with a woman he’s NOT married to, and can’t go to the woman he really loves. And I assume this woman has a husband somewhere, given that she knows she’s married?
S: That about sums it up. Fun, isn’t it?
Ramesh is shaken. He realises that like his father, his bride, too, must have died when the boat capsized. He is free to go to Hem. But, realising that there must have been another boat with a bridal party that capsized that same night, he feels responsible for this young woman he has brought to his house. So, he takes it upon himself to discover her relatives – Kamala has told him she’s an orphan. Her only living relative is an uncle. Ramesh writes to him. He receives a response from a stranger telling him that Kamala’s uncle is also deceased; all the sender knows is that Kamala was married to someone called Dr Nalinaksha Chatterjee (S Nazeer), a doctor from Rangpur.  
Determined to trace Nalinaksha and reunite him with his bride, Ramesh brings Kamala to Calcutta. He makes no mention of his wedding or the situation he is in to Hem or Annada Babu. Nor does he tell Kamala the truth about their so-called wedding, though he is careful to ensure there is not a whisper of impropriety in his relationship with her. Soon, Ramesh has her admitted to a boarding school. 
Me: He’s educating her, and at the same time, ensuring that she is not dishonoured for living with a man who’s not her husband.
S: Yes, the solution to the situation he finds himself in is both humane and smart.
Meanwhile, Akshay (Pahari Sanyal), Ramesh's and Jogen's mutual friend, who is resentful of Hem’s interest in Ramesh, learns about Kamala from his sister, who studies in the same school. But his attempt to spoil Hem’s and her father’s opinions of Ramesh are not very successful. Hem tells him off and insists that he leave them alone. 
S: Hem is pretty!
Me (at the same time): Hem is beautiful.
S: And she has spirit!
Me: Yes, I like her.
S: I like that Akshay’s ploy backfired and made Hem even more protective of Ramesh.
Me: Poor Ramesh is getting more and more embroiled in this mess, especially since Kamala doesn’t know she isn’t his wife.

[We both agree that Ramesh not telling the truth can be understood in the context of the situation. It’s not his secret to tell, and besides, it would be unfair to Kamala since the truth would devastate her.]
While Annada Babu is busy arranging Hem’s wedding to Ramesh, Kamala, left alone in the boarding school even during the holidays, is heartbroken. Seeing her sad and lonely, the principal writes to Ramesh asking him to take Kamala home. Ramesh is forced to postpone his wedding, much to Annada Babu’s distress. However, Ramesh asks Hem to trust him, promising that he will never deceive her, though he cannot tell her anything at present. Hem agrees.
S: I like the relationship between these two.
Me: Me too. It’s good to see a relationship between equals.
S: I like Kamala too. She is spirited as well.  
Me: Jinx.

While Annada Babu is perturbed by this sudden change in plans, Jogen, who has returned for his sister’s wedding is furious. And Akshay fans the flames. The last straw is when Jogen and Akshay meet Kamala in Ramesh’s house and learn who she is.
Ramesh is no closer to discovering who Dr Nalinaksh Chatterjee is, or where he stays. Neither can he tell Hem or Jogen the truth about Kamala without hurting or embarrassing her. Hem herself, cannot refute Akshay’s allegations any longer. How will this resolve?

Me: Dilip Kumar has a lovely smile.
S: Yes, he does, very fulsome and unaffected. He is delightful in this, when he was too young to take himself seriously.
Me: He should have done a few more of these films, as should Meena Kumari. They were both so delightful in these films.

Dilip Kumar, in what was just his third outing as a hero, is wonderful here as the principled Ramesh. Being the ‘good guy’ is difficult as Ramesh finds out when he tries to do the right thing by Kamala. 
S: He feels responsible for her, and while another man may have walked away at the very start upon realising that Kamala is not the woman he married, Ramesh is too decent to do that.
Me: I agree. Or he would have told her the truth that very same night and gone to Hem without guilt. I also like that not once does he blame Kamala for what is happening to him. Even when he is resigned to the fact that he has lost Hem, he does not desert Kamala. This is a man who is thinking of someone else’s well-being and taking responsibility for something that is not his fault at all.
S: Exactly – he’s truly a good human being doing everything he can to protect the innocent. 
And Kamala is truly innocent - Orphaned within 6 months of her being born, she has been brought up by her uncle, though her aunt had only taunts for her supposed bad luck. Her marriage is fixed to a man whose name she does not know, whose face she has never seen either before or during the wedding ceremony. As soon as she marries him, she tells Ramesh, his father dies. She's bad luck. Ramesh cannot tell her the truth - that her husband may also have died in the mishap without hurting a young girl whose faith is already shaken.  
When she finally learns the truth, she takes steps to remove herself from Ramesh's life, but also to be independent. Both she and Hem are genuinely nice people, capable of standing up for themselves when necessary. 
Hem, especially, is not loath to tell Akshay off, and stand up to his innuendos when necessary. She is educated, modern, and not at all a shrew. Compassionate and understanding, her strength becomes her support when all seems to be lost.
Milan (and because it is a fairly straightforward adaptation, Nauka Dubi) is populated by some very nice people. Barring Akshay, the others are decent folk who think and act in loving, compassionate ways. Annada Babu has a loving relationship with Hem and accords her wishes a deference that one wishes Ramesh’s father had shown him. Nalinaksha tells his mother that he is not interested in marrying again, because it’s still too early since Kamala died. In fact, he cannot bring himself to believe she is dead. His mother, who has been asking him to marry again, is understanding of his views. She tells him he can marry when he is ready. She is also very caring and respectful of Kamala, who arrives at her house, a destitute, treating her as a well-loved daughter. 
And when she finally learns the truth, it doesn’t take her even a moment to accept Kamala as her daughter-in-law. There are no questions raised about where she was these many days. 
Hem accepts Ramesh without a murmur, her trust in him unshaken. It is, as Shalini says, “…a very satisfying and well-earned ‘milan’.” Directed by Nitin Bose (his first film with Bombay Talkies and his first film in Hindi), Nouka Dubi is a gentle, unmelodramatic, adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s story.
We both liked the movie and wished the print was better (it was awful, which is why there aren’t as many screenshots as usual) and the reels in order. (Two of the reels were mixed up in the film we saw, leading to many WTH moments.) But we both loved Dilip Kumar in this film – both the character and his performance. Keep an eye out for a good print of this film. It’s definitely worth watching.

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