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31 December 2022

Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957)

Directed by: Nasir Hussain
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri
Starring: Shammi Kapoor, Ameeta,
Pran, Raj Mehra,
Anjali Devi, BM Vyas,
Ram Avtar, Sheila Vaz,
Kanu Roy
Shalini and I had been going through a host of film ‘watchalongs’ when we realized that we had completely forgotten our ‘dearest Shammi’ for some time now. Along with that came the realization that though I had reviewed quite a few Shammi Kapoor movies, I hadn’t reviewed Tumsa Nahin Dekha. That omission cried out to be rectified – and not just because we were both in the mood for Shammi; it is also because Tumsa Nahin Dekha is a landmark film – it is the film that transformed Shammi Kapoor’s career. Film lore has it that Nasir Hussain was not at all pleased at having to sign Shammi but once he did, he got Shammi to shave off his moustache, blow dried his hair, and gave us a one-of-a-kind devil-may-care hero for the ages. 

Sardar Rajpal (BM Vyas) is a wealthy estate owner with a lovely foster daughter, Meena (Ameeta) – the daughter of an old friend. He has brought her up with much love, educated her, and now, she is planning to visit the city again to catch up with some of her friends. 

Seeing Rajpal’s disturbed countenance, Meena decides to abandon her plans. But Rajpal shares with her the reasons for his reluctance to have anything to do with the city.
Twenty years earlier, Rajpal lived in Shillong with his wife Kamala (Anjali Devi) and his baby son, Shankar. He had fallen into bad company, and having gambled all his wealth away, had eventually stooped to wagering his wife’s jewellery as well. 

He was sure that the brothers with whom he gambled daily were cheating him, but their argument had got out of hand. Eventually, he had killed one of the brothers in self-defence and then run away.
Vishnu (Raj Mehra), the surviving brother, had called the police, whereupon Rajpal, whose real name is Gopal, had quickly taken leave of ‘Kammo’ and escaped.

And that is how he came to be in Ghatpur. Over the years, he had made a new life for himself, but had never been able to forget his wife and son. Their old house had been set on fire the very night he escaped, according to a newspaper article he had read, and it said that his family had perished in the fire. Somewhere deep in his heart, he still held on to the hope that they were alive and well. But he has no way of finding them.
In any case, this is history. Since Meena was going into the city, would she insert an ad in the newspaper for two men who could take care of his property? They must be able to ride a horse and shoot well, since he has been losing stock to the tribals in the area. Meena has a brilliant idea – why not advertise for Kammo and Shankar as well? Rajpal demurs; if he gives his name, what if his enemies discover his whereabouts? Or the police? He’s wanted for murder, after all. But Meena has a better idea - why not give the advertisement in the name of Sardar Rajpal, but address the advertisement to ‘Kammo’? Surely, no one would connect Sardar Rajpal to the erstwhile Gopal then? 

Back in the city, Shankar (Shammi) makes his appearance, as he wonders where he will find someone to love. 
Shalini: Notice how he gets the objectifying intro shot rather than Ameeta – Nasir Hussain knew which one of them was the eye candy! The audience of the day must have been stunned when they first got a glimpse of this new Shammi.

Me: I am sure. There wasn’t a hero like him until then.
Kammo, Rajpal’s long-lost wife, sees the advertisement and is overjoyed. [Why she should be when he’s abandoned her for decades is beyond me, but she is also busy praying to his photograph every single day, much to her son’s dismay.] Shankar (Shammi Kapoor) is not as enthused. He wants nothing to do with a man who had abandoned them to their fates, and not once turned around to see if they were alive or well. When his mother insists that he must respect his father, Shankar warns her – if they ever meet up with her absconding husband, she will have to choose between her husband and son.

Me: I like that the hero doesn’t feel very filial towards his father.
S: That’s an NH staple too – the child, usually the son, hating the parent they have separated from.

Kamala decides that she will not reveal his father’s whereabouts to him. Instead, she encourages Shankar to apply to the advertisement by ‘Sardar Rajpal’. She also hands him a letter, ostensibly from a local official who’s a friend of Sardar Rajpal’s. In reality, it’s her own, in which she has informed her husband that the person bringing the letter is their son. However, since he is not his father’s greatest fan, she has not told him the truth. She begs Rajpal to not disclose the truth to Shankar until she arrives. She will come to Ghatpur in two-three months’ time; she had vowed that the day she heard from her missing husband, she would go on a pilgrimage to give thanks. Hopefully, Shankar will have changed his mind about his estranged father by then. Taking the letter, Shankar sets off for Ghatpur.
Meanwhile, Rajpal’s ad has been noticed by others – by the police who are quick to guess that Rajpal might be Gopal, the man they have been hunting for the past twenty years. [Seems odd that it would be the same inspector in the post after twenty years, or that he would be perusing advertisements while on duty, but eh…] He asks his subordinate to send off a telegram to their counterparts in Ghatpur, asking them to investigate this Sardar Rajpal.

And by Vishnu, who is embittered by his brother’s death. Gopal had often called Kamala ‘Kammo’ in front of him. Now is his chance to avenge his brother. Besides, he tells his son, Sohan (Pran), Kamala and Shankar had died in the fire that night. He knows that because he set the fire. However, Sohan is smarter than his father. Merely killing Rajpal is not enough revenge. What if Rajpal’s immense wealth becomes the property of his enemy’s son? How so, asks Vishnu, perplexed. Well, says Sohan, Rajpal obviously doesn’t know that his wife and child are dead. What if he goes to Ghatpur pretending to be Shankar?

Meanwhile, Shankar having boarded the train to Soonanagar, the nearest station to Ghatpur, runs afoul of Meena, who is returning home after meeting her friends. He has already had a run-in with her on the station; now, they get into another argument where he’s rude and she’s angry.
S: I agree with Ameeta that that was pretty ‘lafanga’ behaviour by Shammi.
Me: True.
Bickering, they finally reach Soonapur. Unfortunately, there’s only one tonga outside, and after another tussle, they are forced to share the ride. 
S: What is Ameeta wearing?
Me: They probably had a surplus of that fabric.
S: 20 miles! That’s a long way to travel in a tonga.
Me: Well, most hill stations probably didn’t have any other savari those days.
S: Yeah, but having ridden in a tonga more times than I care to remember, I wouldn’t travel in one for twenty minutes for love or God!

They continue to bicker like children, and when Meena imperiously orders the tonga-wala not to sing, Shankar decides to take a hand.
S: Who goes around with photos of random women?
Me: Apparently, Shammi?
S: You would think it would be the other way around, given how fab he looks!
Me: Didn’t he just! I can see how he became an overnight sensation after this. All the young men must have wanted to be him and all the young women must have wanted him to woo them.

The tonga-wala is amused but Meena is huffy though she does look slightly less so when the song ends. But the tonga-wala has obviously been paying more attention to his passengers than to the road – and the wheel comes off. Meena hitches a lift on a passing bullock cart but when the rain comes pelting down, is forced to take shelter in a bungalow nearby. She claims to be the daughter of a close friend of the colonel to whom the bungalow belongs. Not soon after arrives Shankar, also looking for shelter, and also claiming to be a ‘friend of the colonel’s’.

Ensconced in adjoining bedrooms, both Shankar and Meena strip off their wet clothes and wrap themselves in bedsheets (both of them had suitcases; why couldn’t they just change into their own clothes?) and go to sleep. Unfortunately, for them, a thief, Johnny (Ram Avatar) sneaks into their rooms and steals their suitcases and the clothes hanging outside. Hurrying out the grounds, he drops Shankar’s coat, and his mother’s letter slops out of the coat pocket. To be picked up by Sohan, who was sheltering from the storm in a nearby shed. 

S: How fortuitous.

Me: Don’t you just love the coincidences?
S: Well, that’s half the joy of the NH formula.

Seeing Sardar Rajpal’s name on the envelope, Sohan reads the letter from Kammo. Thanking serendipity, Sohan keeps the letter, and immediately writes one to his father – Kammo is alive. Make sure she doesn’t reach Ghatpur. He posts it before leaving for Ghatpur…
Meanwhile, Shankar and Meena have woken up and discovered the loss of their clothes...

and the colonel has returned home, to be told by his servant that his ‘friends’ are resting in their rooms.
Faced by an irate homeowner, Shankar is forced to tell him that he and Meena are husband and wife. The colonel, now charmed, insists they go change.
S: It would serve Shammi right if Ameeta spilled hot tea on him. He’s shameless! 

Me: Why does the colonel keep nighties in his wardrobe? I have so many questions!

S: Because he had the good fortune to be cast in an NH movie.

Just then, the tonga-wala comes by, Johnny in tow. He had recognized the suitcases as those of his passengers and had brought the man along. Johnny is soon locked up in a cell while Shankar and Meena change into their own clothes.
Me: Colonel saab even has a jail cell in his house?
S: Of course! Doesn’t everyone?
Me: I am seriously deprived.
S: Me too… so brave of us to carry on nevertheless, no?
Me: We are strong women…

By now, Shankar has noticed the missing letter. He decides to write to his mother for another ‘recommendation letter’ and wait in the colonel’s house until he gets it. Meena refuses to stay, leading to another argument – which she wins by the simple expedient of getting into the tonga.
Me: “Biwi ko rokna tumhara kaam hain.” We both cackle.

Meanwhile, Sohan has already presented himself to Rajpal as ‘Shankar’. Rajpal is overjoyed that his advertisement has brought news from his wife, and his son to him. However, he obeys Kammo’s instructions and does not reveal the relationship. He does, however, inform Meena when she finally arrives.

Me: Jis din ke liye tujhe paala tha…? What the heck!
S: I know… what a thing to say, like she’s a cow or something.  
Meena is happy for her Babuji, though, and is very sweet to Shankar whom Rajpal has informed her will be her betrothed. However, she cannot help but remember the attractive rake with whom she had crossed swords earlier.

Shankar, having received the required letter from his mother, now presents himself at Sardar Rajpal’s estates. Rajpal is in a quandry. Yet another Shankar, with yet another letter from ‘Kammo’ – he recognizes his wife’s handwriting. Yet another young man who could be his son who hates his father. 

One of the Shankars is a fraud. But who? Who is his real son? Meena is also confused – one of these men is a con man. But who? She is attracted to the second Shankar, but also irritated by him.  

And if all this weren’t enough, there’s trouble with the tribals in the vicinity. Sardar Rajpal, the claim, had conned their previous leader into signing their land over to him. The leader, Bhola (Kanu Roy), is vehemently opposed to Rajpal. 

But things begin to get out of hand. And complicated. Will the real Shankar be able to prove his identity to the girl he loves? Will father and son be reunited, or will the son’s hatred for his father linger?

Tumsa Nahin Dekha was Nasir Hussain’s debut as a director. The production house was Sasadhar Mukherjee’s Filmistan Productions, for which Hussain had earlier worked as writer. Hussain had once claimed that he came to Bombay with one story – this was the first of the four blockbuster films he would direct that were based on the same plot. Ironically, Tumsa Nahin Dekha was made to re-launch Ameeta as the lead heroine; all publicity around the film pre-release focused on her. However, it was the film’s hero – Shammi Kapoor V.2.0 who became an overnight sensation.

S: I wonder why Ameeta never made it; she’s no worse than Asha or Saira or any of the other 60s starlets. 
Me: I wonder why, too. She had Goonj Uthi Shehnai immediately after this, and her performance was acclaimed in that. And that too, had lovely songs. But in both films, the heroes became more successful.

S: I can understand losing out to Shammi, but Rajendra Kumar? That’s got to hurt.
Me: Especially when all the publicity for this film centred all around her. [Proof: The theatrical poster of the film focused on Ameeta.]

Pran was superb as usual, playing the coldly calculating villain with suave ease. He was always around overhearing the right things at the right places (or ‘the wrong things at the wrong places’?)
We were both very unsympathetic of Rajpal (he beat Shammi – idiot!) and of his wife.
Me: Silly woman, keeps saying ‘Nath’ all the time! I think she deserves everything she gets.
 S: Agreed. But I did like that she doesn’t demur when ‘Nath’ tells her he wasn’t worthy of her.
Me: I also liked that Shankar wasn't suddenly filled with filial affection. 
But, for both of us, Shammi’s presence overshadowed everything else. He is dangerously attractive, and in this, he’s a mischievous rogue, the sort who would be irresistible to a woman.

His physical presence was quite impressive, and whether he was angry or pouting or sad, he looked awesome. [I took so many screenshots!] He had a kind of animal grace that stood him in good stead.
Me: I would have flipped if I had been his contemporary and had met him!

Then of course, there were the songs – from Jawaniyaan ye mast mast bin piye to Yun toh hum ne laakh haseen dekhe hain, Chupnewaale saamne aa, Dekho qasam se, Aaye hain door se and Sar par topi laal haath mein resham ka roomaal, this was OP Nayyar at his best.

But mostly... Shammi! 
What a nice way to end the year! 
Tom Daniels has worked his magic and a pristine print of this film is available on his channel here.

Wishing all my readers a very Happy New Year and I hope it brings you the best of health, happiness and good cheer.

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