Aah (1953)

should have been called Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!! It’s an irritating exercise in complete and utter narcissism from Raj Kapoor.

aaaaahh_misery.jpg

Here is a quick synopsis (from the DVD cover, because I can’t be bothered):

If Raj (Raj Kapoor) had his way, he would have been a poet, not the engineer that circumstances made him into. The perfection of nature fascinated him more than the nature of mechanical things. One day Raj is sent to work at the Saraswati Dam, the exquisitely beautiful location. As Raj reveled in his new found paradise, his father visits him and tells him about his deceased mother’s wish that Raj should marry Chandra (Vijay Laxmi), the sophisticated daughter of a rich family friend. On his father’s insistence, Raj agrees to write to Chandra. The letter is sheer poetry, but it’s beauty completely wasted on Chandra who wants to ignore it. Neelu (Nargis), her teenage sister, moved by the writer’s eloquence and sincerity, acknowledges the letter on her behalf. Neelu’s reply sparks off a correspondence and then circumstances that lead Neelu and Raj falling deeply in love. Just when it seems that they will live happily ever after, Raj is diagnosed suffering from TB, a disease that killed his mother. A shocked Raj decides that he loves Neelu too much to commit her to an uncertain future and deceives her into believing that he actually loves Chandra. Does Neelu ever find out Raj’s selfless love for her? Will the two lovers be united again?

Why should anybody care? My mother, my sister and I all want to slap Raj, hard.

Here is one of the few bright spots: Pran as his (non-villainous) doctor friend, Kailash:

aaaaaaaaah_kailash.jpg

Raj spends a lot of time feeling sorry for himself and—more importantly—causing innocent, open-hearted Neelu to suffer. God forbid he should respect the girl he loves enough to tell her what’s going on, and let her make decisions about her own life and how she wants to live it.

No: it’s much better to let her suffer in ignorance, with her faith in her own judgment and trust in others completely ruined!

There are 45 self-indulgent minutes in the middle of the film that just switch from Neelu sobbing in the fetal position on her bed to Raj racked with consumptive coughing in a sanatorium—back and forth, back and forth. Neelu incidentally wears the exact same chrysanthemum-print outfit for months on end. I don’t think it’s a clever ploy to highlight her depression though; the film is not that intelligent. Maybe they had a very small wardrobe budget.

aaaaaah_moremisery.jpg

aaaaaah_devastation.jpg

Anyway, I guess this endless loop of sobbing and coughing is supposed to drive home the point that we are supposed to feel sorry for him and admire his sacrifice; I just want him to cough up his lungs once and for all, and EXPIRE already so that we can all move on.

His self absorption doesn’t end there. He has to drag Neelu’s sister Chandra into his scheme (unwittingly on her part—she has no idea that he is the man who has broken Neelu’s heart). He flirts with her in front of Neelu, and leads them both to believe that he wants to marry Chandra. Why should he be honest with her either? Who cares if he ruins their relationship in the process? And breaks Chandra’s heart too? It’s all about him, him, him.

Then he emotionally blackmails Kailash into agreeing to marry Neelu (is there no limit to how many lives he can ruin?). He finally comes clean with Chandra—although he burdens her now too with the plea not to tell Neelu.

But after everything he has put Neelu through, he can’t bear to fade away quietly and let her get on with her life. No, he needs to go to her wedding gasping his dramatic last so that everyone can see how noble and self-sacrificing he is.

aaaaaaah_suffering.jpg

I guess it’s a good thing that Chandra tells Neelu everything (she’s much smarter and less selfish than Raj), although personally I think Neelu would be much better off with Kailash. Everyone applauds Raj’s “selfless love” and Neelu falls at his feet while Mom, my sister and I all gag in disbelief.

aaaaaah_neelu.jpg

And then he doesn’t even die but miraculously gets better!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!

Besides Pran, the other two bright spots in Aah (although not bright enough to make it worth watching): Rashid Khan as Raj’s TB specialist (in a most excellent Freudian beard and hairdo), and the music. Singer Mukesh plays a tongawallah in the final song as he carts a “dying” Raj to Neelu’s wedding.

aaaaaah_rashid.jpg

aaaaah_mukesh.jpg

Luckily, I watched Awara a few days later which was a much better film and so Raj Kapoor redeemed himself slightly.

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52 Comments to “Aah (1953)”

  1. Hum, nice review, but it’s a pity this movie doesn’t live up to Raj Kapoor’s fame! I’ll just have to tug him down a little from his pedestal, then, I suppose!
    Would you still recommend watching, or not AT ALL?

  2. Not AT ALL. Unless you enjoy self-pity, narcissism and torturing those you supposedly love.

    I know I’m attacking a sacred cow here, but the only Raj Kapoor films I’ve ever liked were Shri 420 and now—as I said above—Awara…

  3. I feel somwhat better, because I – umm- cant stand Raj Kapoor- I find ALL his movies showed his character as highly improbably, and almost always wallowing in oceans of self pity (Mera Naam Joker- eugh- that was the ultimate self indulgence me thinks).
    And Pran is adorable.

    I also think its almost fun (though the diseases arent) how Bollywood “adopts” a new disease every decade to kill off characters with- the 50s had tuberculosis, the 60s and 70s had drugs, the 70s and 80s had cancer, and the 90s-current have aids :S

  4. Oh thank god I’m not alone!!!!! :-) Thank you Shweta.

    I find his whole movie persona—the “Chaplin-esque” characteristics he’s so well-known for—so disingenuous (in the true sense of the word—i.e. lacking sincerity, pretending to be unsophisticated, falsely ingenuous):

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/disingenuous

    But his reputation is so huge that even I am scared to admit it.

    I do so love Shammi and Shashi though. And Prithviraj too—he was the best thing in Awara by far.

    • Memsaab and Shweta, you are not alone. I also cannot stand Raj Kapoor:

      *Acting style: melodramatic and theatrical -> irritating

      *Endlessly hams it up as the “pious” guy who either always claims to be wronged or feels the need to preach about something or other:
      Andaz, Sangam, Awara (tho it’s a good movie), Barsaat, Shree 420, etc.

      *Considering his svengalli rep., the above reason urks me even more

      RK does break away from the above crap in “Teesri Kasam” (highly recommend it, beautiful film) and “Dil Hi To Hai.” Thank goodness for that much.

      • Ha ha! Do track down my post that contains Baburao Patel’s review of Shree 420—it sums it all up nicely (although I liked Shree 420 okay, but certainly I don’t think it’s the best thing since sliced bread as so many people do!) :)

        • I expected to be blown away by Shree 420, but aside from the song “pyar hua…” I don’t see what the big deal is. All I can think of are th really annoying scenes:

          -When RK tells Nargis a riddle, she fails to guess the right answer (as he adds his own twist to it). He gets so full of himself that he declares a holiday and sends the kiddies home.

          -When RK preaches to Nargis of the kind of life a woman should lead (a la domestic wife and mother).

          -“Maine Dil Tujko Diya”: Nargis mopes about losing her love, like the 1st screenshot on here (which I find hilarious btw!) Good grief woman, there are other men out there!

  5. Ahh, Memsaab, I’m happy to hear about someone who feels the same way about Raj. The first Raj movie I saw was Sangam, which was OK, but I partly had to force myself to like it given Raj had this big rep. I watched Awaara next, which blew me away (!), then Teesri Kasam, which was similarly awesome, and followed it up with Aag, which was pretty awful. I’m now moving through Shree 420. I must say, I think Raj was certainly capable of being very charismatic and poignant (e.g. the scenes of reunion between him and Nargis in Awaara are divine, and the latter half of Teesri Kasam is likewise perfection), but he could also tend so easily and blatantly into self-absorbed and indulgent histrionics (most of Aag, most of Sangam).

    I must say Shashi was much more consistently lovable – and he knew how to share the screen, as well! (And he kept the weight off for longer…)

    The problem is that Good Raj is SO good that I’m eager to watch more of his films in the hopes that I find more of the Awaara/Teesri Kasam actor. But it seems like a lot of his fame was built on the Raju/Tramp character and, even though I’m enjoying Shree 420 so far, I also find the character of Raj (1) a bit hard to believe, as you say, and (2) a bit of a rip-off, too. Hey, Shashi never based his whole image on Indianizing a Western icon!

    Anyway, I’ll remove Aa(aaaa)h from the list. Perhaps Barsaat? I love the Raj/Nargis duo. I think the key is finding something where Raj can (1) share the screen, and (2) be subtle. Because that’s when he really is pretty damn awesome.

  6. By all means remove Aaaaaaaah from your list. I have Barsaat and Teesri Kasam, although I haven’t watched them yet. I think Aag was the first film I wrote on this blog about, and I hated it too.

    He did have a gift for music, though, I’ll give him that much!

  7. Memsaab,

    Nice review! Aah is essentially a lot of good music in service of a really bad plot. But then, so are many other movies from that period – too much overwrought melodrama set to some amazing tunes.

    Raj was capable of some amazing stuff, as in Awaara, but every once in a while, he plumbed the depths with movies like this one.

    Hindi films have this obsession with dying protagonists — one could track the progress of medical science by looking at the diseases they die of. TB was big at one point, then cancer ruled the roost for a while (leukaemia mainly) with a dose of brain tumor for variety. Now that there is a new strain of TB out there with a lot of medical research focused on it, it won’t be long before someone dies of it in the movies.

    Heart disease usually comes in as a plot device (one of the characters has heart disease and shouldn’t be given any shocking news, happy or sad), although it too got its due in Kal Ho Na Ho (alternate title: How to die for three hours in NY).

    ~r

  8. Memsaab,
    Have you seen Jagte Raho? Raj is not directing, but he’s really quite good, and the film is a very interesting experiment in the exploration of the public unconscious.
    I can’t really agree with you about his being disingenuous, though. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t seen enough of his (bad) films? But you know, art is artifice through and through, so a good artist is never 100% ingenuous. I wouold therefore refrain from using this category to criticise an artist.
    And then the Raj Kapoor I know can create enough art for me to say that he’s ingenuous enough. Ingenuous in the sense that we forget his disingenuousness.

  9. Ramsu: “How to die for three hours in NY” = :-D

    Yves: Well, more people agree with you than with me; but I can’t stand his innocent country bumpkin act. I think Raj is better in movies that he did not direct (eg Andaz which is a movie I enjoyed a lot)…

  10. I thought I was alone in my hatred of all things Raj Kapoor. His innocent country bumpkin meets Chaplin act, his wallowing, his narcissism, his holier-than-thou ‘the world poops on me, but I am such a nice guy for not losing faith in mankind’ routine – all make me look around desperately for heavy objects to hurl.

    Even music wise, I have issues. Admittedly there is reasonably good music in RK films, but the Shankar-Jaikishan/Raj Kapoor output got repetitive after a while. And while I am sure people will lynch me for saying this – I think Mukesh sounds so much better when he is NOT singing for RK on screen. I realize that RK is what gave him fame, but I still prefer his non-RK work. (Mukesh for Kalyanji-Anandji, for instance.)

    Yay. Such happiness comes at having found you.

  11. I think of Mukesh more as Dilip Kumar’s voice, which enables me to love him. He was a very cute tongawallah in this unbearable movie, too :-)

    I am glad you have found us, too: welcome!

  12. I am not particular fond of Dilip Kumar either, so thinking of him as Mukesh’s face is not helping matters for moi :) Rafi is who I imagine Dilip always singing in. Especially when he is broken-hearted.

    But cute tongawallah, I can handle. It isn’t enough reason to watch Aah (it made an appearance on Zee TV recently, but I avoided. Smart, I am.) but it makes me happy for Mukesh.

    And ooh. I notice Boston in the Tehelka writeup? Hello from a fellow Beantowner :)

  13. Raj Kapoor did not direct the film, so maybe he didint care about the film? (He was probably thinking about making Shree 420). Anyway, I did not like the movie either , but the music is better than I expected.

  14. Wait till you see Barsaat. *chuckle*

  15. Barsaat is worse???? That cannot be.

  16. I saw the song you got your first screencap from on YouTube and was intrigued. Thank goodness you reviewed it here because I couldn’t find a synopsis anywhere and might have actually rented the stupid thing!

  17. I would rather stick needles in my eyes than ever watch this thing again.

  18. The 2 Raj Kumar movies that I remember liking genuinely are Teesri kasam and Jaagte Raho. Infact Jaagte Raho was one of the first films that I was surprised by how much I liked. Would definitely recommend that one.

  19. OMG did I just commit the faux Pas of the century??? Yes! I referred to Raj Kapoor as Raj Kumar. Unforgivable!! This just proves that I suck at multi-tasking (watching Joroo ka ghulam, reading your blog starting from post#1, and keeping an eye out for my boss :P)

  20. No problem Karishma, we’ll just go with RK ;-) I have Jagte Raho and Teesri Kasam…but have to steel myself to watch them. I did like Andaz, Shree 420 and Awara but this film was just UNbearable!

    • In reply to your post above and adding to Yves comment, “Jagte Raho” was also released in Bengali as “Ekdin Rattirey” (“One Night”), directed by the same person and starring Raj Kapoor (!) again. It was, to the best of my knowledge, RK’s only Bengali movie.

      RK was rather proficient in Bengali, and so was Shammi, since Prithviraj and his travelling theatre had a prolonged stay in Calcutta. I remember reading somewhere that Shammi Kapoor was reminiscing about the Calcutta days, and remembered the exact house they used to stay in (somewhere in Hazra Road, South Calcutta). Shashi Kapoor, of course, met & wooed Jennifer in Calcutta, and a suite in their favourite hotel, Hotel Fairlawn, is named after Shashi.

      Apologise if these details are already known to you or your readers.

  21. >> should have been called Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!! It’s an irritating
    >> exercise in complete and utter narcissism from Raj Kapoor.

    LOL ! and he is not even the director (dir: Raja Nawathe) . Both Nargis and Vijayalakshmi are stunning in the movie though, and the excellent music makes the film bearable.
    Raj Kapoor has of course indulged in narcissism elsewhere too, MNJ and Sangam being prime examples.

    Very interesting you mention Mukesh as Dilip Kumar’s voice … I find the whole the tonga situation quite similar to the setting of Devdas returning to see Paro …

    Cheers !
    Amarendra

  22. After watching aah I said oooooohhhhhh god.

  23. Since you told me not to read your review of Aah, I had to!! You understand, right??!! :-)

    I am with you when it comes to this whole thing about “hiding my ailment from her, and instead making her think I played with her emotions and now I am playing with her sisters”, being most disrespectful; and yes, I agree that the right thing AND the respectful thing to do is to tell her the truth!! Always!! (I don’t get this whole “sacrifice” thing in Hindi movies in general).

    So what do I like about the movie? I like the music – I particularly love “Jaane na nazar” song, and I actually like Raj Kapoor a whole lot in that song. I always liked Nargis more than him, but in that song, I thought he was a little better than her.You can actually feel him feeling cold!! :-)

    I like the part till he discovers he has TB (Hindi movie makers didn’t know what to do once TB became curable!!! But then they were glad to discover cancer…, but in this movie it was still TB). They both look good and they look very good together.
    I LOVE this movie for Pran too – in this movie he is a good guy. But I don’t like that he can’t be strong enough to tell the truth either!!
    And I like the fact that the movie ends on a positive note, and not like Devdas… Maybe I like this basically becasue I tend to compare this with Devdas…
    But mostly, I love this for the songs – even the last one – “Chhotisi yeh Jindagani re.. chaar din ki jawani teri…” Lovely!!

    • I am laughing out loud at your TB cure and thank god for cancer remark—SO TRUE! :) Pran was one of the bright spots here, but this film just epitomizes for me everything I dislike about Raj Kapoor’s onscreen persona. Each to his own!

      • Yess, I’ve forever been mystified (because I’m repulsed) by RK’s on-screen persona – that voice. I only liked Nargis in this movie that happened to be thrust upon us by Doordarshan in the ’80s (after RK’s passing away they paid tribute by screening some of his movies.) And the songs.
        I was actually surprised by the happy ending.

        • Oh, forgot to add – I liked Ram Teri Ganga Maili, which I stubbornly refused to watch until 2010.
          I hated that he always got his blouseless heroines to get wet in the rain/waterfall – how was it essential to the plot? I’m thinking Padmini in Jis Desh Mein Ganga… and Mera Naam Joker and then young Mandakini.

  24. Ram Teri… had a good story, but delivered in style of Raj Kapoor of post 70. I have not seen Jis Desh mai… I always thought that he kind of lost it after Mera Naam Joker flopped big time. And that is when he started having these half naked heroines…

    For me, the worst of all was Satyam Shivam Sundaram – She is a village girl, inoocent and all – WHY IN GODS NAME IS SHE MORE THAN HALF NAMED all the time???

    But I look at 3 Raj Kapoors – one who made Awara, Jagte Raho, Boot Polish. I thought he was OK in Anadi too (but of course I liked Anadi basically because of Nutan and Motilal) Teesri Kasam was also different and good. That is the good Raj Kapoor. For some reason, for me Aah is in this category… :-) He was ok in Kal Aaj aur Kal too. Though in this movie, Prithviraj was the best!

    Then there was one idiotic, annoying Raj Kapoor – who imitated Charlie Chaplin. And the one making stupid movies like Sangam!!

    And finally there was a dirty Raj Kapoor – most all the movies post Mera Naam Joker were made by him. After Mera Naam Joker, the only movie that didn’t have scantily clad heroine was probably Premrog…

    Sometimes the first and second Raj Kapoor do get mixed up though – like Shree 420 – its neither completely in the first category nor the second… though its got bits of both…

    • Sonali, the O maine pyaar kiya song in Jis Desh Mein – I remember a Filmfare article about songs which mentioned this one and the `twins’ on covert display. I was outraged but found it to be true.
      SSS – I remind myself that this is merely one of the Congruence of Triangle Tests. Pity, the movie had a good story, if you look at it as well as some great songs – the title song and Rang mahal ke das darwaaze and Mukesh singing Chanchal Sheetal (I’m trying hard to block out a scene from this song on that cover of `Cinema Sangeet’)
      And RK playing the bumpkin, comic or otherwise – somehow, I never was convinced, this is where I wholly agree with your `dirty’ Raj theory. As for Sangam, GRRRRRR. Again, great music.
      RTGM told Ganga’s story very relentlessly and that’s why I liked it – the lead characters really loved each other and that registered for me (though I didn’t much care for Rajeev Kapoor).
      When I see Karisma and Kareena in skimpy clothes, I feel as if all those semi-clad, exploited heroines in RK movies have been avenged.

  25. desi-at-large , yes RTGM had a good story…

    In words of a friend – Karishma & Kareena – more specifically Karishma, (because of the kind of movies she did I guess), – is time’s revenge against Raj Kapoor…

  26. …you guys and gals making above comments are all obviously from the current generation, young and cannot have the same feel for the 1950’s bollywood when for some reason tragedies were favored as all great movies had a sorrowfull plot…I am one of those who very much liked AAH though I belonged to the generation that watched the late 40’s and early 50’s movies in reruns at old movie houses during early 1960’s….you cannot appreciate any movie with Raj Kapoor and Nargis, or for that matter old Madhubala/ Dilip movies e.g. Amar…that era is gone. unless the story was atrgedy……By the way Aah was earlier released with a different ending wherein Raj Kapoor’s character actually dies and Nargis character indeed marries Pran, with Raj’s dead body on the roadside in the tonga as the doli goes by! ,…that is very much a’ la Devdas….which again I love to watch…i.e. the one starring Dilip K and Suchitra Sen/Vajantimala…..trust me there are old gen folks who loved these movies,,,including then Aah…I hate to see you guys knock it………I will add that I also did not like MNJ or for that matter Raj Kapoor in his later movies when he was fat and fortyihs…..so each to his own ….so cool it folks!!!

    • Actually that (what you say is the original) would have been a MUCH BETTER ending! I don’t dislike this because it’s a tragedy, some tragedies are awesome, I dislike this one because Raj Kapoor’s character is an idiot (and Nargis’ not much better). I know other people love this movie, and that’s fine with me—so please don’t mind that I don’t!

      • I have seen both versions and must agree that the version where he dies is a much better film overall. It also has a colour sequence in the film (the song Jhanan Jhanan Jhanan). I saw that first and thought that it was great to see Pran get the girl and not the usual predictable ending where if the hero doesn’t recover the heroine would also some how die. So the other version of the film is better all round. Even with the depression, moping and double dealing of relationships. The other ending gives proper closure to the story.

        • Many films which could have been good (although I have my doubts about this one) are ruined by an ending trying to make everyone happy :) Pran and Nargis getting married and living happily ever after is the ONLY thing that could have redeemed this!

  27. Is it just my eyes, or did i actually see snow falling on Nargis’ tearful face? LOL

  28. Yay…Xmas time is near!!!!!! By the way I love listening to Lata Mangeshkar’s songs in Aah, but i found the plot slightly depressing, although i tend to have a soft spot for tragedies hahaha…Aah was basically an overdose of melancholy for me, but the soundtrack is undeniably one of Shankar-Jaikishen’s early hits…

  29. memsaab, how dare you critise this great musical from the 50’s.
    Aah is 100 times better than most of crappy dilip kumar stupid melodramas.

    please use your top floor( ur brain) while reviewing.

    and remove this fu*c*ing review!

    • How about you do us all as well as yourself a favour by not leaving snide comments on this blog out of basic respect for our memsaab and just, for your own sake, buzz off and perhaps write your own review of Aah with positive remarks to do yourself some justice? That will most definitely spare us the horror of having to see your demeaning comments tainting this blog. Aah may be a great musical for you and to a certain extent, for me as well, but face it, it’s not everybody’s cuppa, and everyone is entitled to their opinions, so even if you really have to disagree with our memsaab, do so in the manner of a mature, civilised web surfer…peace…

  30. hey GABY, who are u , some MAMSAAB DALAL

    by the way i’m quite civilised.

    BUT when some would say the movie AAH as AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH, it will get on my nerves. the film was NOT supposed to be abused like this. A sane blogger won’t speak like that.

    returning to the movie, i found this RK movie the least memorable of all. the movie flopped, because people just didn’t want to see him as a ailing person awaiting death(as last tramp-image AWARA was a blockbuster). the movie just didn’t hade good, but great songs.It had all the qualities of its contemporary films, frankly greater than many. ok, everybody has liberty to critise a movie, but this MEMSAAB abused it.

    “I watched Awara a few days later which was a much better film and so Raj Kapoor redeemed himself slightly”

    SLIGHTLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    awara is one of indian cinema greatest products. It is world’s most widely seen indian movie(an authentic information). this film ushered in the golden age of indian cinema.

    please, advice MEMSAAB(or whatever) to read some good books on indian polular cinema, develop some SANE opinions and ideas about cinema,and then open up a private vintage blog.

    i expect MEMSAAB to write reviews, not sully the greats of bollywood in this horrific manner even if it not be one of their great movies.

    • You have no right to expect anything of me, Ishwar, especially given what a jackass you are. This is it for you on this blog; I won’t have you insulting me or my thoughtful and intelligent readers, each of whose opinion matters far more to me than yours.

      I hope you can gain some perspective as to your own importance (or lack thereof) in the world some day.

  31. have you seen the movie ‘chhalia’ ,if you have seen it can you writ a review about it?

  32. OK…I will tell u about Chhalia…Raj Kapoor was spent by then,,,old, fat and not a young vagabond character he kept trying to keep alive….sometimes I feel it is best when nature intervenes and removes a great personality in his/her prime,,,e.g. Madhubala….I cannot imagine seeing her on screen old and ugly…she was gone ….leaving irreplaceable images..

    • I don’t think Madhubala would have been ugly no matter how old she was :) I liked Chhalia, Raj Kapoor was okay in it, although I am not really a fan of his (and his annoying vagabond character) at any age.

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