Brahmachari (1968)

The Bhappi Sonie-Shammi Kapoor pairing gave us Janwar, Preetam, and this film. A fourth one is Jawan Mohabbat, which I sadly haven’t been able to find on DVD yet—but that gives me another reason to live.

Bhappi Sonie seemed able to restrain Mr. Irrepressible more than some, and Shammi’s performance in this heartwarming tale of a penniless bachelor who has opened up his heart and his house to a bunch of (equally irrepressible) homeless orphans won him the Filmfare Award for Best Actor. It also garnered five other Filmfare Awards: Best Film, Lyrics, Story, Music Director, and Playback Singer. Shankar Jaikishan wrote the fantastic songs, and the story neatly combines socially relevant subject matter with comedy, romance and just enough dishum-dishum.

Brahmachari (Shammi Kapoor) lives with his servant Choti (Mohan Choti), twelve children whom he’s picked up from the street, and a dog (“Dog King”). His house is mortgaged to the hilt and if he doesn’t pay up at least some of the interest soon, they will all be out on the street. He works as a freelance photographer but the kindly newspaper editor (Brahm Bhardwaj) who buys photos from him finally tells him he needs pictures of something other than children. An exclusive!

As he’s walking along the beach one evening, he sees a girl (Rajshree) about to commit suicide by jumping into the ocean.

He asks if he can take her picture before she jumps—it’s just the “exclusive” he’s been looking for. Lots of people will take photos of her body, he says, but only he will have a photo of the “optimum” moment. She stands there numbly as he arranges her pose and takes her photo.

Stung by his seeming indifference, the girl follows him back onto the beach and he takes her home with him. The children welcome her as Didi, and ask why she wants to kill herself. She says that her name is Sheetal and that she’s been engaged since childhood to Ravi (Pran) who moved to the city and became wealthy. She has loved him her whole life, and came to the city to find him. He has scorned her, and heartbroken, she sees no option but suicide (*le sigh*).

Brahmachari consoles her, telling her he will meet Ravi and help her out. He heads over to Ravi’s house and finds a birthday party in full swing. Posing in such politically incorrect blackface as a waiter, Brahmachari eavesdrops on the party guests and discovers that Ravi is a womanizer and cheat of the worst kind, and the current object of his affections is Rupa (Mumtaz).

He is kicked out by Ravi in a really funny scene, but returns as himself (he works nights at this hotel as a singer). We are treated to one of my favorite songs of all time: “Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyar” with Mumtaz shimmying her gorgeous way around nimble-footed Shammi.

He returns home to tell Sheetal that it’s an uphill battle for her to win Ravi’s heart, but that he’ll help her on one condition.

She agrees, and he tells her that he’ll make her over in the image of all the girls that Ravi is attracted to. Then he sings the gorgeous lullaby “Main Gaaon Tum So Jao” and I melt into a puddle. Oh! to be one of those kids!

At this point our story is interrupted for some time by the comic side plot; I won’t spend energy and time on it—suffice to say that Jagdeep plays the guy in love and Dhumal is the girl’s father. Same old, same old! I guess I will never really be a big fan of the comic side plot.

The next day, Brahmachari embarks on his Professor Higgins-like transformation of Sheetal. To effect this transformation he needs money. Fortunately, the landlord (Asit Sen) next door has prospective tenants looking at his house; as usual, the kids make lots of noise, driving the would-be tenants away, and the hapless landlord pays up to ensure quiet next time (which he never gets). Sheetal is horrified by this blackmail; Brahmachari tells her that it helps in paying for the children’s upkeep and education. Her makeover doesn’t thrill her either.

I have to agree with Brahmachari and the children though, who assure her she looks beautiful. Her lessons continue: she learns to use a knife and fork, how to walk gracefully in heels. In turn, she quizzes Brahmachari about himself and discovers what a lonely life he has led, and why he has dedicated himself to the children.

Finally the day comes when he feels she is ready to meet Ravi in her new avatar. She seems depressed and to distract her Amit (Junior Mehmood) performs Mehmood’s dance (with Helen) from Gumnaam. It is a dead-on and hysterical imitation.

Anyway, that evening Brahmachari takes her to the club where he works as a singer. Ravi often comes there, and tonight is no exception. He asks Brahmachari to introduce him. Sheetal’s response to Ravi’s advances is cool.

Unused to the hard-to-get routine, Ravi is hooked and follows her out. Brahmachari disguises himself as a goon and harasses Sheetal outside the club. Ravi beats him up and takes her home. When she gets to know that Brahmachari was the badmash who teased her, she asks him why he would take so much trouble.

She’s not as happy as she should be with her success. Choti brings a letter for Brahmachari: the newspaper editor has done as he requested and has found a couple who wish to adopt a child. They are coming the next day. Brahmachari explains to the kids that it’s for their own good, but they are not happy.

Meanwhile, Rupa has called Ravi over to pressure him to marry her: she’s pregnant. He balks at talking to his mother about it but she is way ahead of him.

The next morning when the couple arrive to adopt one of the children, the kids have smeared mud all over themselves and behave like little hooligans. It doesn’t make any difference, though, and they pick Ujala (Sachin). It’s a heartbreaking scene as Brahmachari makes him go with them for his own good.

Things haven’t improved when he gets home at the end of the day. Sheetal and the children are silent. Brahmachari tries to explain again that they’ll have plenty to eat, and clothes, and lack for nothing, including the love of two parents.

They refuse to eat and the crying continues until Brahmachari relents. He goes and gets Ujala back. Peace—or at least harmony—is restored.

Sheetal meanwhile continues to see Ravi, whom she has started to hate now that she sees him as he really is. She knows that she’s in love with Brahmachari, but equally knows that her marriage to Ravi is the only thing that will keep them all from being out on the streets. But when he begs her to marry him, she refuses, throwing his words back in his face.

She returns home just as one of the children is bitten by a cobra. She sucks the poison out of the wound, but then is herself poisoned and she passes into a coma. The kids all pray to all the gods (a nice plea for secularity) and she wakes up. She tells Brahmachari that she’s let him down by refusing Ravi’s proposal; he brushes it off as a minor thing in the face of her almost dying. She tells him that she loves him and they get engaged to everyone’s delight.

Except, of course, Ravi’s. Humiliated and furious, he’s not going to let her go so easily. And we all know what Pran is capable of!

What heinous things will he do? Will Sheetal and Brahmachari survive them? Will the orphanage? And what about poor pregnant Rupa?

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43 Comments to “Brahmachari (1968)”

  1. I remember being quite taken by this movie when I saw it as a kid. If you ignore all the dramatic choreography in the background, the song Dil ke jharoke mein is quite the masterpiece. S&J in top form – piano, lots of violins, Rafi singing his heart out…

    ~r

  2. I like all the songs, honestly…I’m not a big fan of films with huge numbers of children normally, but these kids are so funny, especially Jr Mehmood.

    And the subtitles were so well done that I could not mine this movie for subtitle disaster gold! ;-)

  3. OMG this really sounds like the best movie ever. I got tearful just reading about it. Orphans! Poverty! Pran! This looks like the sweetest movie ever. Definitely getting it ASAP.

    Side note: Junior Mehmood was in Atithee (AKA the worst Shashi movie ever) and he was really fly! He also wore the hugest bellbottoms I have ever seen.

  4. Yes, it is a v.v. sweet film, even my heart of black sticky tar could not resist :-) I saw Mr. India the other night with Filmi Geek and the whole orphans/man w/heart of gold thing reminded me of this one.

  5. This is one of my favorite movies. So cute and heartwarming. And the song Dil ke jharoke mein – pure romantic mush… The first part of Mr. India is pretty similar but not that melt-worthy.

  6. Especially since Anil Kapoor doesn’t hold a candle to Shammi :-)

  7. I loved what an A-hole Pran was in this movie. And that snake bite scene! Ahh, poor Sheetal, running after the unattainable love. Been there. I LOVED the movie. Thanks for the great screen images. :)

  8. I really think Bhappi Sonie is a great director, I love every single film of his that I’ve seen (which is quite a few). Now if only I can find Jawan Mohabbat and Ek Shriman Ek Shrimati I’ll be all set!

  9. Played a DVD with nothing but Shammi Kapoor songs last night, and a couple of songs from this film were in there. Absolutely looking forward to watching it (and I think Rajshree looks amazingly good)!

    Hope you enjoyed Mr. India. It was one of my favorites when I first watched it as a kid, and I still enjoy Mogambo, Seema and Mr. India (who I like to think was India’s first superhero, waaaay before Krrish).

  10. It’s a good one :-) I got my hands on Ek Shriman Ek Shrimati although I probably won’t get around to reviewing it for Bhappi Sonie month…

    I love Mr. India, had seen it before but Filmigeek had not seen a Sridevi film and this is a good one to start with :-)

  11. It was one of Shammi’s finer efforts and the music is great! I shall forever remember it as the evening my parents went to see it, leaving us three sisters in the care of our young bua, and the youngest one disappeared: while we & neighbor kids bawled our heads off (rather like the kids in the movie), the entire neighbourhood of elders searched all the houses and gardens and under the beds and the roofs for my young sister….
    Panic reached a peak when my parents were heard arriving, and who should appear with them but the missing kid: apparently hauled in through the car window at the very last minute when they were driving off…they thought we had seen this…she didn’t even have any footwear on…
    BRAHMCHARI brings all that back and its kids drama seems so appropriate!

  12. What a great story!!!! Your poor bua! and poor you. How hilarious. I so wish I’d been watching Hindi movies since childhood….although I have great memories of Disney films (Sleeping Beauty, Aristocats, Fantasia) and films like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, To Sir With Love, and Sound of Music…but Shammi wasn’t in any of them :-(

  13. We had very little Western cinema, being a small-town Indian place: in addition, the censor board would chop out everything deemed inappropriate- can you guess how much that left of a film? Sunday morning some cinemas would show western films, and very often repeated: Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, Clint E. & spaghetti westerns, Peter Sellers, some war films.
    2 examples of censorship: “The Thief who came to Dinner” came to an abrupt end 2/3rds of the way through the movie, when Ryan O’Neal is arrested; he in fact escaped but apparently the moral of “crime pays” was considered “thumbs down” by censors!
    And when they released Saturday Night Fever it was about 45 minutes long, because they had chopped out the “bad language”! The film didn’t make any head or tail…
    We were very limited cinema-goers in my house, and I really couldn’t stick most of the Hindi movies of my time because of the eternal decorative and self-sacrificing role alloted to women. But we really enjoyed music, especially from old films.

  14. You make a good point: I wonder if I would tolerate Hindi cinema’s treatment of women as much as I do now had I grown up with it. Probably not!

    And great censorship stories…I can only imagine!!! :-D

  15. But we were passionate about the music right from the 30s onwards and books: so I guess it is true that Bollywood has something for everyone!

    Also we didn’t have TV in most of India, so until it came along well into the 70s, one didn’t start seeing older films. I did get to see Flipper/and a lot of Amercian show courtesy Pakistan TV, a country which made awful films and beautiful TV dramas. Especially remember a long, loving adaptation into Urdu of Henry James “Potrait of a Lady”. And some people think globalisation began yesterday!

  16. Oh Memsab, what have you done! You have transformed me into some not-so-young Guddi, totally pagal for Shammi. Considering him at first rather unappealing, I somehow managed to avoid seeing a single movie with him (ah, tumsa nahin dekha!) despite having had seen plenty of movies with his both brothers respectively. But then, about two weeks ago, I saw Brahmachari and melted away within minutes. Now, after three more movies I am lost forever – kyaa nashaa! I am in a danger of being evicted from my apartment since I have been humming and singing “hum aur tum aur yeh samaa” in an endless loop. And I am really glad that he never will drive down my lane as the possibility of my kissing the wind screen cannot be completely ruled out… :)

  17. Don’t blame me, blame Shammi’s irresistible charm. Even his heroines resisted at first, but then were swept away.

    Just enjoy it!

  18. I got the dvd of Brahmachari a few months back. It also has Junglee on it. The first movie (B)does not work at all and the second one stops half way. I knew when and where I’d bought it but couldn’t go back there. And sometimes they work on one player and not another. Any way to fix them? Probably just chuck it in the bin,right? I get disappointed. Sometimes I buy and don’t check for weeks. That’s one reason I don’t like to order online. When I read you reviews it is SO tempting. And I have seen many of these movies back in VHS days. Maybe I should just transfer them to dvd. Have to learn how to do that.

    • It might work on your PC. Once a 3 in 1 vcd wouldn’t play the last film on my player, but it did on my PC.

    • I feel your pain, happens even with regular DVDs. I use them as coasters if the artwork on them is nice! :-) I have a LOT of coasters.

      If I couldn’t get through the DVD I will say in my review and I think I always say who the manufacturer was too…those should be avoided b/c they probably won’t work either. And I think there are companies out there who will do the transfer for you from VHS to DVD…don’t know how expensive it is though.

  19. I thought I would let you and the blogosphere that I actually found a good print of a 1960s film! I recently bought a Moser Baer 6 pack of Shammi films. Most of the prints are mediocre but the Brahamachari print was amazing! It appears that they got a brand new 35mm print and started from that. I’ve never seen Dil Ke Jharoke Mein look so good. I watched it on a Blu Ray player so the upscaling may have helped but you can clearly see the thick layer of makeup all the actors had. With all the bad prints out there I thought I would share my good fortune with this one.

  20. Hi,
    I just bought a whole lot of Shammi Kapoor movies! One was a six-movie pack of Moser baer for Dil Tera Deewana(which I have not seen for about 4/ yrs since vhs days) and Tumse achcha kaun hai which did not play on other dvds I purchased. China town ,evening in Paris,Rajkumar and Kashmir ki kali are the others. Dil… is perfect. They all seem pretty clear print. Another pack-not MB- has Brahmachari-that did not play on another dvd-,Singapore(for which two movies I bought the pack) and Andaaz and Bade dilwala-I’m trying to see if Shammi is in that. As I said, in Sydney, it seems difficult to get oldies.One shop I walked into had the “original” dvd of Dil tera Deewana for only(my remark)$35-yes thirty-five dollars, not three dollars fifty cents. He told me it came from America. $35 Au=$32.60 US today. Is it around that range there,anyone? I got some other old movies as well. But I am overjoyed with these. I was reading BollyBanda’s message too. Happy viewing everyone!

  21. I just realised something common in 3 movies-Brahmachari, Jaanwar and Ek Phool Char Kaante. It’s the balcony at Malabar Hill(?) overlooking the sea.It seems to be a restaurant with lots of chairs and tables-they sit and sip a drink anyway. Felt like I’ve ‘been’ there as I’ve seen it a few times. Could be in other movies too, I guess. I can’t recollect any others. Wonder how many movies have locales repeated. Don’t mind the Kashmir,Shimla, Dehra Dun etc. ones at all.

    • I think the same locations in Bombay and the same film sets were used over and over again. There are quite a few that I see all the time. Thought of doing a post on them once, but it’s too overwhelming :D

  22. They showed this movie on Doordarshan, during the ’77 elelctions.
    The night that the kids have no food to eat, just that lovely lorie to help them sleep still brings tears to my eyes
    and somehow, it’s Shammi’s being there that does it.
    I also remember Pran’s party moves, talking about the astrologer who told him that very morning that he would meet a girl whose name began with a `Ra’ or whatever the girl’s name happens to begin with.
    There is a funny version of the `snake’ poison removal in Father Goose, where Leslie Caron gets drunk to `take the edge off’.
    And doubtless, you’ve heard the Dil ke jharokhon mein parody.
    Mumu! Rajashree – those eyes, those tresses! Lots of kids. What’s not to like?

  23. This was my late grandma’s FAVOURITE Hindi film…she used to tell me about the day she took my mom and seven uncles and aunts to watch it at the local cinema some thirty-something years back when my mom was still a schoolgirl…it was by far the only Hindi film that remained firmly etched in my grandma’s memory, besides Raj Kapoor’s Bobby…whenever we talked about this film, my grandma loved to quote Shammi Kapoor’s dialogue that goes: In this world there’re no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents…so when I finally laid my hands on the VCD of Brahmachari shortly before Christmas in 2006, I vowed to show it to my grandma, because she loved it so much…alas it never materialised because everyone was so busy with our respective individual lives and the DVD player in my grandma’s house just can’t play the film…then, I lost my beloved grandma to asthma in the spring of 2010, a week after the Chinese New Year holidays…to this day I still choke up a little at the memory of this unfulfilled yet simple mission, wishing that I had gone to some sort of extra lengths so grandma can watch her favourite movie at least once more…may her soul rest in eternal peace…

  24. Brahmachari is one of my favorite Shammi movies, I absolutely love all its songs. There is one song which I remember seeing in the film but I could never find on youtube. Apparently that song is not on the DVD (surprise, surprise!) so I guess it was difficult to put it out there on youtube.

    The song I’m talking about is the soft, romantic song “tu bemisaal hai, teri tareef kya karoon”. Well, good news. Some kind soul has uploaded it just yesterday. Here it is now. The lighting isn’t great in the song but this is the best we have at the moment.

    Thanks SO much to him – I’ve been looking for this for a long time. It is such a beautiful song!

  25. There is an inexplicable charm in Shammi Kapoor movies. Brahmachari is one of his best. I feel after 1965, Shammi’s acting reached its peak may be due to the personal loss he suffered. To be very frank, among his brothers, he was the best looking. I wonder why he never acted with his brothers – Raj and Shashi. Or am I wrong ? In “Prem Rog” Shammi had played an important role but Raj wasn’t there in the movie but does anyone know whether all 3 brothers acted together in one movie ?
    Khalid Mohamed, the well known film critic has written how Simi Garewal insulted him on one of the Filmfare awards. It made me sad.Apparently, Simi was to invite Shammi to the stage to present an award to Rishi-Randhir-Rajiv on the occassion of 50th anniversary of R K Studios but Simi instead chose to ignore Shammi and invited … hold your breath..Pooja Bhatt !

  26. The period between 1968-71 was when Shammi spent his last days as a hero in Bolywood. I loved him in “Andaz” where Simi had a cameo opposite him ! Yet, it unnerves me that Simi chose to ignore him at an important award function

  27. Hello. Brahmachari was an absolute favourite of mine in my younger day’s but I am unable to find it in my local Asian DVD shop. Would you please tell me where you bought this as I would love to relive my memories. Another one of his obscure older movies was Chhote Sarkar, if you could tell me where I can find this too I would be very grateful. If you could send me a link to a internet shop that stocks these films I would be very happy. And you have done a fantastic job reviewing this.

    • Try induna.com (in India, but they ship worldwide), they have a huge selection of dvds and vcds—I got Chhote Sarkar from them. The Brahmachari dvd I have I got from the sadly no-more nehaflix.com :( I miss them.

  28. Now for all of you, there is a recent book called – “I want to live” a biography on the charming beauty Madhubala (can’t recollect the author – it is a muslim name). All of you who have a heart will really feel the lump in your throat about Madhubala’s last days. The day she died [23 Feb 1969]. Shammi Kapoor was shooting for “Pagla Kahin Ka” along with Shakti Samanata & it seems that shammi cried on hearing about the news of her death on radio. It is very clear that shammi and saira had no love lost between them as shammi is supposed to have said that Dilip Kumar should have married madhubala and not saira.

  29. plus note the fact that shammi and saira acted only in 2 movies – “Junglee” & “zameer” (in the latter movie, shammi played saira’s father). if i am wrong, happy if any one corrects me if shammi kapoor and saira banu worked in any other movies together.
    all those music lovers who go ga-ga over Kishore Kumar should read this book for the insensitivity shown by the late singer-actor to the immortal actress Madhubala. The moment he came to know that Madhubala was sick, allegedly, he simply dropped her at at her Bandra home called Arabian Mansion. The period from 1960 to 1969 was traumatic for Madhubala and this was the period when kishore was at his peak in movies like aradhana, padosan, do dooni char. Look at the irony of the situtaion !

  30. Towards her last days, Madhubala was constantly praying and she wanted to live. Her stern father was so broken that it appears that he wanted to dig her grave and offer her the perfumes that she so loved.

    BTW, the book mentions that Filmfare awards lost their credibility in 1960s when Bina Rai was given the Best actress award for Ghunghat and Madhubala was bypassed for her role as anarkali in “Mughal-E-Azm”. Isn’t it ludicrous that the so called award failed to honor an actress of her calibre ? Anyway, the award from audience by way of a successful movie at the box office matters a lot, but still…

  31. I have that biography, and also another earlier one by Mohan Deep. I haven’t read the newer one yet so can’t compare, but it seems to me that Kishore wasn’t the only man who didn’t do right by Madhubala—starting with her own father :( Shammi always talked openly about the fact that he thought Madhubala was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, and that he got tongue-tied and forgot his lines when he acted opposite her :)

  32. i just loved this movie.i am a fan of shammi kapoor too.this is one of of my favourites as it has shammi kapoor and pran.they have sone an excellent job in the film. i have this movie many a times.it also very nice songs .

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