Jeevan Jyoti (1952)

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Shammi, Shammi, Shammi…*shaking head in dismay*…why? why? There is a genre in Hindi cinema which I have privately dubbed the Red Mist Movie, because watching one causes a red mist of fury to rise in front of my eyes (which fortunately obscures the film itself). These films are pretty much the only Hindi movies that I simply can’t sit through. Once I reach the Red Mist point, I’m done. I am sad to report—indeed, it pains me a lot to say it—Shammi has been in one such film, and in case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is it.

These are the primary hallmarks of a Red Mist Movie:

  • Shrewish greedy self-centered mothers/mothers-in-law who should never have been allowed to bear children (and who caterwaul at a hideous decibel level that makes your head explode)
  • Shrewish greedy female relatives of said mother who egg her on and conspire to make life miserable for…
  • The spineless self-sacrificing martyr of a daughter-in-law (representing the ideal Indian woman)
  • Women who make their own lives miserable with their own actions (the shrewish ones blame everyone else, the martyrs blame their “fate”)
  • Male figures who are useless at best, who tacitly accept being ruled by their shrill abusive womenfolk despite disapproving of their actions (I particularly hate this point, because it makes the men out to be the good guys, albeit helpless; it’s the women who instigate every bad deed, and always against other women—the Hindi film equivalent of men saying “Women are catty and undermining and can’t get along with each other”)
  • No mitigating story distractions like some dishum-dishum, a cabaret dance or even a bad Comic Side Plot, resulting in the unfortunate viewer being bludgeoned by nothing but angst, angst and more angst
  • Misfortunes which pile up in unbelievable (literally) proportions, adding to the misery

Aaaargh! I curse these people:

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I made it to about the 1 hour and twenty minute mark only because Shammi is in it. For a while I tried to pretend that it was a Raj Kapoor film since Shammi looks so much like him in this; but as much as I dislike RK’s penchant for self-indulgent melodrama and dirty-old-man leering, at least he hasn’t made a film as bad as this one (to my knowledge, anyway). Even Aah isn’t as bad as this.

Shammi, Shammi, Shammi. The story begins, appropriately enough, with a Shammi who has apparently gone mad. His overwrought and melodramatic (and misnamed) mother Ganga (Leela Mishra) has called in a doctor (Nazir Hussain) for help. She tells him that Shammi has not eaten, or slept, or spoken for two weeks. He lives with her and his infant son; when the doctor asks about the child’s mother, she spits out venom. The doctor gets rid of her and finally Shammi begins to talk.

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Ganga had sent Shammi to meet his aunt’s sister’s daughter Leela (Shashikala) as a prospective bride. Leela lives with Ganga’s brother Chhotelal (SN Banerjee) and his wife Vimla, who have gone through the substantial amount of money that Leela inherited on her parents’ deaths. None of them are nice people.

On his way to their house, Shammi crashes (literally) into Kishori (Chand Usmani), and it’s love at first sight.

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Shammi has the good sense to quickly realize that Leela and his aunt and uncle are not people he wants to entangle himself further with. He romances shy Kishori until he’s sure of her reciprocal feelings, and then he heads home to talk it over with his Ma. I think this screen shot captures their relationship perfectly:

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I’ll tell you, my mother shouted at us a lot as kids (my brother says that when he thinks of our childhood, he thinks of Mom as “a big mouth yelling” hee) but she was not a patch on Ganga.

Shammi enlists the help of his very pretty sister Jamuna (Dulari) to help him convince Ganga that he should marry Kishori and not Leela. Jamuna, who has been widowed herself at a very young age (and who is one of the only sane people in the film besides the doctor), dotes on Shammi; and once Leela and Chhotelal and his shrill wife arrive hot on Shammi’s trail, she is definitely on his side.

One of the very very very few cute moments in the film comes when Shammi imitates Leela’s irritatingly coy mannerisms to Jamuna.

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With Jamuna’s support, Shammi has the courage to reject Leela and send a proposal to Kishori’s father (Moni Chatterjee). Kishori and her father are poor; needless to say, Shammi’s mother is not happy that he’s rejected wealthy (she thinks) Leela for an alliance that will bring her:

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She insults Kishori and her father, but Jamuna intervenes and rescues the engagement (although Kishori’s father wants to do the right thing and get her the hell out of there). They are duly married, but I see problems ahead. And indeed: tragedy strikes at the wedding itself, when the lovely and compassionate Jamuna’s sari catches fire as she sings.

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She’s horribly burned, and dies after blessing the newly-wed couple. Ganga naturally blames Kishori for the disaster.

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When Chhotelal, Vimla and Leela move in with them in the guise of “helping out,” the suffering (especially mine) really escalates. Vimla and Leela plot to get rid of Kishori and treat her like a servant. This atmosphere of stifling hatred and malice would make a reasonable person run screaming, but Kishori has decided that it is her fate to put up with it. She won’t let her husband interfere on her behalf either.

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She’s willing to suffer anything for her dear Shammi and her beloved undeserving MIL, even though he’s as miserable as she is. Even the news that she’s pregnant doesn’t cheer anyone up. The film really reaches its nadir when Vimla poisons the family dog Moti and frames Kishori for it. This distressed me very much, because the dog didn’t look like it was acting. I’m not sure how you’d train a dog to stagger around that convincingly. Hopefully only tranquilizers were used and nothing stronger.

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The dog was the last worthwhile creature around, and I now want them all to suffer the torments of hell (the red mist is rising). Ganga packs up her things and leaves with her brother and his family. Instead of celebrating a new and stress-free life with her husband, though, Kishori bewails her misfortune at having driven away her goddess-like MIL. And after she gives birth to a son, Ganga comes back to the house anyway to continue her constant criticizing and harassment (she’s welcomed with open arms by both Kishori and Shammi, naturally).

At this point I give up. I simply can’t watch any more, and I don’t care what happens to any of them. They all deserve whatever they get. The red mist swirls before my eyes and I need a cocktail.

If you really want to know what happens, you’ll have to watch. But I don’t recommend it, even for Shammi, who manages somehow to look like himself, and Raj, and Shashi, all at the same time.

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34 Comments to “Jeevan Jyoti (1952)”

  1. You’re kidding! Finally a Bollywood movie that you couldnt bear – and one with Shammi to boot!!! Hmm… this goes on my list of torture films.

    PS: Didnt realise Dulari and Chand Usmani looked so pretty when younger (Didnt Chand Usmani and Shammi debut together?) – have always seen them in older character roles!

    • Chand Usmani was really beautiful in the 1950s! She’s got shades of Meena

      Kumari I think. ‘Naya Daur’ and ‘Baap Re Baap! In ‘Naya Daur’ I think it’s

      ridiculous that Ajit would chase afte Vyjanthimala when such a beauty like

      Chand was there..makes the whole film a bit unrealistic. ;)

      I hope she didn’t marry Mahesh Kaul (as mentioned in a later post here) —

      the old father in Kaagaz Ke Phool. :/

  2. This looks awful and needs a pie thrown at the TV! Though I do like the reappearance of the barely there Shammi muchha! I’ve always hated mother-in-laws after watching soo many 50’s movies, some of them are just bordering on verbal violence against the bahu! Shammi does look quite a bit like Raj here, and this must be utter rubbish if Aah is slightly better, and thats the only Raj movie I hated!

  3. Shammi is so cute in the film. Even Shammi couldn’t get you trought a bad movie? Then that means it’s really bad. One like that, that I can’t stand, is “Prem Pujari”(1970) with Dev Anand, oh, it’s so bad. Anyway, I hope the next one didn’t torture you that much.

  4. Just remember Memsaab, Shammi was young and didn’t know better before he signed that film contract! LOL!

  5. OMG Shammi looks so different! You’re right – like Raj, or Shashi! FREAKY! And so thin – how old was he? Like 16?

    Ahh, the red mist. Memsaab my dear, have you seen Beta? Because it is the antidote to all of this.

  6. Is it really Shammi ? He is apeing Raj Kapoor so blatantly in this movie. ;)

  7. “Even Aah isn’t as bad as this.”

    Goodness. That’s saying a lot. That, along with Aag, ranks more or less at the top of my list of movies that are literally too painful to watch. Thanks for warning me off this one – I have a tendency to grab any Shammi Kapoor movie I can find, so this is good advice.

  8. bollyviewer: Yes…made me v.v. sad to have to abandon Shammi halfway through. And yes, both were so pretty, especially Dulari!!! She was just gorgeous.

    Rum: It is SUCH a pie-throwing film, although that is a very sad waste of pie.

    Stella: There are several in this genre; I believe I have seen Prem Pujari and agree with you—it does belong on the list; also Doli from 1968 with Rajesh Khanna and Babita (?–I think, I’ve tried to block out all memories of it)…

    Mike: That reminds me of Cartman on South Park when his mother was on the cover of Crack Whore Magazine: “She was young and she needed the money!”

    PPCC: He was 21…apparently Shammi was always very thin as a boy/young man. And I think I recommended Beta to you :-) Madhuri totally kicks her evil MIL’s butt in that one!

    Atul: He just looks like Raj; he actually was already exhibiting Shammi-like mannerisms and faces, just very occasionally. Not enough to make the rest of it worth sitting through though.

    dustedoff: Exactly. I think I would rather watch Aah and Aag (which I also hate, thank you) back to back than sit through this again. My head was aching by the hour mark from Leela’s screechy hateful dialogues. She really needed several tight slaps to the face. Maybe it would be more watchable with the sound off, although I doubt it.

  9. As bad as “Doli” memsaab? Noooo! How hard it is to love them when they WILL do these. Fell over laughing at your very last line :-)

  10. Suhan: It is EXACTLY as bad as Doli!!!! Noooooo indeed! ;-)

  11. Hmmm. I have seen Deedar and don’t remember any red mist, so I’d say no…but perhaps if I watched it again I could tell you. Well, the fact that I even contemplate watching it again makes it an improvement on this one (I really do have a very high tolerance for many things when it comes to Hindi films :-)

    • No red mist?!

      Even though Dilip Kumar gets cured of his blindness ->only to find that his childhood love is marrying another ->cannot bear to tell her directly who he is, so he tries to get her to remember ->She still doesn’t remember -> Not being able to take it, Dilips stabs himself in the eyes and goes off with Nimmi to who-knows-what?

      Nargis must have really hated Dilip Kumar to make him suffer this much onscreen. I don’t think any other actress can boast this.

  12. Whoa. I never thought I’d see the day you’d have to quit a Shammi film. ;-)

  13. Ha ha ha. All idol-worshippers have to face this reality one day!!

    Red mist, eh. I guess that’s the price of feminism and equality – women get to be shrill too. ;)

  14. This film was written by men, made by men, and those women were caricatures representing what those men thought were the best and worst characteristics of women. Ugh. Either shrill and hen-pecking (worst) or self-sacrificing and martyred (best). Ugh, ugh, ugh. I hope I am never either of those things.

  15. hi
    very good long time 1965 se this movie i am only 15 year , geeta dutt have song , shimim ji hit 5 movie that time ,
    can get song this movie old is gold.
    thanks

  16. What else happened in 1953?

    1953 Jeevan Jyoti

    January 7 – President Harry S. Truman announces the United States has developed a hydrogen bomb.
    February 28 James Watson and Francis Crick announce that they have discovered the structure of the DNA molecule
    March 26 Salk announces his polio vaccine
    May 29 Hillary and Norgay perform first successful ascent to Mount Everest
    December 30 First colour television went on sale for $1, 175 American.

  17. Did you mean they might have poisoned the little dog for this crap movie???????? If they did, well that is a shame…..
    No wonder the movie bombed then and probably lists under the worst ever…..

    (PS: I luv dogs especially the stray ones…..)

  18. I hope not! But it didn’t look very happy and it wasn’t acting. I hope it was just a tranquilizer of some sort, although even that makes me mad. Lord I hated this film.

  19. I guess I have stronger guts than yours (or my motivation to watch this film was SD Burman’s music), but I sat through till the end. Basically after a lot of torture (both of DIL and ours) Kishori pops it and Shammi loses it. Ofcourse, we the losers have lost it long before :-).

    But there is a priceless gem for all Shammi fans in this film. He hums a couple of lines in a song. You know if Shashi Kapoor also sang for our old man, it would give SD Burman the distinction of making all the three kapoor brothers sing (and this when he was not the regular composer of any of them)

  20. I did manage to wallow through the whole thing eventually, but it took me a while :) Maybe Shashi does sing for SD at some point, who knows?! That would be an excellent trivia question if so :-)

  21. can some one let me know the whereabouts of Chand Usmani
    is she alive? and well or in poverty and misery.she was a good actress
    she won a filmfare award for Pehchan(supporting actress) but since then was seen only in bit roles and then disappeared. she started off well but did not attain much success in subsequent movies that was sad indeed
    and i had heard she had a hard life afterwards

  22. I think chand usmani had married the director who gave her the first film
    but he also never tasted a lot of success,she came to films after winning a beauty contest or smile contest from kolynoss tooth paste
    she acted with Bharath Bhushsn in a Bimal Roy production besides with kishre kumar in one film ??Bhagam Bhag? I think her husbands name was Mahesh Kaul. I want to know if the other Kaul who made the disastrous BHagmathi{tabu starrer} was their son. I had read somewhere that mahesh Kaul also had a very miserable life and died in poverty

  23. sorry the film was baap re baap with the famous duet “pia piya piya”

  24. Lol.. ther r lot many movies like these… esp in those days!!

    Btw.. ‘G.D.Madgulkar’ who has written d original screenplay, dialogs and lyrics.. is a very respectable name in Marathi as well as Hindi cinema. He has many gems 2 his credit and was a multi faceted artist. Alas, this film fails for him… i guess this happens 2 al stalwarts!!

  25. shammi is delicious, even as a mad person haha! i loathe this movie, i was suprised that so many other people had watched it as when i mention it to my other filmi friends, they’ve never heard of it! i’m a little worried about the dog though, i really hope it was only effect’s! :( dulari is quite a stunner, but leela made me cringe! -i actually felt sorry for shammi. Overall the acting was pretty sickening, i was dissapointed with shammi’s character even though i love shammi, dulari, shashikala etc…

  26. Even a person as patient as Memsaab has lost her patence with this movie. Don’t despair, here is a good news from this movie which I just discovered. This movie has a song, which is picturised on Chaand Usmani and Shammi Kapoor. The song is sung by Asha Bhonsle and the last two lines are sung by an unidentified voice. That voice is finally identified, and it is none other than our own beloved Shammi Kapoor.

    Here is the audio of this song. Pay attention to the last few lines of this four minutes long song.

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