Milap (1955)

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Raj Khosla’s first venture into directing is a solid entertainer, although apparently it failed at the box office. The quality of the DVD was lacking, probably due to the source material—it was by turns really dark, overexposed or blurry, and there were definitely some scenes missing, but nonetheless it kept me in my seat! I love that Khosla populates his films with strong and believable female characters, and this is no exception. Lovely and talented Geeta Bali is the heart and soul of this movie, but she’s very ably supported by Dev Anand minus most of his mannerisms, and Memsaab favorite KN Singh as an unscrupulous (but suave and sophisticated, natch!) lawyer.

Khosla assisted Guru Dutt (another Memsaab favorite) and his influence is seen here too—beautifully shot songs, atmospheric use of light and dark (although hampered a bit by time’s wear and tear). And Khosla’s habit of “framing” his shots is here too, although not as sophisticated as in his later films.

Wealthy Rai Bahadur has just died, leaving his entire estate to a stranger. His relatives are outraged at being informed of this by Rai Bahadur’s lawyer, Karamchand (KN Singh), especially since anything they will get out of the estate will be at the stranger’s discretion.

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They are relieved when the stranger arrives in the form of naive country bumpkin Rajender Sayal (Dev Anand), accompanied by his best friend Kulu (Johnny Walker). They—and Karamchand, who has his own agenda—quickly decide that he will be easy to take advantage of.

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Raja is overwhelmed, and unimpressed, by the trappings of his newfound wealth. He now has servants to meet his every whim, including one whose sole purpose is to put on wrestling displays—and he’s been trained by the best!

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His first day in his new mansion is spent fighting off hordes of salesmen and various chamchas who all want one thing from him: money. When his pushy next door neighbor Mrs. Akhrodwala (Tun Tun) shows up with her daughter, both he and Kulu have had enough.

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Raja tells Karamchand that he wants to return to his village, but Karamchand is lakhs of rupees in debt and has his own plans for bilking Raja out of his inheritance. He decides to enlist the help of a penniless girl named Asha (Geeta Bali) whose brother Mohan (Krishan Dhawan) is a wastrel and constantly harasses her for money as he dodges law enforcement.

Karamchand throws a party to introduce Raja to “society” and asks Asha to suck up to him. At the party, Raja shows that he is not as naive as people think he is—he’s well aware that he is being laughed at, and patronized, and tolerated only for his wealth. He is not in the least interested in Asha, either (despite her song “Hamse Bhi Karlo” which I love—the music for Milap is by N Dutta, with subtitled lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi).

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When he tells Karamchand that he can’t stand all the people pestering him all day (and still wants to go home), Karamchand hires Asha as Raja’s secretary—to Raja’s astonishment.

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She quickly proves herself indispensable to him though, by efficiently getting rid of the hangers-on he so dislikes.

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She sets out to educate him in the ways of his new world, but it’s not long before his simplicity charms her completely. He is also smitten by her beauty and how she helps him, and they fall in love.

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But of course, she is in an unfortunate position, caught between her brother:

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and an increasingly desperate Karamchand, who is using her brother’s problems to blackmail her into stealing Raja’s money.

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Raja declares his love for her and asks her to marry him—she wants to accept, but her distress is visible to him. When he asks her what’s wrong, she tells him that she needs money for her family, and he gives her the blank check that Karamchand has been pestering her for.

When she tears the blank check up in front of the lawyer, unable to go through with the deception, he is enraged. He takes the torn pieces to Raja and convinces him that Asha was going to rob him of everything and flee until Karamchand stopped her. Heartbroken, Raja decides to get rid of all his money by gambling it away and giving it to the poor people around him in the city. Asha goes to him to tell him the truth, but he won’t listen to her and kicks her out of the house.

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Rai Bahadur’s relatives—who have been pretty quiet thus far, I think because some scenes are missing—are naturally not happy that “their” money is flowing out of the house into the hands of strangers. Karamchand is not pleased, either, and he comes up with a plot to stop Raja: he gets a doctor to declare Raja insane, and petitions the court to overturn Rai Bahadur’s will and return the estate to the relatives (with whom he has made a deal to share everything).

Will Karamchand succeed in convincing everyone that Raja is mad? Will Raja care if people think he’s insane? Will the relatives and Karamchand get their greedy hands on all of the wealth and lock up Raja in an asylum? Will Raja discover that Asha really loves him?

I read that Milap is a remake of Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, but I haven’t seen that so can’t verify (I’m sure one or more of you will be able to though!—bollyviewer? dustedoff?). The script has its holes (which again, could be because pieces are missing) but in general it hangs together very well, and the story moves along at a good pace punctuated by pretty songs.

Geeta Bali is just fantastic as the conflicted Asha who wants to help her brother, but can’t do it at the expense of her love for Raja. Dev Anand as Raju gives one of his best performances as a country bumpkin evolving into an increasingly cynical sophisticate who longs to hold onto his core values. Tun Tun fans get a fair amount of her too in the comic side plot featuring Kalu romancing her daughter, and Johnny Walker is, well, Johnny Walker. All in all, it’s a great watch which would be much improved if something could be done to restore the original print.

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30 Comments to “Milap (1955)”

  1. Dev Anand+ Raj Khosla is the best combination EVER especially if Dev didnt have his trademark mannerisms! I vaguely remember seeing this long ago and liking it a lot, but never remembered the name of the movie. Thanks a lot for writing it up – now I can go hunt for it. :-D I think I saw it in my local DVD shop (the DVD didnt have Raj Khosla’s name on it else I’d have snapped it up!) but after Dev-Geeta’s Jaal I’ve been wary of picking up any of their other movies.

    I havent seen Mr Deeds Goes To Town, so I cant help you there. But from what I saw of Frank Capra+Gary Cooper in Meet John Doe, I think this should be way better than the original!

  2. wow
    I am just overwhelmend by geeta Bali- she is so magical!
    I havent seen her as a heroine opposite Dev before- more as a supporting actor, so I am really looking forward to this one.

  3. I was looking for the story of this movie last week. Glad you wrote about it. Songs are truly memorable. Love your blog. Thanks for writing it!!

  4. bollyviewer: Dev was very understated here compared to his normal affect. He didn’t have a huge amount of chemistry with Geeta, but it wasn’t as much a love story anyway as it was a social commentary (money money money makes people do bad things)…

    shweta: I love her. She is so *sparkly* somehow. And of course Shammi loved her too, so how could I not? Their daughter looks just like her.

    yamini: Thanks, keep stopping by! :-)

  5. This movie is really good. Agree on that. N. Dutta gave wonderful songs in this movie which was his debut. Geeta Dutt sang some lovely songs for the movie. The Geeta Bali-Devanand starrer Baazi is another must watch for their fans. I am a big fan of Geeta bali myself. She’s simply charming and was often bigger than her movies. Pity she died so early.

  6. Yes, I love Baazi as well (Guru Dutt zindabad!) although Dev Anand is opposite Kalpana more than Geeta in that. But I love her character in that film. Basically, ditto to everything you said, Hildebrand :-)

  7. Milap was a copy of Mr. Deeds. This is my take of the film on upperstall.
    http://www.upperstall.com/films/1955/milap

  8. Thanks for the link, TheThirdMan! I see we basically agree on the film (although I like Johnny Walker better than you do…he made me giggle quite a few times) :-)

  9. Geeta Bali had a moustache. I want to slap a strip of hot wax on her. Shallow. I know. But I am like that only!

  10. Definitely sounds like Mr. Deeds, which is a wonderful Depression era Frank Capra movie: http://www.moviediva.com/MD_root/reviewpages/MDMrDeedsGoestoTown.htm. I’ll definitely put this on my list, although murky B&W Dev Anand transfers (there seem to be a lot of them) are exhausting.

  11. AKNYC: She did, it’s true. But she rocked it more than anyone else would have!

    Wah! Laura, fabulous review of Mr. Deeds! It sounds like Dev Anand played it very much like Gary Cooper—he was a rube, but not stupid by any means, and he was very shrewd about people’s characters. Isn’t it funny how tired bad film prints can make you? My eyes always hurt after watching a film like this. But I think you’d enjoy it anyway :)

  12. I’ve only seen the Adam Sandler version of Mr. Deeds, which should definitely shave off a few years in Purgatory for me. This, on the other hand, looks utterly delightful.

  13. No purgatory credits for this one, it’s too good :) I have to confess though that one of my favorite non-Hindi movies is Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer. It makes me laugh until I cry.

  14. I loved ‘Mr. Deeds’. I usually like this kind of a story. Poor guy in a rich house, effecting some change. I want to see this one. I like Dev Anand with and without his mannerisms, and Geeta Bali rocks, with or without a mustache!

  15. I liked Milap a lot – mainly because I adore Geeta Bali and (like Banno) I like Dev Anand with or without mannerisms (and, may I add, pre-1970’s). And thank you, memsaab and TheThirdMan, for pointing me to Mr Deeds Goes to Town. Am definitely going to see this!

    I actually rather like makeover films – Milap, Nakli Nawab, Raja Jani, Sita aur Gita, Aankhon Aankhon Mein, Brahmachari… though I suppose I’d draw the line at the Mala Sinha-Biswajeet starrer Pyaar ka Sapna. That one was just too farfetched, despite the presence of Helen and Ashok Kumar.

  16. Geeta Bali rocks! She is simply great. She lights up the screen ine very frame. I think I would watch a film with her even if she just reads out aloud from the telephone directory in it. She must have been a greta person to have around. Would have loved to go out for a dinner with her.
    Dev is a very good acotr, but he hardly every experimented with his roles. Guide being an exception. I think he was too much in love with himself or his roles for that. That is why he doesn’t stand on my dinner-list.
    But one guy, who tops the list is: Balraj Sahni. It must have been greato philosophise with him.
    Memsaab, have a heart! How about a Balraj Sahni starrer as a next one on the blog.

    BTW Thanks for bringing up Milap. Sounds to be a great movie. After International Crook, this film is like balm for the soul. Would love to see it some day.

  17. Banno: We have the same taste I think, so you’d definitely enjoy it.

    dustedoff: I love Hindi remakes of good stories. Good solid story + Indian embellishment = FAB.

    harvey: Balraj Sahni just hasn’t done it for me…but I need to see more of him to be fair. What I have seen him in, he’s mostly kind of a milquetoast and irritates me (I hate irrational self-sacrifice from either gender)…

  18. You should see Balraj sahni in do bigha zameen or seema or garam coat or anuradha. and Garam hawa.
    But doesn’t matter just an impulse of mine! I look forward to every review of yours!

  19. geeta bali just came across as a lovely, lively person: in fact, her match with Shammi is one that seems totally believably made in heaven.

    I love her fluid dancing: no other actress is so expressive in her movements.

    Her original name Harkirat Kaur meant something like honest (dedicated) living through hard work for God, and when you read her biography it seems to be eerily true.

  20. Oh I want to read her biography! What’s it called? Who wrote it? And most importantly—is it in English?

  21. I’ll have to find this one! I loved Baazi, and Milap apparently has many of the ingredients that made that great (I have to see more movies with Geeta Bali!). On top of that, I’ll welcome any soundtrack by N. Dutta – the one he did for Sadhna is one of my all-time favorites.

    I feel I must join in in the defense of Balraj Sahni. I haven’t seen him in all that much stuff, but I’ve really enjoyed his performances so far.

    I thought he was very good in Kath Putli (1957) and Binidya (1960) – even if these are not his most famous ones… I saw some of Do Bigha Zameen, but it was a free online connection an it de-buffered(?) on me; I’ll have to get back to it soon.

  22. Memsaab

    Pls see “Seema” – you will love Balraj Sahani in it. Other movies listed above are good too.

    He even acted as Randhir Kapoor’s dad or bhayyia in “Jawani Diwani” – this movie had some good songs, music by RD Burman and Jaya Bahaduri was the heroine – i think it is a 70s movie from recollection

  23. I know, I know!!!! Promise to watch more Balraj Sahni, promise! :-) Thanks for the recommendations!

  24. Memsaab: This was from a book on Indian cinema that might be still somewhere at my parents’.
    Meanwhile, I am sure have visited the website set-up by Shammi Kapoor and where he describes meeting and marrying Geeta Bali in some detail.

    For those who haven’t,

    http://www.junglee.org.in/

    • I have seen that, and he talks about it in interviews too…in the Kapoor bio by Madhu Jain it sounds like he still misses her a lot. Maybe I will share him with her in our next lives after all…

  25. Great blog. The pictures you post are priceless. I will spend an entire Sunday going through your blog. :)

  26. Yes.. somehow I think you will like Balraj Sahni. He had an uncanny ability 2 gel in whatever role givn 2 him.. may it b a villager or barrister or ultra rich businessman.

  27. One correction needs to be made in the very first line of the review – the script of Milap was not by Raj Khosla but by legendary screenplay writer Nabendu Ghosh. He had scripted Aar Paar and Sailaab for Guru Dutt, and was the original author of the story that eventually was made as Kaagaz Ke Phool. Besides Devdas, Parineeta, Yahudi, Biraj Bahu, Baap Beti and Maa (all Bimal Roy films), Nabendu Ghosh had also scripted Baad Baan featuring Dev Anand with Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari. That’s how Raj Khosla relied on him for the screenplay of his maiden directorial venture.

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